France: An old hatred grows stronger
Here we go again, said Jean Daniel in L’ Obs. The French are bent on reminding the world that we are “the most anti-Semitic and perhaps the most racist people in Europe.” The past few weeks have seen a wave of anti-Semitic vandalism, with “Death to the Jews” sprayed on buildings, and swastikas on Jewish gravestones and mailboxes that bear the portrait of Holocaust survivor and politician Simone Veil. In a park in a Paris suburb, vandals cut down a tree planted in memory of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old tortured and killed in 2006 by a North African gang who believed his family must be rich because they were Jewish. Because of all these acts, a national march against anti-Semitism had already been planned when a shocking video went viral. It showed a protester with the populist Yellow Vest movement screaming at the Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut—himself a Yellow Vest supporter—calling him a “dirty Zionist shit” who should “go back to Tel Aviv.” The French were outraged at this attack on the 69-year-old intellectual, but they should not be surprised. From the scapegoating of the French Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus in the late 19th century to the deadly terrorist attack on a kosher deli in 2015 that left four Jews dead, France has always been “an anti-Semitic country.”
And it’s getting worse, said Jeanne Sénéchal in Le Figaro. Tens of thousands of people joined last week’s nationwide protest marches against anti-Semitism, including nearly every major political leader. President Emmanuel Macron did not attend, but only because he was visiting a desecrated Jewish cemetery. Yet when the TV station France 3 Alsace tried to livestream his visit on its Facebook page, it had to cut the feed because of a string of “openly anti-Semitic and racist comments,” including “explicit calls for murder” of Jews and Macron, who Yellow Vests claim is a tool of the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family. Anti-Semitic acts were up 74 percent last year, and in the week since the march the pace has accelerated to at least two per day in Paris alone.
We all denounce anti-Semitism, said Claude Weill in Nice-Matin, but we all blame different sectors of society for it. To xenophobes like the far-right leader Marine Le Pen, anti-Semitism is the fault of French Muslims. To the center-right, it stems from the virulent anti-Zionism of leftists. To the left, it’s the fault of far-right nationalists. France will never shed its curse until we accept that anti-Semitic prejudice permeates our society. Even if the vandals and attackers among us are few, “the prejudices and stereotypes that inspire them are much more widespread.” True, said Gérard Bensussan in Le Monde, but they are found in particular among a vocal minority of Yellow Vests. The movement now “carries with it death threats, insults, and abominations, like a sea sullied by garbage.” Far-right militants have infiltrated the group. Until the Yellow Vests purge them, the anti-Semitic wave will continue. ■