Ariel Center for
Policy Research



NATIV   ■   Volume Fifteen   ■   Number 4-5 (87-88)  ■  September 2002   ■  Ariel Center for Policy Research





Shimon Peres:
“There is No Anti-Semitism in France”?

Michel Gurfinkiel

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.

Although 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.

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