As plans for a massive rally against anti-Semitism heat up in cities across France, the French government has announced a resolution to pass new legislation classifying anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism, and therefore a crime.
The landmark bill comes amid a recent spate of anti-Semitic vandalism and graffiti defacing Jewish landmarks in and around Paris, fueling awareness of the extent to which Jew-hatred is infecting the country.
The hate incidents came on the heels of a report by the interior ministry that anti-Jewish acts have jumped by an alarming 74 percent compared with the previous year. The incidents included 80 attempted murders as well as hundreds of attacks on Jews and Jewish property.
14 political parties have endorsed a protest rally that is being organized by French Jews to protest the mounting hatred, to take place this week in Paris, Lyons, Marseille and Nice.
“Anti-Semitism is spreading like poison,” French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner declared at an annual memorial for Ilan Hamili, a young Jewish man who in 2006 was kidnapped and murdered by a gang of Muslim criminals from the Paris suburbs.
Trees planted in his memory, at the spot where he was found barely alive after weeks of torture, were found chopped down. A few days later, in two separate incidents, swastikas defaced the portrait of the late Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, a renowned public figure in France; and “Juden” was sprayed across the windows of “Bagelstein,” a Jewish bakery in heart of the capital.
The ugly graffiti, reminiscent of Nazi days, drew harsh words from the government’s special representative on Racism and Anti-Semitism, Frederic Potier, who called it “shameful” and “sickening.”
Sylvain Maillard — a deputy for France’s ruling center-right party who heads the Anti-Semitism Study Group in the country’s National Assembly — told France Info that he and his colleagues had been examining the common roots of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism “for several weeks.”
The group had concluded that “hatred of Israel is the new way of hating Jews,” Maillard said. “We can criticize the government of Israel, but not question the very existence of this state,” he continued. “Nobody questions the existence of the French state or the German state.”
Maillard explained that the group would meet Feb. 19, to decide whether to put the resolution to a symbolic vote of the National Assembly, which would likely pass quickly, or whether to draft a bill that would become law, a longer process.
Hate Speech Accelerated Pressure to Pass New Law
Adding momentum to the planning sessions over the new law has been the mounting anti-Semitic hate speech of the “yellow vest” protesters. So-called because of their reflector yellow vests, these groups have, for the past three months, been staging weekly demonstrations in Paris.
What started out in the fall as a series of grassroots protests against a government hike on fuel prices, quickly descended into anti-government riots mired in violence and anti-Semitic demagoguery. Thousands have been arrested as the protests turned to hooliganism, eroding popular support for their cause.
Caught on camera during the most recent “yellow vest” protest were abusive verbal assaults hurled at prominent Jewish writer and political commentator Alain Finkielkraut.
Recognizing him on the street, protesters confronted him threateningly, screaming “Go back to Tel Aviv, filthy Zionist, filthy Jew!” France is ours!” The group continued to rant long after police had escorted Finkielkraut away from the scene.
After the video clip went viral, the Paris public prosecutor announced an investigation into the racist nature of the incident. A report in Le Parisien disclosed that one of the most raucous demonstrators, caught on camera screaming abuse at Finkielkraut, has been known to police since 2014 for his links to radical Islamist circles.
In an interview with the Times of Israel weeks before this incident, Finkielkraut had expressed alarm about the country’s escalating anti-Semitism.
“I’m worried as much for French Jews as I’m worried for the future of France,” he remarked, adding that “the anti-Semitism we’re now experiencing in France is the worst I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, and I’m convinced it’s going to get worse.”
The son of Polish Holocaust survivors and an outspoken supporter of Israel, Finkielkraut insists France is doomed if it stays on its current path.
“As immigration is increasing, so is the rise in anti-Semitism,” he noted in the interview. “Due to the increased hostility Jews are facing, especially in certain suburbs of Paris, many feel the need to leave where they’ve lived for a long time.”
“Not only does the left refuse to recognize this, they explain to us that the immigrants are the new “Jews”—the victims—and that it’s important to welcome them as the country should have done for Jews during World War II.
“So they’ve chosen their camp, which is the Palestinians against the Israelis. And in France, they’ve chosen the Muslims against the Jews. What’s crazy is the situation is deteriorating with the complicity of people who spout “lessons” from the Holocaust.” Finkielkraut said.
