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French lawmakers tackle anti-Semitism as Jewish graves desecrated

French lawmakers tackle anti-Semitism as Jewish graves desecrated
A French police officer stands in front of the entrance of the Jewish cemetery where graves were desecrated with swastikas in Westhoffen, near Strasbourg, France, December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann -
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ARND WIEGMANN(Reuters)
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WESTHOFFEN, France (Reuters) – Scores of Jewish graves were found desecrated in a cemetery in eastern France, police said, hours before lawmakers adopted a resolution equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Some 107 graves were defaced with anti-Semitic inscriptions in the city of Westhoffen, while graffiti against Jews was also found in nearby Schafhouse-sur-Zorn on Tuesday.

France has Europe’s biggest Jewish community – around 550,000 – and anti-Semitic attacks are common, with more than 500 alone in 2018.

Earlier this year, politicians from across the spectrum joined marches against anti-Semitism.

They denounced a surge in attacks that some commentators blamed on incitement by Islamist preachers, others on the rise of anti-Zionism – opposition to the existence of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.

Lawmakers in parliament’s lower house on Tuesday evening approved a non-legally binding resolution modelled on the definition of anti-Semitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The IHRA definition, which serves as an international guideline, does not reference “anti-Zionism” but does say denying Jews their right to self-determination is anti-Semitic.

The World Jewish Congress hailed France’s step.

“For too long too many have used the excuse that their obsessive criticism of Israel stands exclusive from their otherwise positive feelings for the Jewish people. Those days are now over,” it said.

Debate over the resolution split Macron’s ruling La Republique En Marche party, with some opponents saying it could impede people from criticising the Israeli government.

(Reporting by Arnd Wiegmann in Westhoffen and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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