As the media furore over the Paris attacks intensifies, very few news outlets are paying any attention to what France’s Jews are actually saying. Our French khevres at Union Juive Francaise Pour La Paix published this article, translated below by Jewdas’s French Correspondent. Please read and share.
These last days we have lived through the same continuous upheavals as all of our fellow citizens. As Jews we have been profoundly affected by the horrible attacks perpetrated against Jews, because they were Jews. For us, these attacks can only resonate with the worst moments of the history of French Judaism. Everything in which we believe as activists, citizens and human beings, everything for which we struggle, the value of life, equality, ta’ayush (living together) has been clearly flouted at Charlie Hebdo and at the Kosher supermarket. We are convinced that freedom of expression is a fundamental value of any democratic society and it must be defended at all cost against obscurantist violence.
“Our organisation has been denouncing for many years the trap set for the Jews of France…”
We are also aware of the rise of a formidable antisemitism in France. But we wish to analyse it and try to understand its causes, because, like all racisms, it bears the signs of blindness, of hatred and of blood. Our organisation has been denouncing for many years the trap set for the Jews of France, and it seems to us important to describe it once more today, following the bloody attacks of yesterday.
A trap set by many authorities and on many levels, articulated and coordinated in advance. Since Sharon’s provocations at the Al Aqsa mosque which set off the Second Intifada in 2000, the Israeli government decided that France, where the most significant Jewish community in Europe lives, was to be a key and essential political tool. Who would execute its policies on the ground? The Israeli embassy, the Jewish Agency and the CRIF, the apparently representative council of Jewish institutions of French Jews. Its policies consist in recruiting all French Jews to an unconditional support for all the actions of the Israeli government, even the worst of them. The CRIF was to impose a uniform vision, that of a totally homogenous Jewish community united around a faultless Zionism and of a unnuanced support for the acts of the regime.
“Outside of the Zionist fold there is to be no salvation”
And this project was swiftly pursued, right up to the network of secular Jewish associations, from which the UJFP (the Union of French Jews for Peace) was to be swiftly ejected. Outside of the Zionist fold there is to be no salvation! To imagine a collectivity of more than 600,000 souls speaking with one sole voice is as mad and stupid as to lend this unanimity to the five or six million Muslims, amongst whom there is also evidently religious people, secular individuals who practice to a greater or less degree, even some Zionists, etc. But this favourises the desired equation in everyone’s minds: a Jew = support for Israel and its policies, no matter what. And these policies occupy, colonize and kill Palestinian Arabs every day. As for successive Israel governments, they have not stopped calling on French Jews to leave this France, full of antisemitic Muslims, and to make ‘aliya’ to Israel.
Finally, an assembly of French ‘intellectuals’, disciples of the theory of the ‘clash of civilisations’, like Fourest, Taguieff, Tarnero and Finkielkraut, have led a battle at once against Islam and for Zionism. As for successive French governments, they have also not stopped equating the legitimate critique of Israel and Zionism with antisemitic racism. The majority of French media have repeated this refrain. We even heard journalists after the Toulouse massacre speaking to Jewish French citizens in front of the targeted schools, telling them Israel was “your country”. Let’s not forget the famous Rufin report, which called for the criminalisation of antizionism, described as a new form of antisemitism.
“We even heard journalists after the Toulouse massacre speaking to Jewish French citizens in front of the targeted schools, telling them Israel was ‘your country'”
In this trap, many Jews have found themselves caught in, those who have had emotional, familial ties with Israel, who have identified with Israel and with the history as presented to them by Zionist mythology, have bit by bit become potential ‘representatives’ of the Israeli soldier or the Israeli coloniser in France, progressively renouncing their critical spirit, under the already harmful effects of more and more problematic confrontations.
They have also renounced at the same time their capacity to empathise with the other, the occupied, those who have lost all their rights, the massacred, like in Gaza this summer, so as to no longer see anything but their worry to preserve at all cost this “little fragile and young State surrounded by enemies” which is the only thing capable of protecting them from antisemitism.
Any critique against this State has thus become an antisemitic act; any demonstration in solidarity with Palestine has become a gathering of fanatics personally threatening them, which local communities successfully pushed the CRIF to ban, thereby reinforcing the animosity towards them. The vicious circle thus triggered has only been reinforced with time, the attacks on the occupied territories only heightening tensions.
