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The Uri Avnery Column considers the extent to which the fears of Anti-Semitism in French are justified. 

For Me, France is the land of liberty.

When I was just 10 years old, I fled with my family from Nazi Germany to France, on our way to Palestine. We were afraid of being detained at the border. When our train crossed the Rhine, leaving Germany behind us and entering France, I breathed deeply. From tyranny to liberty, from hell to paradise.

I never forgot this feeling. Whenever I visited France, it came back to me.

I remembered it again this week, when I saw a much-toted TV "investigative report" on "Anti-Semitism in France". It was a pile of propaganda nonsense.

"Anti-Semitism In France" is now all the rage in Israel. A huge propaganda effort is invested in this campaign. The aim is to induce French Jews to come to Israel, to "make aliyah" (an atrocious corruption of Hebrew).

Jews in France, according to "investigative reports'' are faced with a terrible danger. They can expect a second holocaust any moment. They are attacked in the streets. They are afraid to wear kippahs in public. For their children's sake, they must come to Israel. In a hurry. Now!

When I started watching the TV story more closely, I noticed one peculiarity: almost all the male Jews interviewed wore a kippah. Strange. I hardly ever met a kippah-wearing French Jew.

Then I noticed another peculiarity: it seemed to me that all the Jewish interviewees looked North African. In particular, Algerian.

Also, all the violent incidents mentioned were caused by Muslims. They did not take place on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées , but in the banlieues, where poor North African Muslims live crowded together with poor North African Jews.

Why are these incidents happening? Why there? And what have they got to do with French anti-Semitism?

When I hear about "French anti-Semitism", I see in my imagination the long tradition of Christian France's aversion to Jews. Even after the French Revolution, which liberated the Jews too, there was a lot of anti-Semitism in France. One has only to recall the Dreyfus affair at the end of the 19th century, when a French Jewish army officer was falsely accused of being a German spy and sent to Devil's Island in French Guiana. Masses of Frenchmen marched along the Champs-Élysées, shouting "Death to the Jews!" One spectator was a Jewish journalist from Vienna, named Theodor Herzl, who drew the conclusion that all the Jews must leave Europe and establish a state of their own in Palestine. Zionism was born.

This kind of Christian anti-Semitism, emanating (I believe) from the New Testament story about the death of Jesus, always existed in France, as it did in most other Christian countries. Since the Holocaust, it has become a fringe phenomenon. I believe that this is so in France, too.

The Muslim-Jewish animosity which is now being played out in the Paris banlieues is something entirely different, and has nothing to do with anti-Semites. It so happens that both sides are Semites.

It started in Algeria a long time ago. The French conquered the country and settled there in large numbers. Then they did something rather clever: they conferred French citizenship on the local Jews, but not on the Muslims, who constituted the vast majority. As the ancient Romans used to say: "Divide et Impera".

When the Algerian War of Independence broke out (in 1954), the Jews, being proud French citizens, sided with the oppressor against the oppressed.

More than that. When the French army showed signs of wanting to leave, the settlers set up an underground military organization, the OAS, to terrorize the Muslims. The local Jews were involved. Gradually, the French settlers started to return to France, and the Jews remained, the OAS then becoming almost a Jewish organization.

I was somehow involved. The Algerian liberation organization, the FLN, feeling that victory was near, was very concerned that the Jews would leave Algeria. Since the Jews played a large role in Algerian economic and intellectual life, the FLN leaders feared that such an exodus would be a great loss to the emerging state.

They approached me with the request to set up an organization in Israel to support Algerian independence. When I set up the Israeli Council for Algerian Independence, they asked us to publish material in Hebrew, which they translated into French and distributed among the Jews.

To no avail. In the end, Charles de Gaulle set a date for the French army's withdrawal, more than a million French settlers fled almost overnight to France, and with them practically all the Jews.

Algerian Jews did not come to Israel. They were too well integrated in French culture. Moroccan and Tunisian Jews split: the educated went to France, all the others came here.

What is happening now is the continuation of that Algerian conflict on French soil. The hatred that once ruled the streets of Algiers and Oran is being fought out in the streets of Paris and Marseilles.

Tragic? Indeed. Sad? Certainly. Anti-Semitism – not at all. It has nothing to do with this old European scourge.

To Get a real picture one has to compare the number of Muslim acts of violence against Jews in France with the number of Christian French acts of violence against Muslims.

I have seen no such statistics, probably because France insists that there is no difference between Frenchmen and women of all colors, creeds and races.

However, I would confidently bet that incidents against Muslims vastly outnumber incidents against Jews.

