Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

A Growing Fear in France

As political and financial crises deepen in Western Europe, French Jewry is facing a familiar test

Print Email
Rabbi Belinow Mendel (second from left) speaks with policemen next to his synagogue in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on Jan. 12, 2009, after a few people lit several gas cylinders in front of the synagogue. (Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images)
Related Content

Mind Games

French Jews, confronting anti-Semitism in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, created the figure of the intellectual. And now, arguing about Israel and Islam, they’re killing it.

#FrenchJewHating

Can a group of French students force Twitter to release the names of users posting anti-Semitic tweets?

L’Antisémite, Banned at Cannes

A new French film is worth watching if only for its portrayal of aesthetic corruption propelled by bigotry

The UEJF took legal action against the site. In January, French courts ruled that Twitter must identify its racist users in order to allow French authorities to prosecute them for violating hate speech laws. This would challenge Twitter’s reluctance to moderate its content. Thus far, Twitter has not yet cooperated. “Suing Twitter is highly symbolic,” says Hayoun.

Social media are merely an indicator of the rise of trivialized anti-Semitism. Another indicator of its “demarginalization” in the words of Pierre-André Taguieff, is the success of comedian Dieudonné, who has attracted thousands to his shows brimming with anti-Semitic “jokes” and has been awarded the prize of “political incorrectness” by Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson—presented to him on stage by a sound technician, dressed in stripped pajamas. Dieudonné crosses the limits of libel in order to fashion himself as a defender of freedom of speech—and the victim of the powerful Zionist plot against it. This trend has penetrated the minds of the youth: Speakers of the CoExist program in partnership with SOS Racisme exhibit banal deep-seated anti-Semitism. Ten years ago a study titled “The lost territories of the Republic” tried to raise awareness about the challenges of teaching racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism in the classroom: Things have only gotten worse, claims its editor, historian George Bensoussan. Now teaching the Holocaust proves almost impossible in certain neighborhoods.

In order to describe this phenomenon, Taguieff resists the term anti-Semitism, coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, with its historical overtones that grounds it in the late 19th century and in racial Nazi propaganda. “Judeophobia is more generic—what we witness now is a post-antisemite judeophobia structured by radical anti-Zionism.” This term renders more accurately this new mental landscape fueled by social resentment, “which started taking roots back in the 1990s.” The excuse of victimhood lies at the core of Judeophobia and anti-Zionism propaganda: Tariq Ramadan, a controversial Muslim scholar and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was a case in point when he depicted Muhammed Merah as a victim of the injustices of French society, which shuts all upward-mobility opportunities for second-generation immigrants. “Playing on these affects and emphasizing powerlessness lead to an identification with the Palestinians and thus to a demonization of the Jew,” claims Taguieff.

The loss of prestige of SOS Racisme in the banlieues further illustrates this phenomenon: The trailblazer organization in campaigns against racial and religious hatred and prejudices in the 1980s has lost momentum as if fighting against both racism and anti-Semitism had ceased to be relevant. A monumental 2,000-page dictionary of racism (Dictionaire critique et historique du racisme), just released and edited under Taguieff’s direction, sheds further light on this disconnect. As a result, the prevailing perception among many French today is that members of the Left are unwilling to deal strongly with anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic rhetoric out of ostensible sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians or, worse, that they are merely using the Palestinian situation as an excuse to mask their own Judeophobia.

***

To be sure, the delayed coverage of last month’s case does not mean that such events are no longer newsworthy: It rather suggests that claims of anti-Semitic attacks by youths of Arab descent must be dealt with cautiously. In an infamous case in July 2004, a woman claimed to have been savagely beaten on a suburban commuter train by six young men of African and Arab origins who cut her hair and painted a swastika on her stomach. Both Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and President Jacques Chirac vociferously denounced the crime and promised that the perpetrators would feel the full weight of justice.

