Macron, Netanyahu hail alliance

French leader mourns 1942 Jewish roundup, urges peace talks


Photographs by AP/MICHEL EULER

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address the media after a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Sunday.

PARIS -- Two days after treating President Donald Trump to a Bastille Day parade, Emmanuel Macron welcomed yet another world leader -- the Israeli prime minister -- to Paris.

As Benjamin Netanyahu arrived for talks Sunday, the French president condemned anti-Zionism, or opposition to Jews retaining their biblical homeland, as the new form of anti-Semitism.

The backdrop for their meeting was the 75th anniversary of a Paris Holocaust roundup, and Macron used the occasion to reiterate his declaration that the French state bore the responsibility for the arrest and deportation of approximately 13,000 Jews in 1942.

"We will never surrender to the messages of hate," Macron said, standing on the site where French police, on the night of July 16, 1942, detained thousands of French and foreign-born Jews before facilitating their transports to Nazi concentration camps across Eastern Europe. "We will not surrender to anti-Zionism, because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism."

Macron insisted that "not a single German" was directly involved, but French police collaborating with the Nazis.

It was a half-century later when then-President Jacques Chirac became the first French leader to acknowledge the state's role in the Holocaust's horrors.

Macron dismissed arguments by French far-right leaders and others that the collaborationist Vichy government didn't represent France.

"It is convenient to see the Vichy regime as born of nothingness, returned to nothingness," Macron said. "Yes, it's convenient, but it is false. We cannot build pride upon a lie."

French Jewish leaders hailed Macron's speech Sunday -- even as critics railed at him online, where anti-Semitism has flourished. Macron pledged to fight such hatred and called for a thorough investigation into the recent killing of a Parisian woman that was believed to be linked to anti-Jewish sentiment.

A string of terror attacks in recent years inspired Netanyahu, in a 2015 speech, to encourage French Jews to leave for Israel. Thousands have since done so. But as Macron vowed Sunday to fight anti-Semitism in all its forms, the Israeli leader changed his tone and spoke of solidarity with France.

"Your struggle is our struggle," Netanyahu said, referring to Friday's attack in Jerusalem, when Arab Israeli gunmen shot and killed two Israeli police officers. "The zealots of militant Islam, who seek to destroy you, seek to destroy us as well."

In France in 2012, terrorists attacked a Jewish day school in Toulouse, killing four people, including three children. In 2014, the Franco-Cameroonian comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala likened Jews to "slave drivers" and promoted a version of the Nazi salute. In January 2015, an attack on a kosher supermarket on the outskirts of Paris left four Jewish customers dead.

Sunday was Netanyahu's first visit to France since his appearance in January 2015 at Paris' Grand Synagogue, immediately after the attack on the supermarket, when he delivered his speech urging Jews to consider leaving France.

Some French Jewish leaders vehemently opposed the presence of the Israeli leader at an event they said should otherwise have remained apolitical. In the words of Elie Barnavi, France's former ambassador to Israel, the wartime roundup had "nothing to do with Israel." But others welcomed Macron's remarks about the realities of contemporary anti-Semitism.

"He understands what it is today, not just what it was in the past," Yonatan Arfi, the vice president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations, France's largest Jewish advocacy organization, said in an interview.

"It's at once from the extreme right, but also present on the extreme left and among radical Islamists," he said. "Anti-Zionism has definitely become part of anti-Semitism today, and it's a real satisfaction to find someone before us who speaks the same language."

After the Holocaust ceremony, Macron also appealed for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Worried that Netanyahu is backing away from commitment to a two-state solution, Macron assailed Israeli settlement construction as a threat to international hopes for peace.

Pro-Palestinian and other activists protested Netanyahu's appearance in Paris, criticizing the settlements and the blockade of Gaza.

Separately Sunday, Israel reopened a holy site in Jerusalem after closing it in response to a deadly shooting last week that raised concerns about wider unrest.

For the first time in decades, Israel closed the site -- known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount -- after Friday's attack inside the compound.

Netanyahu said that after consultations with security officials the site would reopen Sunday afternoon with increased security measures that included metal detectors at the entrance gates and additional security cameras.

At midday, Israeli police opened two of the gates to the compound to allow worshippers to enter through the newly erected detectors. Police said some worshippers refused to go through them and knelt to pray outside instead. But despite concerns that the new measures could slow movement and spark renewed tensions, police said they appeared to be working fine and that 200 people had already passed through.

Information for this article was contributed by James McAuley of The Washington Post and by Aron Heller and Angela Charlton of The Associated Press.

A Section on 07/17/2017

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