By Robert Harneis –TDO- French President Emmanuel Macron has hosted a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris. It is a continuation of a series of important international meetings for the new French President. The occasion for the visit was the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of a notorious round up of Jewish families by French police in Paris in 1942 during the Second World War. Most of them later died in German concentration camps.

Macron went out of his way to emphasize his closeness to Israel by suggesting that anti- Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism. Given the wealth and power of the Israeli lobby in France this is an important position for French political leaders. He said ‘So, yes, we will yield nothing to the messages of hate, we will yield nothing to the anti-Zionism because it is the new form of anti-Semitism.’ Later speaking to journalists, he said that France would support the defense of Israel ‘unconditionally’. All of this was, as intended, music to Netanyahu’s ears. Essentially, the French President was putting forward the curious proposition that France will defend Israel whatever it does and no one can criticize Zionism because it is hate speech and the same as anti-Semitism.

Netanyahu took advantage of the occasion to criticize the cease fire in South West Syria announced by President Trump at the G20 summit on the grounds that it was to the advantage of Iran who he claimed was planning to set up military bases in Syria.

Although Macron used the occasion to once more stir up the controversy as to whether ‘France’ or the illegitimate German controlled French Vichy government was responsible for the rounding up of the Jews, it is doubtful if the position of the French government on Israel is as extreme as his statements indicate. To some extent it is about domestic politics because his attacks on anti-Semitism and hate, which he associates with nationalism, are a way of making it difficult for those opposed to his policies on Europe and easy immigration to get a hearing, whilst at the same time assuring himself the support of most of the Jewish community in France. Significantly no questions were allowed at the press conference given by the two leaders.

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