As do many thoughtful observers, Finkielkraut sees the danger as encompassing not only French Jewry but all of France, because, he says, the haters in the Muslim community detest the values of their host country as much as they hate Jews.
“Jews and other French citizens,” he says, “are ultimately in the same boat.”
The statistics of anti-Jewish violence by Muslim radicals in France are frightening.
In May 2012, Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three Jewish children and a young rabbi outside their Jewish school. In 2015 a man proclaiming allegiance to the Islamic State group killed four people at a kosher supermarket in Paris.
In 2017, Sarah Halimi (no relation to Ilan), an Orthodox Jewish retired doctor and head of a kindergarten, was brutally attacked in the middle of the night, beaten and thrown to her death from the balcony of her apartment by a Muslim assailant who shouted Islamic slogans.
French authorities took ten months before they declared Sarah’s killing an anti-Semitic hate crime — and that was after unprecedented lobbying by French Jewish groups. Many neighbors, awakened by Sarah’s screams, had called the police. Some gave details about the exact location of the assault and the attacker’s identity.
Yet the police, though they were in the vicinity, still failed to storm Sarah Halimi’s apartment and rescue her. After mercilessly assaulting her, shouting anti-Semitic epithets, the killer threw his victim to her death. While police were still dithering, he climbed back to a cousin’s apartment in the same building where he finally was arrested. His hands were covered with blood.
While the heinous murder and its circumstances were reported almost instantly within the Jewish community, the mainstream media was silent for two days until a 24-hour news channel picked up the story.
Likewise, a protest march by 1,000 people in the neighborhood of the crime scene a few days later went largely unreported. Things changed only after Sarah Halimi’s relatives and their lawyers convened a press conference on May 22 with the support of Jewish community leaders.
In 2018, anther horrific murder of an elderly Jewish woman living alone in a district of Paris was carried out but a Muslim assailant. 85-year old Mirielle Knoll was stabbed to death in her home, and her apartment set ablaze. Her partly charred body was found with 11 stab wounds.
Mirielle’s killer was discovered to be her 23-year old Muslim neighbor whom she had known since he was a young boy. The family testified that she had been confronted repeatedly with anti-Semitic slurs by this violent man and had filed complaints with the police.
A Holocaust Survivor Who Bore Witness to France’s Shame
Mirielle was a Holocaust survivor who, as a 9-year old child, had escaped the “Vel d’Hiv” roundup of Parisian Jews in July 1942.
Two years after the Nazis occupied France, French police forces in Paris carried out mass arrests of thousands of Jews and locked them into the Velodrome d’Hiver stadium near the Eiffel Tower for two weeks, with almost no food, water or sanitation facilities. Every day, more Jews were herded into the stadium. The vast majority were subsequently deported to Auschwitz on cattle cars and murdered there. Less than 100 survived.
The Velodrome D’Hiver (Vel D’Hiv) atrocity left an ugly stain on the nation’s conscience that lingers to this day. As the survivor population dwindles, those who are still living bear witness to the manner in which French values and simple humanity disintegrated under the Nazi-Vichy regime.
Survivor Mirielle Knoll’s brutal killing shocked France. “She was murdered … because she was Jewish,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at her funeral, and those responsible for her killing “profaned our sacred values and our history.”
At least 10,000 people, Jews and non-Jews, some wearing Israeli flags, participated in a silent memorial march to Knoll’s home from Nation Square. The march, amid intensive coverage by the French media of the affair, was welcomed by a community where many members feel abandoned by French society at large in a time of mounting danger.
Unlike the Halimi case, Mirielle’s murder swiftly led to an indictment against her neighbor and an alleged accomplice on murder and hate crime charges.
Manifesto Calls on Muslim Leaders to Renounce Incitement
A few weeks later, approximately 300 French public figures, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy and three former prime ministers, signed a manifesto condemning the “new anti-Semitism marked by Islamic radicalization.”
“Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish affair, it’s everyone’s concern,” the manifesto declared, citing eleven barbaric anti-Semitic murders of French Jews in recent years. “The country has become a theater of murderous anti-Semitism.”
