Barbara Kay: In France, there’s no hatred for any group equivalent to that of Jew hatred


National Post - Tuesday April 21st, 2015

FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images
An investigator looks at defaced tombstones at the Jewish cemetery of Sarre-Union, northeastern France on February 16, 2015.

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced an action plan that will make the battle against hatred into “a great national cause,” a plan that will include awareness programs and enhanced punishment for online hate speech, with stiffer prison sentences for hatred-based crimes. The superficially admirable plan springs from honest outrage on Valls’ part — but outrage that has undergone a disquieting sea change since it was first expressed.

After the Charlie Hebdo and kosher-supermarket massacres in January, you may recall, Valls delivered a passionate, widely circulated speech on anti-Semitism in France, declaring the problem of Jewish flight so serious the French Republic must be judged a failure if Jews left en masse. Then, Valls pulled no punches regarding the source of the crisis: “We are at war with terrorism, jihadism and Islamist radicalism.”

That January cri du coeur offered truths that were the gift of spontaneity. With time for second thoughts (and who knows what political pressure), the message Valls now delivers is quite different. Last week the prime minister told suburban high school students: “Racism, anti-Semitism, hatred of Muslims, of foreigners and homophobia are increasing in an unbearable manner in our country.” He added, “French Jews should no longer be afraid of being Jewish and French Muslims should no longer be ashamed of being Muslims.

Valls’ capitulation to France’s pre-Hebdo default of moral relativism is sad to behold. Valls’ outrage now sees anti-Semitism not as a singular problem, rather as only one of multiple hatreds, and no more distressing than hatred of foreigners (who?), gays and — of course — Muslims.

The truth, which Valls understood very well in January, is that there is no hatred for any group in France equivalent to that of Jew hatred, routinely expressed in virulent hate speech, vandalism, beatings and murder. Foreigners, gays and Muslims are not fleeing France. The institutions of foreigners, gays and Muslims are not being guarded around the clock. Fifty-five per cent of hate-driven acts are not happening to foreigners, gays and Muslims, but to Jews (1% of the population).

Social and employment-related discrimination are problems for French Muslims, but discrimination is not hatred, and has been historically overcome by many immigrant communities everywhere on the road to integration. Most disturbingly, Valls’ likening of actual Jewish victimhood and legitimate collective Jewish fear of Islamist terrorism to some Muslims’ feelings of shame regarding Islamist terrorism is an offensively false analogy.

Seven thousand Jews left France in 2014. France is reaping what she sowed

The only true hate crisis in France is anti-Semitism. In November, 2014, a French poll revealed disturbing levels of anti-Semitism amongst French Muslims, as well as “tolerance for violence targeting Jews among a rather significant percent of the population.” According to Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, Paris-based head of the American Jewish Committee, most Muslims are anti-Semitic, a sentiment that rises in tandem with religious orthodoxy, but which crosses all lines of age, socio-economic status, levels of education and districts. In February, Rodan-Benzaquen confessed herself frankly pessimistic regarding Muslim Judeophobia in France: “It is possible that it is too late,” meaning too late for France to ensure Jewish safety.

Seven thousand Jews left France in 2014. France is reaping what she sowed. For many years, pro-Arab French politicians and media willfully misread the normative anti-Semitism of all Arab societies as a by-product of the Middle East conflict. Intent on relativizing what has always been a one-way hatred, French elites demoted Jews from their appropriate status of French nationals, as Ashkenazi Jews have been for more than 200 years, into a “community of immigration,” falsely accusing them of “communautarisme” (disloyalty to French republicanism), and shamelessly mischaracterizing Muslim anti-Semitism as a problem of “the two communities,” both in need of “inter-religious dialogue.”

Post-Second World War anti-Semitism has been a serious problem in France since the 1980s, when it was imported from North Africa, where it was endemic. Yet it was, until a few years ago, actually a government policy, in collaboration with France’s pusillanimous media, to ignore hundreds of acts of anti-Semitism so as not to “throw oil on the fire” of Muslim rage.

Valls’ nuanced reframing tells us France is not prepared to tackle the root cause of its only existential hate crisis. So French Jews can choose: a continuing siege existence in a nation whose fear of its alienated Muslims trumps solidarity with its integrated Jews; or a new home in Israel, under external siege to be sure, but a nation where Jewish lives are privileged over political correctness.

French Jews at least have a choice. The rulers who created the conditions that are forcing the choice don’t. They’re stuck in France. Who will be better off in the end?