In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the US media became preoccupied with a key question: "Why do they hate us so much?" A fair-minded people, the Americans believed there must be a good, rational explanation why 19 educated, economically comfortable young men would ram planes into buildings, killing themselves along with thousands of innocents.
Among the many reasons proffered, one that appeared frequently - and drew concern in Jerusalem - was that it was all due to US support for Israel. If the US would only toe a more pro-Arab, pro-Palestinian line, this argument ran, then the Arab and Muslim masses wouldn't hate it so.
The events in Paris over the last 12 days have confirmed the vacuity of this argument.
Since the mid-1960s, France has consistently been among the most pro-Arab countries in western Europe.
Indeed, one can make a compelling argument that one reason French President Jacques Chirac was so opposed to the US war in Iraq was that he believed this would give France special status among the world's Muslims.
France, unlike the US, cannot be accused of a pro-Israeli slant. Nevertheless, its Muslim youth are rioting in the banlieues of Paris. Though it is too early to dissect this ongoing French revolution, one thing that can already be said is that these rioters hate France - otherwise they wouldn't be destroying its property and setting fire to its towns and suburbs.
And this hatred of France has nothing to do with Israel.
Why is this important to state? Because for too long much of the West, with France at the vanguard, has tried to paper over its real conflict with radical Islam with the argument that if only a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict could be found, then all would be well with the world and Islamic enmity would disappear.
Not so. The Muslim youth in France are not rioting as a sign of solidarity with their Palestinian or Iraqi brothers. They are rioting in large part because they feel discriminated against, alienated, and cut out of that great French "liberte, egalite, fraternite" pie.
The French would be wise to pay attention to the fact that these flames of alienation are being fanned and leveraged for their own use by Islamic radicals who - as the homegrown London bombers proved in July - are thriving on the streets of Europe.
Parallels can be found with our reality. At one time the Arab-Israeli conflict looked predominantly like a territorial one. Indeed, this thinking underpinned UN Security Council Resolution 242, which created the territories-for-peace rubric.
What was ignored was the religious and ideological component of the conflict. It is not coincidental that the recent Palestinian paroxysm of violence here goes by the name of al-Aksa Intifada - and not, for instance, the Gaza intifada, or the West Bank intifada.
Naming the violence after the mosque on the Temple Mount, and not one or other of the disputed territories, underlines that religious component, a component that - with the help of Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad - has made the conflict much more violent, volatile and intractable. Land-for-peace, for the radical Islamic groups, has always been obsolete.
France - yes, ironically, France - has now awakened to find itself facing a similar dilemma.
The instinctive reaction in France to the rioting has been twofold: a pledge to restore security and to address the "causes" of the rioting: the deprivation, discrimination, alienation and rootlessness of the rampaging, largely Muslim, youth. One cannot argue with either of these two points.
But French policy makers would be unwise to overlook the religious, ideological dimensions of the battle, and the way Islamic radicals preaching from the mosques and spewing out hatred via the Internet are able to prey on this disaffection and import a toxic ideology into France and the heart of Europe.
True, the current riots in France may be about rootlessness and alienation of minority youth, but they are not only about rootlessness and alienation. Radical Islam is part of the mix as well, and the French will ignore that at their own peril.
Send us your comments >>
Asad, Liverpool, UK:
It was interesting to read a Jewish perspective on riots in France which were amusing to say the least. The ground reality is that the rioters are not just Arab Muslims as Czechs and other eastern European immigrants are involved in it as well. This however does not take away from the fact that disparity in income between two social groups and lack of integration are the roots of this problem. The blame for the riots eventually lies at the foot of liberal French governments who do not have a viable opposition other than the extreme right of Le Pen's National Front.
Islamic radicalism is a problem for the world but the riots in France cannot be attributed to it. The harsh reality of life is multiculturalism does not work.
