Chechen terrorists murder children in a Russian school, Palestinian suicide bombers blow up grandmothers on Israeli buses, Arab militias in Sudan rape and slaughter black Christians, and militants behead Westerners in Iraq. Paralleling the post-9/11 global terrorism of Islamic fundamentalism is a resurrection of militant anti-Semitism that has left Jewish populations worldwide helpless in the face of violent attacks. The greatest irony is that the country experiencing the greatest rise in anti-Semitism is neither a Middle Eastern dictatorship nor a fascist Islamic tyranny – it is a European democracy.
The Union of Jewish Students of France and the group SOS Racism estimate the number of anti-Semitic incidents between Sept. 1, 2000, and Jan. 31, 2002, to be 405, which they claim constitutes the greatest surge of anti-Semitism in France since World War II. Five hundred ten anti-Semitic acts or threats took place in the first six months of 2004, compared with 593 for all of 2003. The attacks have taken multiple styles and occurred in various arenas. On Oct. 3, 2000, the synagogue of Villepinte in suburban Paris was burned, followed by four more torchings in the Paris area. In Dondy, a Paris suburb, youths brutally attacked a Jewish soccer team. On April 30 of this year, 127 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in Alsace were defaced with swastikas. In June, Israel Ifrah, a 17-year-old, was stabbed in the chest while walking home from the Mekor Israel yeshiva. The list is much longer, as the Jews of France continue to experience the nightmarish reality of anti-Semitism and fear its impact on European Jewry.
Not only the Muslim community in France has done nothing to stop these incidents from occurring; neither has the government, which refuses to even acknowledge that anti-Semitism exists. Neither President Jacques Chirac nor Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has visited the torched synagogues. Chirac publicly insists that “there is no anti-Semitism at all in France,” and that the involved cases are simply manifestations of the growing crime rate in France. This denial is coupled with blatant anti-Semitic rhetoric among French politicians, as French ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Bernard manifests in his uttering that Israel is a “shitty little country” and his query, “Why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?”
Yet as appalling as the situation has become, it is not too late to contain it. The first step is for the French government to acknowledge that anti-Semitism has resurfaced and to announce so publicly. In doing so, the government will be in a position to cooperate with other European nations and with Interpol to create databases of known perpetrators. Another prospect is to penetrate sources of indoctrination by initiating an inquiry into the content of mosque sermons and religious pamphlets in an effort to uncover and chastise clerics and institutions inciting violence against civilians.
Legendary British statesmen Edmund Burke once warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” As the growing Arab-based anti-Semitism continues to terrorize France’s Jewish population of 600,000, it is becoming more and more apparent that this destructive force has found a welcoming home. Whether or not the French government will intervene and take decisive action to contain this evil remains to be seen.
Neer Lerner is a junior history and political science major.