The commemoration in France of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945 has had a major emotional impact on the political and media classes.
No European country was spared the tragedy of Jews having been swept up in the Nazi machine for extermination.
In France, such emotion is especially intense because of the two factors (i)that it sent its Jews to concentration camps ( as other countries did) and (ii) but in addition the Vichy regime was independent of the Nazi occupier.
The failure to protect political and human rights is a cause of national shame, especially so, because until 1995 the successive French governments refused to recognize their own responsibility in the deportation and extermination of its Jews.
The ceremonies and media coverage of the 1945 Auschwitz liberation brought to public attention that the country is saddled with a terrible problem of anti-Semitism.
Emmanuel Macron president of France declared last week at the Memorial to the Shoah in Paris, "The Holocaust must remain an open wound in the side of humanity, in the side of the French Republic." Macron went on to condemn the "unbearable revival of anti-Semitism."
Macron also told the gathering, "Even today, because they were born Jewish, women, men, children are insulted, despised, beaten, sometimes killed. This recurring anti-Semitism is not the problem of the Jews, it is our problem for all. This is the problem of the Republic."
The statistics are so overwhelming they defy credibility, reminding us of the nightmare of the 1930s and 1940’s.
We can trace the broad outline of the progression of violence to the beginning of the 1980s.
There were incidents of Palestinian terrorist groups bombing and machine-gunning Jews in Jewish neighborhoods. Synagogues and cemeteries were desecrated with increasing frequency by right wing groups; demonstrations were organized targeting Israel as a criminal and illegal occupier of Arab land.
Some individual Jews were tortured and assassinated by lone Arab terrorists.
Two young girls and their father were machine gunned at a Jewish school in a city in Southwestern France; two elderly women were tortured and assassinated in their apartments.
Then bad turned to worse. During the last 10 years, it became increasingly normal for Jews to be harassed, verbally abused, and sometimes even physically attacked in suburbs where Jews and Muslims live in close proximity to one another.
France has had to face a certain truth, that it is the only country globally experiencing a new and brutal form of anti-Semitism. The murder of people because they are Jewish.
An AJC Paris survey found that 70% of French Jews say they have been victims of at least one anti-Semitic incident in their lifetime, 64% have suffered anti-Semitic verbal abuse at least once, and 23% have been targets of physical violence on at least one occasion, with 10% saying they were attacked several times.
How to explain France's anti-Semitic downward slide, to where it is now, actually gives rise to worry about other countires in Europe as well.
The broad causes can be briefly outlined:
—Failure to integrate the waves of Muslim immigration of what are now approximately 10 million people, representing 15% to 20% of the general population with a not insignificant percentage attracted to Islamic fundamentalism in one degree or another.
—The injustice that Arab populations in some French cities such as Toulouse, and also in Paris suburbs, experience when they see their Jewish neighbors having succeeded in building for themselves and their families a better, more financially secure lifestyle.
—The widespread sentiment among the political elites and media elites that Israel is responsible not just for oppression of Palestinians, but destabilizing the region (almost laughable if not tragic when compared with countries responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of "enemies"). The press and political elite have additionally encouraged the idea that Israel is an oppressor of Arabs and Palestinians. When the tiny State of Israel won the 1967 Three Day War at the same time as France lost its war in Algeria, France's wounded pride pushed France’s most prestigious political leader, Charles de Gaulle, to say:
"The Jews, hitherto dispersed, but who had remained what they had always been, that is to say an elite people, self-confident and domineering, once gathered in the site of their former greatness, transformed the very moving wishes they had formed for nineteen centuries: "next year in Jerusalem into ardent and conquering ambition."
This is not from an avowed Nazi but from a French president and war hero.
— Independent of Jews and Israel, France, a world economic and military power where political parties were dedicated to reduce wealth inequality, is plagued with increasing violent crimes, homelessness, poverty, a widening gap between expectations and the quality of life for middle most workers, as well as civil disorder where demonstrators are packed with violent extremists.
What is to be done?
Among the steps that I suggested that France could take in an article I wrote on this subject in April of 2018, are two major initiatives that would have a significant positive impact:
1. In the same way as France admitted 50 years after the end of World War II its complicitness in Nazi crimes, France needs to take a step back from its years of supporting the U.N. and UNESCO Resolutions that uniquely placed Israel as the guilty party for the suffering of the Palestinian people, with the serious abuses of rights of other governments left aside. Now that anti-Zionism has been equated with Anti Semitism and its definition as a denial of Jewish rights to a homeland has been broadened to include hostility to Israel, the French president must take into consideration that it has been the French State itself, by consistently adopting policies hostile to Israel, that is guilty of anti-Semitism.
2. Rather than insist France's schools teach the sad tragic history of the fate of Jews during Wordl War II, it needs to be recognized that Jews portrayed only as victims, needs to be balanced with Jews as participants in history in general. The Jews have to be taken out of the sad caricatures of as being both victims, and now oppressors, to take their place as a full fledged people living in history from ancient times through the Persian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Ottoman empires; followed by European empires and kingdoms. Jews have lived as a nation, a province, a people and a religion. Their story is fascinating, but removed from history books, as part of a campaign to view them as those who simply didn’t belong.
To return Jews as a people alongside of other peoples globally will go a long way to render those who consider that Jewish oppression is normal as being the ones who are the actual outcasts of history.
Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l’EDHEC. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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