Al Ramey, USA:
Very well written overview. Readers should remember that not too long ago in an unguarded moment, France's Ambassador to the United Kingdom - a guest at a private dinner - called Israel 'that shitty little country'. He was so out of it, that he did not have a clue that his hostess was a prominent London Jewish socialite. Unconstrained by diplomatic or journalistic ethics (her husband is a well known publisher) she let it be known.
As far as he and his associates are concerned, if only Israel did not exists all problems in the region could be solved. (Readers can refer to a recent take eloquently assembled by David Price Jones, a contributor to Benador and Associates, free, on the web, who extensively wrote about the problem of French attitude towards Israel and the Jews.)
After so many billions of dollars in property damage went in smoke, who would this Mr. Francois blame now?
Did the sons of Algerian immigrants burn the Kasbah because of France's friendly attitude towards that 'shitty country'? The embargo began the day after the 1967 victory!
This defeatist mentality, with penchant to criticize everybody did not serve France well. A little doze of reality is in order. Maybe the lessons of that 'shitty' country are long due. It is difficult to appease the crocodile.
Todd Foster, Cathedral City, California, USA:
France is facing a terrible tragedy. I believe it is best to support them in their hour of need, however we can, if it's only moral support. The causes are not material to the destruction that continues. No French citizen deserves riots, uprisings, certainly not civil war, should it come to that. Further, it is their country and we should respect their methods of response.
There is hope that these riots will remain only riots, and not extend into terrorist suicide bombings. That may happen. Meanwhile, I suggest reserve and consideration for the nightmare that France is now enduring.
David J. Crook, Coatesville, Pa., USA:
All over the world, at the borders of Muslim nations and non-Muslim nations, there are wars, low-intensity conflicts or chronic severe tensions.
Arab Muslims versus black Sudanese and Ethiopian Animists; Arab Muslims versus Israel; even within Lebanon, Muslims versus non-Muslim fellow Lebanese. In Asia there's Chechnya, Pakistan versus India; Malaysia has Muslim versus non-Muslim Malaysians; China has militant Muslims in western China; Indonesia has the majority Muslims at war with non-Muslim Indonesians. The Philippines has a chronic terrorism problem within its Muslim minority with its local al-Qaida terrorists.
And the western democracies now have this Islamist war from within from many of the radicalized Muslims whom they were generous enough to take in.
Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists; African Animists, secular Europeans, whites, blacks, Asians. Whatever race or religion of their neighbors, radicalized Muslims are in conflict with all of them. Yet we're supposed to believe Muslims are being picked on everywhere and that Islam is the "religion of peace"?
Ronny Schnapp, Canberra, Australia:
The editorial puts forward clearly the reasons for this French intifada and we all have our own opinions of the French.
Now the question is: Is the French Government willing to do what it takes to crush this assault on the Republic and use the advice of then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin during the first intifada...?
Oh, the poor French ! Pity the vanguard of decency, the French. Where as their interests are not compromised, discrimination against Jewish people is fine. But now it is a problem?
Fran Waldman Thousand Oaks, CA, USA:
Chirac and his government make Bush and our government look like angels with all the answers (Katrina). The French need to take their heads out of the sand: they have done nothing to integrate people who lack Judeo-Christian values into their society. Enough give-aways. If they don't like it... offer to fly them back to their country of origin....
Storm Heter, United States:
Good for the JPost
for seeing that the riots in France are, in part, a homegrown reaction to very serious social problems, most basically the social, economic and political alienation of Muslims in France. Sarkozy's reductionist attitude misses the point.
Yes, those who murder and steal are vicious; but let us look at the social realities that explain the creation of a generation of youth who believe that throwing a molotov is a more effective expression of interest than a vote or a letter to a representative or a peaceful march in the street. To give a social structural explanation does not exculpate those who are vicious; but to take an individualistic reading and say that riots are merely the acts of a few angry thugs is indeed to paper over the real problem and miss the point completely.
France is failing, as is the US and as is Israel, to live up to its promise to grant civil, social and political equality to all of its citizens. These three nations have very different approaches to the question of "difference" (France--radical secularism and assimilation; USA--state neutrality with tolerance for religious and cultural difference; Israel--assimilation and liberal nationalism). None of these approaches, however, can afford to dismiss the facts of systemic suffering, alienation and discrimination.