The signatories condemned what they called a “quiet ethnic purging” of Jews, especially in working-class, multi-racial neighborhoods, noting that in the past two decades, 50,000 French Jews have fled the country, mostly to Israel. “Tens of thousands more have left the peripheries of Paris and Lyon, where Muslim populations are rising, and have retrenched in neighborhoods with larger Jewish populations,” the signatories noted.
The manifesto accused the media of remaining silent on this issue.
“…the silent march for Mireille Knoll included imams who are aware that Muslim anti-Semitism is the greatest threat in the 21st century, to Islam and to the world of peace and liberty,” the manifesto continued. “[These imams] are, for the most part, under police protection – which says a great deal about the terror that Islamists impose on the Muslims in France.
Call To Action
The manifesto’s hard-hitting text concluded with a call to action: “We ask that the fight against the democratic weakness that is anti-Semitism become a national cause before it’s too late. Before France is no longer France.”
“Therefore, we urge that the Koranic verses calling to kill and punish Jews, Christians and non-believers be declared obsolete by the theological authorities – just as the inconsistencies of the New Testament and Catholic anti-Semitism were abolished by the Second Vatican Council [in 1962-1965]. No believer will then be able to rely on a sacred text to commit a crime.
“We expect the Islam of France to lead the way,” the manifesto concluded. “We demand that the fight against the democratic bankruptcy that is anti-Semitism become a national cause before it is too late. Before France is no longer France.”
Among the signers of the manifesto, according to MEMRI (Middle East Media Review Institute), are a handful of known Muslim personalities in France and parts of the Middle East.
Not surprisingly, the document sparked furious responses from a host of Muslim clerics and writers in the Arab media. The Muslim religious establishment rejected the demand to renounce certain Koranic verses and accused its signatories of ignorance, racism and inciting Islamophobia.
Critics said the signatories misunderstood the verses in question, which refer only to circumstances of “self-defense.” The Koran, they stressed, promotes peace and not war or violence. The latter is only sanctioned in the face of “crimes punishable by death, such as murder, and violent attacks against Muslims.”
One Muslim leader, cited in MEMRI, went further, called the request to renounce verses from the Koran “insolent,” adding that “disrespect for what is sacred to others is among the main reasons for terror and for the killing of innocents.”
Articles in the Arab media joined in denouncing the manifesto, with some calling it part of a Jewish plot against Islam, and others claiming it was part of the general “war of the west” on Islam.
Commented Alain Finkeilkraut, one of the signatories on the manifesto, “For now, I’m not afraid for my personal safety, but we’ll see what happens. Many people are under police protection, which I may need one day. Until now, I’ve only been subjected to verbal assaults, nothing physical. It’s not easy, but I refuse to shut my mouth.”
French Policy: Denial and Appeasement
French leaders until this week have avoided acknowledging the phenomenon of the “new anti-Semitism” – Jew-hatred cloaked as opposition to Israeli policies—although the media has begun to irregularly use the term. Proponents of denial and appeasement, however, have had the upper hand in dictating government policy.
“French leaders fear pitting one side against the other, or even acknowledging that a Muslim-versus-Jew dynamic exists,” wrote the NY Times recently in an article, “They Spit When I Walk in the Street’: The New Anti-Semitism in France.”
In keeping with the reluctance to recognize the schisms in French society as well as the desire to appease a sizable minority –Muslims in France number about six million—authorities have often hesitated to officially brand attacks on Jews as “anti-Semitic. This has been a point of angry contention between Jewish leaders and the French government.
The Sarah Halimi killing became a national scandal when authorities initially declined to investigate it as an anti-Semitic attack, despite her family’s testimony that the suspect had flung anti-Semitic slurs at Sarah on a regular basis.
The same was true in the 2006 slaying of Ilan Halimi, and the 2014 home invasion and assault of young religious Jewish couple in Creteil, a suburb of Paris, by a gang of Muslims.
In 2014, François Hollande, then the president, was careful to put the Créteil attack in the context of the “struggle against racism” and “discrimination,” though he acknowledged its anti-Semitic character.
Law enforcement refused to credit the victims’ testimonies about their attackers’ venomous Jew-hatred, and the prosecution changed course only after an outcry from Jewish groups.
In the case of Sarah Halimi, public outrage reached such a level that President Macron intervened. “I took a stand by calling on justice to shed light on the anti-Semitic dimension of Sarah Halimi’s murder,” he recalled in a speech this month, “and I am glad that this dimension could finally be recognized.”
