Two years ago I wrote on this platform that France is the most ‘dangerous European country for Jews’ – and so it remains.
‘Jews, who make up less than one per cent of the population, are subjected to more than half the racist acts committed in France,’ said Francis Kalifat last week. Kalifat, who is president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), believes the number of victims is actually higher. ‘A lot of people don’t make an official complaint,’ he said. ‘Either because it serves no purpose or because they fear reprisals.’
French Jews are right to be scared. Twelve have been killed specifically because of their religion since 2003; the most recent was Sarah Halimi in 2017, battered to death by her Muslim neighbour, Kobili Traoré, whose blows were accompanied by cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’. Traoré and his family had reportedly verbally abused the elderly Jewish woman on numerous occasions and he admitted that seeing a Jewish candelabra and a Hebrew prayer book in Halimi’s apartment had inflamed his drug-addled mind. Last month a court showed compassion to Traoré, declaring that he was ‘criminally irresponsible’ for his actions because he ‘was not aware’ of the adverse effects of regular cannabis smoking.
The verdict caused uproar within the Jewish community, reinforcing the belief among some that they are being abandoned by a government more interested in appeasing the country’s Islamists. Jews can certainly expect little support from the left, once their firm ally in the face of far-right anti-Semitism. Despite the deaths of so many Jews in recent years, the preoccupation of the left is what they perceive as the scourge of Islamophobia. In November several leading figures on the French left attended a Stop Islamophobia march in Paris where some demonstrators chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’.
French Jews staged their own demonstration after the decision not to convict Traoré of murder, and among those present was the victim’s brother, William Attal, who has compared his sister’s case to that of Alfred Dreyfuss. ‘There is a willing blindness on behalf of the French authorities to see and do justice,’ he said.
This view was echoed last month by France’s Chief Rabbi Haïm Korsia, who in an open letter to the Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet warned that the decision not to prosecute Traoré for murder amounted to a ‘licence to kill the Jews’.
It is also likely to accelerate the emigration of France’s Jewish population. In recent years an estimated 55,000 have left France for Israel, with Paris and Marseille experiencing the greatest exodus.
Of the Jews that remain many have moved into neighbourhoods where there is a greater feeling of safety in numbers, what has been dubbed the ‘little Aliyah’. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, a district of Seine-Saint-Denis in northern Paris, the number of Jewish families has fallen from 600 to 100 in recent years. ‘Ten years ago acts of anti-Semitism were carried out by adults,’ said François Pupponi, a local politician. ‘Today these acts are committed mainly by kids of 14 and 15, steeped in delusions about the Israel-Palestine question.’
Stories of daily intimidation are legion, such as the one told recently to Le Figaro by Jessica, who lives in a northeastern suburb of Paris. Describing how her son was beaten up by a gang of thugs, she said. ‘About fifty people just watched without moving. But they shouted at me, “Shame it’s not Gaza, so we could exterminate the Jews”. What’s become of France?’
The answer can be found in some of the books published this month to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Among the most instructive is Bernard Rougier’s The Territory conquered by Islamism. In a radio interview this week Rougier described the ‘Islamist eco-system’ in France, explaining its success on a soft-power strategy between certain Middle Eastern states and homegrown Islamists, in which imams preach anti-Western sermons from mosques and young children receive similar messages in a network of clandestine Koranic schools. The Islamists’ task is allegedly made easier by some left-wing local councils who have found that turning a blind eye makes their lives easier, and also increases the chance of their re-election.
There are 460,000 Jews left in France, and they desperately need more than just the occasional facile tweet from their president about how ‘Jews are and make France’. It happens after every new anti-Semitic outrage but virtue signalling is of no value.
The truth is that the French establishment is in denial, and has adopted the ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ approach. Yet evil there is. As one of the Halimi’s family’s lawyers put it this week, the leniency shown to Sarah’s killer ‘is a warning that society is becoming sick’. If this sickness isn’t treated then there will come a day in the not-too-distant future when there won’t be a Jew left in France.