Darkness in the City of Light
March 26, 2018 1:17 PM   Subscribe

The stabbing and burning death of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Meirelle Knoll in her Paris apartment adds to growing concerns of a new wave of antisemitism in France.
“There are two contradictory elements here,” Bernard-Henri Lévy, the prominent French writer active in Jewish causes, said in an interview. “One the one hand, it’s true that Republican institutions are exemplary and do everything they can in the face of a rising anti-Semitism. But on the other, I am obligated to say that Jews are again being killed on the streets of Paris by virtue of being Jewish.”
posted by non canadian guy (35 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've been slowly reading Sartre's Anti-Semite and Jew (PDF), and it's nauseating how much of the text is still applicable.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:38 PM on March 26, 2018 [16 favorites]




This is horrifying on a number of levels, at least one of which cannot be discussed here. I am very, very sad for Meirelle's family, for the French Jewish population, for the French Muslim population and for the world as a whole. This is a dark omen indeed.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:24 PM on March 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


70 years ago, something very similar was going in the city where I live, in Boston.

A somewhat recent immigrant community, still impoverished, and immiserated by its religious leaders, was living right next door to another one, and there was violence, which was met with utter indifference by the native majority community.

I'm referring to South Boston's Irish community, members of who were frequently assaulting Jews in Roxbury, in acts that were silently condoned by the Catholic archdiocese under O'Connell, with an indifferent attitude taken by the Old Yankee leadership.

An Irish reporter named Frances Sweeney blew the whistle on the violence, and was threatened with excommunication by the archbishop for doing so. But her efforts bore fruit, and the Yankee governor did finally take an interest in the problem, just not before the Jewish community decamped over to Brookline.

The parallels are all there, including the indifference of the French majority. And the departure of the Jewish community, albeit farther a field. There is no Frances Sweeney this time.
posted by ocschwar at 2:40 PM on March 26, 2018 [39 favorites]


What can't be discussed here grumpybear69?
posted by kittensofthenight at 3:18 PM on March 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


May peace be upon her.

My town is really Catholic, and the schools still get Good Friday off. The topic recently came up on the local parenting Facebook group, which recently saw a mass exodus after some Trump trolls dominated the recent school walkout conversation. Unfortunately, this emboldened a lot of people, because while the subject comes up every year, and every year I point out that the Jewish families in this town always have to make a fuss to get the Holy Days marked as excused absences like they're supposed to be in the first place, this year, I refrained from mentioning that I'm Jewish. There were a LOT of comments about how this is a Christian town... and it bordered on being legitimately frightening. And I'm in one of the bluest of the blue states.
posted by Ruki at 3:27 PM on March 26, 2018 [28 favorites]


Re: the moderation of this thread

Moderation ain't easy. Especially these days.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:34 PM on March 26, 2018


[A few comments deleted. Folks talking about the specifics of the case is fine. Folks pushing buttons or getting weirdly oblique about the situation, or taking on the odd-however-they-meant-it position of making sure nobody unfairly criticizes Nazis, needs to give the thread a damn pass because it should be obvious that this is an ugly and charged situation from the get-go and I have no patience for nonsense.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:37 PM on March 26, 2018 [28 favorites]


I don't mean to be the person who doubts accusations of bigotry, but that Times of Israel article makes it sound like this isn't necessarily a clear-cut antisemitic crime. If I'm reading it right, Knoll had been friendly with one of the alleged perpetrators, and he later went to prison for sexually assaulting the daughter of one of Knoll's caregivers. Is there a reason, other than the context, to think his motive was antisemitic? I get that there's a lot of context, but it sounds like he could have had other motives.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:43 PM on March 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Whatever the facts of the case, BHL's intervention can only make matters worse.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:53 PM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Of all the articles to play devil’s advocate... There is a lot of context, how about you read it before commenting.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:05 PM on March 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


The articles and the complexity of the background remind me that anti-Semitism (like other bigotries) is socially embedded. People can turn and attack their neighbors even after being friendly, or anti-Semitism can be partial fuel for an attack also motivated by some other criminal intent. It only makes sense - if all anti-Semites were people who were constantly stamping around like storm troopers spewing overt hatred, they would be easy to spot and deal with, and would probably have a hard limit on how many converts they could make.

