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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



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.