August 31, 2004 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Alain Finkielkraut's reflections on French Anti-Semitism.
posted by semmi (38 comments total)
While I'm gratified to see some attention being paid to the situation in France (thanks for posting this, semmi), I think this particular article doesn't hold up very well on its own. It's florid and a bit self-pitying. Better, IMHO, to post cold hard facts about the soaring rates of violent anti-Jewish attacks in France, instead of, or at least in addition to, articles like this one--to take the meat with the cheese, you might say. To that end, here's an incomplete list of incidents since January, 2004, compiled by CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France), the umbrella group for French Jewish organizations:

- Mail - (Original French) (English translation)
- Anti-Semitic Grafitti - (Original French) (English translation)
- Insults [Verbal Harrassment] - (Original French) (English translation)
- Telephone threats - (Original French) (English translation)
- Threats - (Original French) (English translation)
- Property Destruction and Vandalism - (Original French) (English translation)
- Profanity [Desecration of Religious Buildings, Symbols, and Cemeteries] - (Original French) (English translation)
- Physical Attacks [Against People] - (Original French) (English translation)
- [Non-Incendiary] Projectiles and Tear Gas - (Original French) (English translation)
- Incendiary Projectiles and Fires [and Arson] - (Original French) (English translation)

Note that these lists are not exhaustive by any means--even the French government counts more attacks this year than CRIF does, it's just that CRIF makes them more easily available and collated on their website. And these lists have not been updated since late July, 2004, and so do not include the recent swastikas and "Death to the Jews" found on Notre Dame Cathedral.

Here's a sampling of just some of the attacks listed just in one of the categories listed above, just for one month, this past June (the mediocre translation is by me):

- June 29, 2004: Schoolboys were returning coming home from their school on Rue de Flanders in Paris. A car cut them off in the road and men emerged, holding sticks with metal points. The children suceeded in fleeing, but one of them was thrown into a wall and beaten until he fainted. He was called "dirty Jew". The attackers left when one of his friends screamed, after seeking help from a merchant. The police recovered the sticks. An official complaint was made.
- June 27, 2004: Two religious men and a little boy, eight years old, were walking on the the avenue Jean Jaurès in Paris. Two individuals of Maghreb [North African] origin, traveling on the same street on a Vespa scooter, drove by them, intentionally striking the child in the face and the chest as they went past.
- June 24, 2004: Two [female!] teenagers, age 14 and 15 years old, were put in custody for worsened violence and racial insults. They are suspected of having violently attacked a Jewish schoolgirl on June 24, at the exit of a school in Caluire. Arrested Friday at the exit of the school, these two teenagers were placed in police custody and were brought up Saturday in front of a Lyons examining magistrate. They were set free. A demand for a cigarette by the two Moslem teenagers was the cause of the violent quarrel. The victim waited at a bus stop with her sister and a friend when all three were attacked by these two teenagers whom they did not know.
- June 6, 2004: A lady sitting on the terrace of a coffeehouse in Paris was called a "dirty Jew" by an individual who then punched her in the face, breaking her nose. An official complaint was made.
- June 4, 2004: A young man of Epinay-on-Seine was stabbed. His attacker waited across the street from a yeshiva, jumped on him shouting "Allah Akbar", and thrust 30-centimeter-long butcher's knife into the victim's thorax. The young man found the strength to grab the knife and run into the building to seek assistance. An investigation is in progress.

And here are links to previous MeFi discussions on the sharply rising number and intensity of attacks on French, Belgian, and German Jews: March 14, 2004 (by yours truly), March 1, 2004 (by Tlogmer), June 7, 2003 (by Miguel Cardoso), and May 15, 2002 (by laukf).

