Global Agenda: The real threat in France

The factor that pushes anti-Semitism from the political extremes to the political center – that makes it active, rather than passive – is the socioeconomic climate.

Police check identity papers of Toulouse residents 370 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Police check identity papers of Toulouse residents 370 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The events in France this week were certainly shocking.
But what exactly was shocking is very much a matter of opinion. For people who have been brainwashed by the round-the-clock, hyper-intensive media brainwashing, the answers are very clear-cut: It is shocking that children were ruthlessly murdered, shocking that Jews were targeted, shocking that the lone terrorist was able to resist arrest for so long.
I apologize if any readers are offended by what follows, but perhaps it will help some victims of the latest sickening media circus – utilized to the utmost by the politicians there and here, if not actually orchestrated by them – to avoid drowning in, or being swept along by, the mainstream babble. First, what’s NOT shocking.
It’s not shocking that al-Qaida or its affiliates have attacked Jews or others on their long list of targets. That’s if this guy was indeed an al-Qaida operative. His status moved rapidly from a deranged loner, to a neo-Nazi (possibly an ex-soldier) and then to an Islamist terrorist, with the al-Qaida label an almost inevitable addition.
It’s not shocking that the French anti-terrorist units didn’t handle the “incident” effectively, given their almost total lack of experience. What is amazing, although not shocking when you stop to think about it, is that France – unlike the UK, Spain and the US – has not been the scene of a serious terrorist attack.
It is not therefore not shocking, or even surprising, that many people believe there was a tacit deal between the French authorities and the terrorist organizations, whereby the former would not hound the latter on French soil, in return for the terrorists desisting from perpetrating any attacks in France. The same suspicion attaches to Germany.
It is certainly not shocking that there was an anti-Semitic outrage in France – and indeed, no one was shocked by that.
In fact, it is fair to say that what is genuinely shocking is the initial reaction to the murders, which was largely along the lines of: “Well, we all know that there is a severe problem of anti-Semitism in France, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised by a violent incident, but a deliberate mass murder is shocking.”
That is a staggering indictment of how far things have deteriorated in France, and to a large extent in Europe as a whole, over the last decade or so.
However, if we accept that the perpetrator of the crimes was not a neo-Nazi or any other kind of domestic anti-Semite, but rather an Islamist terrorist, then the whole event must be seen in an entirely different light. It was a terrorist incident that took place in France and that was directed at Jews, among others.
That is NOT what is meant by anti-Semitism in France, even if the perpetrators’ motives were anti-Semitic.
This is not hairsplitting. On the contrary, to understand what has been happening in France for the last decade, and what is likely to happen in the coming one, it is essential to distinguish between terrorism and anti-Semitism. The French Jewish community, as a community, is not threatened by terrorism. Every individual in it is under threat, just as every Israeli lives in the shadow of a terrorist threat.
But terrorism is not an existential threat to Israel, nor is it to the Jewish community in France. Anti-Semitism, however, is already a major threat to the existence of that community – to the point that many, if not most, French Jews believe that their community has no long-term future and that they, or their children, will not remain in France.
The difference between the terrorist threat and the anti- Semitic one is that the former comes from outside France and will be fiercely (if not always effectively) resisted by the French state, irrespective of who is the president and which party is in power. The anti-Semitic threat comes from within France, from neo-Nazi and other right-wing extremists, AND from Islamists within the large and growing Muslim community. The French government cannot always be relied upon to resist it, fiercely or otherwise – for many reasons and from many motives.
Against this background, arguably the most important political event on the global agenda this year is the presidential election – the French one, that is, not the American. The French election offers voters a real choice, because the racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic xenophobic camp has a serious candidate in the person of Marie Le Pen. The good news out of France this week, lost in the media-generated noise from Toulouse, was that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recovery in the polls is continuing and the threat that Le Pen would knock him out of the second round, which seemed a real possibility earlier in the year, has now faded.
The factor that pushes anti-Semitism from the political extremes to the political center – that makes it active, rather than passive – is the socioeconomic climate. One thousand years of Jewish history in Europe demonstrate that a prolonged socioeconomic crisis is the trigger that pushes a country and a society from passive anti-Semitic sentiments to active anti- Semitic actions and policies. On that basis, what matters in France now is not dramatic incidents, however horrendous in themselves, but how the economic crisis in Europe plays out.
The upcoming election is both a reflection of that crisis and a determinant of its outcome. After the shock – genuine or media-manufactured – subsides, that is what French Jews, and Israel too, should focus on.
[email protected]