Jews wearing a yarmulke were once very common in France. I do not mean that back-in-the day—some 20 years ago—lots of Jews were wearing a yarmulke. Rather, the point is that it was common enough to see a Jew wearing one that his doing so did not at all call attention to itself. One could be just about anywhere: in the well-known 6th arrondissement or in one of France’s suburbs such as Puteaux. A Jew wearing a yarmulke could be walking down the street or riding the metro. He could be coming out of a bank or going into a book store. 20 years ago, a Jews wearing a yarmulke was no more of an attention-grabber than a woman wearing slacks instead of a dress.
Well, that changed with 9/11. I was in Paris a few weeks after 9/11; and one of the most poignant moments of my life was seeing a Jew struggling with whether he should wear his yarmulke or not. He would put it on, walk a few steps, and then take it off and walk a few steps. He did this repeatedly for at least 20 to 30 minutes. An equally poignant moment a few years later was seeing an Orthodox Jew on the metro on his way to the airport struggling with whether to wear his yarmulke or not. For you see, that particular metro passes through an area where lots of Arabs reside; and that young Jewish male did not want to be attacked.
But today, some 13 years after 9/11, I must report that things have become far worse than I could ever have imagined. Muslims are now attacking synagogues in Paris. Less than a week ago, Muslims attacked two synagogues in Paris: one in the 11th arrondissement and the other in the 4th arrondissement. This is an unspeakable level of viciousness.
In the French newspaper Libération, there is an article on the Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia entitled “Haïm Korsia : «Une haine des juifs qui s’habille des oripeaux de l’antisionisme»” [Haïm Korsia: “A Hate for Jew that is wearing the rags of anti-zionism”]. And in that article the Chief Rabbi makes the following very direct remark: “Qu’il y a une haine des juifs en France”. (“There is a hatred for Jews in France”. And in this regard, it is well worth noting what he does not say. He does restrict his claim to Muslims in France.
Indeed, precisely what seems to be true is that Muslims could not have gotten away with attacking the two synagogues were it not for the ever so tacit approval on the part of many French citizens who are neither Jewish nor Muslim (it being understood that the two groups are being mentioned in alphabetical order). In considering Rabbi Korsia’s claim, one need only recall the case of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish male of Moroccan descent, who in 2006 was kidnapped, held for ransom and brutally tortured for three weeks. He was 23 years old.
Rabbi Haïm Korsia continues to maintain that “il y a un avenir pour les juifs en France” (“There is a future for Jews in France”). But I can only suppose that this is a rhetorical stance on his part. For Jew after Jew here in Paris does not think so. More directly, I am unable to point to any fact with regard to France that would give that would give the Chef Rabbi’s claim any plausibility whatsoever. Most significantly, there has not been anything close to a demonstration on the part of French citizens bemoaning the wrong done to Jews at the two synagogues. And in listening to the 24/7 news station France Info here in France, I am not sure if I have heard a single statement that would support Rabbi Korsia’s claim that Jews have a future in France. Nor have I seen in anything in a French newspaper that would do so. And most significantly, the owner of the Arabic store that I have been going to for simple things like milk or a box of sugar or soap power no longer engages in the small-talk with me that has been commonplace between us for more than 10 years. And in terms of our interaction when I would stop by the store, we used to be rather like, as they say, bros from a different mother. Not any more. Well, let me put it this way: He did not discover that I am not Muslim.
The unexpurgated truth is that France is not the place for Jews that it once used to be a mere generation ago. Indeed, pro-Palestinian support in France has become so strong that it would seem that the French no longer care that Jews, too, are people and deserve a place to live. And that reality is far too close for comfort to Nazi Germany.
© 2014 Laurence Thomas