This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Seeking Comfort of Security in France

"What upsets me is that in some areas of France, Jews can no longer live peacefully, and that just five minutes from my home, some are forced to hide their kippas (skullcaps) or their Star of David."
Rabbi Moshe Lewin, Raincy, Seine-Saint-Denis

"Until the years 2000-2005, the town was nice and quiet, with 250 to 300 Jewish families and synagogues full on the Sabbath."
"Now, only about a hundred Jewish families remain."
"The Jewish community is expected to disappear from here [Seine-Saint-Denis]."
Alain Benhamou, 71, Bondy, Paris
Rising anti-Semitism forces Jews out of Paris suburbs
Photo: AFP

Jews have lived in France for hundreds of years, since the early Middle Ages. The Jewish presence in Europe, dating back to thousands of years has always been fraught with persecution, even though Jews distinguished themselves as contributing members of society, outstanding for their presence in important disciplines of science, medicine, finance and philosophy. At the present time the number of Jews still living in France outdistances the Jewish population of all other European countries with between 500,000 to 600,000 citizens of France of Jewish heritage.

Half of all those French Jews live in the capital or surrounding suburbs. The past fifteen years, however, has seen a steady decline of the Jewish presence in France. Needless to say that decline was steeper and far more precipitous during the years of World War II under the Vichy regime, only too happy to collaborate with the Third Reich when fascist Germany occupied most of France and enrolled French authorities and French police in rounding up French Jews and Jews sheltering in France from elsewhere in Europe, to be sent east, to concentration and death camps

The Jewish comfort in being French nationals began to undergo a sea change in the past decade and more with the introduction of larger numbers of Muslims. Just as France has the distinction of having the largest number of Jewish citizens in Europe, it also hosts Europe's largest Muslim community, to the tune of five million. While relations between Jews and Muslims in France have historically been courteous, that all changed fairly recently, particularly in Paris where an upsurge in anti-Semitism has roiled the Jewish community.

 As a result of violent acts of racial bigotry and threats, and vicious attacks by Muslims in France against French Jews, a record 8,000 French Jews relocated to Israel in 2015. This occurred after a jihadist with links to the Charlie Hebdo attacks killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket days afterward. For the most part, Jewish unease and fear for their security has led them to migrate not necessarily to Israel in their greatest numbers, but to other neighbourhoods around Paris known to host greater numbers of Jews, and with more security.

Sarcelles to the north of Paris with its firm population of Jews still experiences problems. According to Francois Pupponi, Socialist mayor of Sarcelles, "we are creating ghettos. We are aware of that." He feels that the goal should be "to achieve social and ethnic integration in all neighbourhoods. But France has been trying to achieve this for the past 30 years, and it still  hasn't happened." He speaks of Jewish residents of Sarcelles approaching him for help after having been assaulted or having swastikas painted on their house walls.

He speaks of some residents in "extremely violent situations" requiring families to be "urgently rehoused". The "phenomenon of internal migration" presented itself to him several years earlier, and he says, it "is getting worse". In Sarcelles, he says, those newly arriving appreciate "a much stronger police and institutional presence" than previously, so "they can live out their Judaism here in safety". What this situation says about France itself, pulled in several directions at once, and dealing with both an external and internal threat of jihadist violence speaks volumes.

It speaks of a country unable to protect the minority population whose confidence in France never wavered during the war years, proud of their French citizenship, determined to live no differently than other French citizens, fully integrated into the culture of the country, but who were betrayed to Nazi Germany, determined to destroy their presence entirely. It speaks of a return of a genocidal threat in the guise of yet another ideology whose dedication to the violent overthrow of an existing order and an unappeasable hatred of Jews leading to violent persecution French authorities appear powerless to stem.

The sheer force of numbers of the Muslim presence, the constant strain of dealing with irruptions of violence from the banlieues, the tension of never knowing when the next jihadist atrocities will take place, places the country on an defensive mode, with its intelligence agencies forced to work overtime, even while it spreads its resources abroad to its former colonies in efforts to stem the tide of Islamist brutalities and aspirations of removing moderate regimes to be replaced by fanatics.

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