Yet it turned out that the attack had been staged by a mentally disturbed young woman who was not Jewish. Many voices joined the Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les Peuples (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples) in drawing acrid conclusions about systematic tendencies to stigmatize the youth of underprivileged urban neighborhoods, the so-called “Jeunes des banlieues.” In response, the Union des Etudiants Juifs de France expressed its concern that such an event would blind people to the reality of rampant anti-Semitism. Another comparable episode had taken place the year before involving Gabriel Farhi, a middle-aged reform rabbi, who had claimed he had been attacked by a man shouting “Allah hu akbar.” The evidence brought forth by the investigation leaned toward a case of self-mutilation (that Farhi denied), and the case was closed. Such cases of deception only weaken the Jewish community since anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic rhetoric always involves accusations of the Jewish domination of the media.

And there is another, more unexpected, trend afoot. Traditionally aligned with the Left, some Jews in France—and more generally in European countries—have begun to align with more conservative parties. Ten years ago, a Jewish radio network would never have dreamed of conversing with the leader of the National Front, a traditionally ultra-right party. Yet the RCJ, the radio of the Jewish community, considered extending just such an invitation to Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose knack for scandalous one-liners and unpalatable jokes about crematoriums and gas chambers as a “detail in history” made him a controversial and loathed figure in the 1980s and 1990s. According to recent polls, his daughter’s shrewd political strategy of appealing to Jews and women to soften her party’s image would put her in the second round of the presidential elections, if they were held today.

Most Jewish observers, especially the younger ones, resist this appeal: “The extreme Right has not changed,” Jonathan Hayoun, president of the Union des Étudiants Juifs de France, a prominent Jewish student union, told me. “Under the pretense of a protecting image, it promotes a social vision that discriminates and segregates. In fact, it just taps into people’s fears and pits one part of the population against the other, thus endangering the republican pact and the possibility of coexistence. We learned the lessons of history and will not be fooled.” But the fact that it is happening at all is disconcerting.

Disillusioned but unwilling to join the ranks of the extremes, a majority of French Jews still refuse to forsake their faith in their motherland altogether or, at least, to openly admit it. In 2004 then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon caused an outrage when he invited French Jews to be the next mass immigration to Israel and not to sit it out, hoping that things would improve in France. Politicians and leaders of Jewish institutions alike voiced their disapproval for such an intrusion into French politics. This would probably still be the case today were a foreign politician or commentator to make similar statements—such hints at a doomed future are, at least in public, greeted with irritation. “Aliya figures have not soared,” concludes Hayoun.

Yet the republican pact appears to be broken, and with approval rates sinking to new lows President Hollande has so far failed to give answers to a nation plagued by debt, taxes, and all-time high unemployment. A recent poll, in April, shows that over two in three French are braced for violent social unrest (“explosion sociale”) in the coming months: In the current climate, the communal anxiety of French Jews is being fueled by their awareness that they are ideal scapegoats. As CRIF President Richard Prasquier concludes, this deleterious climate “damages the image of France as a safe haven for its minorities”—an image that French Jews still refuse to see as their world of yesterday.

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

1 2View as single page
Print Email

Very good article. I’m not surprised. When I lived in France in the 1980s, many French people told me pointedly that I and other Jews were ourselves the cause of anti-Semitism presumably because we were still proud to be Jews, and that I should be ashamed of my religion. The word, juive, was said as something derogatory. One French woman (who happened to host me in her home for an entire semester) told me simply that I would go to hell for not believing in Jesus. The exploding Arab population in France parallels an open rise in anti-Semitism (under the guise of anti-Zionism), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the French kowtow to Muslim totalitarianism the way they kowtowed to Nazi totalitarianism in WW2.

mishamb says:

I hate to say this because it sounds alarmist and I don’t think of myself that way, but I can certainly see the U.S. heading the way of France fifteen or twenty years from now.

mishamb says:

I hate to say this because it sounds alarmist and I don’t think of myself that way, but I can certainly see the U.S. heading the way of France fifteen or twenty years from now.

Juanvictor says:

Perhaps the best and most balanced account of the dilemmas of French Jewry that I have read in English to date.