“In these ghettos of poverty, the young post-colonial French citizens who suffer discriminatory profiling, discrimation at work and refusal of entry at nightclubs because of being dark-skinned, identify themselves with the last non-decolonised patch of the Arab world, and with the oppressed Palestinians.”
The social crisis which has been developing in recent years in poor neighbourhoods, where French citizens live side by side, in the same estates, in similarly difficult conditions. In these ghettos of poverty, the young post-colonial French citizens who suffer discriminatory profiling, discrimation at work and refusal of entry at nightclubs because of being dark-skinned, identify themselves with the last non-decolonised patch of the Arab world, and with the oppressed Palestinians.
They sometimes wear the keffiyah as a symbol of resistance. And every time they wish to express their solidarity, their free speech is forbidden, equated with antisemitism. Their desire to participate in political debate is clearly denied, rejected, reduced to an expression of racism. They are called racists, whilst, as blacks or Arabs, undergoing racism and social exclusion themselves. Bit by bit they develop a resentment towards this community (which by the way is recognised as a community, the term ‘community’ being reserved to other communities than theirs) which the government affirms it will protect against them and their ilk.
“Violent groups like the Jewish Defence League can hit, break anything they want, and no punishment will come their way”
Doesn’t he who wears a kippah also often display the insignia of the Israeli parachutists? He can calmly go to protest in support of the Israeli army and its massacres in Gaza, even take part in it; the national press and the French government will take the same stance as him on Operation “Protective Edge”. He is on the right side. He is white and Western, he has the right of might on his side. Violent groups like the Jewish Defence League can insult Palestine, and Arabs. They can hit, break anything they want, and nothing, no punishment will come their way, the police watches and stays silent, like we saw this Summer on the Rue de la Roquette, as videos taken on the scene testify.
As for the young Arab, he does not have the right to protest for Gaza, as government bans made sure during this period. How can we not consider this young man who was arrested (along with others, a case of profiling pure and simple) on the edges of a demonstration this Summer, as he was peacefully returning home, because he was wearing a keffiyah: he was hit and told to appear immediately at court. A journalist with Libération wrote an incensed article in which she described witnessing the boy crying before a biased and unflexible judge who refused to hear anything he said. He received a three-month prison sentence, and is still now under house arrest with an electronic tag.
This double-standard justice system, this stigmatisation of some to the doubtful benefit of others, this official discourse which turns the Arab world into the axis of terrorist evil, of barbaric backlands, and Israel into a model of democracy; young Arab and North Africans into potential societal dangers and Jews into an integrated group in a recently crowned ‘Judeo-Christian’ West who must be protected; all these create a breeding ground for anger. The helplessness in overcoming a condition of misery has sent hundreds of young people from all walks of life (including some Jews it would appear) into the arms of ISIS and Al Qaida. And thus the trap closes up.
The Jews, as a henceforth homogenous body, must pay for these injustices, these humiliations, this muzzling of free speech, this openly displayed arrogance under the protection of all French governments: “don’t touch our Jews, you eternal foreigners, you barbarous people, incapable of integrating into our republic.” If they can’t reach Israel, they will get to its Jewish supporters. The focal point which the unresolved Palestinian question constitutes, taken as a symptom of the process of a new and profoundly unjust world, and which leaders refuse to solve, contributes to the emergence of this dangerous terrorism, one which is desperate and suicidal.
“We can live happily in this home of ours that is France”
A striking mechanism of assigning identities has been put into place within the framework of the new divisions of the world since 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the Jews of Europe, and of France in particular, have served as pawns in this new order.
It is with great sadness that we tell those amongst us, that we are Frenchmen and women, that we can live happily in this home of ours that is France, (as Elie Barnavi’s saying might have it: “happy like a Jew in France”), with our compatriots of all origins today; the importing of the conflict has been achieved by using and manipulating you, in the service of a truly unjust cause.
The growing terrorism of ISIS and Al Qaida against which we should all fight because it is suicidally deadly and a dead end, must be fought with common struggles, against all racisms, all exclusionary practices, and for the return of a diversity of opinions for all, Muslims, Arabs and Jews, in exchange and dialogue.
Free speech is not reserved for a unique vision of the world.
National Bureau of the UJFP, 15th January 2015