Walking while Jewish is not possible in most of Europe.
Almost since the beginning of this website in the fall of 2008 I have been sounding the alarm about, and documenting, the rise of anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism in Europe.
It’s been a toxic marriage of anti-Jewish Islamists and anti-Israeli leftists, resulting not just in fatalities, but in the inability to be publicly Jewish. Walking while Jewish is not possible in most of Europe.
It’s what allows a BBC anchor today to berate a French woman complaining about threats to Jews in France after the murders at the kosher supermarket, with a harangue about Israel.
Remember the riots in Paris and elsewhere in Europe last summer in which gross anti-Semitism was on full display under the guise of anti-Zionism.
Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic has a fascinating interview with French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. When you read it, keep in mind that it too place before the recent killing at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermaket, French Prime Minister: If Jews Flee, the Republic Will Be a Failure:
… “The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens,” Valls told me. “To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.”
Valls, a Socialist who is the son of Spanish immigrants, describes the threat of a Jewish exodus from France this way: “If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
… “Jews were sometimes marginalized in France, but this was not Spain or other countries—they were never expelled, and they play a role in the life of France that is central,” he said.
Valls, who on Saturday declared that France was now at war with radical Islam, has become a hero to his country’s besieged Jews for speaking bluntly about the threat of Islamist anti-Semitism, a subject often discussed in euphemistic terms by the country’s political and intellectual elite. His fight, as interior minister, to ban performances of the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne (the innovator of the inverted Nazi salute known as the quenelle) endeared him to the country’s Jewish leadership, and he is almost alone on the European left in calling anti-Zionism a form of anti-Semitism.
“There is a new anti-Semitism in France,” he told me. “We have the old anti-Semitism, and I’m obviously not downplaying it, that comes from the extreme right, but this new anti-Semitism comes from the difficult neighborhoods, from immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who have turned anger about Gaza into something very dangerous. Israel and Palestine are just a pretext. There is something far more profound taking place now.”
In discussing the attacks on French synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses this summer, during the Gaza war, he said, “It is legitimate to criticize the politics of Israel. This criticism exists in Israel itself. But this is not what we are talking about in France. This is radical criticism of the very existence of Israel, which is anti-Semitic. There is an incontestable link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Behind anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
When I read it, I kept thinking of the movie, Au Revoir Les Enfants, about the fate of young Jewish students in Nazi occupied France:
True, France of 2015 is not Vichy France. The hatred of Jews is not institutionalized, and the government is not shipping Jews off to gas chambers.
But Jews also can’t walk in public while Jewish in Paris, Copenhagen, Brussels, and just about anywhere else in Europe. They have to hide their Jewish identities, like the Jewish students at the Catholic school in the film.
I was taken by the cheering reaction by the crowd at the Grand Synagogue in Paris today when Benjamin Netanyahu entered.
The Tablet Magazine pointed out the ending of Netanyahu’s speech, when the crowd broke into singing the French national anthem:
The reason that Jews can live normal lives as citizens of Western democracies today is not that human nature has markedly improved since 1945, or that another series of attacks by anti-Semitic fanatics is unthinkable. Sadly, that’s not true, as the events of the last week and the last year in Paris show. We are not afraid because we know, whether overtly or in a dark half-acknowledged corner of our minds, that there is one state in the world—however imperfect it is in some of its particulars—where we and our children will be welcome, and whose government will do its best to protect us, with all the force at its disposal.
….The fact that the State of Israel exists means that the Jewish people will never be radically alone. That’s why the people in the Grand Synagogue of Paris are cheering….
When Netanyahu finishes his speech, the crowd spontaneously starts singing their national anthem—which is, of course, the French national anthem.
The people in the Grand Synagogue are proud to be French, and they want the prime minister of Israel to see and understand their pride in their country, just as they want France to live up to the inspiring words of La Marseillaise.
What has changed for the Jewish people over the past 75 years isn’t that we have ceased to love the countries where we live. It is that we are no longer compelled to bet—with our lives—that our love will be requited.
Israel opening its arms to European Jews, and letting French Jews know they have a home waiting for them, isn’t a matter of Israel emptying out the Jewish populations of Europe and thereby achieving the Nazis’ dream, as suggested by Chemi Shalev of Haaretz, or an act of anti-Semitism itself as suggested by anti-Israel propagandists among the BDS movement.
“The sense of insecurity in the French Jewish community is very profound, and the primary motivating factor is obviously the rise of anti-Semitism in recent years, spurred by the Toulouse attack and the attack last year at the museum in Brussels, but also by a more prevalent lower-level sense that people can’t be openly Jewish in the streets of France,” said Avi Mayer, a spokesperson for the Jewish Agency.
The mood in France, coupled with a slowing economy, has created a tidal wave of interest in immigration to Israel, Mayer says….
At the same time, Mayer points out, the Jewish Agency has established a fund to help ramp up security at Jewish sites around France. The goal, he says – in comments echoed by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky earlier Sunday – is not to empty France of its Jews and bring them all to Israel. It is to help the French Jewish community thrive, and also promote Israel as the homeland that is always waiting, should Jews choose to join it.
“This is a principled stance,” he says. “We believe that Jewish communal life should be strong all over the world, and people should come [to Israel] from a position of strength.”
There is a recognition of a reality that has been building for many years. Maybe France can reverse its Goodbye to the Jews, before the Jews of France say Goodbye.
Au Revoir is a choice that Les Enfants did not have. But they do now.