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How The Mideast Conflict Nourishes Anti-Semitism

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD via Getty Images

Anti-Semitism is present in France -- sometimes discreetly, sometimes brutally. There is a feeling of insecurity among Jews. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former president of the National Front, the far-right party, never misses an opportunity to allude to his distrust of Jews -- to the point of referring to the existence of the gas chambers as a "detail."

In recent years, he has been succeeded by the comedian Dieudonné, whose shows were banned by the Ministry of Interior and the Council of State in early 2014. He is accused of spreading revisionist ideology; in his shows, he has the audience sing along to "Shoah ananas" (Shoah pineapple) while making a gesture called the "quenelle" that for some evokes the Nazi salute. While Dieudonné has trouble performing on stage, he is active on YouTube, where he posts videos in which he speaks at length about the state of Israel, Zionism and racism. Seen by millions of people, these videos are a victory for him.

In his own defense, he calls himself anti-Zionist. One can certainly criticize the policy of the state of Israel, oppose its expansion into territories that belong to the Palestinians -- i.e. be against Zionism as a colonial ideology -- and not be anti-Semitic. Yet the way Dieudonné insinuates certain ideas is generally associated with anti-Semitism.

"Some Jewish intellectuals and politicians, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls, argue that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism."

Racism in France is still present. Jean Genet once said in an interview in the newspaper Le Monde, "Yesterday we hated Jews. Today it's blacks and Arabs." Except that when one is a racist, one does not differentiate between one and the other.

The war in Gaza has provoked violent and antagonistic reactions in Jewish circles as well as in the Arab Muslim community. These demonstrations were followed by anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents. Some Jewish intellectuals and politicians, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls, argue that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism. French youth of Maghreb immigrant origin claim the right to be against Zionism without being accused of anti-Semitism.

Others, however, particularly those increasingly stigmatized as Muslims, are no longer making any distinction between "Jewish" and "Israeli" or between "Jewish" and "Zionist." This is where the intransigence, arrogance and colonial policies of Israel generate anger and indignation in these populations, coupled with a sense of helplessness because Israel has made a habit of not taking into account UN resolutions or international law. Arab societies do not understand this status of impunity enjoyed by Israel. But as Jean Daniel, founder of the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, said, "Israel is no longer protected by the memory of the Holocaust" (31 July 2014).

"The Jews of France are caught in a contradiction between protection of memory and the intolerable nature of the massacres committed by the Jewish state."

Horrific images of the deadly Gaza war have been seen around the world. Suddenly, Jews are not immune to criticism, which can take a violent form that goes as far as anti-Semitism. According to the World Zionist Organization, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in July 2014 shows a 383 percent increase compared to last year. This is inevitably linked to the Gaza war and its repercussions. The Jews of France are caught in a contradiction between protection of memory and the intolerable nature of the massacres committed by the Jewish state.

Jews who express strong solidarity with Israel cannot tolerate demonstrations in support of the Palestinians organized by French Arabs with far-left militants. The reason for this schizophrenia is based on non-recognition of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. There will be no security -- not for Israelis or Palestinians -- until legal and territorial foundations have been established by an international agreement.

All this arouses racism, nourishes it and maintains it in everyone's mind, far beyond the limits of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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