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February 13, 2015 0

A French Leader Speaks for His Nation’s Jews and His Nation

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

The hor­rific ter­ror­ism that took place in Paris at the offices of Char­lie Hebdo and at the Hyper Cacher mar­ket last month still res­onates with all of us.

When we real­ize that Ahmed Coulibaly delib­er­ately chose to attack a small and vul­ner­a­ble unguarded kosher mar­ket on a Fri­day after­noon just before the Sab­bath as his tar­get to take Jew­ish hostages, we are eerily drawn to con­tem­plate ques­tions such as: Do Jews Have a Future in France? Is it hap­pen­ing all over again in Europe? What is the rela­tion­ship between the old and the new anti-Semitism? How can this evil best be com­bat­ted, in all its forms, and hope and lib­erty restored?

As the events at the kosher mar­ket unfolded, I couldn’t help but remind myself of Pas­tor Mar­tin Niemoller’s now famous com­ments as Nazi Germany’s ter­ror spread: “First, they came for the social­ists, and I did not speak out because I was not a social­ist. Then they came for the trade union­ists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade union­ist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The real­ity is that, since 1980, 17 French Jews have been mur­dered by vio­lent ter­ror­ists and the wave of attacks on Jews in France has inten­si­fied dur­ing the past ten years. Each and every one is an abom­i­na­tion, and we have always said that they are not only a threat to Jew­ish life in France, but to France itself.

This con­nec­tion between anti-Semitism and threats to demo­c­ra­tic life has a long and tragic his­tory. Unfor­tu­nately, it all too often takes ter­ri­ble events such as what recently occurred in Paris to wake peo­ple up to that real­ity. One can’t help but won­der, then, just how much the world has really learned from Niemoller’s reflection.

For­tu­nately, the Prime Min­is­ter of France, Manuel Valls, gets it more than most. In a recent inter­view with The Atlantic, Valls stated that “if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Repub­lic will be judged a failure.”

In a dra­matic speech before the National Assem­bly, he went on to rein­force that truth:

“With­out its Jews France would not be France, this is the mes­sage we have to com­mu­ni­cate loud and clear. We haven’t done so. We haven’t shown enough out­rage. How can we accept that in cer­tain schools and col­leges the Holo­caust can’t be taught? How can we accept that when a child is asked ‘Who is your enemy,’ the response is ‘the Jew?’ When the Jews of France are attacked France is attacked, the con­science of human­ity is attacked. Let us never for­get it.”

Why the reluc­tance of many demo­c­ra­tic soci­eties, in Europe and beyond, to rec­og­nize that anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine, alert­ing them to the exis­ten­tial threat they face? Why does Prime Min­is­ter Valls seem more like an excep­tion than like the rule, espe­cially when he bluntly and truth­fully sources the present threat as com­ing mainly from “ter­ror­ism and rad­i­cal Islam,” as he told the French peo­ple just days after the attacks?

Partly, this hes­i­ta­tion comes out of a desire to live with illu­sions, to con­vince our­selves that things are not so bad. “Attacks on Jews are one thing, but that doesn’t mean that we all are at risk.” And, partly, it’s a rem­nant of the deeply embed­ded stereo­types about Jews that held sway for cen­turies: the Jews are the ‘other’ and the Jews “bring their vic­tim­hood upon themselves.”

This is a time for all of us to stand firmly with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity of France; rather than telling them what they should do, urg­ing them to leave or stay, we should reas­sure them that there is Jew­ish sol­i­dar­ity, that Israel and the Amer­i­can Jew­ish com­mu­nity will do all we can to assure their safety and security.

The sim­ple, yet pro­found, act of thank­ing Prime Min­is­ter Valls for speak­ing up, for not wait­ing until they come for the non-Jews of France before tak­ing an unequiv­o­cal stand for decency and democ­racy, plays no small part in that effort.

We hope our thanks, and yours, will rein­force the resolve of France’s lead­ers and its peo­ple to take the steps nec­es­sary to ensure a safe, secure and vibrant Jew­ish life for the Jews of France.

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January 8, 2014 1

Speaking Out Against Dieudonne

Update: Accord­ing to France 24, Dieudonne was taken into cus­tody on Jan. 22 for allegedly assault­ing a bailiff who came to col­lect fines Dieudonne owes for “incit­ing racial hatred.”

Along­side French gov­ern­ment actions to ban per­for­mances of Dieudonne’s new show, con­cerned and respon­si­ble offi­cials and civil soci­ety lead­ers are pub­licly voic­ing out­rage at the behav­ior of the anti-Semitic come­dian and the grow­ing use of the quenelle ges­ture he invented.dieudonne-speaking-out

The Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of France’s Black Asso­ci­a­tions (CRAN) issued a state­ment, say­ing “For a long time, Dieudonne fought against racism and the far right.  We still remem­ber with emo­tion his actions in the town of Dreux. But for sev­eral years his main fight seems to be against the Jews of France, and he is closer and closer to the far right, his for­mer ene­mies. The CRAN has noticed this evo­lu­tion with dis­may and can only deplore it. (…) The CRAN calls on the Blacks of France not to accept the quenelle or the appeals to anti-Semitism…”

Com­ment­ing on the quenelle ges­ture, pop­u­lar­ized by Dieudonne, the pres­i­dent of the French Coun­cil of the Mus­lim Faith (CFCM) Dalil Boubakeur con­demned its use by the French soc­cer player, Nico­las Anelka, say­ing he opposed “all anti-Semitic or racist acts or state­ments in sports.”

Even the own­ers of Dieudonne’s home the­ater, La Main d’Or, are look­ing for legal means of break­ing his lease.

Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande said, “No one should be able to use this show for provo­ca­tion and to pro­mote openly anti-Semitic ideas.”

Inte­rior Min­is­ter Manuel Valls, who issued the request to local offi­cials to pre­vent the per­for­mances, said, “Dieudonné is deeply anti-Jewish.  We must carry out a polit­i­cal cam­paign to mobi­lize soci­ety against him.”

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Aurélie Fil­ip­petti said, “Mr. Dieudonne is no longer a come­dian.  He has become a Holo­caust denier and revi­sion­ist.”  And Jus­tice Min­is­ter Chris­tiane Taubira called him a “piti­ful buf­foon” and “recidi­viste anti-Semite.”

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