...It’s true that Israelis run greater personal risks than French Jews. Then again, Israelis needn’t rely on the rectitude of those in power (however long they may remain in power) to see their children home safely from school. It’s also true that leaving France is a victory of sorts for French anti-Semites. But the point of living isn’t to win arguments with bigots. Settle your affairs, pack your things, leave home, go home.
Wall Street Journal..
19 January '15..
Should French Jews move out? Does it make sense for a community that, in this century, has lost roughly 10 people to jihad in France, to pack up and go to Israel—where jihadis have claimed more than 1,000 Jewish lives? Haven’t the leaders of the Fifth Republic demonstrated in word and deed that they are committed to the protection of Jewish property and life?
The answer to that last question is yes, they have. The problem isn’t the Fifth Republic, in which French Jews have, on the whole, thrived. The problem is the arrival, sooner or later, of the Sixth. Which is why French Jews need to leave sooner rather than later, despite the disruption and risk, while the exits are not blocked and the way is still open.
Perhaps inadvertently, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls made the basic point last week when he told his Parliament that “history has taught us that the awakening of anti-Semitism is a symptom of a crisis for democracy and of a crisis for the Republic.” Very true, but if anti-Semitism is the symptom of the crisis, then ringing Jewish schools, synagogues, groceries and neighborhoods with gendarmes is not its cure. Necessity is proof of insufficiency.
So what is the crisis of France’s democracy and Republic?
Partly it’s political: Every Fifth Republic presidency (with the arguable exception of François Mitterrand’s) has ended in failure. Partly it’s economic: Since 1978, French economic growth has clocked in at an average rate of 0.45%; unemployment hasn’t fallen below 7% in over 30 years. Partly it’s ideological: Égalité begat egalitarianism, and egalitarianism is what animates the politics of envy. Partly it’s cultural: Too many French Muslims don’t want to conform to the norms of modern society, and too many French don’t want to conform to the realities of a globalized world. When National Front leader Marine Le Pen says “the multinational interests that impose their own ways are not good for France,” she is attempting to stuff the French body politic into an economic burqa.
Above all, it’s cumulative. Similar-size countries like Germany or Britain have had their highs and lows in recent decades, periods of growth or recession, feelings of confidence or malaise. French decline has been constant, unrelieved, embittering. “In one of my finance seminars, every single French student intends to go abroad,” Sorbonne economics Prof. Jacques Régniez told the Daily Telegraph in 2013. It isn’t just the Jews who want out.
But it’s especially the Jews who need out.
They need out because they are threatened from too many corners. A current French best seller, “Le Suicide Français,” by journalist Éric Zemmour, makes the case that the collaborationist Vichy regime gets a bad rap. France’s most notorious comedian, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, took to Facebook after last week’s solidarity marches to say “I feel like Charlie Coulibaly, ” conflating “Je Suis Charlie” with Amedy Coulibaly, the kosher-supermarket killer. The French Parliament reacted to Hamas’s summer war on Israel by voting last month to recognize, albeit symbolically, a Palestinian state.
“Anti-Semitism still crops up in casual conversation in a way that would be rare in England or America,” observes Jonathan Fenby in the updated edition of his 1999 book, “France on the Brink.” One example Mr. Fenby offers is especially notable.
“In 2013 a comedian introduced a Jewish actor on a popular television show with the words ‘You never plunged into [Jewish] communitarianism. . . . You could have posted yourself in the street selling jeans and diamonds from the back of a minivan saying, “Israel is always right, f— Palestinians.” You show it is possible to be of the Jewish faith without being completely disgusting.’ ” This was supposed to be a compliment.
All this takes place while the Fifth Republic remains essentially intact. Some comparisons have been made between this month’s attacks in Paris and the attacks of 9/11, but that’s wildly overblown. The Eiffel Tower did not fall. Seventeen dead is not 3,000.
But what happens when the real crisis hits—not necessarily in the form of a mass-casualty attack on a Jewish target, but perhaps an election that brings Ms. Le Pen to power, or a systemic banking crisis that discovers a Jewish villain, or an economic crisis that inspires a more confiscatory tax policy? French history is a tale of stagnation punctured by crisis: 1789, 1830, 1848, 1871, 1940, 1958, 1968. Another crisis is overdue.
What such a crisis might bring in its wake is anyone’s guess, but French Jews should not stick around to find out. In the 20th century, Jewish fate was split between those who got out in time and those who didn’t. There’s no reason why that won’t be the case in this century as well.
It’s true that Israelis run greater personal risks than French Jews. Then again, Israelis needn’t rely on the rectitude of those in power (however long they may remain in power) to see their children home safely from school. It’s also true that leaving France is a victory of sorts for French anti-Semites. But the point of living isn’t to win arguments with bigots.
Settle your affairs, pack your things, leave home, go home.
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