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ANTI-SEMITISM IN FRANCE

posted 1 Sep 2014, 06:58 by Peninnah Pappworth-McAllister
 The article below was kindly written for our weekly newsletter that is circulated to members by, the son of the late Betty Herman z"l
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ANTI-SEMITISM IN FRANCE

 

Born, bred and bar mitzvah in Darlington, I have lived in the Netherlands and France since 1977. At the European Parliament elections last May, almost 40% of the voters in the small village (Sigean) where I live in the South of France voted for the National Front. Today, anti-Semitism is as prevalent in la France profonde as it is in the larger cities such as Paris where riots, protests, attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned shops have significantly increased recently.

Why should this be the case? First, anti-Semitism is, in my opinion, a latent sentiment in the French population. By contrast, while there is widespread dissatisfaction with the ever-increasing number of Muslims in France, protest against it is noticeable by its absence. Second, the criticism of Israel's current intervention in Gaza is exploited -- often deliberately -- by opinion leaders who transform anti-Israel opinions into anti-Jewish ones. Third, the major French cities contain a large 'underclass' of dissatisfied, unaffiliated and inadequately integrated people. In economically challenged times, and with youth unemployment at a very high level, such people frequently blame Jews for their, and French society's, problems.

In May I attended a political rally of the National Front in Montpellier. Gone were the skinheads, bodyguards and overt anti-Semitism of the party's founder, Jean-Marie le Pen. I was surprised that the audience which was overwhelmingly middle-class and middle-aged, had come to 'worship' Le Pen's charismatic daughter, Marine. Although her message was much more moderate than that of her father, it was still based on a 'them' and 'us' mentality. And, however respectable the 'new' National Front may wish to portray itself, the very existence of such a mentality fuels dissatisfaction and protest in society, maintains the strength of anti-Jewish feelings, and fuels an anti-Jewish and anti-Israel backlash.

 

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