Macron: ‘Anti-Zionism is Updated Version of Anti-Semitism’
The French leader has gone much further than any of his predecessors in linking attacks on Jewish individuals with attacks against the Jewish state, calling anti-Zionism an “updated version of anti-Semitism.”
“We will yield nothing to the messages of hatred,” he said in a July 2017 speech alongside Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at a memorial ceremony where the infamous Vel D’Hiv once stood. “We will yield nothing to anti-Zionism, because it is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”
This week, President Macron will put these resolute words to the test, urging the 30-plus members of his party to choose between two formulas in equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism: a resolution passed by the National Assembly to express a position, or a bill that will be passed by Parliament and have the force of law, but will take longer to implement.
A decision will be announced this week prior to Macron’s scheduled speech at the dinner of the Conseil Représentatif Des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF, an umbrella organization of French Jewish organizations).
It is highly unlikely that the far-right National Front and the far-left “France Unbowed” parties, which received 34 and 19 percent of the popular vote respectively, will support the new bill, but Macron’s government might not need them.
Perhaps the real question is, can legislation that classifies anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism reverse or even significantly alter the dire situation in France?
How The Jews Were Rounded Up
[As reported in The Guardian Century UK, on Sept 3, 1942]
“The round-up of Jews in occupied France was begun on July 14 and reached its height on the night of the 15th to 16th.
“Twenty-eight thousand people, including Jews of foreign origin [refugees], French Jews, and other French subjects regarded as suspects have now been arrested by the French and German authorities.
“Many were warned in time. In Paris thousands of them tried to hide in the Eighteenth District. Those who were taken into custody had their money and valuables forcibly taken from them. Most of the men were brought to the Velodrome d’Hiver and the women carted off to the Parc des Princes.
“Not a single soul whom the police could lay hands on was allowed to go free. Inmates of the Rothschild Hospital, which had been set apart for patients from the camp at Drancy, were placed under arrest regardless of their condition and no matter how recently they had been operated upon.
“Children over three years old were separated from their mothers, about 5,000 of them being herded together in three school buildings, whither they were taken in lorries after their parents had been seized and their homes locked up by the police.
“Quite a number of the smaller children were simply left in the streets and the neighbors expressly forbidden to take them in. Many are unable to give their names and cannot be identified.
The New Anti-Semitism and the 3-D Test
First coined in 2004 by former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, who afterwards headed the Jewish Agency in Israel, the “new anti-Semitism” refers to virulent Jew-hatred masquerading as opposition to Israel’s policies. All the world’s Jews are presumed responsible for the actions of Israel’s government and therefore deserve to be hated.
The term has come to broadly apply to all manifestations of Jew-hatred linked to hatred of Israel such as that which is sweeping Muslim communities in Europe.
The new anti-Semitism is also being invoked to identify discriminatory policies on the rise today in North American universities, where a student’s pro-Israel sentiment often elicits ridicule, condemnation and retaliation from faculty members and administration.
In an unprecedented move, the U.S. State Department not only acknowledged the reality of the new anti-Semitism, but adopted Sharansky’s definition that applies a test of “three Ds” to determine whether the alleged discrimination is anti-Jewish. Does it spring from delegitimization of Israel? Is it demonization of Israel? Does it subject Israel to double standards?
Delegitimization, Sharansky wrote, is when Israel’s fundamental right to exist is denied.
Demonization is when Israel’s actions are blown out of all sensible proportion and åtween Israelis and Nazis, and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz.
Double standard is when criticism of Israel is applied selectively and the Jewish state is singled out exclusively for condemnation, for example, by the United Nations.
A policy paper released last month by Kenneth Marcus, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights, announced that the department would adopt the “3-D test” in evaluating student complaints of anti-Semitic treatment on America’s college campuses, where anti-Israel sentiment has raged in recent years.
Anti-Israel fervor has spurred the BDS and other anti-Israel campus movements promoting the Palestinian cause; students at these universities who are openly pro-Israel complain of being scorned, intimidated and discriminated against.
Applying the “3-D test, the question of whether the university’s alleged conduct is based on demonization/delegitimization/double standard treatment of Israel, is now critical to the judge or jury’s findings of guilt or innocence. A positive finding would constitute a civil rights violation calling for appropriate penalties.