At a moment when antisemitism in Europe is visibly on the rise, it’s shocking and distressing that no less a person than Roland Dumas, the former foreign minister of France, is pouring oil on the fire rather than trying to douse it.
Dumas, who served under the late Francois Mitterrand, said in an interview recently that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is under the sway of “Jewish influence.”
Suggesting that he and Valls disagree on a number of policy issues, even though they are both members of the ruling Socialist Party, Dumas went on to infer that Valls’ marriage to a Jewish woman clouds his judgment and fills him with “prejudices.”
“He has personal alliances, everyone knows that he’s married to someone who has an influence on him,” said Dumas in a tacit reference to his Jewish wife, the violinist Anne Gravoin.
Pointedly asked by the interviewer whether he’s “under Jewish influence,” Dumas replied, “Probably. Everyone is under some influence … I can think so, so why not say it?”
With his disturbing comments coming only a month after a Muslim terrorist killed four Jewish shoppers in a kosher supermarket in Paris, Dumas has dredged up the malodorous antisemitic canard turning on “Jewish influence.”
Throughout European history, particularly during the dark days of the czarist regime in Russia, the Vichy period in France and the Nazi era in Germany, this slimy phrase has been repeatedly deployed to defame and marginalize Jews and to perpetuate antisemitic tropes, which have often led to unbridled violence directed against Jewish communities.
One would not have been surprised if a neo-Nazi or a radical Islamist had stooped to using the stock phrase “Jewish influence” to describe a person or an event influenced by Jews. But when a longtime socialist, such as Dumas, dredges it up from the muck, one can only shake one’s head in wonderment and despair.
If an educated, enlightened and refined man like Dumas is so capable of crudely appropriating the ageless code words of the antisemitic right or left, then it must be obvious that the oldest hatred in the civilized world is still a potent and dangerous force.
Despite all the wonderful advances in science, medicine and technology, human beings are still susceptible to and in thrall to the kind of corrosive and destructive ideas that harken back to our most primitive instincts.
It’s disheartening, to say the least.
One might very well ask why Dumas is so irked by Valls.
In 2011, a year after marrying Gravoin, Valls acknowledged that his relationship with her had linked him to Israel and the Jewish people “in an eternal way.”
And in the wake of the assault on the HyperCaher supermarket in Paris last month, Valls said his government is committed to protecting the Jewish community and combating terrorism.
A few days ago, following a terrorist attack in Copenhagen during which two Danes were killed by a Danish citizen of Palestinian descent, Valls urged French Jews to remain in France. “My message to French Jews is the following,” he said just a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Jews of Europe to make aliyah. “France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave.”
The president of France, Francois Hollande, issued a similar appeal: “Your place is here, in your home. France is your country.”
Judging by his disgraceful remarks on “Jewish influence,” such uplifting words must surely stick in Dumas’ craw. And in the mouths of narrow-minded French men and women who share his odious beliefs.