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The new faces of old anti-Semitism



67 swastikas, discovered on December 28, desecrating the graves of a municipal cemetery in Fontainebleau; a torrent of anti-Semitic insults lashing out against Miss Provence 2020, April Benayoum, for claiming her Israeli ancestry on December 19, when she was elected as Miss France 2021’s first runner-up; anti-Semitic death threats against TV columnist Valérie Benaim on December 29; a delivery man from a big name in the new digital economy, boasting that he does not agree to deliver to Jews, on January 7 in Strasbourg; and to top it all off, an odious letter of anti-Semitic (and homophobic) insults, addressed to the government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, on January 8… The phenomenon is not new, but in the space of a few weeks, it is a veritable surge of anti-Semitic acts which have descended on France, often in general indifference. And more worrying still, to the old anti-Semitic evil, that of hatred and (in)human stupidity, is added a new anti-Semitism, which tries to cover itself with political justifications, like that of the icon of the Indigènes de la République movement, Houria Bouteldja, justifying the anti-Semitic insults against April Benayoum with a mind-blowing argument according to which “one cannot be innocently Israeli”!

By Martine Gozlan

Ben Lesser, 92, was one of 200 survivors who, on 27 January, went to Auschwitz for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the death camps, and warned the world against the resurgence of hatred. All Ben’s family, but one sister, was murdered. An American citizen set up the foundation “Zakhor” which, in Hebrew, means “Remember”. It is in connection with that that I had met him in Paris a few months earlier. We discussed what has become known as “the new antisemitism”, in fact, a tendency to facelift age-old antisemitism. Ben found it out not without pain. When he and his companions launched their appeal from Auschwitz, a survey carried out in France by IFOP, confirmed all the fears. Antisemitic acts increased by 74% in one year; 34% of French Jews do not feel safe; 84% among them, aged 18-24, had been assaulted.

To which actors and ideology should this surge be attributed to? Citizens of the Jewish faith blame both the far left and the far right; and for good reason. Historically, antisemitism has always been a ‘coagulation’ of extremes, an alliance between individuals and groups that, seemingly, have little in common. The Jewish obsession is their sole common denominator. However, for such unholy alliances to prosper, two elements are needed: a social and political crisis and a cultural atmosphere. For over a decade, they have been moving on the fringes of French society.

Flashback. On May 8, 2009, at the Main D’Or theater in Paris, comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala and Alain Bonnet, also known as Alain Soral, unveiled to the press their “Anti-Zionist list” for the European elections.

“Here is the white-black-brown France!” Says Soral. He explains: “The only enemy of this Republic is Zionism, which is in our midst and which has always sought to divide us, and which, in truth, is behind the wars all over the world and in France …”. Around the table, there were young people with immigrant backgrounds, a former member of the Revolutionary Communist League, an activist from the “French Renewal”, a tiny group which defines itself as “nationalist, counter-revolutionary and Catholic”, former members of the Communist Party, of the Greens, and of the National Youth Front, and Yahia Gouasmi, who had just launched the “Anti-Zionist Party”. This Frenchman of Algerian descent, founder of the Shiite center “Zahra France” (which will be then be closed in 2019 for incitement to terrorism) and fervent supporter of the Iranian ayatollahs, acted as a go-between for Dieudonné and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic at the time.”Dieudo” travelled to Tehran, hoping to receive funds for a film on slavery.

Soral is obsessed with Jews. His was quite a bumpy journey, from the Communist Party to the National Front, that he left in January 2009. He dreams of mixing reds, browns, and all possible colors in a formidable alliance “against international Zionism, the System, Banks.”

Soral and Dieudonné had shared a common cause on the EuroPalestine list for the 2004 European elections. In 2003, Dieudonné made himself infamous on a TV program hosted by Marc-Olivier Fogiel, when he ended his sketch with a “Isra-Heil!” In 2005, in Algiers, he dubbed the memory of the Shoah as “remembrance pornography”. In 2008, he invited negationist Robert Faurisson on the stage at the Zenith theater.

Curiously, some ten years later, we were going to hear again the rhetoric of this dubious team, relayed by infiltrators in the ranks of the Yellow Vests, via the Salafists on one side and those fighting on an identity platform on the other, while the figures of the movement remained conspicuous by their silence. Thing is in the meanwhile antisemitism joined the wave, against the backdrop of absolute denial. You’d hear them say that there can be no antisemitism sentiment in the suburbs, among the underdog.

That is what the intellectually bankrupt and indigenist Left contends, just like the bourgeoisie who turns a blind eye on the despicable tweets of Mehdi Meklat and is busy trying to cast doubt on the courageous investigations on the ground. Hate speech is like wild fire on social media and a new breeding ground for Dieudonné and Soral who post their videos there. It is indeed an achievement as anti-Zionism is everywhere in the demonstrations of the people who live in “the suburbs”. In a contribution to the daily Le Monde, in May 2014, Jean-Yves Camus, an expert on far-right movements, observed that “Dieudonné rides a cross-sectional, anti-system and conspiratorial wave whose backbone is and remains antisemitism. They see the world order as being dominated by the Washington-Tel Aviv axis. ”

The audience is growing. Never mind whether it is perverted, antisemitism makes people laugh when it does not kill… and even when it kills, by the way. “I am Charlie Coulibaly,” said Dieudonne in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher supermarket massacres. He popped up again in the Iranian capital, in February 2015, to offer a “golden Quenelle” (an anti-Semite gesture) to his friend Ahmadinejad. In his book on “The New Children of the Century” (not available in English), Alexandre Devecchio underlines “the collusion between Dieudonné followers and Islamists that are reconciled by and against anti-Zionism that one can barely distinguish from antisemitism … both crowds shared the cries of ‘Jew, France is not yours’ at the Day of Anger demonstration on 24 January  2014 “. The same cry as that hurled in the face of Alain Finkielkraut on Saturday 16 February 2019, in a street in Montparnasse district, by a group wearing keffiyeh, yellow vests and belching “God, will take revenge!”, “dirty Zionist!” having replaced “dirty Jew!”.

British historian Hyam Maccoby, in “A Pariah People” (translated into French and published by H & 0 editions), analyzes this perverse transformation. He posits that “the derogatory use of the word ‘Zionism’ as equivalent to imperialism. This use was expanded to include many traditional anti-Semitic accusations, like a conspiracy by Jews around the world to dominate the planet, and that of a Jewish financial might.” The far left has been taken over by Islamists, just like populists took up anti-Semitic stereotypes over the centuries. They went at full speed, gradually, from one circle to the next, from thugs to mosques.

The abduction, torture and assassination of Ilan Halimi, a supposedly wealthy small telephone salesman, by “the gang of savages” happened in 2006. The delusional rhetoric of a Kobili Traoré, tormentor and executioner of Sarah Halimi, a humble 65-year old pensioner, in April 2017, was inspired by Jihadi discourse.

Finally, just causes – the yearning for a Palestinian State – have been sullied and derailed by massive antisemitism, including that of many Arab leaders. In June 2016, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, speaking at the European Parliament accused rabbis of poisoning Palestinian wells. He reneged on that two days later; but the damage had already been inflicted.