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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/4/19

Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism in France

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From To The Point Analyses

French President Emmanuel Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron
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Part I -- The Context

We are at a new stage of the fight to realize Palestinian rights and free both Palestinians and Jews from the consequences of Zionist racism. There was a time when very few in the West understood the racist nature of the Israeli state. For a long time the Zionists controlled the public relations message and most people took as fact the fictional account of Israel's founding -- such as the one given in Leon Uris's book Exodus. After the 1967 war, and Israel's decision to keep even more conquered Palestinian territory, things began to change. Of course, Israel had always been a racist place designed for one group alone. But now the contradictions created by post-war occupation made, and continue to make, that fact harder to hide, and the mythical picture of Israel as a grand democratic experiment has eroded. Increasingly the real, illiberal Israel has become apparent to Western audiences, and particularly to an increasing number of Jews. As a result, Israel has largely lost the public relations battle at the popular level of Western society.

However, the winning of this battle is not to be equated with the winning of the fight mentioned above. The Zionists are still able to maintain Western financial and military support of Israel at obscene levels despite Israel's revealed apartheid nature. To combat the popular criticism that Israel is now subject to, the Zionists have shifted tactics. They have abandoned popular debate and now use their influence with the West's ruling elites to simply criminalize any rhetoric that points out the real discriminatory nature of the Zionist state. The gambit here is to have such criticism legally equated with anti-Semitism.

This is exactly what has recently taken place in France.

Part II -- Emmanuel Macron Disregards History

On Wednesday, 20 February 2019, Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic, addressed the Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) -- the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. Macron's topic was the country's "resurgence of anti-Semitism." And, indeed, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France over the last couple of decades. Significantly, Macron did not attempt to analyze why this was happening. For instance, while asserting that anti-Semites "are not worthy of the Republic," he did not take note of the historical fact that anti-Semitism has been a major force in France for hundreds of years and through multiple French forms of government. Historically it has ebbed and flowed.

We can trace this trend back to medieval France and the absolutist Catholic culture of that time. While ultimately revolutionary 18th century France (a markedly anti-clerical period) was the first European country to emancipate Jews, anti-Semitism never disappeared. It again became particularly virulent in France during the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s and under the Nazi-allied Vichy regime in the 1940s. Thus, the presence in today's France of traditional anti-Semites, those who are prejudiced against Jews qua Jews, should come as no surprise.

The latest outbreak of hostility involving Jews in France is the product of modern historical factors that more than one Paris government has failed to confront. This failure has increased resentment against some French Jews -- particularly those who are Zionists. Yet it is important to note that much of this sort of emotion is not a function of anti-Semitism.

For instance, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has noted that "anti-Semitism" is now "often surfacing among radicalized Muslims" in France. While we can take issue with the notion of "radicalized" Muslims and the description of their sentiments as "anti-Semitism," we will address the assertion of hostility and ask why should this be so. It may be because France has treated its citizens of Arab origin very poorly while simultaneously and publicly supporting Israel, which, of course, treats its own Arab population even worse.

France has a long imperial and colonial history in the Arab world and fought a bitter, relatively recent war to hold onto Algeria. When, in 1962, it finally abandoned that effort, there were 150,000 Algerian Arabs who had fought with the French. They were disarmed and then abandoned to their fate -- prevented from emigrating to France by the government of that day. However, "through the kindness of individual French commanders "several thousand were illegally smuggled to France where on arrival they were confined to primitive rural camps." When they were finally let out of the camps, they continued to be segregated and discriminated against. This prevailing prejudice was maintained in the treatment of other African and Middle Eastern immigrants who subsequently made their way to France. One ongoing sign of this can be found in the culture war against Muslims living in the country. Muslim dress, and even halal food, have been deemed dangerous to traditional French culture. The anger of the French Arab population stems from this continuous discrimination, but why would some of it be directed against a portion of France's Jewish citizens?

Part III -- The Israeli Connection

It may well be because more and more French Arabs, angry over their discriminatory treatment by French society, increasingly identify with Palestinians, who are also discriminated against by Israeli society. And, they are encouraged in this identification by the fact that, except for a brief period under the leadership of Charles De Gaulle, France has been a strong supporter of Israel.

This is a tradition that President Macron accentuated in his address to the CRIF. He told his audience that he will make anti-Zionism the equivalent of anti-Semitism under French law. Macron justifies this move by claiming that "anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism."

What Macron is saying is that in France you cannot speak out against the ideological basis for Israeli racism. If you do so, you yourself will be judged a racist and a criminal. Just how unreasonable this is is elegantly explained in an "open letter" to Macron by the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, posted on 8 February 2019 in the publication Jacobin.

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Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest
; America's
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
Statehood
; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.

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