July 15. 2024. 6:15

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Macron demands schools address antisemitism after Jewish girl raped

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday (19 June) asked schools to hold a “discussion hour” on racism and antisemitism this week, after the rape of a Jewish girl in a Paris suburb added to France’s charged social climate ahead of elections.

Three teenagers were arrested this week following a complaint from a 12-year-old girl from Courbevoie, west of Paris, who told police she had been gang-raped while being insulted with antisemitic slurs, the Nanterre public prosecution office said.

The investigation centres on charges of rape, death threats and assault among other crimes, with an alleged religious motivation cited as aggravating factors.

Incidents of antisemitism have surged in France since the attack by Hamas gunmen on southern Israel on 7 October and the subsequent war on the Islamist group launched by Israel.

Macron was swift to react, with France in the midst of a three-week election campaign after he called a shock snap parliamentary election.

The president on Wednesday asked education minister Nicole Belloubet “to organise a discussion in all schools on the fight against antisemitism and racism, to prevent hate speech with serious consequences from infiltrating schools”, Macron’s office said.

Opponents have accused the National Rally and the hard-left France Unbowed party within the Popular Front alliance of tolerating antisemitic views in their ranks, allegations both parties deny.

Strongly pro-Palestinian and regularly accused of anti-Semitism by opponents including Macron, hard-left LFI’s former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon tweeted that he was “horrified” by the attack.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen — whose party was co-founded by a former member of the Nazi Waffen SS paramilitary — said the gang rape “revolts us”, accusing the “extreme left” of using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for political ends.

National Rally leader Jordan Bardella said on Wednesday France must fight an “antisemitic atmosphere” present in the country since the start of the Gaza war.

Election looms large

With less than two weeks before the first round of polling in the snap elections called by Macron in response to his party’s defeat by the far right in European polls, the president is struggling to make up ground.

His ruling alliance is forecast by opinion polls to come only third in the legislative elections on 30 June — followed by a second round on 7 July — behind the far-right National Rally (RN) and a new left-wing alliance, the New Popular Front (NFP), which groups left-wingers from Socialists to Communists.

This could put RN leader Jordan Bardella in a position to become prime minister in an awkward “cohabitation” with Macron, although the 28-year-old has insisted he will only accept this if his party and allies win an absolute majority of seats.

Macron had on Tuesday also lashed out at NFP, charging that “with the extreme left it’s four times worse” than the far right.

“There is no more secularism, they will go back on the immigration law and there are things that are completely farcical like changing your gender at the town hall,” he said.

The left-wing coalition’s programme includes a proposal allowing the change of civil status.

Anti-discrimination groups rejected the comments, with SOS Homophobie accusing the president of “transphobia”.

“How is it possible that this man who was elected and re-elected to confront the extreme right is in reality repeating the discourse of the extreme right?” Socialist Party chief Olivier Faure told RTL.

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