web analytics
April 18, 2015 / 29 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Fearsome Test For French Jews

March in memory of the brutally murdered French Jew, Ilan Halimi.

March in memory of the brutally murdered French Jew, Ilan Halimi.
Photo Credit: HaGalil.com

France has a rich Jewish history and a vibrant Jewish community of approximately 500,000 souls. At the same time, France is a country where anti-Semitism has deep, seemingly immutable roots. Modern Zionism evolved partly as a reaction to the Dreyfus trial at the end of the 19th century, while in the middle of the 20th approximately 90,000 Jews were murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.

In our own time, France has provided fertile ground for Holocaust deniers, known in local parlance as negationistes. During the last 10 years we have witnessed a horrifying hate crime involving the kidnapping and murder of a young Jew, Ilan Halimi; an Islamist terror attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse that claimed the lives of three children and a rabbi; and a burgeoning anti-Semitic social movement that takes as its symbol an inverted Nazi salute known as the “quenelle.”

Small wonder, then, that French Jewish leaders are continually asked whether their community has a future in the long term. Nonetheless, it is a question French Jewish leaders answer with patience and good grace, as I discovered when I met in New York with a delegation from CRIF, the representative body of French Jewry.

At the head of the delegation is Roger Cukierman, the elder statesman of French Jews who was first elected as CRIF’s president in 2001. Sitting in the offices of the World Jewish Congress, where he also serves as a vice president, Cukierman was candid about the profound problems the community faces, while emphasizing its extraordinary durability.

“There have been Jews in France for the last 2,000 years,” Cukierman said, listing the names of Rashi, the great 11th-century rabbi; Michel de Montaigne, the 16th-century Renaissance author; and Marcel Proust, the 20th-century novelist. Even as he acknowledged the many instances of anti-Semitic persecution through the ages, Cukierman noted simply and proudly, “We are still here. And we are not the only country where anti-Semitism is developing. It may develop in America also.”

Still, there is a genuine urgency about the situation in France. A recent survey of global anti-Semitism issued by Tel Aviv University reported 110 violent attacks on French Jews in 2013 – the highest single number for any country. More alarming is the fact that though Jews make up just one percent of the French population, they are the target of 40 percent of racist assaults in the country. It isn’t surprising, then, that David Tibi, a Jewish leader in Paris, recently declared, “We no longer have a place in France.”

Cukierman is insistent that Jews do have a place in France, adding that anti-Semitism emanates from three distinct sources, rather than being a general phenomenon. First, there is the far right, traditionally the home of Holocaust deniers and Vichy-era apologists. Second, there is the far left, whose aggressive promotion of the BDS campaign against Israel “affects the comfort of living in France for Jews,” Cukierman said. Third, there are the banlieues, run-down suburbs that are home to disaffected Muslim youths who are frequently the executors of violent anti-Semitic acts.

Any mention of the banlieuesinevitably leads to a discussion of Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the notorious comedian whose attempts at humor are often little more than crude Jew-baiting antics. It was Dieudonne who popularized the quenelle, the anti-Semitic gesture that became internationally known when it was performed by the French soccer star Nicholas Anelka, a friend of Dieudonne’s, during a match in England.

Among the numerous challenges in responding to Dieudonne is his appeal to young people in France, many of whom are attracted by his anti-establishment stance, his hatred of Israel, and his mockery of the Holocaust.

About the Author: Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS.org and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book “Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014), is available through Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “A Fearsome Test For French Jews”

  1. To many muslims everywhere in the west !

  2. Ira Abramson says:

    Too many Muslims and the French do not have control of them!

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Daniel Lubetzky  president of V15 and CEO of Kind "healthy" bars
No Victory for V15 and Not Healthy ‘Healthy’ Snack Bars
Latest Indepth Stories
Mrs. Golda Katz a"h

She had many names and was many things to many people, but to me she was just Babineni.

ISIS terrorist carries the group's black flag.

Is ISIS in Gaza? “No, but there are ISIS loyalists here..we pray to God they unite under ISIS’ flag”

Cliff Rieders

Rabbi Portal was that great “inspirer,” changing people for the better, enriching the lives of all

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Iran knows Obama, Putin, and the Europeans don’t have a Red Line beyond which they will go to war

There is no way to explain the Holocaust. I know survivors who are not on speaking terms with G-d. I know many who are the opposite. I have no right to go there…

When a whole side of your family perishes, friends become the extended family you do not have.

“We stand with Israel because of its values and its greatness and because its such a wonderful ally”

Mr. Obama himself inelegantly cautioned members of the Senate to be careful not to “screw up” the negotiations by seeking to have input into the future of the sanctions regime that has been imposed on Iran.

For our community, Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy record will doubtless attract the most attention. And it is a most interesting one.

Mitchell Bard is nothing if not prolific. He has written and edited 23 books, including “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East” and “The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.” Bard, who has a Ph.D. in political science from UCLA, is also the executive director of both the […]

Understanding the process described in Dayenu reveals deep relevance for us today.

For Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the tanks, planes, and uniforms of the IDF were implements of mitzvot

The only way to become humble is honesty about our experiences; it’s the only path to true humility

Obama’s approach to evildoers echoes Gandhi’s fatuous and muddleheaded pleas to his “friend” Hitler

More Articles from Ben Cohen
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reviewing one of Iran's nuclear plants.

The Middle East has rapidly changed for the worse the past five years. The worst may be yet come.

Cohen-020615

UN Amb Prosor: Anti-Semitism “can even be found in the halls of UN disguised as umanitarian concern”

The Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland informed the host he could not say “Israel or Jewish state”

The coalition the US has assembled to fight ISIS is based on an immediate coincidence of interest.

A growing chorus of influential voices is arguing that Israel needs to finish the job in Gaza.

Should Jews in Europe take more responsibility in self-defense of community and property?

As of this moment, the Kurds have little reason to hold back from declaring independence.

While Jews are just one percent of the French population, 40 percent of French racist assaults target Jews.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-fearsome-test-for-french-jews/2014/05/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: