How Sharon Discovered Rampant Anti-Semitism in France
At a rather peculiar juncture in time, just after the “anti-Semitic” attack on a young French woman proved to be a resolute fraud, Ariel Sharon made a dramatic appeal to French Jewry. “Arise, ye prisoners of French anti-Semitism,” he called – although not quite in those words, “and come to Israel.” The immediate response of the leaders of the French Jewish community, who did not appreciate Sharon’s intervention in what they considered their own affairs, was: “We are not sitting ducks. The only country where one can be killed because of being a Jew is Israel” (Haaretz, July xx 2004).
But it was not only the Jews of France who took offence. From the president down through the prime minister and the media, Sharon’s interference was branded “insufferable.” And to add insult to injury, he was notified that his pending visit to France was not in the cards for the present. Sharon, it would appear, was not impressed. International censure doesn’t seem to affect Israel’s political or diplomatic community. One need only look at Israel’s response to the overwhelming UN ratification of the findings of the International Court at Hague with regard to the wall. On the contrary, Israel appears almost to enjoy confronting the whole world — with the exception of the United States, of course. Just last week MK Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Knesset, told an inquisitive reporter who wanted to know if Israel would apologize to New Zealand for sending Mossad operatives there to obtain false N.Z. passports: “If New Zealand keeps this up, we will ask them to apologize!” Can one expect Sharon to apologize to France?
On July 20, 2004, the British Guardian reported that representatives of French Jewry were disturbed by the activities of Israeli-financed groups trying to persuade French Jews to immigrate to Israel. In their opinion, the small number of Jews prepared to leave France is at the bottom of this upswing in Israeli efforts. They further noted that Sharon is trying to lessen or totally negate the legitimacy of French involvement in a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Sharon is not, of course, the first person to discover and condemn the “new anti-Semitism,” in France or, for that matter, in the rest of the world. He was preceded by representatives of American Jewry, among whom Bush has many ardent supporters. The Ha-Aretz daily even devoted a special Pesach supplement to the subject.
The general tenor of this “awakening” is along the lines of “we thought that the smell of poison gas had long since evaporated,” — as so vividly expressed by the American-Jewish writer Cynthia Ozick. Israeli President Moshe Katzav responded in kind on Holocaust Day: “Is it possible that the memory of the Holocaust is no barrier to anti-Semitism?” Even the liberal Israeli columnist, Avirama Golan, of Ha-Aretz, among others, has joined the Israeli establishment in “discovering” and condemning the new anti-Semitism. “Suddenly,” writes Golan (April 5, 2004), “sixty years after the Holocaust, and fifty years after the establishment of the State of Israel, the protective skins of European Jews — in their French, Belgian, Dutch or other European identities — have been pierced. Suddenly they find themselves, as their forefathers before them, wandering Jews, exposed, bound to their dangerous destiny and not to the place of their birth.” And she concludes, in a rousing Zionist crescendo: “This is the paradox of the new anti-Semitism that binds every Jew, willy-nilly, to Israel and binds Israel, similarly, to every Jew.” Sharon himself couldn’t have put it better.
This is not to say that anti-Semitism in Europe or anywhere else has disappeared from the face of the earth. It does exist and must be fought against tooth and nail. But the so-called new anti-Semitism which has so excited the imagination of Zionist propagandists is, chiefly, a marginal phenomenon, and bears little or no resemblance to the ignominies of the past. Perhaps that is why it has been dubbed “new.”
The question that should be addressed is when, exactly, did the “new” anti-Semitism rear its ugly head, and why. Almost everyone seems to agree that its birth coincides with the outbreak of the second intifada, Intifadat El Aksa, just four years ago.
According to a report of the French Ministry of Internal Affairs, published in Ha-Aretz on July 7, 2004, attacks on Jews began precisely at that time (119 incidents); it declined to 32 incidents in 2001 and then rose to 193 at the time of the Israeli incursion into Jenin, known in Hebrew as “Operation Defense Shield.” The Paris correspondent of the Guardian (July 20,2004) writes: “Almost all anti-Semitic attacks have been the work of young embittered Moslems from the large disaffected Moslem community and not the result of historical anti-Jewish sentiments.” The paper added, from French sources, that “it would be better if the government paid attention to the more basic problem of the integration of the Moslems in France rather than to the rise in the number of incidents.”
There is another question of equal interest that should be asked: How come that from the end of the Second World War and up the beginning of the intifada there were hardly any such incidents?
The main reason for the disappearance or, at least, the sharp decline in anti-Semitism after the war was the victory over Nazi Germany. At that point anti-Semitism lost its social legitimacy among most people. But there were other reasons, mainly the fact that the Jews in Europe were rapidly integrated into the fabric of society, at all levels. Most scholars agree that anti-Semitism waned not only in France but in all of Europe and in America. (See, e.g., Herzberg, Novick and Friedman.) In other words, anti-Semitism is not an a-historical, unchanging, ever-present phenomenon, as Zionist ideology would have it.
We may also ask ourselves why is it that people of conscience are enraged at the appearance of anti-Semitism or any other kind of racism? I would suggest that the answer lies in the basic injustice of any kind of blatant discrimination practiced by the strong against the weak, the majority against the minority, or the rulers over the ruled. Any cursory historical examination of anti-Semitism will show that this kind of discrimination is usually — and often quite openly — supported and encouraged by the powers-that-be, as in the Spanish Inquisition, the Czarist pogroms, or the Nazi death camps.
How do we relate what is happening in Europe today to past experience? In many cases the Jews are part of the governing circles and members of the influential middle classes. France has had a number of Jewish prime-ministers since the end of the Second World War. Chiraq has often villified anti-Semitism because the Jewish community is an integral part of present-day France. Nowhere in Europe is the Jewish minority being persecuted by any government. Attacks against Jews by discontented minorities or frustrated Moslems, however vicious and infuriating, cannot be classed as other than sporadic, local and marginal phenomena.
Racism in general, on the other hand, is still a potent force in many parts of the world. In Britain, for example, there has been a sharp increase in racial murders and racial discrimination. Their main targets, however, are Moslems, Asians and blacks. Global capitalism and corporate greed have had great successes in undermining the struggle for social and economic equality. And, it is sad to say, the solidarity of Jews with the dispossessed and oppressed, which was once the hallmark of Jewish identity in many parts of the world, has notably declined.
With regard to Israel, it is evident that as its international isolation grows, so do charges of anti-Semitism against those who object to its policies. Opposition to the occupation, opposition to the wall, opposition to the theft of Palestinian lands, opposition to the assassination of Palestinian leaders is equated with opposition to the Jews. If you are not for us, you are against us. If you don’t support Israel’s right to do as it sees fit, no matter what, you are, ipso facto, an anti-Semite.
The Holocaust and other historical anti-Semitic outrages have thus been reduced to the role of trump cards in Israel’s dangerous game of territorial expansion.