Lisa Cohen, 31, just returned to Paris from a trip to Tel Aviv to support her friends and family there after the attack. “I felt better there,” she said walking in the crowd. Many of her non-Jewish friends had become distant she said, as they supported the Palestinian cause and could not find common ground.
“Some have been minimizing the antisemitic attacks, saying Islamophobia is worse and that Jews have had too much attention,” said Ms. Cohen, a project manager at a tech start-up.
Marc Badgett, 43, held up a sign in the shape of a giant white hand. Printed on it he had written “don’t touch my Jewish brother.” It was the first protest he had ever marched in — a rarity in France, where protest is a veritable rite of passage. He had never felt moved to before, he said.
“I have Jewish friends, and it’s important I stand with them,” Mr. Badgett said.
While the calls for Sunday’s marches were aimed at unity, they also fanned a political uproar.
Mr. Macron traveled to Israel last month to declare support for the country, while also working toward humanitarian support for Gaza.
But Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, dismissed Sunday’s marches on social media as a meeting for “friends of unconditional support for the massacre.” France Unbowed has refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization.
However, the new leader of the far-right National Rally, Jordan Bardella, announced that members of his party would be attending the march. He and Marine Le Pen, the former party leader, were greeted by angry shouts from the crowd, with people accusing them of trying to sanitize the party’s image, while a Jewish group called Collectif Golem loudly denounced them as “fascists.”
Party officials appeared unfazed. “A lot of people are happy to see us,” said Wallerand de Saint-Just, a National Rally regional counselor. “Antisemitism today is from Islamic radicals. That’s clear. People know, at all levels of society, that we are the first to denounce this danger.” He added, “We are the rampart against the real enemy.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, was at the front of the march and said that the government was “telling our Jewish citizens that we are at their side, we are mobilized, and we will not let anything pass.”