Monday, July 21, 2014

Sadness in the Streets of Paris

I don't generally comment on Middle East affairs on this blog, but since the war between Israel and Hamas has spilled over into the streets of Paris, I will say a word. As Le Monde's editorial this morning suggests, the government erred by prohibiting yesterday's pro-Hamas demonstration, which degenerated into street violence. Le Monde's reasoning is faulty, however. The paper suggests that because authorized demonstrations elsewhere in France did not degenerate, the same would have been true in Paris.

This is of course a logical non sequitur. There may have been--I believe there were--elements in Paris spoiling for a fight, elements not present elsewhere. Now, whether this urge to en découdre on the part of some pro-Hamas demonstrators was in response to previous alleged "provocations" by the Jewish Defense League is beside the point, and it is of course pointless to raise the "who started it?" question--as pointless as in the Gaza war itself.

And just as the war has revealed certain obvious but ordinarily unspoken truths--that Netanyahu has no interest in a two-state solution and that Hamas has stockpiled thousands of rockets and dug dozens of tunnels to attack Israel when the moment is ripe--so has the violence in Paris revealed, or revived, the equally unspoken reality of widespread hatred and hostility among French Muslims toward French Jews. (See also Pascal Riché's excellent report from the scene.)

I say "hostility toward French Jews" (and not Israel) because, as Riché's report in particular makes clear, while demonstrators may be protesting Israel's policy toward the West Bank and Gaza--which deserves to be protested--they are also motivated by the belief that "the Jews control everything" in France and elsewhere and that it is this occult Jewish power that dictates French policy toward the Middle East. This is a dangerously false belief, and it is almost as depressing to see it aired in the streets of Paris as it is to see demonstrators carrying effigies of the rockets that Hamas has aimed at Israel.

A recent Pew poll showed that anti-Semitic sentiment in France is relatively low and that France is one of the least anti-Semitic countries in Europe. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by an exacerbation of anti-Semitic sentiment within the Muslim minority in France. There is no doubt that this new polarization has been and will continue to be cynically exploited by politicians wanting to demonstrate a "tough-on-Islam" stance at little or no cost. But what is to be done? The festering of anti-Semitic sentiment in a substantial segment of the population of any country is a most unfortunate development in 21st c. Europe. The only real solution is to end the conflict in the Middle East, but that's like saying that the only real solution is the End of Time. It's enough to make one weep.


yabonn_fr said...

No. It's just a bad current state of things, and the noise of a minority.

I do think french muslim/jews relations would indeed be worse now than a few years ago (, but its not "an unspoken reality".

Maybe finding "who started it" is useless over there, but I disagree that it would be useless here - Extremists on both sides are instrumental in the building of incidents, and their role is often ignored.

Anonymous said...

Pro-Hamas demonstration? Arthur, your bias is showing.

Maybe you need to acknowledge that you aren't qualified to write about the massacre in Gaza and the unwillingness of certain groups and individuals to denounce it. It's telling that you think popular outrage against the massacre is a worthier object of critique than the massacre itself. Shame on you!

Anonymous said...

Your recent poll is eight years old. The ADL has a more recent survey that is not so optimistic about France with respect to the rest of Europe. That so many French Jews are leaving, or talking about leaving, is also telling.

Massilian said...

@anonymous 1 : I read "some pro-Hamas demonstrators" not pro-Hamas demonstration. That makes a big difference.

Regarding the level of anti-semitism in France of course it is nourrished and maintened among the "beur" youth. But I am afraid that since these young beurs are caught in a social crisis and find no way to express their discontent within the french political spectrum, they regroup behind the easyest cause and use the "Palestinian Resistance" which doesn't mean anything precise, as a release to their frustrations. (Think of the demonstrations in France, in 66 and 67 against the Vietnam war, that too was a catalyst for the youth fed up with local issues but not yet able to formulate them).

Add to that the resentment against rampant but real"islamophobia" nourrished and maintained by the "droite dure-dure".

As a personnal statement I would also add the fact that the jews in France who dare criticize Netanyahu's politics and refuse to be taken hostage of his policy of settlements and violence are not so many and bnarely mumble therefore are not heard. For most non-jews, the french jewish community stands firmly behind Israël, well I for one, certainly don't. And I don't support "Palestinian resistance" whatever that means, Hamas or no Hamas, either.

yabonn_fr said...

anonymous 2
I suppose I could answer about the meanings of "recent" "few" and "eight", but let's not.

About the ADL opinion about France : of course, the ADL finds antisemitism in France. It's the ADL.

Massilian comment illustrates what I mean : the assholes on every side want you to believe they are a majority - they are not.

FrédéricLN said...

@ Art : congratulations from Argenteuil ;-)

Your post is the most accurate I read on all this stuff since it began.

Anonymous said...

@Massilian read more carefully: "the government erred by prohibiting yesterday's pro-Hamas demonstration"