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Protesters turned out across Paris to denounce a rise in antisemitism

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In Paris, more than 100,000 people turned out Sunday to denounce a rise in antisemitism and march in solidarity with French Jews, the largest Jewish community in Europe. France also has Europe's largest Muslim population, and the country has been on edge since the October 7 Hamas attack and Israel's bombardment of Gaza. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: French political leaders from across the spectrum, including two former presidents, sang the French national anthem as they marched behind a banner reading For the Republic Against Antisemitism. People of all backgrounds and generations took part. Thirty-five-year-old Michael Dusenne says he's not Jewish and not very political, but he's horrified by the sudden rise in antisemitic acts.

MICHAEL DUSENNE: Today is a day that is not about politics, in my opinion. It's not a day about Israel or a geopolitical situation. In my opinion, it's a day about respect of fundamental human values.

BEARDSLEY: This Mideast conflict has upended traditional French politics. That was clear by who took part in the march and who didn't.

MARINE LE PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Far-right leader Marine Le Pen came out to march, telling French TV, we are exactly where we should be. Le Pen has worked to legitimize the once extremist party founded by her father, a known antisemite. The far left boycotted the march. France Unbowed party leader Jean-Luc Melenchon even called participants supporters of the civilian massacre in Gaza. President Emmanuel Macron is walking a tightrope. While he has consistently proclaimed France's support for Israel, he is also the first European leader to call for a cease-fire, and he wants to see the two-state solution revived.

AURELIE SEBBAH: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: Forty-five-year-old Aurelie Sebbah says her family came to the march because they're Jewish and because they're French citizens and should not have to live in fear.

SEBBAH: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "We are nostalgic for the France where we don't have to remove the mezuzah from our doors," she says, "or take our last name off food delivery apps." But Sebbah says seeing this huge crowd, especially all those who aren't Jewish, is heartening. "What's happening is clearly worrying to everyone," she says. "Thank goodness."

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Eleanor Beardsley
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.