French city authorities agree to remove ‘anti-Semitic’ mural of Macron

A street art mural in a French city depicting President Emmanuel Macron as a puppet in the hands of an economist of Jewish origin has been removed, authorities said on Friday, after it was denounced as blatantly anti-Semitic.

French city authorities agree to remove 'anti-Semitic' mural of Macron
The mural appeared in the southern French city of Avignon. Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

The controversy over the mural in the southern city of Avignon represents an embarrassment to the local authorities just two weeks before the city hosts its world-famous annual international theatre festival from July 7th.

The mural, painted by the street artist Lekto, depicts Macron as the lying puppet Pinocchio with his strings pulled by the celebrated French economist and former Elysee adviser Jacques Attali, who was born to a Jewish family in French Algeria.

The local prefecture authority said in a statement that “following the emotional reactions” authorities had agreed “to erase the fresco”.

“The operation was carried out this very morning,” it added.

The mural, painted on an electricity transformer at the north-eastern entrance to the city, had already been partially covered overnight by an anonymous individual.

Controversy over the work had been building ever since it was created on Wednesday.

The image “takes up all the tropes of anti-Semitic propaganda and fascist iconography,” French member of the European Parliament Raphael Glucksmann said on Twitter.

“To refuse to erase it in the name of ‘freedom of expression’ is a scandal,” he added.

The mural was put up by the artist of his own accord and no institution encouraged or funded it.

But according to France Bleu radio, the city of Avignon — run by Socialist mayor Cecile Helle — initially refused to cover it up to “respect freedom of expression” before changing tack as pressure grew.

“As usual the problem is the people who don’t see the problem,” tweeted prominent French comic book artist Joann Sfar.

France’s centre-left Parti Socialiste leader Olivier Faure added on Twitter: “The interpretation of this fresco leaves little open to doubt.”

“The figure of the Jewish banker manipulating his puppets is a recurring theme of anti-Semites.”

He described anti-Semitism as a recurring “plague” that cannot be tolerated.

Although not of Jewish origin himself, Macron has repeatedly been targeted by anti-Semitic insinuations and baseless conspiracy theories related to his past work for investment bankers Rothschild.

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French police find ‘alarming’ neo-Nazi arms stash

French police discovered an arsenal of weapons including machine guns after arresting four men suspected of belonging to a neo-Nazi group in the eastern Alsace region, officials said Friday.

French police find 'alarming' neo-Nazi arms stash

Some 200 officers detained the men, aged 45 to 53, at their homes on Tuesday near Mulhouse after intelligence services determined the group’s members took part in a “Jew hunt” during a football match in Strasbourg, prosecutor Edwige Roux-Morizot told a press conference.

They discovered an “alarming” number of guns — 18 legal and 23 illegal — 167 magazines, 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of gunpowder and materials for potentially making explosives, she said.

The bullet equivalent of “at least 120,000 cartridges” was also found, Lieutenant Colonel Yann Wanson of the local police unit said.

France has stepped up its surveillance of far-right extremists in line with an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years, with President Emmanuel Macron visiting a vandalised Jewish cemetery in Alsace in December 2019.

So far investigators have not determined if the men were planning an attack, but anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denial works were found and computer equipment is being analysed, Roux-Morizot said.

They also discovered equipment for making bullets and over €25,000 ($26,800) in cash.

The suspects have been charged with arms trafficking and face up to 10 years in prison.