Some 300 leading French figures, from both the left and right, including three former Prime Ministers, have published a manifesto denouncing “the new anti-semitism” in the country which they attribute to the growth of radical Islam. The text, written by Philippe Val, a former director of Charlie Hebdo, scolds politicians and the media for covering up the “Islamic” nature of this new anti-semitism and say there is “a low intensity ethnic cleansing” taking place in certain quarters of the country. The call to action comes with the publication of a book by fifteen intellectuals to denounce the “poison of anti-semitism.” (1)
“In our recent history, eleven Jews were murdered —some tortured —by radical Islamists because they were Jewish,” they write in the newspapers Aujourd’hui en France:Le Parisien. The text claims a Jew, 10% of the Paris region’s population, is 25 time more likely to be aggressed than a Muslim citizen. France has Europe’s biggest Jewish population: around 550,000, yet only 0.7% in a country of 65 million.
The signatories criticize those on the left who denounce “islamophobia” every time someone tries to point out the role of “islamization” in anti-semitism because “part of the French elite considers it exclusively the expression of a social revolt.”
French Muslims, Jews & Israel
France is home to up to six million Muslims and a large portion of them are concentrated in run down, poor housing projects, known as banlieues, where youth unemployment can reach 45%. These people, with migration background, often feel excluded and humiliated. There is a tendency on their part to identify their humiliation with that of the Palestinians. This has been reinforced by France’s strong support for Israel and lack of criticism of Israeli atrocities towards Palestinians and agression against its neighbors.
Many French Jews themselves reinforce the antisemitic feeling among Arab and Muslim youth by equating any criticism of Israel with hate of Jews. The Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, CRIF, tried to ban those who support a boycott of Israel from attending a demonstration at the end of March denouncing the racist murder of an 85 year old Holocauste survivor in Paris on March 23. The extreme right wing Jewish Defense League attacked “anti-zionists” who came to the march while protecting officials from the far right National Front. Many young Jewish men choose to go to Israel to serve in the Tsahal rather than the French military.
Those who signed the call write: “anti-zionism is an alibi to transform the executioners of Jews into victims of society.” The signatories seem to believe “Islamophobia” is understandable and cannot be quated with “anti-Arab racism which is something that must be fought.”
Old and new anti-semitism
Anti-semitism in France is not new as anybody who has read Emile Zola or studied the Dreyfus Affair knows. The latest report of France’s Human Rights Commission (CNCDH) wrote that there is a “persistance of traditional anti-semitic prejudices linking Jews to money, power and criticizing their communitarianism.”
France’s sensitive attitude towards the Jewish question has historical roots. During WWII, 76,000 Jews were deported from France but it wasn’t until 1995 that a French President finally recognized France’s role. “The criminal folly of the occupier,” said President Jacques Chirac, “was seconded by the French, by the French State.” Until then, French politicians had refused to recognize Vichy as representing France. They claimed the French government was in London.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told the annual gathering of the CRIF in October that tougher measures are needed to protect Jews in France. “Secularism alone,” he said, “is not sufficient to defeat political terror disguised as religion.”
The call, published April 23, goes further, quoting the Prime Minister who himself denounced “the new anti-semitism” in January and who said that: “France without its Jews would not be France … our European history, and especially French,…is deeply tied to diverse cultures among which Jewish thought is decisive.” Philippe made the statement after new reports of Jewish pupils being agressed in public schools by their Muslim classmates.
Islam must reform
This appeal to fight islamic anti-semitism ends with a call for Islam to reform. Echoing ‘Heretic,’ a book by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, they invite Muslims to change their holy book. (2) “We ask that the verses in the Quran calling for the murder and punishment of Jews, Christians and unbelievers be struck as obsolete by the theological authorities…so that no believer can quote a sacred text to commit a crime.”
They say they expect French Muslims to “open the path” and demand that “this failure of democracy which is anti-semitism be made a national cause before it is too late. Before France is no longer France.”
The Manifesto comes at a time when France is deeply divided over ethnic and religious lines. Massive illegal immigration, terrorism, growing insecurity, the question of French identity are pushing politicians to take more hard line positions and France’s Muslim community is also in the cross-hairs.
- « Le Nouvel Antisémitisme en France », Ed. Albin Michel, 2018.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heretic, Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, Harper, 2015.