Depressing, depressing, depressing.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:40 PM on August 31, 2004



posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:11 PM on August 31, 2004

stay tuned for THERMODYNAMICS: OUR ANTI-SEMITIC UNIVERSE coming up next on PBS.
posted by quonsar at 4:14 PM on August 31, 2004

hey asparagirl, do you have any charts that show the % increase of anti-jewish attacks in france over the last few years? my google-fu is crap and i can't seem to find any.
posted by Stynxno at 4:14 PM on August 31, 2004

stay tuned for THERMODYNAMICS: OUR ANTI-SEMITIC UNIVERSE coming up next on PBS.

is that on Nova?
posted by Stynxno at 4:15 PM on August 31, 2004

Funny stuff.
Got any good Sudanese humor?
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:21 PM on August 31, 2004

Um... that was uncalled for, people. :\
posted by zoogleplex at 4:21 PM on August 31, 2004

"The class struggle means nothing to him; he is enchanted by jihad. His heroes are religious figures, and not the usual revolutionary icons: Salladin rather than Che Guevara. He lives in another universe. What infuriates him is not the yoke of capitalism and imperialism over the workers of the world, but the specific humiliation of Muslims in all countries."

So there's a strong group interest, sure, but to argue that the two issues are completely seperate is to ignore the simple causative affect.
posted by iamck at 4:27 PM on August 31, 2004

I disagree with Asparagirl, only insomuchas we need intelligent people to reflect on issues in ways that hard facts cannot do.

I was also intitially put off by the tone of the essag, but as I got through it, I realized that it had a lot to offer in terms of explaining and quantifying what anti-Jewish attacks mean to France and to the world. Her conclusion is convoluted, but then again so is the world. Interesting stuff.
posted by cell divide at 4:55 PM on August 31, 2004

For comparison purposes:
Hate crimes against Jews in the US (US 2002 pg 5 of big pdf) ~1080 = 1 incident/280,000 people.
Hate crimes against Jews in France (annualized 2004) ~400 = 1 incident/150,000 people.

The number in France seems to be 100 higher than in 2003 according to the link. This assessment from CRIF seems relevant as well.

France is not an anti-Semitic country. Why then have there been so many anti-Semitic attacks in the past years? CRIF's Haim Musicant tries to explain in this overview why it took the French authorities so long to grasp the new reality of anti-Semitism.

posted by euphorb at 5:02 PM on August 31, 2004

euphorb: thanx for the information! that's what i was looking for.
posted by Stynxno at 5:08 PM on August 31, 2004

Stynxno- There isn't any one graph in one place that shows the rise over time, as far as I'm aware. However, CRIF has some data and some graphs going back to 2000 on a year by year basis.

Things to keep in mind: CRIF's data, as mentioned before, is incomplete; even the offical French tally has been higher. And we can presume that many attacks are not mentioned to the police or CRIF at all, especially for stuff like insults on the street or the Metro, etc. And other signs of anti-semitism can't be collated as simple datapoints: for example, in just the past three years, it has become de rigeur for Orthodox Jews in France and Belgium to wear baseball caps, because it is simply too dangerous to walk down the street in a kippa. Many (secular) French Jewish kids have been bullied in school to the point where they must leave. The Simon Weisenthal Center put out a travel advisory in 2002 stating that it was considered unsafe for non-French/Belgian Jews to visit France and Belgium. You get the picture; these kinds of things don't always leave behind the same kind of concrete data.

Still, the data that is available is shocking:

- 2000 data and graphs: 15 physical attacks, 1 bomb threat, 17 Molotov cocktails, 8 fires/arsons, 2 attempts at fires/arsons, etc. 196 attacks overall, by CRIF's count.

- 2001 data and graphs: 16 physical attacks, 2 bomb threats, 4 Molotov cocktails, 1 fire/arson, etc. 308 attacks overall.

- 2002 data and graphs, January through May; incomplete data listed, but with the note that just between January and May of 2002, 22 French synagogues were the targets of Molotov cocktails or other vandalism.

- 2002 data and graphs, May through August; 12 physical attacks; 48 attacks total, etc.

- 2002 data and graphs, January through October - note the semi-duplicate timeline; the latter half of 2002 doesn't seem to be broken out on its own, and I couldn't find data for November or December. No total tallies, but me and my calculator counted 221 "ideological" crimes and 114 violent crimes, a total of 335.

- 2003 data and graphs, January through February / January through March (there is some differences in the graphs' time span); 15 physical attacks, 1 bomb threat, 1 Molotov cocktail, etc.

- 2003 data, March through December (PDF FILE) - broken down by date, but not incidence type, alas. If you read only one of the day-by-day reports, this may be the one to choose. Shocking stuff.

Conflicting data on attacks-to-date in 2004 (overlapping with the CRIF lists I posted before):
- "According to France’s own figures, though, in the first six months of this year there have been 510 anti-Jewish attacks including violence, bombings and the desecration of Jewish places of worship and cemeteries."
- "Last week, French Justice Minister Dominique Perben announced that there had been 298 anti-Semitic attacks already this year, more than triple the rate in 2003."
posted by Asparagirl at 5:43 PM on August 31, 2004

I've heard the role of the French in the Holocaust described in two words:

"There's one!!"
posted by gimonca at 5:52 PM on August 31, 2004

I've seen this debated so much by people on both sides that I don't know what to think. Antisemitism in Europe, especially France, is being used as convenient prop by many here in the US to bash Europeans.

Personally, I'm inclined to believe that European antisemitism is still pervasive and worse than it is in the USA. Europeans find that concept laughable, as they have a caricatured view of the US and expect lynchings of black people continue to this day in the South (an exageration, but you get my point). It's hard for them, especially leftists, to believe that there could still be a lot of bigotry there.

On the other hand, USAians know very little of the history of Nazi-sympathizers and fellow-travelers in the US prior to WWII. US antisemitism was very strong in those days and we have a sort of national amnesia about it.

On the whole, the discussion about it (whether or not European antisemitism is rising) here in the US (or internationally) seems tainted to me by too many people's ulterior motives.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:05 PM on August 31, 2004

For some time now, part of me has been toying with the idea of formatting CRIF's incident data into XML data, tagged with date, location (latitude/longitude), and attack type. Then, feeding the XML into a Flash graph (with time on the X axis) that would automatically update as the XML updated, and allow for visual comparisons of the data over time, or mapped to a map of France: sort by synagogue arsons or Paris suburbs, that sort of thing.

I'm tempted to call it the hate-o-meter.

Of course, the latest incident reports would be made available as an RSS feed, too.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:14 PM on August 31, 2004

From what I've seen (ie. this isn't exactly hard data), casual anti-semitism seems to be more common in Europe, but there are far more hard-line white-pride types in the USA.

I don't see the point of revelling in it, though, Asparagirl. Why are LGF and friends so determined to prove that French anti-semitism is endemic, when it's actually on the order of 300 incidents a year, 1 incident per 150,000 people, you know?

I think EB hits it on the head regarding ulterior motives.
posted by reklaw at 6:34 PM on August 31, 2004

reklaw, the issue is not that it is endemic. That's a given. The issue is that it is markedly increasing. Neither is this about European-bashing specifically; there is something "special", for lack of a better word, going on in France. You do not need to be an American to care about this (I'm a New Zealander).

I do not see Asparagirl revelling in it: I see her injecting actual reports from France with real data, something sadly missing from so many MeFi debates.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:19 PM on August 31, 2004

iajs: but the contention that it's "markedly increasing" is hotly contested by many Europeans. I've seen some really strong debunking of this by more than a few Europeans. And they're pissed about the accusation. I tend to think they're in denial, but I have simply not put enough time into investigating the matter to be able to get a sense of what stats to trust and/or how to correctly interpret them.

On the other hand, I am sure that many people have ulterior motives for being critical of the French in this regard. And I'm also somewhat sure that the French (and others) have long been in denial about their antisemitism. So, frankly, I don't trust anyone's claims in this matter implicitly.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:26 PM on August 31, 2004

Wow, reklaw, I'm really not sure how to respond to that.

