The French government has moved to clamp down on protests against Israel’s military action in Gaza after pro-Palestinian demonstrations around Paris turned violent, raising fears of a wave of unrest among the country’s large Arab-origin communities, reports The Financial Times.
Manuel Valls, the prime minister, condemned as anti-Semitic riots in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles on Sunday night. A synagogue and a Jewish-owned grocery were among buildings and cars targeted by masked youths, some hurling rocks and petrol bombs at police.
“What happened in Sarcelles was intolerable,” Mr Valls said on Monday. “Attacking a synagogue and a kosher grocery is quite simply anti-Semitic and racist.”
The government banned the Sarcelles demonstration and a similar protest in central Paris on Saturday after a march in the capital the previous weekend ended in attacks on two synagogues. Protesters went ahead despite the ban.
Dozens were arrested in clashes at the two marches, with police using tear gas to disperse youths. Protesters have pledged to hold further demonstrations in Sarcelles and Paris later this week and next weekend.
President François Hollande, who called a meeting of France’s religious leaders to try to cool temperatures on Monday, ordered the protest bans last week. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict must not be imported [to France],” he said. “We will not tolerate any act or speech that could cause a resurgence of anti-semitism and racism.”
French Jewish leaders have complained of a rise in anti-Semitic actions in France in recent months, including online. Official figures show a sharp rise in the number of French Jews opting to emigrate to Israel – though this may also be prompted by the gloomy state of the economy.
The ban on the Paris protests was backed on Monday by the centre-right opposition UMP party. But it has been severely criticised by pro-Palestinian groups and leftwing parties, including some prominent members of Mr Hollande’s ruling Socialist party.
They say other demonstrations held elsewhere in the country and approved by local authorities had passed off peacefully.
Among the parties criticising the bans was the far-right National Front, the strongly anti-immigrant party led by Marine Le Pen that came first in France in May’s European parliamentary elections.
Read more of this report from The Financial Times.