Definition of anti-Semitism and anti-Semite
Definition of anti-Semitism and anti-Semite iStock

The rapid spread of the “Qui?” movement across France this past summer is an extremely concerning phenomenon being monitored by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) considering the immediate threat it poses to the safety of French Jews.

After a live television interview in June with retired French General Dominique Delawarde, in which the General made references to age old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, the phenomenon has spread at an alarming rate and gained significant traction. Premised on a question asked by General Delawarde during the interview, where he referenced “anonymous” groups with disproportionate amounts of power controlling the media, the movement’s name “Qui?” or “Who?” in French, is an attempt to draw the public’s attention to the “obvious,” namely that Jews and supporters of Israel control the media.

While Holocaust trivialization has been seen worldwide over the past year and a half, with Nazi-era yellow Stars of David being appropriated as a protest symbol against pandemic-related public health measures, adherents of the French “Qui?” (“Who?”) movement — who come from both extremes of the political spectrum — engage in explicit anti-Semitism, propagating conspiracy theories blaming Jews for the pandemic, for associated public health measures, and for COVID-19 vaccines.

Soon after Delawarde’s interview, signs displaying the word “Qui?” began appearing at nationwide rallies — which have drawn tens of thousands of people to the streets — against the coronavirus health pass that is now required for many daily activities in France. Furthermore, incitement demonizing French Jewish doctors by adherents of the movement has intensified over the summer.

Such accusations are not new to anti-Semitic discourse. Throughout history, conspiracies about Jewish control or power, and scapegoating of the Jewish people for societal tensions, has fueled anti-Semitic movements with deadly consequences. Especially in light of the recent global outrage at France’s denial of justice for the gruesome anti-Semitic murder of elderly French Jewish woman Sarah Halimi, CAM is shocked that statements such as General Delwarde’s can be made on public television with few repercussions. Furthermore, the speed with which General Delawarde’s statement have gained traction, appearing on signs at national rallies with tens of thousands present, is alarming.

The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) is deeply disturbed by the public display of such anti-Semitic sentiment in France. CAM welcomes the French prosecutors’ decision to open hate speech and incitement to violence investigations against individuals who have displayed “Qui?” banners in public. The potential for this movement to spiral out of control and lead to concrete harm against members of France’s Jewish community is already evident, with threats levied against French Jewish doctors, and multiple instances of vandalism involving both Nazi symbols and “Qui?” already reported. As such, dealing with this issue in a timely fashion is critically important to the safety of French Jews.

At a time when Jewish communities around the world grapple with an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitic incidents, hatred and discrimination, many of which have culminated in physical violence, the need to penalize those who propagate hatred of Jews to the fullest extent of the law is essential. The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) calls on French authorities to recognize the emerging threat of the anti-Semitic “Qui?” movement and to do their utmost to extinguish this uniquely anti-Semitic phenomenon before it brings physical harm to French Jews.