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The drama plays out in arguments over the state of Israel. Two things make French arguments over Israel particularly passionate. First, French Jews' attachment to Israel is strong. There are 800,000 French-speakers in the Jewish state, and Jerusalem is just over four hours' flight away. So French Jews simply spend a lot of time there. They even speak of a "Boeing aliya" (borrowing the word for a migration to the Holy Land) that takes place every weekend. Certain causes célèbres, like that of the Franco-Jewish soldier Gilad Shalit, held hostage by Hamas in Gaza since 2006, tighten this bond.

The second is that French opposition to Israel is ferocious among certain groups of people who are closely listened to, especially immigrants and intellectuals. A host of organisations are dedicated to exposing the Jewish state's alleged misdeeds. These range from the Communist-inspired Association France Palestine Solidarité, which has existed for decades and organises marches and campaigns, to the newer Europalestine, which spearheads various boycotts and guerrilla theatre operations. They will, for example, enter a Carrefour supermarket en masse and cart out Israeli products. The Muslim Brotherhood-dominated UOIF, which often holds a majority on France's official Muslim body, the CFCM, backs the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Hamas government of the Gaza strip. The Sheikh Yassin Collective, named after the Hamas leader slain in an Israeli anti-terrorist operation, is more hardline still. 

There are flashpoints in this preoccupation with Israel's conduct, and they tend to result in tense times for Jews on the streets of Paris. Consider the anti-Israel flotilla of May 2010, which made news all over the world but had a special resonance in France. International anti-Israel activists sent a flotilla to break the Israeli blockade in Gazan waters. When Israeli troops boarded the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, they were met with armed resistance, and they killed nine. This led to a certain amount of rage among the global Left, but among French leftists it was extreme. There were 190 demonstrations against the incident across France the following day. A petition supporting an anti-Israeli flotilla scheduled for last spring drew the signatures of 300 influential people: Franco-Arab leaders, intellectuals, and deputies and senators not just from the Communist Party but also from the Socialist mainstream.

Even the attempts of oil-rich countries to slant discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue are more aggressive in France. Recently the Washington Post carried an article about Yale University's abandonment of its prestigious programme for studying   anti-Semitism, possibly due to pressure from its Arab donors, and this sort of thing happens across Europe. But in France, the enormously gifted and appallingly anti-Semitic Franco-Cameroonian comedian Dieudonné M'bala-M'bala has received financing from Iran to make a film about the slave trade. If it resembles Dieudonné's earlier public pronouncements on the subject, it will stress the role of Jews in setting it up. 

How much those in the non-immigrant, non-intellectual mainstream of French life care about Middle Eastern matters is hard to gauge, but there are disquieting signs. One was the runaway popularity last winter of the pamphlet Indignez-Vous! penned by a 93-year-old veteran of the French resistance named Stéphane Hessel. "Get Mad!" would be a good translation of its title. In little more than a dozen platitudinous pages, Hessel, who is of Jewish background, assured its readers that they too could claim the mantle of the resistance. That was a message to which French readers were receptive, and the broadside sold more than a million copies. But what were French people supposed to resist, now that the Nazis were gone? "Today my main indignation concerns Palestine," Hessel wrote. He claimed Israel "is massacring innocent people," without being specific about who those people were. He went on to liken the Jewish people to the Nazis who once persecuted them: "That the Jews could themselves perpetrate war crimes is intolerable. Alas, history gives few examples of people who learn the lessons of their own history." 

If the only people mobilised by such passions were the children of Palestinians in Europe, they might be seen as occupying a continuum with, for instance, the Boston Irish, who funded IRA terrorism throughout the second half of the 20th century — people with a genuine historical grievance, a stunted sense of when bygones become bygones, and a deplorable tendency to see violence as a first resort. But the demonisation of Israel is not that way. It has appeal outside the Palestinian community, and indeed outside the Muslim community. It is bizarrely single-minded and implausibly intense. This spring, as many frustrated Jewish monitors of anti-Semitism have noted, the Syrian government was killing more unarmed peace marchers, day after day after day, than were killed on the Mavi Marmara in a war zone. The German author and political commentator Henryk Broder has noted a similar bizarreness in his own country's political passions. Broder sees Germany in little danger of the classic, fascistic anti-Semitism that brought it low before, but he is troubled when a Stadtrat, or city counsellor, in Duisburg — a man whose job is to make sure garbage is collected promptly — feels he must enunciate a Middle East policy on behalf of the municipality. 

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December 4th, 2011
6:12 PM
After reading the article, one can come only to one conclusion "Anti Semites will NEVER die, only multiply". Given the opportunity (this time under the wings of the Arab dress), the new Anti Jew Brigades don't feel the need of scaling back, on the contrary, they're proud of coming through the front door.

