Blaming French Jews for Israel's actions in Gaza is just the latest vile expression of a rising wave of anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in the heart of Europe.
PARIS — Never in my life did I think that on the streets of Paris I would hear cries of "Juif, la France n'est pas à toi" (Jew, France is not yours). But that’s what happened in an anti-government march on January expand=1] 26.
Never in my life could I imagine synagogues being attacked. In France.
Nor did I believe it possible that there would be people, self-avowed defenders of the French Republic, who would deny or minimize these proven facts – who would make excuses like "these young people are so easily manipulated." I’ll pass on the worst justifications.
Pascal Riché, co-founder of the news website Rue89, was frightened last Saturday in Barbès neighborhood of the capital, by the anti-Semitism.
"You hear it a lot in the things young people say. I have never heard so many anti-Semitic pronouncements in so little time," he said. "It was particularly prevalent among the tough types, the ones with the sticks, masks, and truncheons. ‘The Jews are behind police lines, you have to go get them,’ said one."
What could be more legitimate than protesting against the bombings in Gaza? I myself wrote that the policy was condemnable and suicidal, and that Israel lacks a De Gaulle capable of reconciling Arabs and Jews.
But now things are just one impassable step away from making French Jews expiatory victims of the conflict.
Why this fixation on Gaza and Israel? To demonstrate solidarity with the Arab and Muslim communities? In that case then, why haven’t they demonstrated against the massacres in Syria? Or against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant? And where were they when Muslims were being massacred in Bosnia, Chechnya, India?
There is in this old identification with Palestine a strange fixation in which the keffiyeh plays the same role as portraits of Che Guevara did in the past. It’s as if Palestinians in Gaza were playing by proxy an avant-garde revolutionary role, as the proletariat formerly did.
Gaza, the Mecca of the Revolution? Go ask Asmaa el-Ghoul, a Gaza-based Palestinian writer who publicly opposed her uncle, the military head of Gaza’s Hamas leadership.
She declared her opposition to forced Islamization, so-called “honor” crimes, and sexist segregation.
A new source of hatred
Read the manifesto written by Gaza’s young movement "Gaza Youth Breaks Out," in which they describe the totalitarian control exercised by Hamas: "Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behavior and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country."
And that’s your "new world?"
This anti-Semitism we’re now seeing pretends it has nothing to do with "real anti-Semitism, that of a hierarchy of races, a political scapegoat strategy, or confiscation of Jewish property."
So there’s "faux anti-Semitism?" No. Many are those who for years have been pointing to the rise in a number of French banlieues (poor urban outskirts) of a “new” anti-Semitism. This refers to radical anti-Zionist positions taken by fringe elements ranging from far-left to Islamist jihadists who are merely adopting and reactivating – sometimes without awareness, sometimes deliberately – a series of long-established anti-Jewish themes.
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In Toulouse (France), outside of the Jewish school where three children and a rabbi were killed by Mohammed Merah, in March 2012. — Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Pierre-André Taguieff, in a major investigation of "modern judeophobia," effectively showed the ways in which the new anti-Semitism differed from the old, but that in the end it all amounted to the same thing!
In the past, what European racists hated about Jews were the things that made them “outsiders” – being non-Christian, Middle Eastern, Semite, and so on. Today, it’s different. Hatred for Jews manifests in hatred for things Western: Judeo-Christianity, capitalism, liberalism, imperialism, etc. – the things they wish to see destroyed.
And of course that includes Zionism, heading the imperialist list in the Arab world, anti-Zionism being the fig leaf of anti-Semitism!
The anti-Semitism of the extreme right, during the "Jour de Colère" (Day of Anger) demonstration, joined hands with the anti-Semitism of the extreme left. What do left-wing organizations have to say about that? And what is French Islam doing?
The rector of the Great Mosque of Paris and President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Dalil Boubakeur, didn’t exactly get his feet wet when he advocated "a general solemn call for peace, appeasement, calm, and restraint."
In the neighborhoods that we so gingerly refer to as "sensitive" to avoid stating outright that they’re no-go areas rife with drug trafficking, whole generations of young people have been abandoned to Salafist preachers who lay down the law.
In the face of the Islamophobia that touches all these young people – who, as Gilles Kepel so correctly notes, are "auto-ghettoized" – they find a moral framework we haven’t been able to give them.
But Islamophobia doesn’t justify anything. Yesterday, on the social networks, somebody thought they could put the subject to rest by referring to the machine-gunning of the mosque in Istres (southern France) on Saturday night! The mosque versus the synagogue…
Dangers of false choices
How did things reach this point? Believing we were doing the right thing, we have emphasized the right to be different instead of strengthening social cohesion at a time when the instruments of this cohesion, the associations, the political parties and even school were in the process of disintegrating.
Instead of creating social bonds we have favored "diversity," and by the same token disintegration, at a time when the economic crisis makes national social cohesion even more indispensable.
At the same time, Islamist networks have progressively taken the place of everything that used to knit a social fabric together in so-called "difficult" neighborhoods. So is it really pure chance if some of the denizens of these neighborhoods demonstrate with missiles made out of pasteboard and placards proclaiming "support for Palestinian resistance in all its forms," Hamas included? Let us not forget that Hamas advocates the destruction of the state of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state.
In May 1990, when graves were desecrated in the cemetery of Carpentras in southern France, there were huge demonstrations all over France. Today? Nothing, except doubtlessly counter-productive prohibitions of pro-Gaza demonstrations.
It all fits together, from support for Hamas and the jihadism of terrorists like Mohammed Merah in the Jewish school in Toulouse and Mehdi Nemmouche in Brussels to the attacks on synagogues. What is at stake here is the possibility of living together in a secular Republic.
Beware of the dangers of the binary logic according to which one shouldn’t denounce the anti-Semitism of the young from certain areas because they themselves are victims of Islamophobia. So we can’t revolt against this anti-Semitism as we do against the suffering of the people of Gaza? Yes, we can!