I didn't realize that responding to a post about a very distrubing trend--that attacks on French Jews have been increasing sharply over the past three/four years--was "revelling" in it, or that discussion of it would be viewed as merely trying to bash Europe, and thus illegitimate. I think the word would be "decrying" it, or "angered" by it, or "think people may want to pay attention to it" or other non-revelry. And if discussion of the trend makes Europe, or at least France, look bad, then gee, we can't have that. By the same token, let's not talk about anti-gay hate crimes in the United States, cause hey, Matthew Shephard was just one guy, right? Let's not revel in talking about homophobia, cause we probably just have ulterior motives towards rural folks or college-aged straight guys.

When 298 incidents in six months (or 510 in six months, if you use the alternate government count) happen to a a minority group with a long history of persecution in a first-world secular European country in 2004, that's shocking. When thousands or tens of thousands of those same people have been and/or are considering fleeing the country out of fear, that's shocking. When synagogues burn down, religious schools are firebombed, rabbis and yeshiva students are stabbed, swastikas show up on Notre Dame, random Jewish kids are pelted with rocks or beaten in the streets by people they don't even know, and a community feels the need to hide any visual clues to their ethnic or religious identity, that's shocking. Even if it's "only" 300 bloody, ugly, scary incidents.

Shocking to me, anyways. Sorry if I was assuming too much about you.
posted by Asparagirl at 7:26 PM on August 31, 2004

the contention that it's "markedly increasing" is hotly contested by many Europeans. I've seen some really strong debunking of this by more than a few Europeans

I'm curious to see these debunkings, and I mean that seriously. I'm not aware that people have been calling these numbers and incidents into doubt, just debating "what's it all mean?" Can you post links?
posted by Asparagirl at 7:31 PM on August 31, 2004

I didn't realize that responding to a post about a very distrubing trend--that attacks on French Jews have been increasing sharply over the past three/four years--was "revelling" in it

Oh, come on. You were just talking about making a little graph mapped to a map of France, for goodness' sake.

300 is not a large number, given that France has a population of many millions. You might as well be talking about people getting killed by donkeys, or whatever. It's still extremely rare.

As for the tone of this:

Shocking to me, anyways. Sorry if I was assuming too much about you.

Fuck you.
posted by reklaw at 7:48 PM on August 31, 2004

Extremely rare? Just for comparison, according to the CIA fact book, the murder rate in France is about 1 per 100,000 per year - definitely in the same league. Donkey fatalities would be many, many times less than that.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:02 PM on August 31, 2004

... and I think that explains why you and Asparagirl need to agree on shock-meter calibration.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:05 PM on August 31, 2004

EB & reklaw: A sincere question: What are those "ulterior motives" you're referring to?

TBH, I find it is one of the disheartening qualities of our Pundits modelled discourses that statements are seldom dealt with by their intellectual content, but with insinuations about their motives, as though a motive may annul a content even if it is reasonable, or truthful.
posted by semmi at 8:12 PM on August 31, 2004

the contention that it's "markedly increasing" is hotly contested by many Europeans. I've seen some really strong debunking of this by more than a few Europeans

The data cited by Asparagirl and this report (pdf file) show that anti-Semitic incidents have increased in France. However, the beginning of the trend in increased anti-Semitic incidents occurred between 1999 and 2000, so it cannot be attributed to 9/11 or the Iraq War.

Here's the data:

Anti-Semitic Actions:

1992: 20
1993: 14
1994: 11
1995: 2
1996: 1
1997: 3
1998: 1
1999: 9
2000: 119
2001: 32
2002: 193

Anti-Semitic Threats

1992: 94
1993: 156
1994: 120
1995: 86
1996: 90
1997: 85
1998: 74
1999: 60
2000: 624
2001: 184
2002: 731

Whether considering anti-Semitic actions or anti-Semitic threats, the big spike occurs in 2000, one year before 9/11.
posted by jonp72 at 8:19 PM on August 31, 2004

Oh, come on. You were just talking about making a little graph mapped to a map of France, for goodness' sake.

