Toulouse memorial ceremony March 19, 2014
Participants in a Paris memorial commemorating the two-year anniversary of the Toulouse shooting. Photo by AFP
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French Interior Minister Manuel Valls called anti-Zionism “an invitation to anti-Semitism” at a Paris memorial remembering four Jews who were murdered in Toulouse in 2012.

Valls made his remarks on Wednesday – the two-year anniversary of the fatal shootings at a Jewish day school of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler; his two sons, Arieh, 6, and Gabriel, 3; and Miriam Monsenego, 8.

The old anti-Semitism of the French extreme right “is renewed,” Valls said. “It feeds off hate for Israel. It feeds off anti-Zionism. Because anti-Zionism is an invitation to anti-Semitism.”

The memorial was organized by the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities on Trocadero Square near the Eiffel Tower, where more than 1,000 participants gathered to remember the victims of Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old Islamist.

“Criticism of Israel that is based on anti-Zionism — that’s anti-Semitism today, this is the refuge of those who do not accept the State of Israel,” Valls added.

Such official statements are unusual in France, which has strong egalitarian traditions and politicians typically speak of their commitment to fighting anti-Semitism along with other forms of racism.

At a separate commemoration organized by CRIF in Toulouse, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said his attendance was “homage in the name of the government and the entire republic, [and] a call to action against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, hate and violence.”

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, was among the 500 participants at the Toulouse event, the French television station TF1 reported.

In Bordeaux in southwestern France, CRIF organized a rally attended by 300 people, including former Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, now the city’s mayor.