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France's primal hostility



For centuries Europe's Jews were persecuted because of their religion, resulting in a virtually uninterrupted series of mortifying measures, expulsions and pogroms. In the 19th century, race took the place of religion as the root of Jew-hatred. And it was racism that led inexorably to the Holocaust.

Today, ironically, anti-Semitism is rooted in the existence of the State of Israel and in the attachment of Diaspora Jews to the Jewish state.

The French Revolution may have freed the Jews, but in Christian Europe's collective consciousness the Jewish people has yet to win the right to complete equality. Thus, the Jews, yes; Israel, no.

The paradox is that the nations of Europe allowed the Jewish people the right to reconstitute as a state, but then denied that state the basic right of self-defense.

IN FRANCE this right was denied as far back as 1967. Charles de Gaulle's message was: Do not defend yourself unless attacked. There can be no preemptive self-defense. When victory came, so did de Gaulle's famous line about the Jews being an "elite people, sure of themselves and domineering." Israel became an expansionist state.

In 1973, though victim of a surprise attack, Israel still failed to find favor with French diplomacy. The government imposed an embargo on Israel and refused as did the rest of Europe refueling rights to US aircraft carrying material vital to Israel's defense.

France's policy regarding the war was encapsulated by its foreign minister Michel Jobert: "I find nothing astonishing in the Arab countries wishing to go back home."

France's policy is no different today. The country continues to deny Israel the right to defend itself and to protect its citizens. For the government, media and much of French public opinion, suicide bombers are a consequence purely of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

Those who reason in these terms choose to forget that these genocidal attacks are directed at the very existence of the Jewish state in any borders.

The domestic situation of French Jewry, and more generally, of Western European Jews, is paradoxical: on the one hand their freedom of religion is total; on the other, their attachment to Israel is denigrated as support for state terrorism.

What next for Europe? Today, for the first time since 1945, synagogues and Jewish schools are being set afire in the night, and Jews in the suburbs of big cities in France are insulted, beaten up and spat at in daylight.
This physical anti-Semitism stems from a segment of France's (and Europe's) young Arab population.

Those who try to explain or rationalize their behavior say that these youths act this way because of poverty. But the same could have been said of those who conducted pogroms in czarist Russia.

The situation of French and other Wester European Jews in France is unlikely to get any better. If France continues to adhere to its biased anti-Israel, policy those who attack Jewish targets will feel encouraged.

But in the foreseeable future there won't be massive deadly terror attacks against Jewish targets in France. Conducting terrorist attacks on the soil of a country which strongly opposes Israel and the Unites States is not presently in the interest of the extremists. Yet nothing lasts forever, and eventually such attacks will inevitably take place.

We have learned from the past that massive aliya only occurs in times of disastrous economic upheaval or after extraordinary persecution. Thus far, this is not the case in France or elsewhere in Western Europe.

However, absent peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Europe's Jews will be compelled either to emigrate to Israel or elsewhere or remain living in Europe as political Marranos.

The writer, an international lawyer, practices in both France and the United States.



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