Out of outrage or anger? A desire to use hard stats to show a trend that's obviously beyond your ken to grasp? Trying to use new technology to help get a handle on an awful social situation? No, I guess I'd just do it for shits and giggles. You totally found me out.

300 is not a large number, given that France has a population of many millions

And perhaps if you read the reports, you'd know that 300 is not the number of people attacked. It's the number of incidents in the first six months of 2004. An incident can be anything from a synagogue burning down to a group of women being pelted with rocks on the way home from synagogue, to a cemetery desecration with many headstones toppled (three cemeteries desecrated this year so far, most recently in Lyon), and so on. Each of these incidents tends to affect more people than just a 1:1 mapping.

jonp72-- Yes, and if you look at the CRIF graphs linked above, you'll notice that violence had a big jump in September/October, 2000: the start of the second Palestinian Intifada. September/October 2001, the one-year anniversary and also the aftermath of 9/11, has a similiar spike.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:35 PM on August 31, 2004

Well, this is why I don't like these discussions. I'm inclined to Asparagirl's point of view, but this discussion spirals out of control really fast. Unless you're only among people that have Asparagirl's point of view (or the opposite). But when there's disagreement, then the very worst motives are assumed by both sides and it gets ugly.

The "ulterior motives" I'm referring to is playing a sort of moral one-upmanship. "You are! No, so are you! You're worse!" etc. The whole discussion makes me uncomfortable because I get the feeling that the issue of European antisemitism is really just a proxy for a different argument. Which, in context, is especially morally dubious to me.

Asparagirl, I'll see if I can find some links. But just read some (leftist) European media. From their perspective, this is an American slur campaign that is both all about pointing out how those Europeans are actually really nasty and a right-wing propogated meme intended to equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism and forestall any debate about Israel. Views about Israel, especially on the left, in Europe are very negative. Rightly so, in my opinion. On the other hand, I think that there's a long history of leftist antisemitism in Europe.

Bottom line is that in the context of European politics, the middle-east, Israel, and cross-Atlantic criticism, a whole bunch of things are all in the pot being stirred together and there's mucho hard feelings involved. I mean, Asparagirl, look at you and reklaw.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:40 PM on August 31, 2004

It's disturbing to see the jews in france -- and their rhetoric -- become still more connected to israel even as anti-zionism and anti-semitism have been merging conceptually among french muslims. Maybe it's impossible to avoid in the current climate, but I fucking hate this polarization.
posted by Tlogmer at 8:58 PM on August 31, 2004

Asparagirl, why not make the map worldwide (or at least including all countires with reliable statistics)? If you're willing to make the map in the first place it shouldn't be too much more work.
posted by Tlogmer at 8:59 PM on August 31, 2004

EB: Thanks for your response. In passing I want to make sure you noticed that the article was written by a French leftist Jew who observes what he considers a paradoxical situation, and makes a reasonable case for it.
Contrary to what you say, I think that there's a long history of leftist antisemitism in Europe, since Marx, the Jews were always "blamed" for being the left.

reklaw: re. your fuck you, it's pretty cowardly to say that behind your computer, such things should be said facing a person.
posted by semmi at 9:07 PM on August 31, 2004

Why not make the map worldwide?

Why not make the map of all incidents of racial violence, against anyone? A question for the philosophers: is it racist to discrimate in highlighting racist attacks against one racial group while ignoring others? I only say this, because most of the racial violence I've heard about recently in europe has been against groups other than Jews, although of course I guess there's nothing wrong with dividing racist record-keeping into categories.

I notice the neo-nazis were out in force in Germany a few weeks back. Boy, would I like to polish my boots with their shiny heads.
posted by Jimbob at 9:20 PM on August 31, 2004

...Or I could just GPL the Flash code and let anyone for any purpose use it. Which, being an open source kinda gal and having been involved in open source projects before, I would happily do. Just as soon as I write the darn thing.

