Politics & Policy

France’s ‘Days of Anger’

Anti-Israel demonstration in Paris, July 13, 2014 (Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty Images)
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not a problem only of the Middle East. Its hatreds migrate.

Without a doubt, Holocaust denial constitutes a special type of insanity. What, then, about Holocaust endorsement? As Jewish leaders in France tell of the rise of a “new anti-Semitism,” French Jews find themselves caught between perpetrators of both extremes: those who say the Holocaust never happened and those who are calling for another.

France boasts the largest Jewish population in Europe (about half a million), though that may not be true for long. The Jewish Agency for Israel, which coordinates migration to the Jewish state, reports that four times as many Jews left France in the first quarter of 2014 than in the same period last year. The total number of Jews who left for Israel in 2013 — 3,288 — was a 72 percent increase from 2012.

Look for those numbers to continue rising. The Washington Post noted last month that reported acts of anti-Semitic violence — 140 in the first quarter of the year — represented a 40 percent increase from the same period in 2013.

‐On June 23, nearly two dozen assailants beat Jewish students at a library in Paris. Two students were stabbed.

‐On June 19, protesters lobbed a Molotov cocktail into a demonstration in support of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped by members of Hamas, the terrorist organization that governs the Gaza Strip. The teenagers’ bodies were found later that month.

‐On June 10, six assailants shot a Jewish teenager with a stun gun.

‐On June 4, two Jewish teenagers in Paris reported being chased by four men, one of whom was wielding an axe.

In all these cases the victims were wearing yarmulkes.

Jewish leaders blame the upswing in anti-Semitic attacks on four factors, the Post reports: “classic scapegoating amid hard economic times, the growing strength of far-right nationalists, a deteriorating relationship between black Europeans and Jews, and, importantly, increasing tensions with Europe’s surging Muslim population.”

It is this last cause that helps to explain how thousands of citizens in a country oppressed by the Third Reich not even 75 years ago has come to dally, at least rhetorically, with the notion of a Final Solution.

In January, 17,000 people flocked to Paris for a “Day of Anger,” taking to the streets in opposition to the policies of French president François Hollande. However, anti-government protests quickly found their focus. “Jew: Get out! France is not for you!” the crowds shouted. “Casse-toi,” “get out,” can be intended more strongly: “F*** off!”

Nationalistic tripe is one thing. But the protesters also took to proclaiming “Faurisson is right! Gas chambers are bulls**t!” Robert Faurisson is a French academic with a history of World War II revisionism. In 1978 he published an article entitled “The Diary of Anne Frank — Is It Authentic?” and he has declared, “Never did Hitler order or permit the killing of a person because of his or her race or religion.” For his “courage” he received an award in 2012 from Iran’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That French anti-Semites have landed on Faurisson for an intellectual leader is alarming, to put it mildly.

This past weekend offered further evidence that French anti-Semitism has reached a new pitch: Hundreds of Jews praying for peace in the Middle East were trapped inside a Paris synagogue when anti-Israeli demonstrators began to throw bottles and bricks at the facility. Outside they shouted, “Death to the Jews!” and “Hitler was right.” Nearby, a Jewish-owned store was attacked by 50 men with iron bars. Multiple victims have been hospitalized.

Conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories — whether under the rule of Hamas or of Fatah — is so common as to have become, for many, humdrum. But the strife in France makes clear that this “regional conflict” is occasioning the escalation to deadly levels of anti-Jewish sentiment in other places, because anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes are largely indistinguishable. Very little of the animus against the Jewish state exists apart from animus for Jewish persons — hence the regular co-occurrence of the Twitter hashtags #GazaUnderAttack and #HitlerWasRight or its variant, #HitlerDidNothingWrong. The latter two have trended recently.

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not a problem only of the Middle East. Its hatreds migrate. Thus a resolution of the conflict in the Middle East will serve the interests of peace abroad as well.

— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.


The Latest