Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Friday, May 09, 2003

A French Jew laments what has become of his home.

I was not oblivious to the behavior of some of the French during World War II, nor was I blind when isolated incidents occurred, such as occasional insults or the desecration of the Carpentras cemetery in 1990. But I was proud to say that French law made such incidents crimes - something which would not always be the case in the United States, thanks to the protection of the First Amendment.

But since the start of the latest intifada two-and-a-half years ago, I have seen my beliefs shattered. Like many Jews, I waited for the Socialist government of the time to openly condemn the sudden rise of anti-Semitism. Like many Jews, I expected the center-right opposition to condemn these acts. Like all Jews, I wanted to see a united front against what was happening. And like all Jews, I was let down.
The French political class only addressed the problem once the presidential and legislative elections were nearing. And then I was baffled to hear that some Socialist Party officials were advocating that the party refrain from condemning anti-Semitism on the grounds that the Arab vote is approximately 10 times greater than the Jewish vote.
This feeling of malaise crystallized when Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the far-right and serial practitioner of anti-Semitic jokes, made it to the runoff elections last May against the incumbent, Jacques Chirac. I remember sitting in a restaurant in Washington, crying, when the results of the first round came in. It felt as if the world was crumbling. France, a country which had been traumatized by World War II, had allowed Le Pen, an individual with ties to anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic and neo-Nazi groups, to gain the legitimacy he had been so desperately seeking.
After the elections the concern over anti-Semitism faded. The new government has been just as ineffective as the previous one in reassuring France's Jewish population. Synagogue attacks - there were nearly 300 incidents in 2002 in Paris and its suburbs - are nothing more than “petty crime.” Anti-Semitism is now perceived as a normal part of the political spectrum. The French political class has been reluctant to denounce it for what it is. Yet I don't believe for a second that Chirac or most other French politicians are anti-Semites. Chirac was the first to publicly recognize France's responsibility in the deportation of French Jews during the war.
Still, much could be said about what a French Jewish leader recently described as the coalition of Red, Green and Brown - Communists, ecologists, and the far-right. To many in this coalition, anti-globalization, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism are an accepted means to dress up pure anti-Semitism. You will never find a French anti-Semite who is not also a fanatic anti-American.

If I qualified for political asylum in the United States I would not hesitate to apply, because America is the only country in the world, along with Canada and Israel, where Jews can just be. The vast majority of the people there do not perceive Jews as foreigners. I feel betrayed by my "Old Country." I will never forget, nor will I ever forgive.

< email | 5/09/2003 02:40:00 PM | link

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