On February 19, almost all French parties across the political spectrum will join a rally against antisemitism. The appeal to demonstrate was launched by the declining Socialist Party, willing to gain visibility and momentum in the perspective of the forthcoming European elections. It voluntarily excluded the far-right National Rally Party of Marine Le Pen.
Over the past months, antisemitism has become particularly visible, in the context of the “yellow vest” social protests. From the beginning, this movement showed signs it was infiltrated by antisemites from both the far Right and the far Left. Both are eager to exploit antielite feelings by revitalizing old-fashioned Jewish conspiracy theories. Like in the 1930s, banners and slogans referred to “Rothschild” on the basis that President Emmanuel Macron worked a few years for the bank. A recent survey revealed that almost half of “yellow vest” protesters believed in an “international Zionist conspiracy.”
At the same time, the government released figures showing antisemitism has grown by 74% in 2018, after a 26% increase in 2017.
Last week, the memorial to Ilan Halimi was vandalized, and a street painting of late French politician and Shoah survivor Simone Veil was defaced with swastikas, while a Begelstein restaurant was tagged with graffiti reading “Juden.” Last Saturday, “yellow vests” verbally attacked famous French Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, shouting “Go back to Tel Aviv,” “F***ing Zionist” and “France is our land,” among other insults. To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet: There is something rotten in the French Republic.
In fact, antisemitism in France has been a plague for years. One racist act in two is targeted against Jews, who represent less than 1% of the population.
Since 2003, 13 people have been killed in France because they were Jews. Among them, on 19 March 2012, four people, including three children, were killed at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse. On January 9, 2015, four were killed in the attack at the Hypercacher kosher supermarket in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting. On 4 April 2017, Sarah Halimi, 65, was attacked in her flat, tortured and thrown out of a window by a native of Mali shouting religious ideas in Arabic during the murder. On March 2018, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Shoah survivor, was murdered in her Paris apartment.
In neighborhoods with a dominant Muslim population, slurs, threats and violence against Jews are a daily routine. As a result, some areas once with vibrant Jewish communities are now almost “Judenrein.” On the Internet, social networks are overwhelmed with anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist hatred. In many schools, teachers cannot teach about Israel or even about the Holocaust, and in most universities anti-Israel graffiti cover walls.
As a Jewish and pro-Israel politician, I am the constant target of death threats, not to mention thousands of antisemitic insults.
As a French MP and a Jew, I, of course, feel worried for my fellow Jews, but I am even more concerned for the future of France as a nation and a democracy. In contrast to the 1930s, Jews can nowadays rely on a strong State of Israel, with its solid democracy, vibrant economy and a powerful army.
IN 2019 FRANCE, antisemitism is mainly motivated by militant Islam and anti-Israel feelings, which is why the main issue of the February 19 demonstration is: How will it treat anti-Zionism?
The problem is that most left-wing parties just want to use this rally to ease their consciences. For years they have refused to denounce antisemitism coming from Muslim minorities and have focused on old-style far-Right antisemitism, which still exists but is no longer significant.
Worse, the far Left is totally obsessed with anti-Israel feelings, and, like many press groups, constantly tries to criminalize the Jewish state. Day after day, it portrays Israel as a colonialist, racist state, while in fact Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and shares French values. In several Communist municipalities, streets have been renamed after Palestinian terrorists, such as Marwan Barghouti, who killed Israeli civilians. Others will name them honorary citizens.
When I took the floor in parliament to criticize the French government decision to support the release of PFLP terrorist Salah Hamouri, who had planned to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, tens of left-wing MPs left the chamber, which is extremely rare. Week after week, these far-left politicians support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Now the same politicians want to demonstrate against antisemitism. This is pure hypocrisy, for they are the ones who feed antisemitism with their constant anti-Israel rhetoric.
Finally yet importantly, we come to the government’s support for normalizing relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which constantly calls for “erasing Israel off the map.”
The paradox is that people like Jews when they are weak victims, but not when they fight to secure their existence in their homeland, the State of Israel.
I understand that many in the Jewish community do not feel comfortable with the rally and intend to boycott it. There is fatigue among French Jews, and most are fed up with words. They want the government to deliver a clear political vision on the issue and decisive public action.
As a Republican and an incurable optimist, I will take part in this rally, in which every French political party has its place, including the National Rally. I will go filled with the hope that France’s rulers will finally start to understand that antisemitism – with anti-Zionism at its heart – threatens the very future of the country.
The writer is a member of the French Parliament.