Jewish groups around the world have heralded a decision by the French National Assembly to adopt a new and wider definition of antisemitism as an “historic day” for the country.
If follows news on Tuesday that the Lower House of the French Parliament voted 154 to 72 to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
Isaac Herzog, who chairs the Jewish Agency, said he “applauds and salutes the French National Assembly and the French President Emmanuel Macron, on their historic decision that is a moral beacon against antisemitism and hatred of Israel”.
He added: “The homeland of Emile Zola, who led the fight against antisemitism, is standing tall in supporting the right to live a Jewish life without fear, and in unequivocal support of Zionism and the State of Israel.”
French politicians spent most of the day debating the definition, its adoption and its context of terrorism on the continent. Advocates listed the names of French Jewish victims of terror.
In 1980 the Rue Copernic synagogue was bombed, in 2006 Ilan Halimi was tortured to death, in 2012 an Islamist gunman launched a deadly attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, and last year Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was killed.
Opponents such as Socialist MP Sabine Rubin argued however that “Anti-Zionism should be considered valid as freedom of expression” during the five-hour sitting.
“Adopting the definition was a historic day for France,” said Dr Shimon Samuels, a director at the US-based Wiesenthal Center. “The question is how it will impact on the legal, educational and security measures in battling antisemitism.”
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor added his voice to the praise, calling the decision “logical and important”. He said: “Anti-Zionism is almost always just a mask for hatred of Jews and Jewish collectivity and is just the most modern manifestation of the oldest hatred.”
The motion was proposed by lawmaker Sylvain Maillard from Macron’s centrist party and precedes next month’s commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.