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.
“For many decades after the Second World War, the Communists were the main promoters of anti-Zionism in France. Their decline in the last 20 years ran parallel with the amazing electoral growth of another major anti-Zionist force, the Trotskyites. Today, even though divided, they are the most important component of the French extreme left.
“French Trotskyites promote an anti-Zionism which originated in the 1920’s. It has never been tempered by a pro-Israel phase similar to the one which the Communists underwent in 1947 and 1948 and they have never accepted Israel’s existence. For the same reasons as the Communists, they are trying to seduce – by any means – the Arab and Muslim sectors of French society.
"Their goal is clear. They want those sectors to replace the traditional French working class which is rapidly vanishing for sociological and other reasons, as their main electoral and political basis. This strategy engenders a vicious anti-Zionism which often surpasses that of the Communists.”
Simon Epstein teaches at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is a former director of its Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism. Since 1982, Epstein has published various books and articles on anti-Semitism and racism.
“There is one basic factor which separates Communists from the Trotskyites and other components of the French extreme left. It concerns their relationship to the Second World War and the Shoah. The Communists remain attached to a historical narrative, which is in essence anti-Nazi. This narrative passes over the two years between the German-Soviet pact (August 1939) and the German attack on the Soviet Union (June 1941) in silence. It also often speaks about ‘victims of fascism’ in general, without mentioning the Jews specifically. Yet anti-Nazism in all of its facets remains part of the ideological and cultural heritage of the French Communist party. For instance, the law which forbids Holocaust denial was the initiative of Communist parliamentarian Jean-Claude Gayssot in 1990.
“The attitude of the Trotskyites is radically different. They remain loyal to the principle of neutrality adopted by their predecessors during the Second World War. They proclaimed that the proletariat should not take part in the titanic battle opposing two equally detestable forces: the German imperialism and the Anglo-American imperialism. At the Allied debarkation in Normandy on 6 June 1944, the main French Trotskyite clandestine journal titled about the Allies and the German occupiers of France, ‘They are the same,’ This attitude led the great majority of the Trotskyites to oppose any action against the German occupier. Some non-Jewish Trotskyites even collaborated with the Nazis. The memoirs of a former Trotskyite, Jewish mathematician Laurent Schwartz, confirm that the Trotskyites were totally indifferent to the fate of the Jews in occupied Europe.
“After the end of the war, the Trotskyites continued to disregard the Shoah. This resulted from the fact that until the 1980’s, a large number of Trotskyite leaders were Jews. They tried to hide their origins by adopting French-sounding names, although it was widely known that they were Jewish. They never mentioned the Shoah and hoped that by doing so they could camouflage their original identity and pose as authentic international militants.
German crimes fulfilled a new historical function. They enabled the Trotskyites to turn the Shoah against the Jews.
"Nevertheless, ignoring the Shoah stemmed first and foremost from an ideological factor. Since Auschwitz greatly damaged the Troskyite postulate that the two imperialisms fighting in the Second World War were ‘equivalent,’ the solution for them, was simply to eradicate Auschwitz from their collective political memory. One must remember that some of the Holocaust deniers had their origins in the extreme left, and that it is incorrect to consider Holocaust denial as an exclusively extreme right wing phenomenon.
“Whenever politically convenient, the French extreme left is ready to introduce the Shoah into its discourse and public campaigns. It did so when Jean Marie Le Pen’s National Front had its initial electoral successes in 1984 due to its fight against the immigration. To mobilize public opinion against Le Pen, some intellectuals suddenly began to recall the genocide of the Jews. In their mind, the massacre of the Jews had finally found its political usefulness. This became important, since it helped to protect Arabs and Muslims against the attacks of the French extreme rightist movement.
"We should also remember that leftist militants dug up the Shoah during the first and even more so, the second Intifada. This time they did so in order to give articulation to their radical anti-Zionism, claiming that Israelis were doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews. In this way, the German crimes fulfilled a new historical function. They enabled the Trotskyites to turn the Shoah against the Jews, and demonize the Israelis by promoting a totally distorted picture of the Middle Eastern conflict.”
Epstein concludes: “In both cases, the suffering of the Jews has become an instrument in an extreme leftist strategy of attracting, recruiting and mobilizing Arab and Muslim populations in France.”