France, Jewish holiday Hanukkah at the Elysée: Macron ends up in the storm

Photo of author

By John

A simple gesture, a lit candle to celebrate the start of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah also at the Elysée, and the French president Emmanuel Macron has landed in a storm of controversy.
The event took place on Thursday evening, in the ceremonial hall of the presidential palace, after the European Conference of Rabbis, which awarded the head of state the Lord-Jacobovits prize, in recognition of France’s commitment against anti-Semitism. The Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, lit the first candle of the Hanukkah candlestick on stage and the audience sang the traditional Jewish song Màoz Tsour, while Emmanuel Macron watched the scene in silence, with his hands clasped and a smile on his lips. Few symbolic acts, relaunched by social media, but sufficient to unleash the opposition who accused the French leader of having reneged on his promises of secularism.
“From Mass in Marseille to Hanukkah at the Elysée, Macron proves that he doesn’t know what secularism means,” he thundered Jean-Luc Mélenchon on X, with reference to the president’s presence at the Pope’s function in September.
«As beautiful as it is, Hanukkah is a religious holiday. In which no elected representative of the Republic should participate, like any religious demonstration”, reacted the socialist deputy Jèrome Guedj, who recalled that the ceremony took place “two days before 9 December, the anniversary of the 1905 law”, of which article 2 states that “the Republic does not recognise, pay for or subsidize any religion”. «Hanuka at the Elysée! Soon Easter, Eid? And we will ask teachers to explain secularism to our children”, he was indignant Francois Ruffin.
On the right, less strong but still critical reactions: «The president tried to make up for not having participated in the march against anti-Semitism», accused the deputy of the Rassemblement National, Laure Lavalette. “How can we refuse to participate in a civic march against anti-Semitism on the incongruous and fallacious basis of safeguarding national unity, and celebrate a religious festival inside the presidential palace?” asked the mayor of Cannes, the republican David Lisnard. «After having assimilated the march against anti-Semitism to an Islamophobic act, Emmanuel Macron wants to remedy this by organizing a Jewish religious ceremony in the municipal hall of the Elysée», he stormed E’ric Zemmour.
“I don’t indulge in a gesture of worship” Macron responded to criticism during his visit to the Notre-Dame de Paris site which is being reconstructed yesterday. «Secularism is not the cancellation of religions. It is the fact that everyone has the right and freedom to believe and not believe,” he said. It is necessary, he added, to “give trust” to French Jews, but also to Muslims, “taking into account the context”, that of the war between Israel and Hamas. An argument also supported by Elisabeth Borne who, recalling “the rise of anti-Semitism”, stated that: “The message of the President of the Republic in this period is that we protect and support all those who want to practice their religion, and in particular the Jewish community”.