FranceTV info, Le Monde. Man spørger sig hvem der bestemmer på Paris’ gader. Her kl. 18 er 40 anholdt og demonstrationen ‘degenererer’, som det hedder. Politi og journalister blev angrebet, en bus og nogle butikker sat i brand.
I København, hvor de fleste voldsparate arabere synes at være hjemme på ferie, kunne politiet ikke engang sikre gennemførelsen af en demonstration i går. Det er for ringe. Københavns Politi skulle prise sig lykkelige over, at det er sommerferie og opretholde loven. Jaleh Tavakoli: Så meget for ytrings- og forsamlingsfriheden. Hvis politiet i Berlin kan sikre sådan en demonstration, kan Københavns også. Den kommende svenske statsminister Löfven siger: Gå in med militärinsats i Gaza. Den svenske, norske og finske hær? Det må være den fuldfedeste valgflæsk, hvis ikke sossen har fået hedeslag.
As these events reveal, the notion of closing France’s borders to the importation of the Middle East conflict has little to do with facts on the ground.
“The conflict was imported to our country a long time ago. We live this conflict on a daily basis,” asserts Pascal Boniface, a political scientist and the author of A France Sickened by the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, a controversial book published this year. Anti-Semitism finds a ready audience, he observes, among young Frenchmen and Frenchwomen whose families came from North Africa and whose grim material circumstances belie the republican ideals of equality and fraternity. Although many of them cannot find Palestine on a map, they nevertheless identity with the Palestinians — and, at the same time, conflate French Jews with Israelis.
Unsurprisingly, this situation has left the French Jewish community in despair. Prominent figures have turned to the past to describe the recent events: Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, compared events at the synagogue to Kristallnacht. “We barely escaped a pogrom,” Cukierman said in an interview with Libération. In a widely quoted article, the well-known intellectual Shmuel Trigano described the street battle outside the Isaac Abravanel synagogue as the opening phase in “a new civil war.
” Under the somnolent gaze of the state and complaisance of the media, Trigano argued, an embattled French Jewish population is the target of a growing number of violent anti-Semitic acts that climaxed at the Place de la Bastille. Like Cukierman, Trigano interprets the mob scene outside the synagogue as a “failed pogrom.” Make no mistake, he warns, the near riot had nothing to do with the Palestinian cause and everything to do with hatred of the Jews.
Since the Second Intifada in Israel and the occupied territories began in 2000, a growing number of beurs — young Frenchmen and Frenchwomen whose parents immigrated to France from former colonies in North Africa and who belong to the 5 million French Muslims who now live in France — identify with the Palestinians. This is especially the case with the so-called jeunes de la cité, the youths living in the desolate and decayed banlieues, or suburbs of Paris and other cities, where unemployment and violence are endemic while state, civil, and commercial institutions are largely absent. (As a recent studyreveals, the unemployment rate among those 18 to 25 years old in these suburbs is nearly 50 percent. The failure rate at schools far outstrips the national average.) As a result, against the backdrop of the grim apartment complexes and abandoned storefronts, the rallying cry of “We are all Palestinians” resonates with growing force.
At the same time, French Jews increasingly identify with Israel. There has been a dramatic uptick in the number of French Jews leaving France for new homes in the Holy Land. Just last week, in the midst of the Gaza crisis, 400 French Jews moved to Israel. More than 3,000 have immigrated to Israel since the beginning of the year, and Israel’s minister of immigration expects the number will top 5,000 by the end of the year. These numbers remain small relative to the approximately 500,000 Jews in France, and other factors are undoubtedly at play. But the trend may well increase in the wake of recent events and growing social tensions.
Many observers, both French and foreign, worry about the consequences of this fracturing of French society along communitarian lines. France is, far more than most other countries, a society of immigrants. But as political theorist Michael Walzer notes in his book On Toleration, France “isn’t a pluralist society — or at least it doesn’t think of itself, and it isn’t thought of, as a pluralist society.” According to the credo of French republicanism, national identity is a political, not a biological, fact: A citizen becomes French by speaking the French language, accepting French laws, and participating in France’s common life. The Republic in principle respects and protects the right of the individual, not the group or community, to practice its religion and follow its traditions. This reasoning lies at the heart of French republicanism, memorably expressed in 1789 by the Count de Clermont-Tonnerre during the debate over whether to grant citizenship to Jews: “We must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation, but grant them everything as individuals.”
There is much to be admired in this rational and abstract definition of citizenship, which has its roots in the French Revolution and continues to shape the nation’s self-understanding. It is both sympathetic and severe, welcoming all who wish to become French but at the same time demanding they shed their earlier cultural or communal identities. Just as the Republic is conceived as “one and indivisible,” so too are the French people considered one and indivisible — at the cost of individual citizens giving up their earlier identities.
But the gap between the republican ideal and present-day reality can no longer be ignored. The glaring forms of economic, social, and political exclusion suffered by French citizens of North African background, as well as immigrants from other parts of Francophone Africa, makes this all too clear — even before the recent riots. As French authorities have repeatedly said, the violence aimed at French Jews is intolerable. But such events will themselves repeat until the language and goals of French republicanism reflect a changed France. A “Marshall Plan” for the suburbs, as some politicians have called for, will not rid France of anti-Semitism. But it would, at the very least, begin to meet the challenge of persuading the youth of the suburbs to substitute “We are all French” for “We are all Palestinian.”