The Region: France: Here comes the whitewash
Murders in Toulouse should be wake-up call for France. A big story can draw attention to a broader social trend.
Islamist march in France Photo: Reuters
The murders in Toulouse should be a wake-up call for France. True, the attacks
on Jews and French soldiers were three individual terror attacks perpetrated,
perhaps, by one person. Yet they are among dozens of incidents that happen daily
in French cities, in schools, and in all aspects of life. A big story like the
Toulouse attack can draw attention to a broader, dangerous social trend. Or it
can be treated as an isolated incident.
Nothing to see here; move along;
go back to sleep.
In the past, the mass media could be expected to
present a debate on this issue, but now, all too often, they give a monopoly to
the white-washers and the apologists. Phase one is to present any terrorist as a
right-winger, neo-Nazi, or opponent of left-wing policies.
terrorist is a Muslim, however, his own explanations – citing dominant
interpretations of Islam and the goal of furthering an Islamist revolution – are
Instead, he or they are presented as confused, psychologically
disturbed individuals; victims of discrimination; or, in short, anything other
than ideologically motivated revolutionaries.
Perhaps the leading
“professional” apologist for France in this context is Justin Vaisse. In an
article in Foreign Policy, “The ‘New Normal’ in France?” he claims that Mohamed
Merah, the Toulouse terrorist, was sort of a Sad Sack character merely seeking
to take his fate into his own hands and to emerge as the defender of oppressed
Muslims in France. In other words, he’s sort of a combination of a self-help
fanatic and a crime-fighting superhero.
As for France itself,
anti-Semitism is supposedly declining.
There’s no problem, and few major
attacks on Jews. Everything is just fine. No need to make changes; no need to
demand that Muslims teach tolerance and fight against extremists in their own
ranks; no need to provide more protection for Jewish institutions.
need for a real soul-searching about the constant demonization of Israel in the
French media and, at times, schools.
Is this disgusting? Yes, and it’s
also dangerous. The subhead on the article tells us the Toulouse attack is
merely “a banal and fading version of extremism.”
To a Jewish ear, the
word “banal” recalls the famous Hannah Arendt line about the “banality of evil”
in the Holocaust, while the word “fading” means the problem is going away. It so
happens that I have met Monsieur Vaisse and discussed these issues with
At that time he was an adviser on Islam in the French
Vaisse had just written a book saying that there was no real
political problem regarding Muslims in France. The book was quickly translated
into English and published by a prestigious Washington research
According to Vaisse, the entire difficulty lay with economic and
social issues. The problem was that Muslims were poor and badly
If this were fixed then there would be no radicalism, Islamism,
or terrorism. I asked him: Accepting your premise for the moment, why should we
possibly believe that France can solve the economic and social problems
involved? There aren’t good jobs; there is no prospect of better housing and
higher living standards. Government regulations discourage
So in the context of your worldview, isn’t the prospect
for more radicalization and violence? He simply gave no serious
And this, I should add, was before the current international
economic crash and the Paris riots.
But there’s more. A colleague asked
Vaisse what sources he used in composing his study.
sources, he replied. My astonished colleague said that nothing could be
understood without looking also at the Arabic material that French Muslims were
writing and reading. In fact, this person added, there was an Arabic-language
bookstore within five minutes’ walk of Vaisse’s office and we could go there
right now and see the radical, anti- Semitic child-raising manuals being sold
there. These books, my colleague added, weren’t just sitting on the shelves,
they were being bought and used.
Vaisse showed zero interest in this
Incidentally, in the Netherlands – in contrast to France – Jewish
groups successfully protested the sale of these child-raising manuals telling
parents to teach their kids that Jews were evil and should be extirpated. The
Dutch government responded by ordering little strips of white paper be glued
over the offending passages.
My host then showed me, with a flick of his
finger, how easily these paste-overs could be removed and the sections calling
for the killing of Jews be read.
Now consider this point. I am unaware of
a single incident in Europe or North America when a non-Muslim attacked Muslims
with guns or bombs in an attempt to kill the maximum number
Probably, you could find a couple of such cases, but it won’t
be easy and they won’t be many. It is the Jews who are being targeted as a group
by many levels of violence and intimidation. This is a secret to nobody except
Western governments, “experts” and much of the mass media.
listened in France to discussions among Jews over what parts of their cities
were safe to live in and which ones were dangerous. The key factor is whether
you are wealthy enough to move away from the threats. I’ve heard Jewish parents
discussing the traumatic experiences of their children in the public schools.
French Jews are either leaving France or at least buying homes in
Aside from reports in mostly Jewish media, I know about this
because I hear more and more French being spoken in Tel Aviv’s streets. My real
estate agent friend has had a growing number of French clients, some of whom
leave their families in Israel and commute to work in France.
people know what’s actually going on in France and other countries.
Spiegel, for example, interviews Daniel Ben-Simon, an expert on the subject who
explains there are, “hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents” a year, committed
mainly by Arab immigrants. Indeed, the teacher and his two children murdered in
Toulouse were French Jews who had emigrated to Israel until he had been
persuaded to return to France to work in the school.
So while we will be
told to listen to Vaisse and such people, these reassuring lies have nothing to
do with reality. Yet this is not just a matter of misinformation.
falsehoods encourage governments and institutions not to prepare, not to change
their ways, not to learn from bloody experience.
And that means there
will be more such tragedies, as well as hundreds of other incitements to
anti-Semitism, blood libels against Israel, and acts of anti-Jewish hatred that
you will never hear about. Hiding the truth only ensures that the problem grows
and the tragedies are repeated.
The writer’s new book, Israel: An
Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. He is director
of global research in the International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and a featured
columnist at PJM and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs