Nowadays, hardly any anti-Semites in the West admit they hate Jews. The accepted pose for Judeophobes is to claim that they harbor no ill-will toward Jews – that they are merely anti-Zionist or oppose given Israeli policies. Yet on occasion their words and actions offer a glimpse into the darkness behind the politically correct façade.
So it was last Sunday in the French capital during a demonstration against Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Some of the marchers broke off and made a beeline for two centrally located synagogues.
The worst incident occurred at the Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue on Rue de la Roquette (in the heavily Jewish 11th arrondissement). A mob donning keffiyehs, waving jihadist flags and wielding clubs and chairs grabbed from nearby sidewalk cafés tried to storm the synagogue and harm the worshipers trapped inside. Police and Jewish security volunteers fought them. Some Jewish defenders and officers were wounded in the melee.
The attackers chanted “Death to the Jews” in French, along with the Arabic Itbach el-Yahud (“Slaughter the Jews”). The siege on the synagogue lasted for well over an hour.
Sascha Reingewirtz, president of the Union of Jewish Students in France, noted in an interview with Le Parisien that the rioters blamed French Jews for the conflict with the Gaza Strip, “though they have nothing to do with it... Some people use any pretext to attack Jews and call for the death of Jews.”
This is the classic modus operandi of old-school anti-Semites who feel no compulsion to pretend they are anything but Jew-haters. For them any trumped-up excuse suffices to blame all Jews everywhere, and the issue of any actual culpability – individual or otherwise – never enters into it.
If all the Parisian demonstrators wanted was to “free Palestine” (without going into the merit of their incitement on that front), what business do they have in beating up Jews who are clearly apart from Palestine? That this is anti-Semitism is clear to all.
Sunday’s synagogue attacks were not the first violence against Jews under the cover of protesting the current campaign against terrorists in Gaza.
Near a synagogue in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris, a demonstration on Saturday featured the same hoarse shouts of “Slaughter the Jews” and “Death to the Jews.” A day earlier, a firebomb was thrown at another synagogue, this one in Aulnaysous- Bois, a northeastern suburb of the French capital.
On July 8, the day Operation Protective Edge began, a 17-year-old Jewish girl was attacked with pepper spray on a Paris street near the Gare du Nord train station. The Middle Eastern-looking assailant yelled: “Dirty Jewess, inshallah, you shall die.”
The Parisian synagogues and the Parisian Jews targeted cannot be held liable for Israeli actions, not that Israeli self-defense should be regarded as villainous.
Attacking them is every bit as criminal as the wholesale rocketing of Israeli civilians; as the abduction, torture and murder by fire of Ilan Halimi in Paris in 2006; as the shooting of a Jewish teacher, his two toddler sons and a young Jewish girl at the Jewish school in Toulouse two years ago, and May’s shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels that killed four people.
One would think that no rational person could justify such acts of unspeakable and unabashed hate.
Yet they are whitewashed, and not necessarily at the expected fascist or Muslim fringes of the arena. Most worrisome is the free pass given such violence by seemingly ultra-liberal sorts. For example, French Green Party activist Pierre Minnaert opined on Monday that “when synagogues start acting like embassies, one cannot be surprised to see them attacked in the same way.”
The shame of it is that this might not be an entirely out-of-favor viewpoint. It will lurk behind official denunciations of anti-Semitism, and it will thrive as long as the world refuses to recognize that the Arab war against Israel often is a war against all Jews everywhere.