Murderers don't just appear, social forces create them. You don't get bigoted murders unless there's a sea of bigotry casting up the murderers.
posted by Frowner at 4:23 PM on March 26, 2018 [16 favorites]


Murderers don't just appear, social forces create them. You don't get bigoted murders unless there's a sea of bigotry casting up the murderers.

And there is a sea of bigotry. The French Muslim community is primarily from the Maghreb, i.e. Morocco and Algeria, where Jews and Muslims got along so long as the Jews knew their place. This violence is a response to Jewish uppitiness, both perceived and real. (Not so much in Algeria, but in Morocco, the kingdom has relied on higher Jewish literacy rates when they needed people to wield the clipboards and staff the offices needed to move into the 20th century. )

It's not an easy thing to talk about (and moderate discussions about), but silence guarantees the violence will continue.

But then again, discussion on Metafilter still means the violence will continue. The Jews will leave France.
posted by ocschwar at 4:34 PM on March 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


(Not even remotely playing devil’s advocate, and I’m aware of much of the context, but I mean what I say. That egotistical buffoon never met a bad situation he couldn’t make worse. Don’t want to derail the conversation, however, so consider the point made.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:42 PM on March 26, 2018


Regardless of the individual perpetrators of this awful crime, it's repugnant to suggest that anti-Semitic violence in Europe or the West generally is the result of the presence of immigrant Muslims. The West has been plenty anti-Semitic all on its own.
posted by praemunire at 5:17 PM on March 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


Really? What makes it repugnant? Is it the incident where nativist French broke into the home of Sarah Halimi and murdered her?

Oh, right, that was also done by Islamists. Seriously, can you find the most recent murder of a Jew by a right wing Frenchman ? It's been a while.

It might make people feel better to change the subject to the past when it WAS militant Catholics doing this. But it will guarantee that the current violence will continue. Silence is consent.
posted by ocschwar at 5:29 PM on March 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


> And there is a sea of bigotry. The French Muslim community

Did not bring this bigotry to a place that had never seen such a thing before, and is not operating in a vacuum. France has a centuries-long history of brutal anti-Semitism, and it isn't something that stopped existing after France deported its Jewish citizens to the camps in WWII - the National Front is quite popular and wields both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim swords effectively, and white Catholic French people seem happy to let them.
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on March 26, 2018 [28 favorites]


Really? What makes it repugnant?

What makes it repugnant rather than merely wrong-headed is that Muslims are also a persecuted minority in France and in the Western world. Choosing to attack them as the cause and motive of French anti-Semitism when, say, Marine Le Pen is as non-Muslim as they come suggests some truly ugly underlying attitudes. I wonder if you even realize in your hinting at vast conspiracies who you sound like.
posted by praemunire at 5:38 PM on March 26, 2018 [23 favorites]



What makes it repugnant rather than merely wrong-headed is that Muslims are also a persecuted minority in France


And that makes it repugnant to talk about the rampant anti-Jewish bigotry that is pervasive in that community and has led to a constant stream of anti-Jewish violence? The constant drumbeat (and I do mean constant) of physical violence that is driving Jews out of the country is being perpetrated primarily by Muslim Frenchmen, because of attitudes that are pervasive in that community. If it's "repugnant" to call attention to the problem, then I guess the morally upright thing to do is turn a blind eye and let it continue until France is Jew-free.
posted by ocschwar at 5:51 PM on March 26, 2018 [11 favorites]


I have a feeling that the far right in France (and elsewhere) would prefer that the Muslim population does the work of driving out and/or killing Jewish people. The fomentation of anti-Jewish violence doesn't necessarily come with instructions for who should commit the violence. Anti Jewish rhetoric doesn't usually include a hierarchy of groups. There is not "Muslims are the worst, Jews a bit less bad, and white people are the best." Instead, it is, as we know, lots of dog whistles and othering of one group at a time, or several groups together.

And it's also a handy cover for nationalists, because they can point at the Muslims and say "they're next, because they're so violent toward French citizens."

So to point out that Muslims are committing some of the violence without recognizing the broader historical and ideological reality of the violence is, frankly, bananas and repugnant. Also, lets not forget that tensions between Jews and Muslims being stirred up by a third group is nothing new or original. This is exactly the tactic we complain about when the American middle class and the American poor are pitted against one another by the 1%.

I'm sad and angry. Not just that this is happening, but that I am not surprised, yet so many people are surprised.
posted by bilabial at 6:03 PM on March 26, 2018 [30 favorites]


"
So to point out that Muslims are committing some of the violence w"

"Some" of the violence? "Some" ?
posted by ocschwar at 6:12 PM on March 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Are you suggesting that there has been no anti semitic violence in France committed by white people in (some amount of time)? Or are you suggesting that the only thing that counts as violence is death and wounding? Because that's not good faith arguments that I can engage with.
posted by bilabial at 6:37 PM on March 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Horrifying. If you’re a Jew you can escape the Holocaust and violence can still find you and take your life at any time, even when you’re old. Anti-Semitism is a poison running through the world. I don’t know if fighting over which group is more actively hateful is useful while Jewish people are being murdered.

.
posted by supercrayon at 6:40 PM on March 26, 2018 [24 favorites]


[One deleted. ocschwar, this needs to not become about you; you've made your points, now step back a little and let the thread breathe.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:49 PM on March 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


I have a feeling that the far right in France (and elsewhere) would prefer that the Muslim population does the work of driving out and/or killing Jewish people.

Yep. It’s literally a “win-win” for them. Ditto anti-woman and anti-LGBT violence conveniently supplied by Muslims or various other Others.
posted by non canadian guy at 7:47 PM on March 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:27 PM on March 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


So to point out that Muslims are committing some of the violence without recognizing the broader historical and ideological reality of the violence is, frankly, bananas and repugnant.

I agree. And that's why we need to talk about Muslim anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence in France. Because these incidents keep happening and people are being murdered.

A Holocaust survivor was killed in an horrific way in her own home. It was done by a member of a religious group whose ranks have recently produced other murderers of Jews. During the second intifada, many French Muslims became explicitly anti-zionist, and at least some percentage seemed incapable of separating the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from their hatred of Jews. That hatred has apparently mostly separated from the Palestinian cause and reportedly is now a cultural poison. Deliberately closing our eyes to what is going on will only enable further incidents.

For years, it has been nearly impossible to speak about French Muslim anti-Semitism.

Many refused to take notice for reasons of ideology, discomfort, or lack of courage. Many feared being accused of “playing into the hands of the far right,” and others thought it inconceivable that a French Muslim minority, itself victimized by discrimination and racism, could itself be guilty of racism and even violence. So for too long there was silence.

The Merah trial exposed a reality in France: anti-Semitic roots run deep within some elements of the French Muslim community. It is due to several factors, among them: manipulation of the Palestinian cause, failure of integration into French society, radical preachers and the funding of mosques, and satellite television stations broadcasting a steady stream of anti-Semitic discourse.
...
While the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, 808, remains similar to the 2000 figure, these are rarely related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict anymore. The problem now is structural.

It exists on the far right, the far left, and among Muslims with a fundamentalist vision of Islam, just as in several other Western European countries. Yet French anti-Semitism is distinguished in Europe by its level of violence, ranging from attacks to abductions and even to murders.


There are sources in that article. More: This timeline of anti-Semitism in France is from 2012. This one notes Muslim attacks since then, many of which were not anti-Semitic and some, like the supermarket shooting, most certainly are.

