On Sunday, at the Grand Synagogue in Paris, some of the loudest applause at a memorial for four Jews killed by Islamic terrorists in a kosher supermarket came when one of the speakers reminded President François Hollande that there is no difference between “Death to the Jews!” and “Death to Israel!” For years, the French elite has pretended it can tolerate the latter without encouraging the former. That attitude is what allowed French antisemitism to flourish like an evil weed.
The outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, after Palestinians rejected a peace deal at Camp David that July, aroused anti-Israel protests throughout the world. In France, it triggered a wave of antisemitism unlike anything that had been seen since the Second World War. Between the autumn of 2000 and the spring of 2002, France set a new record as it recorded over 400 antisemitic attacks. These were mostly carried out by Muslim radicals, not the traditional far-right.
The French intellectual, media and political elite looked the other way. Some even blamed Israel for the violence. The French ambassador to the United Kingdom, Daniel Bernard, was accused in 2001 of referring to Israel as “that shitty little country.” It is how the French ruling class, and indeed much of the global media, felt: they blamed Israel for defending its citizens against a wave of suicide terror launched deliberately by the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian terror groups.
Those who warned that anti-Israel rhetoric was virtually indistinguishable from antisemitism were ignored–especially if they were Jewish. Those who warned that Israel would only be the first target were likewise dismissed. The message to Islamist radicals was that Jews were fair game–and young French Jews began emigrating to Israel in large numbers, increasingly convinced that the French indifference to Israel’s fate signaled an indifference to their own physical survival.
Now–too late, perhaps–France has recognized the link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says: “There is a new anti-Semitism in France….We have the old anti-Semitism, and I’m obviously not downplaying it, that comes from the extreme right, but this new anti-Semitism comes from the difficult neighborhoods, from immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who have turned anger about Gaza into something very dangerous. Israel and Palestine are just a pretext. There is something far more profound taking place now.”
Still, the appeasement continues. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on coming to Paris, the French government invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well, despite his support for terror. Hollande himself left the synagogue as Netanyahu spoke. As long as France shuns Israel, Islamist violence will escalate.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak