French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday drew a direct line between the hatred of Israel – as seen in violent protests across France and elsewhere in the world against Operation Protective Edge in Gaza – and the never-ending hatred of Jews.
He spoke at a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup, a mass arrest of Jews in Paris by the French police, directed by German authorities, during the Second World War.
From July 16-17, 1942, more than 12,000 Jews from the Paris region, including 4,000 children, were taken into custody.
Of those, 7,000 victims were packed in desperate conditions into the Velodrome d’Hiver, an indoor sports stadium. Many were later transferred to Auschwitz and other death camps in Eastern Europe.
Each year, two ceremonies take place at the site of the stadium, built in 1909 and destroyed in 1959 – one on July 16 and the other on July 20.
This year, the anniversary fell in the middle of a wave of pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Jewish leaders demanded the prohibition of a Muslim demonstration on July 16 in order to respect the memory of the Nazis’ victims. The demonstration took place, but others were banned last Saturday after a violent protest outside a Paris synagogue last week.
Honoring the Vel’ d’Hiv victims, Valls said, “The dishonor of France is to have been an accomplice of the occupier, to have sent men, women, children, to death because they were Jews.”
He commended former French president Jacques Chirac, who was the first to explicitly denounce the French collaboration with the Nazis.
The prime minister condemned the use of anti-Zionist rhetoric as a cover up of anti-Semitic opinions, and condemned “an anti-Semite who hides his hatred of the Jew behind an appearance of anti-Zionism and the hatred of Israel.”
Valls also condemned the “infamous jokes on the Shoah,” saying that “to insult the dead, to insult the survivors, is insulting France.”
Referring to a protest against Operation Protective Edge that took place on Saturday in Paris despite its prohibition, Valls said that “the unacceptable excess yesterday in Paris justifies all the more the decision to forbid [such demonstrations],” adding that, “ France will not allow provocative minds to feed... conflict between communities.”
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve also attended the ceremony, where he expressed his wish “that public space and freedom will not be taken hostage to feed the hatred.”