Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


The End of French Jewry?

by Elliott Abrams
July 26, 2014


Here’s the situation in Paris:

Violent anti-Jewish riots in Paris on Sunday [July 20], sparked by Israel’s ongoing operation in Gaza to halt rocket attacks from the coastal enclave, left Jews in the French capital fearing for their lives….An anti-Israel demonstration at the city’s Bastille Square quickly turned violent with protesters seeking out and attacking Jewish targets and screaming “death to the Jews” and “Hitler was right” according to community newspaper, JSS News….Hundreds of Parisian Jews were trapped in a synagogue while rioters threw stones and bricks. The group was initially thought to be held hostage and was freed to leave the center only after police intervention at 9 p.m.

The French writer Guy Milliere described the condition of French Jews in an article entitled “Paris’s Kristallnacht:”

The prevalent sentiment among French Jews is that a page has been turned. The French Jewish philosopher Shmuel Trigano wrote on July 16th that what is happening is a sign that Jews must leave France, fast. “Recent events are likely to play the role that such events have played in the past for the Jews in many countries: a strong symbolic event gives the signal that the Jews have no future in the country that was theirs.”

Jews have lived in France since Roman times, and the French Jewish community is the largest in Europe at about a half-million. But the future looks bleak, due to a vicious combination of old right-wing anti-Semitism, the growing anti-Semitism on the French left, and the violent hatred of Jews by all too many in the 15% of the French population that is Muslim. And this is hatred of Jews, not criticism of Israel: slogans like “Hitler was right” and “death to the Jews” and attacks on synagogues are not efforts to promote the well-being of Palestinians or change Israeli government policies.

In my travels to Israel over the years I have noticed what so many others have as well: the growing French presence. One hears French spoken in hotel lobbies and restaurants, and sees real estate ads more often in French than English. It was estimated a month ago that one percent of the French Jewish community, or 5,000 people, would emigrate to Israel this year. That figure will surely grow now, this year and in the coming years. French Jews simply do not feel safe, despite general denunciations of anti-Semitism from government officials. To walk in many parts of Paris wearing a kipah is to risk serious bodily harm.

This is a tragedy for individuals and families who suffer violent attacks, but the beneficiary will be Israel–whose culture and economy will be strengthened by these new arrivals. For France, with a long history of Jewish life and a long history of anti-Semitism, it is a sad chapter. And for French Jewish life, perhaps one of the last.



Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by EMT

    With all my respect for my French friends, I would say that I was finally right to move to the United States over forty years ago, where I have been enjoying the kind of freedom which as it seemed to me at that time, did only exist in France. After the war and reading history, the Dreyfus Affair convinced me that that freedom rather existed only in the United States.

    As Theodor Herzl wrote in his book The Jewish State (1986), “The world resounds with outcries against the Jews, and these outcries have awakened the slumbering idea.” Unfortunately, I don’t see any change today. Nothing surprises me.

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    Gaza is merely a convenient pretext for this anti-Semitic upheaval in France . If not Gaza they would find something else . If Obama doesn’t voice American displeasure to Hollande , through our Ambassador in Paris , then something is terribly wrong here too .

  • Posted by John

    Elliot, your post is disingenuous to a remarkable degree. It is not that just that Israel benefits from anti-Semitism, it is that it actively provokes it through its actions. As you say, anti-Semitism is despicable. Therefore, I assume your policy prescription would be that Israel changes course? If not, I’m afraid the post is nonsense.

  • Posted by Christian

    Mais … plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose? From my corner it often seems that the Muslim world – whose women are still subjected to barbaric and uncivilized mutilations as a matter of religion — it seems that the Muslim world has hijacked not only the West’s policy on Jews, but also the West’s policy on the Jewish state of Israel. Faut chercher le grisbi, quoi? …. and the grisbi is oil.

  • Posted by Omg

    This “news” came from jssnews… this site is all but not informational… Pro-israel and not open to discution… Comments are deleted if you are not agree with “the good thinking” ….. So let me laugh !!
    Elle est belle la liberté d’expression de ce torchon de dégénéré myopathe trisomique

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required