Op-Ed: Interview: Muslim Anti-Semitism in France
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
“Since the beginning of this century, Muslim anti-Semitism has become the most extreme form of Jew-hatred in France. The murder of a Jewish teacher and three children at the Otzar HaTorah School in Toulouse in March 2012 underlined this. The murderer Mohammed Merah claimed that he acted out of solidarity with the Palestinians. He also killed three French soldiers out of his hatred for France.
“Merah’s elder brother Abdelghani told me that his mother imbued all of her children with strong anti-Semitic sentiments. He repeats this claim in a book he published. His sister stated how proud she is of her brother Mohammed on French television. When previous President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a minute of silence in schools for the victims, Muslim students in some schools were unwilling to comply.”
Since 2007, Dr. Richard Prasquier has been Chairman of CRIF, the umbrella of French Jewish organizations. He is a cardiologist by profession.
“We told the leaders from representative Muslim bodies that they should condemn the Merah murders. They did condemn them, but mainly to try to prove that Muslims were also victims of Mohamed Merah, because his deeds had fueled Islamophobia. Most official Muslim organizations are weak and enjoy scant support in the Muslim community. Radicals have succeeded in silencing many of the Muslim moderates.
"We also see an increasing influence coming from Arab countries among French Muslims. This is in particular true for Qatar, which is also influential in French sports. There is however, some good news. Eighteen French imams recently traveled to Israel. Their willingness to visit was a courageous act, since many of them were subjected to major criticism from other Muslims.
“The Merah murders had different effects in France. Some media are beginning to understand that radical Muslims endanger the republican ideals which embody the essence of French values. In an op-ed in Le Monde, I explained how radical Islam shares common traits with Nazism.
“Anti-Semitism in France has traditionally been identified as coming from the extreme right. This is true, but it is declining. There is also significant anti-Semitism among the left-wing. This mainly expresses itself as anti-Zionism. One may oppose the Zionist idea, yet if people single out Zionism amongst ideologies, they thus become anti-Semites.
“Leftist anti-Semitism has ancient roots. In the 19th century, there was strong anti-Semitism among precursors of socialism. Nowadays, left-wing anti-Semites falsely compare the Israeli attitude to the Palestinians to that of France in its former colonies. They see Palestinians as victims of a non-existent Israeli ‘colonialism’ and project their own guilt feelings upon Israelis.
“The situation is even worse as most French media are anti-Israel. CRIF recently invited a group of 66 candidate journalists to Israel. They came from the country’s most prestigious journalist school in Lille. We know from internal surveys that they overwhelmingly voted against Nicolas Sarkozy in the recent presidential election and that a significant number of them supported rather extreme left-wing candidates.
“French anti-Semitism is a complex phenomenon. Not long before the elections, the leading socialist candidate was Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who identifies publicly as Jewish. His Judaism only became an issue on some extreme right-wing blogs. Sarkozy however, was convinced that much of the opposition against himself was due to anti-Semitism, as he was falsely perceived as being Jewish because his maternal grandfather was of Jewish origin.
“Before he became president Hollande did not have many relations with Jewish organizations. He, though, was always considered strongly opposed to anti-Semitism. Since his election, Hollande has made it a point to show strong support for French Jewry. He expressed this at an annual memorial ceremony for deported Jews in Paris in July and did so once again at the inauguration of a memorial center at Drancy in September. Most arrested French Jews were deported to their death from this transit camp. Hollande also accompanied Binyamin Netanyahu to Toulouse and stated that the Israeli Prime Minister was justified in showing interest in French anti-Semitism.
“Socialist Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls has also come out strongly against anti-Semitism. Many socialists now in power have sympathy for Israel. This is however, much less the case with the new generation.”
Prasquier concludes, “On one hand, French Jewry is concerned about its own future. There is some Jewish emigration taking place, of which only a minority is leaving for Israel. On the other hand, we remain a major Jewish community by international standards. There are signs of hope as more Frenchmen recognize the dangers coming out of radical Muslim circles. Jews should not accept unhealthy alliances with the populist extreme right, which tries to cater to them on the basis of a common fear of Islamism. It must be emphasized that it acts because of the danger radical Muslims pose to the republican character of France. It should not stress that its main motives are the dangers radical Muslims pose specifically to Jews.”