French president Emmanuel Macron has once again declared his commitment to combatting anti-Semitism in his country. This time, it was at the annual dinner of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, or CRIF. At the outset of the address, French media reported that Anti-Semitic violence increased 26 percent last year in France and criminal damage to Jewish places of worship and burials increased 22 percent.
“We have understood, with horror, that anti-Semitism is still alive,” Macron said. “And on this issue our response must be unforgiving. France would not be itself if Jewish citizens had to leave because they were afraid,” he said.
The president’s address to CRIF covered topics like the continued protection of synagogues and schools, as well as the scourge of online radicalization. The latter preceded a call from Macron to European leaders to come together and force social media platforms to remove extremist content.
Macron also weighed in on another contentious topic: The proposed re-publishing of author Louis Ferdinand Céline’s anti-Semitic pamphlet, eventually scrapped by Gallimard.
“Céline was not a socialite anti-Semite, but a pro-Hitler anti-Semite,” Marc Knobel, CRIF’s director of studies, told The Associated Press. “His pamphlets are appalling. They are crime-inducing. With them, Céline expressed his execration for the Jews, called for putting the Jews to death.”
Macron seemed to tentatively endorse that position. France, Macron said, is free of “moral, historic, or memorial police,” but added, “I don’t think we need these pamphlets.”
Whether or not Macron’s good intentions translate into good policy remains to be seen, and pruning extremist content from social media platforms, as the president seems to suggest should be done, is a frustrating game of whack-a-mole that may be impossible to win. For now, however, we can take comfort in Macron taking the issue seriously, and hope that he’ll find ways to effectively guarantee the wellbeing of his Jewish constituents.
Jesse Bernstein is a former Intern at Tablet.