The spring 2004 fashions have arrived in the chic boutiques of Paris, and along with 50s-style full skirts and prim lace collars, anti-Semitism is back in fashion. In France this season, Jew-hating is all the rage -- literally.
Attacks against Jews and their property have escalated to an alarming extent. The French Jewish community (at 600,000, the second-largest Jewish population outside of Israel) is living in a state of anxiety. Hostile acts against Jews are posted weekly on the Web site of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (www.crif.org), and on www.consistoire.org/incidentsfr.html, a government hate-crime report center. Here are just a few examples from the last few weeks:
A 14-year-old boy wearing a yarmulke came out of the Ourq metro station and was followed by two young men. They called him a "dirty Jew" and robbed him in front of a crowd of witnesses. The men knocked the boy down, beat him on the head and broke his nose. The boy begged for help from passers-by, who simply walked away.
In central Paris, a teacher from a Jewish school was beaten up by young men, who ripped the Star of David from the teacher's neck and trampled her. They called her a "dirty Jew" and lit her hair on fire. They also told her, "We're going to burn all you Jews."
A group of four young men interrupted a class in the auditorium of the University Medical School of Saint-Antoine in Paris. They yelled, "We're going to kill all the Jews" and, "We're armed and we're going to take you all down."
When a Jewish student confronted the men they beat him and robbed him. The professor who was teaching the class said nothing and the men walked out without a care while the class looked on in silence. The dean of the University has been told of the situation but has not yet responded.
On the walls of the Rue Des Rosiers (in the Marais, the Jewish quarter), once again there are signs of the Star of David in yellow paint accompanied by the slogan, "And don't forget the showers of Zyclon," referring to the gas used in Nazi death camps.
Also in Paris, a 12-year-old girl coming out of a Jewish school was attacked by two men. They beat her, held her down and slashed her face with a box cutter. They carved a swastika into her face and walked away. Her parents have filed a police report.
A swastika carved into the face of an innocent Jewish girl proves how anger directed at Jews in France has moved beyond mere hate-speech and racist vandalism. The symbols of hate have jumped from desecrated tombstones and subway walls to the actual skin of Jews.
Unlike the last big wave of anti-Semitism in France, the people who are committing these crimes today are predominantly first-generation descendants of immigrants from the former French colonies in North Africa -- Muslim Arabs. Radicalized Islam is taking root all over Europe, encouraged by the international Arab press, the successes of Al Qaeda and sympathy for the Palestinian intifada. This malignant hatred is fueled by the Internet, where thousands of French, European and Arabic-language sites give voice to and connect cyber-haters in Internet chat rooms. Virtual Jewish blood is flowing from ever-growing e-mail lists while live screaming for Jewish blood is heard at pro-Palestinian/anti-American demonstrations on the Grands Boulevards of Paris.
A 12-year-old Jewish girl walking home from school in Paris is not an Israeli in "occupied territory," but these days she might as well be. She is defenseless and we must step forward to protect her. This new generation of anti-Semites, "Arabullies," are also virulently anti-Israel.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, if one speaks in support of Israel at French dinner parties, one is shouted down. Even at my own dinner table, when I told a guest of my fears about living in Paris in such a climate of anti-Semitism, he insisted, "There is no anti-Semitism in France, don't be ridiculous."
When I told him about everything I had read about the rising tide of anti-Jewish hatred, he told me I was being "influenced by the Jew lobby" and that whatever I was reading was "Jewish propaganda."
When I told him that among other papers, I was reading The New York Times, he said, "You know, The New York Times is a Jewish paper and Jews control all the media."
He said it with a smile, even knowing that I am a Jew. What made his comments especially chilling is that he is on the Catholic Board of Education of Paris.
So this spring in Paris, like every spring, the fashion runways are a jumbled mix of styles, as each designer angles to dominate the nouveau look of the season. This season, I'm afraid the designers of bigotry and hate are already having a good year. In fact, those long, belted black leather Waffen SS coats look an awful lot like Gucci's sexy new fall line. I wonder what will be modeled on the Paris runways next spring -- striped pajamas? Starched black shirts? Europeans have always had a soft spot for this fascist garb; I just hope America doesn't follow suit.
Carole Raphaelle Davis is an actress, singer-song writer who was born in London and raised in France and New York City. She now lives and works in Hollywood and can be seen May 12 in "My Wife and Kids" on ABC and in "Angel" on the WB. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.