Over the past year, the level of anti-Semitic violence reported in France has skyrocketed 45%. There was the terrible shooting spree in March by a sadistic terrorist in Toulouse, the bombing of a Jewish bakery in Paris in September and the vicious beating of a Jewish man over Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) in the Paris metro. That violence was dwarfed today by the French Twitter, that has anti-Semitic insults trending from 1st-5th over the past 36 hours. It is time for the French people to at last take responsibility for the terrifying level of hatred and violence being waged against French Jews, and to take action to put an end to it.
The hashtag in question, ‘#unbonjuif’, is translated literally as ‘a good Jew’, and is accompanied with various suggestions as to what that might be. The overwhelming majority of the Tweets in question either add on a typical anti-Semitic stereotype, or say that a good Jew is a dead Jew. While there are some French Twitter users who are calling this what it is – despicable racism – it appears that most are leaping to the defence of those who are spreading the hate by saying that Jews clearly do not have a sense of humour about these things.
Is this really happening? Is France, ‘the home of tolerance’, really letting this take place?
The acts of violence, while deplorable and worrying, were at least understandable. Individuals only represent to a limited extent the feelings of society as a whole. It really could have been just a few racists, and every country has those. The level and sophistication was higher than any other country in Europe, but it was still in that understandable phase. This case, of Tweets trending, is thousands of French citizens (many of them young people) taking to the internet to racially abuse their Jewish neighbours, and then expressing outrage that anyone should criticise them for doing so. This is the real France that so many have seen and ignored, preferring to smile through and pretend the place that claims to have invented human rights really practices them.
The reality is that French society is viciously anti-Semitic. Jokes about Jews are common-place and socially acceptable. Violence against Jews is at grotesquely high levels. The police and security services do almost nothing to offer special protection for Jewish areas, community centers and schools despite the clear increased risk. Acknowledgement of large-scale complicity in the Shoah is scarce and always offered with qualifications. Criticism by French politicians of Israel almost inevitably crosses the line into straightforward anti-Semitism.
Many will point to the anti-headscarf laws to demonstrate that French society is also intolerant of Muslims. That is quite clearly true; there is not only institutional curtailing of Muslim rights in France, but relatively widespread acts of violence against individual Muslims as well. That the Jews are not the only group being targeted is not of much comfort.
How many more Jews have to be killed on the streets of France before the French people say enough? How many more times will anti-Semitic remarks be explained away – even justified – as attempts at humour?
Remember, the French government dares to lecture other countries on how to treat minorities and protect freedom of religion. This from the country that bans the burka, deports Romani and comes together as a nation to insult, degrade and threaten Jews.
Remember, the French government accuses others of racism and preaches the values of tolerance and human dignity. It lies not in their mouths.
Until France as a country and as a society takes on the despicable scourge of anti-Semitism that is pervasive and powerful within its own borders, it really has little right to lecture anyone else.
When one thinks of the heart of anti-Semitism in the world today, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and a host of other countries come to mind. Note, however, what is happening in France
The country that abolished prejudice, that claims to lead the world in human rights, is the home of anti-Semitism.
Is there no decency?