Portraits of a Holocaust survivor stained with swastikas. A memorial in honor of a Jewish man vandalized. A bagel shop with the German word "Juden" sprayed on its front window. These are just a few of the hundreds of anti-Semitic acts that have been committed in France, which is home to the world's largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States, in recent months.
There had been an "explosion" of anti-Semitic acts over the past year, with incidents up 74 per cent in 2018, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told France 2 television. Such vandalism often took place "on the margins" of protests by the Yellow Vests movement, Griveaux alleged, although he insisted he did not "want to make connections."
Some members of France's yellow vest anti-government movement are known for extremist views, and several anti-Semitic incidents have occurred amid the broad-based movement that started in November. Frederic Potier, a French government official in charge of fighting anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination based on sexual orientation, said some far-right groups have managed to infiltrate yellow-vest demonstrations.
"Anti-Semitic tags up to nausea in the heart of Paris this weekend," Potier wrote in a message on Twitter with a picture of a Parisian wall with a derogatory inscription, insinuating that French President Emmanuel Macron was just a tool of a supposed Jewish plot. "When the hatred of the Jews overlaps with the hatred of democracy, the vocabulary of the fachosphere [the sphere of fascists] is found on the walls," Potier wrote.
According to French authorities, the total of registered anti-Semitic acts rose to 541 in 2018 from 311 in 2017, a rise of 74 percent. A judicial official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that four investigations have been opened by Paris prosecutors after the latest incidents in the French capital last weekend. The person was not authorized to be publicly named because the investigations are ongoing.