September 9th, 2011
2:09 PM
Please could you let us know more about the 'Hertog/Simon Fund for Policy Analysis'. I cn't find any information on this fund. Thanks

September 6th, 2011
12:09 PM
Excellent but utterly depressing article. It mirrors very much what is happening in Sweden (where I come from). Jews have been fleeing Sweden's third city Malmö in droves in the last few years due to harassment and violence from Muslim immigrant youths, and the despicably wet response (some would say implicit collusion) by the city's rabidly anti-Israel socialist mayor. Of course current events in the Middle East are always used as a pretext for 'righteous' indignation. One cannot but wonder (I'm not Jewish myself) whether the issue isn't the congenital anti-Semitism one finds in contemporary Islam. It is a rising tide of poison that can only be stemmed by political leaders with courage and vision. Unfortunately, such leaders are in precious short supply in Europe (although I can think of one Dutch exception).

Bashy Quraishy
September 3rd, 2011
2:09 PM
Dear CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL In read your article "When An Old Hatred Returns By Europe's Back Door", with great interest and a bit of sadness. As a human rights activist, initiative taker of Jewish Muslim Co-operation Platform in Europe and a campaigner against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia for many years, I can understand your harm and anger on the increasing anti-Semitism in France. Having said that, I am also puzzled; how conveniently, you have coupled anti-Semitism in France, riots in London, Islam and Muslim Arabs and presented it as a danger to Europe. I shall not discuss with you the whole contents of your viewpoints, but there are two issues, I wish to correct. You say: “The present era of European street violence began with widespread assaults on Jews around Paris in the autumn of 2000, the year of the so-called "second intifada" in Israel. The following year saw riots in Oldham and Rochdale — overshadowed in retrospect by the destruction of the World Trade Center just weeks later". Here you are insinuating that Muslims are always behind riots in UK and riots in Europe are somehow connected to what happened in Paris in 2000. Here is a list of riots, which will tell you that Muslims have seldom been involved in riots. This is absolutely false. Here is a list of recent riots, which will give you a better understanding of who is rioting in London alone and why. • The 1958 Notting Hill race riots between White British and West Indian immigrants. • The Red Lion Square disorders happened in 1974 following a march by counter-fascists against the National Front. • In 1977 the Battle of Lewisham occurred when the Metropolitan Police attempted to facilitate a march by the National Front • The 1981 Brixton riot against the Metropolitan Police. Especially on 10 July, rioting extended to other parts of London and numerous other cities around the UK • The 1985 Brixton riot against the Metropolitan Police after they shot the mother of suspect Michael Groce. • In the Broadwater Farm riot of 1985, residents of Tottenham riot against the Metropolitan Police following a death during a police search • Poll Tax Riots occurred in 1990 against the introduction of a poll tax. • Welling riots, October 1993. A march organised by the ANL, the SWP and Militant resulted in riots against the Metropolitain police. • The 1995 Brixton riot against the Metropolitan Police occurred after a death in police custody. • The 1999 Carnival Against Capitalism riot • The 2000 anti-capitalist May Day riot • The 2001 May Day riots in central London by anti-capitalist protestors. • In 2009 G-20 London summit protests occurred in the days around the G-20 summit. • The 2010 UK student protests against increases in student fees and public sector cuts. • The 2011 anti-cuts protest in London against government public spending cuts. • The 2011 England riots, initially in London, following the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham Secondly, please do not present 2000 anti-Jewish riots in Paris as the work of Muslims. Intifada in Israel/Palestine and its dire consequences all over, are political and nothing to do with Islam. I sincerely believe that Arab youth anger should not go over innocent Jewish people in Israel or Europe but at the same time propagating against Islam is despicable too. You are not helping Jewish Muslim dialogue by poisoning the mind of people with constructing facts, which are not there. Kind regards Bashy Quraishy

September 2nd, 2011
9:09 PM
Its sad that this is happening, its even more sad that its not being covered in the main stream media!

September 1st, 2011
5:09 PM
Nicely explained. There are of course thousands of NGOs dedicated to anti-zionsim, especially since the UN Durban conference. NGOs like this one....

Nathan Weinstock
September 1st, 2011
2:09 PM
Dear Mr. Caldwell, As a retired Belgian who spends part of the year in France, I appreciated your article very much and share your view on th subject. Do your read French ? If so, I'm sure you would be interested in my latest book which was published this week by Odile Jacob in Paris (see below). Kind regards, Nathan Weinstock Nahan WEINSTOCK "Terre promise, trop promise. Genèse du conflit israélo-palestinien, 1882-1948". Odile Jacob

Jeremiah K
September 1st, 2011
12:09 PM
Good analysis. This rings in with this article "The Secret Passion of the New Antisemitism"

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