Ethereal Bligh, I do see what you're talking about, what with the related issues being all muddled together. But speaking for myself and, I think, most of the people who are sincerely alarmed about the rise in attacks, it's honestly preferable not to bring up the tangential/related issues like whether anti-Zionism leads to anti-semitism, or the post-Cold War relationship between Europe and the US--because whatever one's feelings on any of it, it can be a distraction from a very real violence. While I can see using the attacks in France as a point of evidence in some other discussion, within the scope of just talking the violence and whether or not it's statistically or socially significant, the object wasn't to score cheap points or anything like that, but to point out how bad it's gotten and how it's gotten worse just since last year.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:00 PM on August 31, 2004

Here's two questions: What are the criteria for an attack to be anti-Semetic? And by similar criteria, how many attacks against people of French descent were made in the US last year?
posted by moonbiter at 10:24 PM on August 31, 2004

jonp72-- Yes, and if you look at the CRIF graphs linked above, you'll notice that violence had a big jump in September/October, 2000: the start of the second Palestinian Intifada. September/October 2001, the one-year anniversary and also the aftermath of 9/11, has a similiar spike.

I was only talking about 9/11 specifically, but I'm glad you brought out the month-by-month breakdown. I thought the intifada had something to do with the increase in anti-Semitic incidents, but I had no data to confirm that. However, I do object to pointing to the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France as a reason to deride antiwar sentiment in "old Europe." The rise in anti-Semitic incidents preceded 9/11 and the Iraq War so the latter cannot be blamed for creating the former (although it exacerbated a trend that had already begun).

In addition, the report I quoted does not attribute anti-Semitic sentiment in France to non-Muslim leftists:

It is conventionally thought that hostility towards the Jews should go together with favourable attitudes towards Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians. The results of the "BVA" poll suggest the contrary. In fact, those who refuse to consider the Jews as French are most likely to refuse to consider also Muslims as French. They are also more critical of immigrants and foreigners, and they are most reluctant to acknowledge their rights and the equality of races; they are less shocked by discrimination against Blacks and North Africans, etc.

Antisemitism, as studies of racism have shown, is part of ethnocentrism and people who refuse to consider the Jews as French also do not like Arabs, Muslims and immigrants. Such prejudice develops especially in low-educated families, where people are economically or socially insecure, and minorities are the scapegoat of their problems. In the political field, such prejudices are more present on the right than on the left. The radical right remains the most attractive political area for those expressing racist and antisemitic attitudes, whereas people who vote for the radical left are the least racist and the most likely to consider Jews and Muslims as French.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the stridently anti-Arab and anti-Semitic right-wing candidate, is only the best example of this point.
posted by jonp72 at 10:39 PM on August 31, 2004

A question for the philosophers: is it racist to discrimate in highlighting racist attacks against one racial group while ignoring others?

Not unless one actually suggests that attacks against another racial groups are less important, I would think. Otherwise, I find it within the rights of a group to bring attacks against it to public attention.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:24 PM on August 31, 2004

"What the Jews must now answer for is not the corruption of French identity, but the martyrdom which they have imposed?or allowed to be imposed in their name?on the Palestinian alterity. We Europeans no longer denounce the Jews’ cosmopolitan vocation; on the contrary, we exalt it, and we reproach them for having betrayed it."
posted by acrobat at 7:08 AM on September 1, 2004

So because French Jews aren't loudly and publicly flogging themselves over actions happening in Israel, they therefore should expect to be stabbed in the street...
posted by PenDevil at 7:48 AM on September 1, 2004

There are some interesting points made in this piece, e.g., on how Europe is still too traumatized by the Third Reich. And There's something positive to be said for the high level of intellectual discourse in France. But to often , they go too far, and fail to see the forrest for the trees (or leaves?). French society is really screwed up.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:24 AM on September 1, 2004

« Older Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific   |   Somebody had to do it. Really. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments