French President Emmanuel Macron denounced France’s collaboration in the Holocaust, lashing out yesterday at those who negate or minimise the country’s role in sending tens of thousands of Jews to their deaths.
After he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a Holocaust commemoration, Macron also appealed for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Worried that Netanyahu is backing away from commitment to a two-state solution, Macron assailed Jewish settlement construction as a threat to international hopes for peace.
Commemorating 75 years since a mass round-up of Jews during the darkest chapter of modern French history, Macron insisted that "it was indeed France that organised this.”
"Not a single German” was directly involved, he said, but French police collaborating with the Nazis.
Holocaust survivors recounted wrenching stories at the ceremony at the site of Vel d’Hiv stadium outside Paris, where police herded some 13,000 people on 16-17 July, 1942 before they were deported to camps. More than 4,000 were children.
Fewer than 100 survived.
They were among some 76,000 Jews deported from France to Nazi camps.
It was a half century later when then-President Jacques Chirac became the first French leader to acknowledge the state’s role in the Holocaust’s horrors.
Macron dismissed arguments by French right-wing leaders that the collaborationist Vichy regime didn’t represent France.
"It is convenient to see the Vichy regime as born of nothingness, returned to nothingness . Yes, it’s convenient, but it is false. We cannot build pride upon a lie.”
French Jewish leaders hailed Macron’s speech yesterday – even as critics railed at him online, where renewed anti-Semitism has flourished.
Macron pledged to fight such racism, and called for thorough investigation into the recent killing of a Parisian woman believed linked to anti-Jewish sentiment.
Netanyahu said that "recently we have witnessed a rise of extremist forces that seek to destroy not only the Jews, but of course the Jewish state as well, but well beyond that. The zealots of militant Islam, who seek to destroy you, seek to destroy us as well. We must stand against them together.”
Pro-Palestinian and other activists protested against Netanyahu’s appearance in Paris, criticising Jewish settlement policy and the blockade of Gaza.
Macron condemned an attack last week that killed two Israeli police officers at a Jerusalem shrine revered by Jews and Muslims, and said he is committed to Israel’s security – but warned that continued Jewish settlement construction threatens peace efforts.
"I call for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the framework of the search for a solution of two states, Israel and Palestine, living in recognised, secure borders with Jerusalem as the capital,” Macron told reporters.
At his side, Netanyahu said, "We share the same desire for a peaceful Middle East,” but didn’t elaborate on eventual peace talks.
While Macron has been flexing his diplomatic skills with Presidents Trump and Putin, he didn’t indicate any eagerness for France to spearhead such negotiations, after a lacklustre French Mideast diplomatic effort under his predecessor early this year.
Macron and Netanyahu also discussed fighting extremism in Syria and elsewhere, and improving economic cooperation.
Macron’s office said he is concerned about Israel’s security but also worried that Netanyahu is backing away from commitment to a two-state solution.