Efram Paul says:

Politically, the Jews have been effectively disenfranchised by France and the US. Most Jews, by nature, are liberal, because they have been persecuted unrelentingly for 2000 years, and do not wish this to be replicated against themselves or anyone else. However, forces which used to be liberal and progressive, have been seized with a certain hardening of the arteries, as they have been hijacked by the blatantly anti-Semitic chorus of politically-coerced censorship. This has driven many to the right. However, the right is not a good home either. Currently, there is a pro-Israel and pro-Jewish posture in the right (with notable exceptions such as Nazis Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul). However, all the rest of their policies are appalling to anyone with a social conscience. Jews, as usual, stand alone.

jadezakozyl says:

мy rooмαтe’ѕ мoтнer мαĸeѕ $85/нoυr oɴ тнe ιɴтerɴeт. ѕнe нαѕ вeeɴ wιтнoυт α joв ғor ѕeveɴ мoɴтнѕ вυт lαѕт мoɴтн нer ιɴcoмe wαѕ $182З6 jυѕт worĸιɴɢ oɴ тнe ιɴтerɴeт ғor α ғew нoυrѕ. нere’ѕ тнe ѕιтe тo reαd мore Zap2­2­.c­o&shym&shy

Larry Fleisher says:

the french will kowtow to anyone. ie the first and second world wars.
they have always been jew haters and weak sisters. they will pay the price for their inability to stand up.

Eric M Weis says:

I detect a thread of anti-Francism in many of these comments. Prime Ministers Hollande and Sarcozy have both taken strong stands against anti-semitism. France recognizes its responsibility for Drancy. But I have yet to hear an American leader stand up and take responsibility for closing its borders in the 1930s and ignoring the death camps as they incinerated 400,000 Hungarian Jews in the last year of the war. France has the third largest Jewish population in the world, and despite its best efforts, Israel is not able to attract many as olim. French Jews buy property in Israel and love to vacation there, but most are content to remain chez lui.

Given the prevalence of antisemitism in France and Europe why do Jews still insist on living there when they could live in Israel, the US and a few other countries.

Good post, Efraim.

The US will never had the way of France or any other European country. This isn’t because there is no antisemitism here, but because our history is so different.

In the US the targeting of one minority is a threat to all minorities. This isn’t the case in Europe since there are fewer minorities and those that are there are part of larger semi-cast system in which everyone knows his place.

“France recognizes its responsibility for Drancy.”

Did they? Or was it only a government declaration?

How many French people really think that they (their families) were in part responsible for Drancy?

I’d bet not many.

“France recognizes its responsibility for Drancy.”

Did they? Or was it only a government declaration?

How many French people really think that they (their families) were in part responsible for Drancy?

I’d bet not many.

Googled “weak sister” and found this:

“weak sister

n. Slang

1. A weak or undependable member of a group.

2. A person regarded as timid or indecisive”

My dad was French and I am a Francophile. That having been said, France has always had a problem with Jews. I think the term “weak sister”, when it comes to supporting Israel and Jewish civil rights, may be the most perfect description I have ever heard.

Hollande is a huge supporter of the Palestinians regardless of anything he says. He loves the Muslims. Unfortunately, it would not surprise me to see France go the way of Algeria.

I got to spend three weeks in Algeria back in the early 80′s. It was a beautiful rapidly progressing country. At that time you could not get a visa if you were a member of the Muslim brotherhood (you could if you were Jewish). The French trained president died and guess who took over. I wouldn’t go back now! At this point in time I am willing to go back to France and visit family, but I am not sure how long that will last.

Larry Fleisher says:

hi jacob
i am reading a great book . ”a convenient hatred: the history of antisemitism.” i got it through the SPLC , but it is available on amazon.
goes back to the romans and the jewish mercenaries on the island of elephantine, very interesting.
the french citizens fought well during the first and second wars. it seems that the government is the ”weak sister” with their impenetrable Maginot Line and the Vichy government during WWII. since napoleon they have needed help. they would rather love than fight.
at my age i would rather nap than fight..

Fofana the killer and Dieudonné the anti-semitic “humorist” are Black African.
Anti-semitism aggressions in France are done by youg North African like Mohamed Merah. The Front National is not anti-jew the idol of their members is Eric Zemmour a witty Jew. .

CiporaJuliannaKohn says:

France has always been anti-Semitic. Any country which was dominated by the Catholic Church for so many centuries would be anti-Semitic.
The Muslims are also anti-Semitic for religious reasons.
Both Christians and Muslims are supremacists and imperialist religions.
Today, Christians on the whole no longer teach that Jews killed their god, but the harm done cannot be undone.

