Nazi anti-Semitism established
itself with remarkable rapidity. Could such happen again in a Western
nation, albeit at a lower and less lethal level? This question took on
new significance over the past year in France.
The later 20th century constituted
something of a golden age for French Jewry. Of a total population of 60
million, roughly 1 percent (600,000-700,000) are “fully involved” Jews,
an additional 200,000 manifest awareness of Jewish origins or a concern
with Jewish affairs. Demographic growth has provided the critical mass
for cultural revival. But, for various reasons, Jewish groups do not and
cannot operate as freely and openly in the pursuit of their political
interests as they do in the United States.
So sharply and abruptly has the
situation deteriorated that (end of 2001) Rabbi Michael Melchior
characterized France as “the most anti-Semitic country in the West”.
Five hundred anti-Semitic incidents were re corded by CRIF (September 9,
2000 through early April 2002). The authorities consciously downplayed
the extent of the crisis. Media and law courts promulgated a myth: Jews
were equally to blame for the troubles.
Actually, France is undergoing a
partial Islamicization. The Muslim community, already ten times the size
of the Jewish, is growing rapidly. There is a steady replacement of the
older Christian and Jewish communities by a newer Islamic element. Some
10 percent of the population and a larger percentage of young people
identify with the most radical elements in the Arab/Islamic world. Most
pro-Arab/pro-Muslim books published in France in recent years tend to
display distinct anti-Semitic features.
France is not “racist” in the neo-Nazi or Ku Klux Klan sense, it is
nevertheless on the front line of what Samuel Huntington has termed the
clash of civilizations, and both politically and culturally, it is
especially ill-equipped to deal with it.