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Jewish Journal

France’s Dangerous Cocktail

by Andre Glucksmann

August 5, 2004 | 8:00 pm

On July 18, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon festively proposed to "all the Jews of France" "to move to Israel immediately ... because in France today, one of the wildest forms of anti-Semitism is spreading."

Sharon is wrong -- not in his concern about a real rise in anti-Semitism in France, but because he explains it too simplistically.

Ten percent of the French population is of Muslim origin. Most are not fundamentalists who feel solidarity with the Hamas suicide bomb campaigns.

Those who attack the Jews are a tiny minority, and that is a reassuring fact. But they are forging alliances with other anti-Semitic movements, and that is a disturbing fact.

On French campuses -- as well as on other European and American campuses -- leftist anti-Semitism is rife. This anti-Semitism, under the guise of anti-Zionism, turns the Palestinians into the cutting edge in the fight against imperialism, capitalism and globalization.

For the fashionable rebels, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat equals Che Guevara, and to the same extent, Sharon equals Hitler. This is the source of the increasing delegitimization of a country that allows a "Nazi" to head it.

Classical anti-Semitism, from the days of the [French] Vichy and Petain regime (1940-1945), is clandestinely lifting its head, mainly in the circles of old France. We should remember the attack of the French ambassador in London against that "s-----y little country, Israel. Why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?"

The ambassador, who served as spokesman for the foreign minister under former President Francois Mitterand, was sharply attacked in the British press but made no apology. His words, as opposed to those of Sharon last month, were not considered "unacceptable." He is concluding his career as the French ambassador to Algeria, a very desirable job.

When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suggested including Russia, Turkey and Israel in Europe, the reply he received from the French was: Why Israel? "There is no geographic connection [that is true], no historical or cultural connection between Israel and Europe."

This statement is the height of ignorance

There is a well-known joke: "Tomorrow we will kill the Jews and the bikers." To which the punch line is: "Why the bikers?"

The disappearance of Israel would cause few tears in Paris.

Unfortunately, the present situation is linking the three ways of ostracizing the Jews and is thereby mixing a dangerous cocktail.

The fundamentalists are very warmly received by the good souls who oppose globalization. It seems that the politically correct protesters have found the new "deprived masses" in the intifadists -- a substitute for the workers that they will never enlist.

From the extreme right to the extreme left, all of political France thundered against intervention in Iraq -- rank-and-file militants, members of Parliament, trade union activists, ministers and government leaders.

"Bush, Sharon -- murderers," shouts the street. "Sharon, Bush -- contempt for international law," declare the salons.

The rise of anti-Semitism, which is far from being a simple consequence of the intifada, is the twin of the anti-American wave that has landed on Europe since Sept. 11 and has flooded it since the war in Iraq. And since political France almost unanimously judges the American and Israeli leaders as violators of the law, it is not at all surprising that the fans of Hamas are running around happy and in a good mood in France, which identifies only two major enemies: Bush and Sharon.

But Sharon should be told: Refrain from unnecessary panic. The time has not come for Frenchmen of Jewish origin to lock their suitcases "as quickly as possible" in order to flee to Israel. France is not going through Kristallnacht. It is going through a rising wave of angry and pretentious foolishness. That happens occasionally in soft democracies.

The wave is also licking at other shores, and every citizen with common sense, whether Jewish or not, has an obligation to treat this contagious mental illness in his own home.

Andre Glucksmann is a philosopher. Reprinted with permission Ha'aretz. © 2004

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