The situation of French Jews was somewhat different from that in the rest of Europe on account of reforms to civil laws introduced by Napoleon.
These reforms allowed Jews to enter the best universities based on merit.
However, no amount of assimilation could wash out endemic French anti-Semitism. The Vichy government was thrilled to collaborate with the Nazis in handing over their Jewish citizens.
Contrary to De Gaulle’s claims, the French resistance was not large. Those who collaborated were much more numerous and often for purely venal reasons.

Muslim attacks against French Jews goes back many decades. The attempt to blow up the synagogue on Rue Copernic took place around 1980.
However, Muslim attacks against French places of business and public places go back almost as far. A bomb exploded in the Galeries Lafayette in 1983.

One has seen huge riots and destruction of property in France’s banlieues for a number of years. It is undoubted that the French political class, regardless of their personal feelings, will sacrifice French Jews, especially those who live outside of the chic Parisian quartiers to the Muslim mobs if it brings them even a small measure of peace. Of course, it will not, not in the long term. Muslims are taught and believe that their religion and mores are superior and they therefore feel entitled.

TomJV says:

I’d bet most. Out of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands – the countries I know best – I’d say France is the one with the most conscious attitude towards the Shoah. Moments in remembrance of the Shoah feature more prominently and reflexion on it is more serious.

Or will you only be satisfied if they say a daily little “we’re sorry for Drancy” prayer?

line saal says:

Votre article est excellent. En-avez-vous une version en français (la traduction dénature toujours un peu) que nous pourrions publier sur le site http://www.tribunejuive.info?

Merci et encore bravo

William Dezwijger says:

WW II can’t be discussed in high schools, the holocaust is an ” invention ” or ” caused ” by the allied forces, this all due to muslim youths. If this is not countered a whole European generation will grow up with this taqiyya ( BS ). Anti Jewish sentiment is growing fueled by extremist groups payed for by ” political correct appeasers “. Time to clean ship.

Natan79 says:

The US did not deport Jews. Your country France did. A verbal apology 50 years after the murder of 75,000 Jews is nothing. Your country murdered and also stole from them. And you think a verbal apology is enough?!

Olga Kirschbaum says:

An excellent article: a nuanced analysis and a lively
presentation. Ms. Boulouque avoided all
the pitfalls so common in discussions of anti-Semitism. Here choice of examples and evidence was highly informative. I now get
French Jews in a way I did not before. Would love to hear more about why French
Jews are shifting to the right. Please
keep on printing articles of this quality.

Purple Rainman says:

Raise the Flag is a book with six easy reading stories by author’ design, autobiographical and one allegorical fiction, about his journey for education in six episodes from his life. Artistic, educational, and inspirational. Photos with color and contrast. Who says you cannot hit a homer with your first time up to bat? From bare knuckles fighting to graduating from the hard knocks public schools to doing a difficult and dangerous occupation of electrical lineman and working for an abusive alcoholic, enduring religious persecution after excommunication, under duress of law enforcement beating him down without probable cause and making up false charges, reports, and testimonies, and suffering adversity of government official who is convicted and MADD forcing others to pay for their political campaign by MADD perversion of justice by compromising a judges’ fair and impartial decision, by tampering with a witness and with a jury, and by racketeering, extortion, and bribery, while in retreat camping in a tent, and look see how education prevails by bringing you, Raise the Flag. http://www.jamesmorebooks.com And now something new with red, white, and blue–Raise the Flag hats are available made to order upon request.

Purple Rainman says:

Sticks and stones hurt me, subversive slanders undermine my integrity, and excommunications and political persecution are against our freedom of religion. Raise the Flag is a book with six easy reading stories by author’ design, autobiographical and one allegorical fiction, about his journey for education in six episodes from his life. Artistic, educational, and inspirational. Photos with color and contrast. Who says you cannot hit a homer with your first time up to bat? From bare knuckles fighting to graduating from the hard knocks public schools to doing a difficult and dangerous occupation of electrical lineman and working for an abusive alcoholic, enduring religious persecution after excommunication, under duress of law enforcement beating him down without probable cause and making up false charges, reports, and testimonies, and suffering adversity of government official who is convicted and MADD forcing others to pay for their political campaign by MADD perversion of justice by compromising a judges’ fair and impartial decision, by tampering with a witness and with a jury, and by racketeering, extortion, and bribery, while in retreat camping in a tent, and look see how education prevails by bringing you, Raise the Flag. http://www.jamesmorebooks.com And now something new with red, white, and blue–Raise the Flag hats are available made to order upon request.

