The European Jewish Congress (EJC) has applauded discussions within the French Parliament about criminalising anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism.

The debate about the matter was held by a 30-member cross-party study group on antisemitism in the French National Assembly chaired Sylvain Maillard, a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party.

The group discussed the type of legislation that should be used to make anti-Zionism an offense.

Following the debate, EJC president Dr. Moshe Kantor said the organization “absolutely welcome this discussion and hope to see it lead to concrete action because it is clear that the overwhelming majority of those who claim to be anti-Zionist use it merely as a cover for their antisemitism,”

“We are, of course, making a huge differentiation between completely legitimate criticism of Israel and its policies, and singling out and isolating the Jewish people as not being allowed to express its right to self-determination and to live in its national homeland,” he said.

Kantor added that “anti-Zionists never claim that any other nation on earth, apart from the Jewish state, should be dismantled or is illegitimate so it is clear that this meets any standard of delegitimization, demonization and double-standards.”

The debate in the French Parliament comes in the wake of a wave of attacks against Jews and Jewish symbols and institutions in France, like the daubing of swastikas on Jewish tombstones in Alsace, the firing of shots at a synagogue in Paris, the defacing of the image of Holocaust survivor Simone Veil and the abuse directed against Alain Finkielkraut when he was called a “dirty Zionist” by some involved in the ‘yellow vests’ demonstrations.

According to Kantor too many “think that if you substitute the word ‘Jew’ for ‘Zionist’, then you can say all manner of abusive and outrageous things, and this sleight of hand has become comprehensively acceptable.

“That is why it is so important to close this gap in the law because if you can continue spreading hatred against Jews just by changing a word then you allow a loophole for hate,” he said, adding that just as there is an understanding that the Quenelle “was merely a disguised Nazi salute and still violated anti-hate laws in France, so [too] using anti-Zionism as a pretext to spread hatred of Jews should be likewise criminalized.”

The Quenelle is an “anti-system” gesture created by an anti-Zionist by political activist and comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala.

Earlier this week, the EJC presented the EU with its “first-ever” action plan to combat antisemitism, which has seen a major surge in the past year.

In the past week alone, France has seen several antisemitic incidents including the desecration of nearly 100 graves at a Jewish cemetery near Strasbourg.

Statistics published last week showed that there has been a rise of 74% in the number of antisemitic attacks in France between 2017 and 2018.