It is entirely appropriate to question why Muslims are murdering Jews and try to place that in higher context. It is happening, and sticking our heads in the sand is dangerous.
posted by zarq at 5:08 AM on March 27, 2018 [31 favorites]


How are Muslims persecuted in France?
posted by AillilUpATree at 9:19 AM on March 27, 2018


How are Muslims persecuted in France?

How much time do you have?

Government bans on "conspicuous religious symbols," meaning articles of clothing: the burqa, the niqab, headscarves, etc have existed since 2004. Praying on the street is also banned in France since 2011.

After the Paris attacks in 2015 and the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice in 2016, there has been an ongoing, consistent backlash against Muslims. Physical attacks. Several dozen municipalities banned the "burkini," resulting in an incident where police forced a woman to strip out of hers on a beach in Nice. "Her ticket, seen by French news agency AFP, read that she was not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.” Last year's elections saw two candidates who outright vilified Islam (Le Pen and Fillion) and even the left wing candidate (Mélenchon) railed against money going to anything other than secular education, which many religious groups felt was unfair persecution. Le Pen also wanted to ban halal and kosher ritual slaughter. In December, a French court ordered an halal supermarket in Paris to close because it didn't sell pork or wine.

This is all a systematic targeting of Muslims. Some successful. Some, like the burkini ban, are not.

There is also a Jewish group related to America's Jewish Defense League that retaliates against Muslim antisemitic incidents by beatings and physical attacks against random Muslims, and that starts fights at protests. They lump all Muslims into one extremist group, and attack innocent people.
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on March 27, 2018 [35 favorites]


Not to mention that many French Muslims have their roots in countries in North and West Africa where France engaged in fairly brutal colonialism and continues to muck around in politics. Police harassment and outright abuse of North African and African French people is pretty pervasive.

I wish there was an easy way to build solidarity between Muslim and Jewish minorities internationally. I was told a few weeks ago by one of the guys I'm working with in Indonesia that Trump is evil because he hates Muslims and loves the Jews. Normally, I'd turn that into a conversation about anti-semitism, and the conflation of right-wing Israeli politics and Jews in general, but I honestly didn't feel safe doing that. We are groups that should be allies. Instead, we're literally killing each other.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:18 PM on March 27, 2018 [8 favorites]



After the Paris attacks in 2015 and the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice in 2016, there has been an ongoing, consistent backlash against Muslims. Physical attacks. Several dozen municipalities banned the "burkini," resulting in an incident where police forced a woman to strip out of hers on a beach in Nice..


Which shows just how far native French indifference goes.

Jews get murdered? *gallic shrug*

Burkinis on the beach? Something must be done!
posted by ocschwar at 8:42 PM on March 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Jews get murdered? *gallic shrug*

Burkinis on the beach? Something must be done!


These are reconcilable if you look at them through the lens of Laïcité, the French principle of official disassociation from religion. Acknowledging antisemitism, let alone keeping statistics on antisemitic violence, means recognising victims as being Jewish. This would be an impossible engagement with religion. In contrast, banning burkinis, or making it compulsory for schools to serve pork, is not an engagement with religion. As long as there's some rational basis for it (even "we don't like people being ostentatiously religious in public") the law is ostensibly one that applies to all faiths equally.

In practice, Christianity is grandfathered into Christian culture so any restrictions on religious liberty really only affect minority religions; and it's pretty clear that France will cheerfully identify people with a particular religion when it's too their detriment. But in theory, it's all coming from the same place.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on March 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oops, I should have saud "Christianity is grandfathered into French culture". For instance, the major Christian holidays are public holidays- or to put it another way, most public holidays in France fall on the days of Christian holy days and "the vast majority" of public school canteens serve fish on Friday, because Jesus. In contrast, requests that Muslim students be served beef instrad of pork have been indignantly denied.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:15 PM on March 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


We are groups that should be allies. Instead, we're literally killing each other.

"Let's you and him fight" has been so successful among so many pairings of less privileged groups.
posted by jeather at 8:35 AM on March 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is horrifying and heartbreaking.
posted by corb at 12:26 PM on March 28, 2018


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