Marie Brenner, writing in Vanity Fair, explores whether Jews should leave France.

The French language version of the article is titled Paris En Flammes. With my distant recollection of high school french, that translates as Paris in Flames.

But the English language version has a more descriptive title, The Troubling Question in the French Jewish Community: Is It Time to Leave?:

How can anyone be allowed to paint a swastika on the statue of Marianne, the goddess of French liberty, in the very center of the Place de la République?”

That was what the chairman of one of France’s most celebrated luxury brands was thinking last July, when a tall man in a black shirt and a kaffiyeh leapt to the ledge of Marianne’s pedestal and scrawled a black swastika. All around him, thousands of angry demonstrators were swarming the square with fake rockets, Palestinian and Hamas flags, even the black-and-white banners of ISIS. Here, barely a mile and a half from the Galeries Lafayette, the heart of bourgeois Paris, the chants: “MORT AUX JUIFS! MORT AUX JUIFS!” Death to the Jews. It was Saturday, July 26, 2014, and a pro-Palestinian demonstration turned into a day of terror in one of the most fashionable neighborhoods of the city.

We covered those riots last summer (some of the videos in the posts have gone bad):

(more videos here)

Similar events took place in Malmo, and Copehagen, and Berlin, Frankfurt, The Hague, and London. (And, by the way, in Miami and Boston.)

But in France it seems worse than in the rest of Europe because of the large Jewish population, the high profile terror attacks on Jewish targets by Islamists including the SuperCacher supermarket, and the routine and vicious street thuggery by anti-Israel groups, such as the Israeli reporter harassed in the middle of Paris, and two Jews attacked by a BDS-related group.

Walking While Jewish is a problem in many places in Europe, but particularly in Paris.

Just this week, a 13-year old Jewish student was attacked by six men of “African” descent (it is unclear what that means in the reports, but frequently attacks in France on Jews are carried out by Arabs of North African descent):

One arrest has been made and a suspect detained by Paris police so far in the the gang beating of a 13-year-old Jewish boy last Monday (July 6) after he left the Colonel Fabien Jewish Day School.

The traumatized victim, who has not been identified due to his age and the risk such identification poses, spent his Sabbath trying to recuperate from the trauma of the beating he received at the hands of six teens possibly of “African descent.”

The boy was attacked by the gang after leaving the building in the 19th arondissement, near Gare du Nord train station, according to the Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l’Antisémitisme (BNVCA).

Sammy Ghozlan, president of the watchdog organization, issued a statement condemning the attack. “He was spotted as a Jew because he was wearing a kippa,” the group said in a statement on its website.

Note the name of the president of the watchdog organization, Sammy Ghozlan.

Ghozlan is the main focus of the Vanity Fair article, which notes that Ghozlan was the person first contacted by French Jews during the Paris riots of 2014:

Photographs and videos of the swastika and its perpetrator, of protesters chanting “Kill the Jews,” and of the Palestinian, Hamas, and ISIS flags were sent in a rush to various groups in the Jewish community who assess threats. By early afternoon, some of these reached Sammy Ghozlan, a 72-year-old retired police commissioner who has spent his career working the banlieues, the belt of working-class, racially mixed suburbs that surround Paris. Ghozlan is a folk hero of the banlieues and has a nickname that is impossible to forget: le poulet cacher—“the kosher chicken.” (Poulet is slang for cop.) For 15 years, he has overseen France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism—known by its French abbreviation, B.N.V.C.A.—a community hotline he founded that is funded by his police pension and whatever small donations he can come by. Its purpose is nothing less than to protect the Jews of France.

It really is hard to excerpt of summarize the Vanity Fair article. It is long and detailed. Read the whole thing. But make particular note of how pervasive anti-Semitic violence is in France:

This past year, Ghozlan’s frequent bulletins—detailing attacks in parks, schools attacked, synagogues torched, assaults on the Métro—have clogged the in-boxes of reporters at Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Le Parisien, and of thousands of Jews throughout the banlieues. Ghozlan’s bulletins sometimes come twice a day, with claims that have also been backed up by hard numbers: according to a watchdog group, the Jewish Community Protection Service, or S.P.C.J., which reports statistics collected by the country’s Interior Ministry, there were 851 recorded anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2014, more than doubling the total from 2013. Ghozlan and his 19 volunteers are on the front lines in the most troubled areas, documenting, trying to confirm, hoping to get a reporter or a police prefect or a court to take action. There has been such an uptick, and such a flurry of alerts from Ghozlan over the past year, that there’s always a risk that his efforts will be shrugged off as yet another nuisance.

The issue of whether Jews should leave Europe in general or France in particular is a topic we have explored many times, including in 2013, Jews in Europe past their expiration date, in which we quoted  You Only Live Twice by Michel Gurfinkiel in Mosaic Magazine:

“Call it the yogurt’s-expiration-date syndrome,” an elderly, Moroccan-born Frenchman recently said to me. He elaborated:

Right after Morocco won its independence from France in 1956, my family joined the country’s ruling elite. My father, a close friend of King Mohammed V, had access to everybody in the government. It went on like that for two or three years. Then one day, out of the blue, Father told us we were leaving. We children asked why. “We’ve passed the yogurt’s expiration date,” he said. “We have no future in Morocco; as long as we’re free to go, we must go.” So we left, leaving behind most of our money and belongings. Ever since then, wherever I’ve lived, I’ve been on the lookout for the yogurt’s expiration date. In France, I think it’s close.

* * *

Can it really be that European Jewry was reborn after the Holocaust only in order to die again? Can it be that, even as Jews, you only live twice? History, of course, is unpredictable except in retrospect. But it would be irresponsible in the extreme to brush off the possibility of demise; “unthinkable” is no longer a word in the Jewish vocabulary. The sober assessment of Robert Wistrich, the instincts of Samuel Sandler and so many other European Jews—these rest on firm foundations. The expiration date looms nearer, however slowly and by whatever intermediate stages it may finally arrive.

In the aftermath of the Hyper Cacher supermarket and Charlie Hebdo attacks, it seemed that the departure of Jews from France was inevitable, Au revoir les juifs et La France:

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.

Back to Sammy Ghozlan, the person French Jews turned to in times of crisis, and the leader of the watchdog group against anti-Semitism, from the Vanity Fair article. He’s left France:

For Ghozlan, July 2014 was the tipping point, after years of escalating anti-Semitic violence: “There was no debate in our family. We all knew—it is time to go. Leaving is better than running away,” Ghozlan later told me. He would ultimately come to think of the summer riots as the predictors of the catastrophes that would play out six months later in the terror attacks at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, three quarters of a mile from the Place de la République, on January 7, 2015, and then, two days later, at Hyper Cacher, a kosher grocery store in the Porte de Vincennes neighborhood of eastern Paris.

By then Ghozlan’s classified ad—one nobody who knows him could ever have thought possible—had already been posted: “Renting a house, 4 rooms, 2 bathrooms, a veranda, a garden with 50 m. square.” Two days before the Charlie Hebdo attack, Sammy announced what, to many, including me, was unthinkable: Sammy Ghozlan, proud Frenchman and the dean of Paris’s anti-Semitic crime-fighters, had joined the thousands of French Jews moving to Israel.

You can find him now where you would expect:

Not long after the attack on the Hyper Cacher, representatives of the Ministry of the Interior appeared on the Avenue Henri Barbusse in Le Blanc-Mesnil. They had come to alert Ghozlan that he would now have a security detail posted at his house at all times. Ghozlan’s tenants informed them, “Mr. Ghozlan has moved from France,” and gave them his new address in Israel.


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