France, which is the third-largest Jewish community after Israel and the United States, has been the focus of much antisemitism lately. Just a few days ago, 107 Jewish tombstones were desecrated with painted swastikas in Westhoffen, in the Alsace region of France. This was not an isolated incident, but more of a recurring crisis in a country that has seen a 69% increase in antisemitic acts in 2018.
As a result of the cemetery defacing, President Macron was heard saying that “Anti-Semitism is a crime and we will fight it in Westhoffen as everywhere until our dead can sleep in peace.” or “Those who attack them, even their graves, are not worthy of the idea we have of France.” or even “Jews are and make France.”
These words sound great if you isolate them. Unfortunately, you cannot do that because antisemitism never happens in a vacuum and has been plaguing the Jewish people since biblical days, and in many instances, much worse in France and other parts of Europe. Words are cheap, but even when Mr. Macron says that France will fight until her dead can sleep in peace, what is he really saying?
Don’t quote me wrong, the departed need our utmost respect and need to be in our memories. But, instead of worrying about graves, we need to implement some real reforms so that the LIVING Jews can sleep in peace and wake -up the next morning. The French track record for fighting antisemitism is pathetic at best.
in 2012, after the Toulouse massacre that took the life of a Rabbi and three students at a Jewish school, President Sarkozy had a minute of silence for the victims and spoke of actions needed to be taken. A few Islamists were arrested in the following months. No laws were passed…people eventually forgot.
Ignoring a few other acts of antisemitism, fast forward to the terrorist attack that took place at the Hyper Kosher supermarket in Paris, in January 2015, the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack. Four Jewish people died on that Friday afternoon. A massive, impressive and potentially encouraging street demonstration took place in all of France (over two million people) the following Sunday. People held hands and corporately claimed “Je suis Juif” (I am Jewish), people sang, people brought flowers. No laws were passed…people eventually forgot.
Then there was the bloody attack at the Bataclan night club in November of the same year. 90 people died at the club which was attacked because the perpetrators hated the fact that it was “owned by two Jews.” People brought more flowers and held hands again. President Hollande declared a state of emergency for a few months and asked French people to stay strong in light of terrorism. A cartoon brochure was created to help people cope with terrorism (seriously?), as well as some hashtags. No laws were passed…people eventually forgot.
After the recent cemetery desecration, President Macron wants to create an office to fight hate crimes. The office would equally fight hate crimes against Christians, Muslims and Jews. French Prime Minister Christophe Castaner said, “To profane a grave is an expression of pure hatred.” True statement, but he is missing the point. Christian or Muslim cemeteries are rarely if ever under attack, while Jewish burial sites are a constant target. A hate crime is a hate crime and France’s secularism will make every effort not to marginalize any minority…at least on paper!
In reality, the new French office against hate crimes will most likely offer lip service. Some incidents will be reported, a few people might be arrested, but seldom if ever will anybody be prosecuted to the full extent of the laws, and that is for those that are reported. Again, people will eventually forget.
Christians and Muslims might become more vocal if and when they are targeted in those attacks, but Jews have learned through continued hardships that the only way you to fight antisemitism with words is at the basic–very needed– level of education. Schools need to teach about hatred, xenophobia, and Holocaust history. Education is foundational but cannot stand on its own without a judicial system in place.
Another committee to discuss how to fight antisemitism is akin to fighting a deadly virus by quarantining the infected until they die. It never solves the problem. Only eradicating the virus does. The virus is antisemitism and it is killing the Jews. Laws must be passed AND enforced in every case until those targeting Jews fear the repercussions. Until then, the only ones fearing…and fleeing France and other parts of the world, are the Jews!
We are way beyond using words only!