Tags: france | antisemitism | israel | zionism

Can France Fight Anti-Semitism While Being Hostile Toward Israel?

Can France Fight Anti-Semitism While Being Hostile Toward Israel?

By Tuesday, 10 October 2017 04:27 PM Current | Bio | Archive

France is trying to fight anti-Semitism while walking a tight rope to please its more than 6 million-strong Arab minority and also maintaining a policy that is at best unfriendly to Israel.

It is not just now that France has been a center of Jewish concern and also controversy.

France with a present Jewish population of more than 600,000, the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest in the world (after Israel and the United States), was the first country in Europe to emancipate its Jews and accept Jewish immigrants. Later, at the end of the 19th century, the relation with Jews was seriously endangered when a patriotic Jewish captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of espionage and French civil and political society was fractured along pro-Dreyfus and anti-Dreyfus lines. More recently the tragedy of the European genocide of its Jews has lingered as an open sore because the French Republic has now taken responsibility for its own government having participated in the deportation of 80,000 Jews.

Over the course of the past decade France has never had less than 600 anti-Semitic acts a year. The 2013 attack on the Hypercasher market in a Paris suburb was world news. Other acts that captured attention in the French press were the brutal murder of a young Jew by the “gang of Barbarians” in 2006, and the massacre of three Jewish students and a teacher in Toulouse in 2012. Although since 2016 the violence has decreased, the hate messages on social media have increased dramatically.

“The Jewish Question” the term used by Jean Paul Sartre in 1946 has now become, since the turn of the 21st century and the 9/11 attack, inexorably linked to the Israel-Arab conflict. Anti-Semitic acts are attributable to radical Islam and only incidentally to the traditional anti-Semitic extreme right. What is clear however is that Islamic extremism gets a turbo boost from anti-Jewish prejudice in the general population. According to the survey institute IFOP, the Muslim bias against Jews, present in 63 percent of believing and practicing Muslims, finds a fertile breeding ground amongst the general population where 19 percent of the entire French sample adhered to the idea that Jews have “too much” political power, one-quarter think that Jews have too much financial power, 22 percent say that Jews have too much power in the media, 35 percent are of the opinion that Jews use their status as victims of the Holocaust in their own interest, and 16 percent think there is a global Zionist conspiracy. Even worse, 14 percent of French people consider the attacks against the Jewish community understandable.

What to do?

An essential first step is acceptance of the seriousness of the presence of anti-Semitism in France even as France comes to grips with acts of terrorism by Islamic radicals that are directed against the general population. In fact anti-Semitism affects the Jewish community, but is, as had always been the case, an indication of a serious breach in the social fabric of the country.

Second, the government and media have to face a truth that no one wants to admit which is that it is difficult to fight anti-Semitism while at the same time considering Israel a dangerous destabilizing force in the world.

The French media has consistently resisted publication of any material that would call into question the pervasive pro-Palestinian sentiment in the country. For example the media will not retransmit the video where a Palestinian as representative of Human Rights Watch blames not Israel but the PLO and Palestinian authority for the condition of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza.

Politicians have tip-toed around Israel in their fight against anti-Semitism because first of all their support for Arab governments to the point where Qatar is the only foreign investor in France exempt from taxation. France has raised no objection to international resolutions and actions that are unabashedly anti-Israel to the point where the word “Zionist” becomes pejorative. France accepted and acquiesced in a UNESCO resolution considering that the heritage over the ancient city of Jerusalem is Muslim, with no reference or consideration to Jewish or even Christian civilizations. This resolution is nonsensical because Mohammed was born centuries after the construction of the Jewish temple and Christian churches. Here even Christianity is sacrificed in the interest of squeezing Israel out of its legitimate heritage.

In France it is politically incorrect to see that anti-Zionism is inconsistent with a fight against anti-Semitism. But it is the France's most renown post war president Charles de Gaulle who makes the connection for us. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war he labeled Jews as an “elite people, sure of themselves and domineering” and Israel as an expansionist state. And when Israel characterizes violence against civilians as terrorism, the French press constantly refuses to use the same term. The Israeli victims therefore do not cry at least not with the same tears as the “innocent French” (the term used by Prime Minister Raymond Barre to describe the non-Jewish victims of the attack against the Copernic Synagogue in the 1970’s).

Although the new French president Emmanuel Macron has for the first time equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism the political class in France and especially the French Foreign ministry have not in any significant way followed through on what the president signaled as a change in position.

Zionism, simply the belief simply that a Jewish State deserves to exist in the Middle East, needs to be taken out of the dark corner with pejorative connotations by a forthright and frank acceptance that this movement and philosophy are positive and legitimate.

One French politician, Claude Goasguen, a member of the French National Assembly, is fighting to bring anti-Zionism to task and at the same time foster a new approach to teaching about Israel, Judaism, and the role of religions in general in the schools.

He is willing to be politically incorrect by vigorously attacking the government for complacency and dishonesty in refusing to oppose the UNESCO resolution, and sees that France’s reticence to be forthright and honest about Middle East issues contributes to the rising anti-Semitism. He also clearly sees the danger that this contradiction is pushed under the rug. He publically stated, “France’s support of international organization resolutions which are contrary to historical facts, as where Jewish heritage in Israel is denied, leads to the loss of French credibility both in the fight racism and anti-Semitism, but also carrying out effective diplomacy.” And, “Anti-Zionism in France is the modern and hypocritical form of anti-Semitism. The combat in favor of Zionism will be an enormous weapon in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

In parallel to the effort to rehabilitate Zionism Mr. Goasguen hopes to inspire a program to speak simply and clearly to the country’s youth about the value, quality, importance, and especially contribution of Judaism which in its essence connects Jews of every generation to its ancestral, and thus biblical, past. Of course such a program would be in the broader context of presenting the three great religions in the world.

Today even the mention of the word “Judaism” and “Israel” in schools in the heavily Muslim populated Paris and Marseilles suburbs provokes a violent reaction.

The program is to demystify and remove the passion from every mention of “Jews,” “Jewish,” “Israel.”

The beginning step is to be a collective effort on the part of representatives of each religion to suggest to the Minister of Education course material for schools.

Education both for the political class, the press, and finally students cannot eliminate deeply seated prejudice. But a re-look at attitudes toward Jews and Israel can reclaim for this country a better place as the historical champion of human rights and universalism.

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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France is trying to fight anti-Semitism while walking a tight rope to please its more than 6 million-strong Arab minority and also maintaining a policy that is at best unfriendly to Israel.
france, antisemitism, israel, zionism
Tuesday, 10 October 2017 04:27 PM
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