Because it is such a sensitive topic, I’ve kept my mouth shut. (Which isn’t to say that I don’t have an opinion.) Today, France’s major national newspaper, Le Figaro, has published an important article entitled “Against the new anti-Semitism: hundreds of personalities sign a manifesto” (see link below). Concurrently, in today’s The Guardian of London, England, the same topic has been published (see link below).
This is indeed a breakthrough. As for the silence on the truth of this subject up until now, the national media – in France and abroad – is largely to blame. Not wishing to stigmatize a portion of the population, the media kept quiet. But the brutal murder of 85-year old Mireille Knoll in Paris’s 11th arrondissement last month was the last straw.
A personal anecdote: about seven years ago I was walking around in a predominantly Jewish district of my home-town of Toronto. In the course of conversation with shop-owners and some residents, I heard the same refrain, over and over: France is anti-Semitic. This was uttered in response to my mentioning that I lived in France. (By the way, I’ve also read the same accusation in articles published in The New York Times and written by Jewish Americans.)
I clearly remember in one Toronto store, exasperated after hearing yet again the same refrain, this time by an older Jewish woman who said that French Jews were being attacked in broad daylight in the streets of France, I asked her point-blank – “But who specifically is attacking these Jews?”
She looked at me, an expression of blank bewilderment on her face, and cried “French people! French people are attacking them!”
Now it was my turn to be bewildered. Because the France we are referring to is not Vichy France of the 1940s.
And the question I asked myself was – how can the France of today be anti-Semitic when the list of politicians, journalists, authors, actors, comedians, industrialists and entrepreneurs, etc. is so long? And many of them, especially the actors, singers and comedians, well-liked, some loved, by the French public?
Laurent Fabius – Prime Minister of France (1984-1986), Minister of Finance (2000-2002) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (2012-2016);
Simone Veil – Minister of Health (1974-1979) and just too many awards and other nominations to be mentioned here;
Pierre Moscovici – Minister of Finance (2012-2014), Minister for European Affairs (1997-2002), and currently serving as European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs;
Dominique Strauss-Kahn – Minister of Economy and Finance (1997-1999), slated to be the next President of France, Managing Director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund).
Frankly, the list is too long to type, so I’ll move on. But just to note that there are more French Jewish politicians in France than in any other Western country, and that includes Jack Lang (half-Jewish), ex-Minister of Culture, and Nicolas Sarkozy (half-Jewish), ex-President of France.
The accusations of the North American Jews, of course, were not entirely wrong. But there was a murkiness, a lack of clarity in the definition. Today, on the front page of the Sunday Le Figaro, the root cause has been spelled out in black and white. Read the articles below.