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.