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Hollande, Valls condemn anti-Semitism after Jewish cemetery vandalism

Desecrated tombstones in Sarre-Union Jewish cemetery
Desecrated tombstones in Sarre-Union Jewish cemetery Reuters/Vincent Kessler

France’s leaders on Monday declared that “Jews have their place in France” after Sunday’s profanation of a Jewish cemetery and Benjamin Netanyahu’s appeal to European Jews to emigrate to Israel in the aftermath of the weekend’s attack on a synagogue in Copenhagen.

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Jews "have their place in Europe and in particular in France", French President François Hollande said on Monday, while Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French Jews that “France is wounded as you are and France does not want you to leave.”

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

About 300 of the 400 graves and commemorative monuments in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France were damaged on Sunday, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced.

The vandalism followed Saturday’s attack on a free-speech conference and a synagogue in the Danish capital and last month’s Charlie Hebdo attacks, during which gunman Amedy Coulibaly killed four people in a kosher supermarket.

The Israeli prime minister on Sunday urged European Jews to emigrate to Israel.

"To the Jews of Europe and to the Jews of the world I say that Israel is waiting for you with open arms," Netanyahu said in a statement. "Israel is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe."

The Israeli prime minister irritated France’s leaders with a similar appeal during the massive march that followed the Charlie Hebdo killings.

Valls on Monday said he "regretted" Netanyahu's remarks, pointing out that he is "in the middle of an election campaign".

While saying that there are no clues yet as to who carried out the cemetery attacnk, he also called on French Muslims to “assume their responsibilities” to combat “Islamofascism”.

One of the France’s two major Islamic umbrella groups, the CFCM, responded by condemning the “inhuman and revolting profanations” with “the most extreme vigour”.

Hollande would attend a ceremony to mark the cemetery attack on Tuesday, if the investigation into the vandalism permitted, his office said on Monday.

Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National described the attack as an "infamous act" of "unheard-of cowardice".

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