French neo-Fascism, led by the very able Marine Le Pen, is entirely centered on hatred of the Muslims, while doing everything possible to flatter the Jews. Some Jews are even active in her party. She admires us, she loves us, she even threw her own father out because he could not restrain himself from uttering phrases that reflected some residual anti-Semitism.

So Where is the present scare of French anti-Semitism coming from?

Ah, there are several good reasons.

Basically, Zionism and anti-Semitism are twins. It is modern European anti-Semitism that created modern Zionism. As mentioned, Herzl turned into a Zionist when he saw the (French) anti-Semites. My family came to Palestine because of (German) anti-Semitism. So, more or less, did all the Israeli Jews.

One could say that if anti-Semitism did not exist, the Zionists would have had to invent it.

According to Zionist ideology, the State of Israel exists as a refuge for persecuted Jews. Wherever Jews in the world are in distress, we save them and bring them here. (Never mind that Israel is perhaps the least safe place for Jews in the world.)

When anti-Semitism is too weak to do the job, we must help it along, as we did in Iraq in 1952, when we planted bombs in synagogues to encourage Jews to leave and come here.

Seems that just now there is a dearth of anti-Semitism. Russian Jews don't come anymore, nor do American ones. So France must fill the gap.

There is also a more cynical explanation. Israel has built an elaborate apparatus for bringing Jews here. There are immigration officers in Israeli embassies. There is the Jewish Agency, a worldwide organization devoted mainly to bringing Jews to Israel. What would happen to all this host of emissaries, organizers, bureaucrats, political appointees and such if there were no Jews aspiring to come here and kiss the ground on arrival?

Fortunately there is this "wave of anti-Semitism" in France, and everybody is fully occupied. Politicians make speeches, journalists produce emotional "investigative" series, the Zionist soul is stirring, Zionism is in full swing. Planes full of kippah-wearing Jews arrive. Hallelujah!

What Happens to all these immigrants "making aliyah" once they come here.?

That is a good question. Some bureaucrats are charged with dealing with them. We have an entire ministry devoted to "immigrant absorption". (It is arguably the least desired job for a politician, a kind of parking space until something better comes along.)

Once the new immigrants are here, many devoted Zionists seem to lose interest in them. Practically all immigrants from Islamic countries since the birth of the state, they and their descendants, now complain of having been discriminated against.

The problem is now at the center of a lively debate. A committee led by a blind Oriental poet has just issued a vast report, demanding that all history books be rewritten to make place for Oriental Jewish politicians, rabbis, artists and writers, on a basis of parity with Jews of European descent.

Semi-official estimates are that about 30% of the new "French" immigrants will eventually return to France. That seems to be accepted as normal.

But if 70% remain with us, that is a net gain. Bienvenue, mes amis!


  1. Very educational article. I have always had the perception that Israel was just a modern day land-grab/plantation with American and Russian Jews getting a free home and happy life at the expense of the Arab locals. I hope to visit Auschwitz in the coming months and have read local history stories of the eradication of local Jewish populations throughout Poland under Nazi occupation. I have also read local history of the methods of execution and seen photos of the Jews who were rounded up in the various small towns and villages. I have to say it is a depressing heart breaking history. When/if I do visit the camp I will do my absolute best not to connect the suffering of those who perished there with Israel. For me Israel is nothing more than the reincarnation of the Nazis.

  2. Larry,

    What irks me is that the powers that be knew what a sh*tstorm turning a blind eye to Palestine would lead too, yet still went ahead.

    It was the bloody Germans who took their obsession with hygiene to a whole new level, and applied it to ethnicity, who should have paid the price for their insanity.

    The Allies should have carved a big chunk of nice arable land out of Germany for those directly affected by the Nazi's machine, instead of some rocky shore on the Med.

    Then the Sunni's and Shia's could have just concentrated on knocking several different shades o'sh*te out of each other in peace!

  3. Steve R

    Totally agree. But the UK/USA global menace never worked on logic or they would never have attacked Iraq as part of their retaliation for the 9-11 incident. Interests and opportunity are all that matter to the UK/USA Nazi tribute 'band'. Bavaria would have been a fitting tribute and concession to those poor Jews who remained after the Holocaust. Entire Jewish communities in Poland and beyond simply never recovered. Wiped out and gone forever. Absolutely nothing to do with those chancers flooding into Palestine since WW2 and today of course. Like the American dream and yanks desperate to defend their way of life by travelling huge distances to B-52 straw huts in Asia, it is all a hoax.

    I think the Iranian president stated something similar to what we are saying here. The fact the holocaust was an 'excuse' and had the western (zionist) media unleashed upon him.