Hard Little Machine says:

And yet the Tablet inspired leftist liberal Jewish obligatory absolute condemnation of any Jews living in Israel, you’ve left them with precious few options as to where to flee.

Chemla Véronique says:

http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/12/no_antisemitism_in_france.html
December 27, 2009
No Anti-Semitism in France?
By Véronique Chemla

Chemla Véronique says:

I think that it is a disappointing article which seems “politically islamically
correct”.

“Some isolated intoxicated individual punched him after asking him for a
cigarette”. It is not usual in France. “Intoxicated” by
what? A few weeks ago, Yariv Horowitz was interviewed by a Jewish French radio,
and he asserted he had been victim of an agression and will fill a complaint.
He didn’t know the reasons of that aggression and wanted to know the reasons.

What about the al-Dura controversy?

What about the French Far Left?

What about the role of Islam in Gang of Barbarians and in those anti-Semitic aggressions?
etc.

Véronique Chemla
French journalist
http://www.veroniquechemla.info

time to say goodbye
in 1942 the French cheered as the Germans deported their Jews to Auschwitz

now the French are complacent as the hooligans of the Arab world run rampant in their streets targeting Jews

The difference this time is that French Jews can get out while they’re still alive, in one piece, and with most of their wealth or other assets

Learn from history

surfer_dad says:

As always, honesty is the best answer.
Sometimes a “racist” mugger is just a mugger – sometimes he’s a racist actor perpetrating a crime BECAUSE of racism. It’s important to remember that both occur and to not jump to conclusions.

Sometimes Israel is right, sometimes wrong. We don’t call for the elimination of the USA because of Abu Ghraib, why does Israel get singled out? Well, partially because so many of us have lost any ability to criticize ANY action of Israel, so when they DO do something wrong, it’s easy to point to OUR flaws too and delegitimize Israel.

HONESTY HONESTY, always strive for honesty. THAT’S the answer.

jack loach says:

Sods —– Law.
February.—- 2014.

For almost two decades we have strived to get justice for the injustice we have suffered at the hands of a world renowned bank— PICTET & CIE. BANK.

Two yorkshiremen both running their own small family businesses trying to resolve the problem by taking all the correct legal procedures to recover their monies.

The matter was raised in Parliament – twice– the FSA investigated the matter concluding that PICTET had rogues operating in their London Bank — but the rogues had left —saying no one left to prosecute.??? —– so there.

We then approached the Financial Ombudsman Service. (FOS) — our case was dealt with by seven different people —- then our numerous E-Mails were ignored — nobody would speak to us ——-so there.

We then asked the SFO ( Serious Fraud Office.) to investigate our case —- the criteria of our case ticked all their boxes. — we were instructed not to send them any documents/evidence.—— in fact they wrote to us advising us to go to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.(CAB.)

Richard Alderman the SFO boss —- who responded to our letter was the same man who would not investigate the “ Madoff” scandal or the “Libor” fiasco.
The MP’s committee —- said he was sloppy— and the SFO was run like “ Fred Karno’s Circus” —– it was an office of fraud.—– so there.

Our M.P. approached our local Chief Constable to investigate—– he was called—- Sir Norman Bettison— Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police —- a force that made “ Dad’s Army” look like the S.A.S. They were inept – corrupt —malicious — from top to bottom. We were criminally dealt with by the Forces Solicitor—- the Head of the Economic Crime Unit —-and the Chief Constable —– so there.

We were then advised to pass our complaint against West Yorkshire Police to the I.P.C.C. – which we did — they advised us to make

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

A Growing Fear in France

As political and financial crises deepen in Western Europe, French Jewry is facing a familiar test

More on Tablet:

An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth

By Matti Friedman — A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters