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Website names Jews ‘who controls France’

Article by Charles Bremner published in The Times of London
Paris, 13 August 2021

The ghost of antisemitism has returned to haunt France, prompting criminal action against a website that claimed Jews control the country and the prosecution of a teacher who allegedly suggested that President Macron was part of a Jewish plot.

The government ordered the crackdown after incidents that showed how much the pandemic has fuelled a return of the old ugly currents that have stained French history.

On Wednesday a monument in Brittany to Simone Veil, the feminist, former minister and Holocaust survivor, was daubed with swastikas.

Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, sent in prosecutors after a site called [They Are Everywhere] laid out the names and profiles of Jewish politicians, media owners, financiers and arts figures who supposedly connive to control the country. The site’s name is an allusion to Je Suis Partout [I Am Everywhere], an anti-semitic newspaper during the Nazi occupation of 1940-44.

“This antisemitic site is deeply outrageous and sickening,” Darmanin said. Prosecutors would examine the roles of the platforms used by the site and social media that propagated its content, he added. The site, said to have been created by a Paris internet developer that had links to Russian networks, was closed down.

“Listing Jewish people belonging to the elite is a very ancient method which appeared from the end of the 19th century and which reached a peak in the 1930s,” said Emmanuel Debono, editor of DDV, a review published by Licra, the French Jewish defence association.

The site attracted government attention after Cassandre Fristot, 34, a schoolteacher and councillor for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, marched in an anti-vaccine protest in the eastern city of Metz with a placard police said was “manifestly antisemitic”.

It called Macron and Jewish ministers, media figures and financiers “traitors” and included the words: “Mais Qui?” [But who?]. The question is the latest code for the conspiracy theory that a Jewish cabal is behind the epidemic and Macron’s imposition of health passes to compel vaccination. Fristot was charged with incitement to racial hatred. “Antisemitism is a criminal offence, not an opinion, and such expressions will not remain unpunished,” Darmanin said.

Fristot received support from thousands of people on social media, who expressed their belief in the old conspiracy theory of a global cabal. The belief was given new life after the election of Macron, a former executive with Rothschild bank, in 2017. It was further boosted by a group of conspiracy believers taking part in the yellow vest protests of 2018 and 2019.

The “Who?” question became code for “Jews” after Daniel Delawarde, a retired general with far-right views, was asked on television who were the people he claimed were secretly controlling France. He replied: “The community that you well know.”

This month the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Jewish human rights body, wrote to the government about a campaign that claims Jewish doctors are behind the epidemic. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations, likened it to medieval charges that Jews poisoned wells and to the 1940s round-up of Jews by the wartime government.

“French Jewish doctors and those thought to be Jewish by the hatemongers must be protected,” Samuels wrote. “The irony is that the antisemites may one day be saved by a doctor who happens to be Jewish.”

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“My cause was justice, not vengeance. My work is for a better tomorrow and a more secure future for our children and grandchildren.” (Simon Wiesenthal, 1908-2005)