Steve Brody, Orange, CA, USA:
Maybe now we will find out how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris, but on the other hand history has a tendency to repeat itself for many people.
Menachem Litenatsky, Los Angeles, CA:
If those who are holding a country hostage continue to receive "victim" status from their own government and the world mainstream media then the war on terror is not only far from being won but it is not even being waged. If I fallow the logic of what is being reported then when ever I am angry or really want something all I have to do is get a lot of friends together and start killing, burning and stealing things with threats of more violence if I am not rewarded with even more handouts.
The world may wish to look away or hide the truth but eventually it comes to the surface. The "Jihad" is global and coming to a neighborhood near you very soon. So call it by another name - "disenfranchised youth" or "freedom fighters" - or stay silent, but either way you will end up having to deal with the problem.
Having talks and making concessions with the enemy is as far as the world can comfortably go at the moment. That has not worked out to well so far, has it? What is even more shocking is this is not the greatest problem we face. It is not the root of the problem either.
The real threat comes from within. It comes from all the governments who have been overtaken by those who are self-hating. These liberals/socialists/communists want not only to deny the problem but make us feel as if it is our fault and we are repeating the lies everyday on television and in newspapers.
Time to make a decision and choose a side. If you do not then the time is near that someone else will decide for you and by then it will be to late. You will no longer have a voice or be able to affect the outcome.
If you do not support lawlessness and terror then say so clearly and often! Go to rallies, write to your government representatives, vote in the next election, donate your time and money, and pray for good to triumph over evil. Most important remember who you are and be proud of it.
Ben Michelson, Rehovot, Israel:
Eve Torjman quotes Yves Azeroual as saying that rioting French Muslims' violence may "remind us of the intifada," but anti-Semitism does not appear to be playing a key part in the current riots. Why does he think that anti-Semitism has anything to do with intifada in the first place?
Richard, New York City:
Let France burn. If suicide bombers hit the cities of France every week for 5 years, how will the French handle the siege? We can sit and watch. It should be very instructive.
Jonaitis, NW Kansas, USA:
France long ago let the fox into the chicken coop and is still trying to placate the fox? What about protecting the citizens of the coop?
Remy Rommel, Berlin:
L'Intifada Fran ais has been a long time coming but it was inevitable. It shows the hypocrisy of the French regarding Israel, which France always criticized while they coddled terrorists like Arafat. Now Chirac and de Villepin have their own private Palestine. These scenes will soon be repeated in The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and all over Eurabia.
Sam, New York:
What goes around comes around. As France is one of the most "hostile" anti Israeli countries and anti-Semitic to boot, there is somewhat some "shadenfreunde." However, in the long run a victory by these Islamic fascist fanatics is bad news for "all of us."
The French Government has to stop living in "lalaland" and face the music.
1. Build sports clubs in the suburbs to occupy the youth. That way they will stop being influenced by the fanatic imams.
2. Get job training.
3. Institute some affirmative job actions to offset discrimionation in the job market
Nantio, Leiden, Netherlands:
France should immediately start negotiations with the Paristinians and keep the peace-process going by offering them a state, Paristine, with Paris becoming the capital of both France and Paristine, of course under international supervision.
Cathie Williamson, UK:
France is reaping all it has sown, by turning away from the word of God it has ignored the warnings in Genesis 12 and is now standing or maybe kneeling under the curse.
Ami Lapidot, Sydney, Australia:
Good on you France - now you're getting a "an outstanding return on your investment". Perhaps now, you "poor" French will stop preaching what you were never fit to preach.
Maurice Picow, Netanya, Israel:
Your editorial article concerning the rioting going on in France is something that the government of that country had better take very seriously. France, like the editorial noted, has been too liberal toward its minority populations; and this is DESPITE it's official secular policy in respect to public education. Muslims and other religious groups simply set up their own religious, cultural, and educational institutions there, countering the official government policies. Muslim neighborhoods, in particular, are almost completely cut off from the mainstream of French society, and many residents of these enclaves don't even speak French.
