Thursday, February 4, 2016

France: An anti-Semitic hell - Judith Bergman

by Judith Bergman

A recent poll and report on French anti-Semitism paint a gloomy picture, and the prospects for 2016 are bleak.

In France, it is not just anti-Semitism from Muslim North Africans and Arabs from the Middle East that is ‎haunting the Jewish community. In a recent poll, conducted over 18 months by Ipsos and sponsored by ‎the French Judaism Foundation, the "native" French showed that they are still as anti-Semitic as ever.‎
Fifty-six percent of the French believe that Jews "have a lot of power," and 40% said that Jews are ‎‎"a little too present in the media." Thirteen percent believe that there are too many Jews in France, ‎whereas an unbelievable 60% believe that Jews are at least partly to blame themselves for the rise ‎in anti-Semitism, with 91% saying that Jews "are very insular."
Nevertheless, despite this obvious hatred, only 4% of the French consider the Jews "problematic." ‎In contrast, 26% of the French said that Muslims were problematic. This is not so surprising. ‎French Jews mind their own business, contribute tremendously to society in every possible way, and do not commit violent crimes or terrorism. This has not, however, stopped the ‎French from hating the Jews.‎
In 2015, 808 anti-Semitic attacks were reported to the police according to a report by French Jewish ‎watchdog Jewish Community Security Service (SPCJ), with statistics supplied by the French Interior Ministry. That represents a 5% drop from 2014, but one would be deceived to think this means that ‎anti-Semitism is on the wane in France. ‎
As pointed out by the SPCJ, for the first time, anti-Semitism in France reached an extremely high level ‎independent of any armed conflict in the Middle East. The high number in 2014 was partly caused by ‎the effect of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in the summer of 2014. As SPCJ pointed out, anti-Semitism ‎in France in 2015 was entirely endogenous and capable of reaching unprecedented heights without any ‎outside impetus. ‎
In 2015, Jews were the targets of 40% of all racist acts and 49% of violent racist acts committed in France, though they comprise less than 1% of the total population. Those ‎are monstrous statistics, which display the failure of French authorities to protect the Jews. ‎
On average, two anti-Semitic acts were registered by the police each day, and this ‎does not represent the full extent of anti-Semitic acts, since, as SPCJ points out, numerous testimonies ‎from victims show their reluctance to even file complaints for anti-Semitic ‎insults, threats or violence. Far from having experienced a 5% fall from 2014, it ‎is much more likely that the number of anti-Semitic acts went up from 2014.‎
The report by the SPCJ highlights that many French Jews no longer understand their role or place in ‎France, and they feel unease even beyond the question of physical security. Nearly 8,000 Jews left France in ‎‎2015, a 10% increase from the previous year. According to various polls, between half and three-quarters of all French Jews are considering leaving.‎
Prospects for 2016 are bleak. The year barely started and already a new record was made: In January, a ‎machete attack on a Jewish man in Marseilles by a 15-year old teenager, which sparked the so-called "‎kippah debate," about whether Jews should stop wearing kippot in public. As the SPCJ pointed out, this ‎debate completely missed the mark by debating the Jewish response rather than the causes for this ‎extreme spike in violence against Jews. Also in January, French Jewish politician Alain Ghozland, a ‎prominent leader of the Jewish community, was stabbed to death in his apartment in a possible anti-‎Semitic attack, which remains unresolved, although two suspects have been apprehended in a Paris suburb.‎
The SPCJ is aware of the bleak prospects, including the lack of proper protection from official France, when ‎it proposes the following:‎
‎"Let us learn to identify a suspicious individual in a familiar environment; learn the right reactions in case ‎of an attack; learn to give a proper alarm to the police or assist the victim of an attack. Let us learn new ‎and necessary reactions. This is the way to be legitimately reassured. It is an individual and a collective ‎decision to learn how to face danger and protect ourselves as much as we can. We are all trained and ‎aware of what to do in case of fire. Now that France is shaken by terror attacks and renewed threats, isn't ‎it time we learned and mastered preventive actions against terrorism?"‎
The question is, will such training be enough? I think we all know the answer.

Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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