Cherryl Smith

Paris, Gaza, and the Oldest Hatred

It seems that attending synagogue in Paris has become more dangerous than running to bomb shelters in Israel. In the past weeks, with Hamas rockets targeting all the cities of Israel, 430 French Jews, mostly young families, arrived to make their home in Israel.

The world’s third largest Jewish community has in recent years experienced a steady decline of its population due to emigration, mainly to Israel but also to the US and Canada. The war in Israel will come to an end but dangers for Jews in France, and elsewhere in Europe, will continue unless radical change takes place within Europe, with France the focal point of the greatest threats to Jews.

It is hard to think of the beautiful city of Paris this way. But the reality is that Jews in Paris have been trapped inside their synagogues while mobs rioted outside throwing Molotov cocktails and chanting “death to the Jews” and “long live Hamas.”

The pretext of pro-Palestinian protest has been completely shattered as Jewish businesses have been torched and Jewish neighborhoods have become danger zones for their residents.

Even if one holds the position that Israel should not defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks, it should be obvious that shouts of “death to Jews” and the chant, “Jews out of France,” by marchers through Paris back in January (without the Gaza pretext) express raw anti-Semitism.

Most recently these chants have been accompanied by so much violence that “Paris’s Kristallnacht” is an apt description. According to Paris University professor, Guy Muilliere:

Demonstrators also shouted slogans in favor of a man who had murdered Jewish children: “We are all Mohamed Merah.” Merah shot and killed a rabbi and three Jewish children at close range in a schoolyard in Toulouse in 2012; it was the one of the most serious anti-Semitic acts committed in France since the Vichy regime. This was the first time in France that a large crowd proudly identified with a murderer of Jewish children.

…Dozens of windows of Jewish shops and restaurants along the route were broken and covered with yellow labels saying, “boycott Israel”. This was the first time that so many Jewish shops and restaurants were attacked during a demonstration in Paris.

In addition, several hundred protesters armed with iron bars, machetes, axes and firebombs, arriving Place de la Bastille, marched to the nearby Don Isaac Abravanel Synagogue on rue de la Roquette. They shouted, “Let’s slay the Jews,” “Hitler was right,” and “Allahu Akbar”.

It is encouraging that French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls spoke out on Monday, according to the Jerusalem Post, condemning “the use of anti-Zionist rhetoric as a cover up of anti-Semitic opinions,” though the rioters make no such distinctions. He gave the speech on the anniversary of the 1942 Vil d’Hiv Roundup, a two-day period during which French authorities delivered 12,000 Jews to the Nazis. “The dishonor of France,” said Valls “is to have been an accomplice of the occupier, to have sent men, women, children, to death because they were Jews.”

Also on Monday, after an anti-Israel protest in Toulouse, a man threw firebombs at the Jewish Community Center and was arrested. A local Jewish community leader, Nicole Yardeni, commented, “We endure daily insults and get spat on–a general feeling of anxiety because a part of the population has a poisoned mind that makes it their mission to hurt Jews, regardless of Gaza.”

During an attack last week on a kosher restaurant in the Paris neighborhood Le Marais, “A worker of the restaurant managed to shutter the restaurant’s anti-burglary bars, preventing the crowd from entering and locking dozens of customers inside. The crowd proceeded to hurl various objects at the windows while shouting ‘bunch of dirty Jews, we will kill you’ and ‘death to the Jews.’”




About the Author
Cherryl Smith's new book is FRAMING ISRAEL, A Personal Tour of Media and Campus Rhetoric. She is professor emerita of rhetoric and composition at California State University, Sacramento. She has lived in Tel Aviv since 2016.
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