Israel should study the events going on there as the Israeli Arab populations are beginning to become a bit 'restless' themselves - especially in "enclaves" such as the "Triangle" area which includes Umm el Faham - a known hotbed for radical Islamic, and even terrorist activity.
One bright spot, however, is a rapidly increasing number of French Olim to Israel, which will undoubtedly pick up due to present goings on in France. Since France has Europe's largest concentration of Jews, these events could herald a new wave of Aliyah from all over Europe.
So, every cloud has a silver lining...
Zvi Bart, Melbourne, Australia:
Nero fiddled as Rome burned. Chirac was even worse by giving Arafat a State funeral. Did it help?
... I am happy to see the French "eat it"!
Semsem, New York, USA:
France consistently bashed Israel unfairly when it tried to defend itself against the Palestinian intifada.
Their problems are only the beginning. As they say...."what goes around comes around."
Let's see how they plan to defend themselves?
Susan, Portland, Oregon:
For five years now, the Chirac government has tolerated the violence of young French Arabs, as long as it was limited to attacks on Jews. The failure to address these attacks, in the schools and the streets, not only led the vast majority of French Jews to enroll their children in private day schools, but led the chief rabbi of France to direct observant Jews to cover their yarmulkes with baseball caps.
The message has been clear: violence is rewarded. Rather than criticizing the Islamic leadership for fomenting the violence, the French establishment blamed the Jewish community for "provoking" it.
Nicolas Sarkozy is right. These are not the harmless tantrums of underserved youth. People who terrorize neighbors, torch property, and attack firemen are thugs, and criticizing Sarkozy for calling them "scum" is missing the point.
One man has been beaten to death, several policemen have been shot, millions in property lay in ruins, and a handicapped woman was actually set on fire and horribly wounded. The words to describe people who do such things are far worse than the ones we heard Minister Sarkozy using, but they're not fit for print.
Mike S., Boston, MA
: Normally I would feel sympathy for a nation that is dealing with a crisis, but regarding the continuous riots in and around Paris, I feel a sense of "Now will you appeasing ingrates wake up?!?" as it relates to France and their duplicitous stance in the Middle East.
From an American Christian perspective, I know that the US has without question been Israel's strongest supporter, yet because of religious zeal--and let's cut through all the rhetoric to the contrary, because it DOES come down to religious fanaticism--the Arab/Muslim world has fixated on Israel (and on the US, due to the perceived proxy relationship with Israel) since 1948.
Not coincidentally, what non-Arab country has also shown itself to be the nemesis of both the US and Israel for decades now? France.
From DeGaulle to Chirac, France has proven to be the rat as it relates to their relationship between Israel and the Arab/Muslim world. Much like DeGaulle threw his proverbial hat to the side of the Arabs/Muslims when he wrongly assumed Israel would fall; much the same way that France (and Britain) carved up the ME for their own interests after WW1, calling France an "ally" in the ME simply is a dubious proposition at best.
I believe the reason why France is the most disliked nation by many Americans is because of the back-stabbing, appeasing duplicity that France has shown so many times. From Thomas Jefferson's writings on Napoleon to Chirac's bogus opposition to Bush wanting to oust Saddam (translation: because of Chirac's/France's economic relationship with Saddam), any coincidence why so many Americans' view the French with such disdain?
To those who don't think religion is at the heart of the conflict between Islamic terrorists, the ongoing conflict inside Israel, and the larger issue of democracy around the world and inside Iraq--which is a conduit to establishing true religious freedom in the heart of the Arab world--once has to be blind, stupid or simply scared in not recognizing how these elements are all inter-connected.
In France's case, much like relying on the US to save them against Hitler in WW2, now the French will (hopefully and miraculously) grow a collective backbone in acknowledging that the US is now on right side of the fight again, or France's myopic stance will cost them dearly again.
But, given France's track record, don't count on them taking a righteous stand.