Saturday, March 04, 2006

Anti-semistism - the problem of mixing problems

A week ago, tens of thousands of people gathered in Paris and other French cities after the abduction, torture and death of a young Jew (see our post here).
This week's The Economist had a rather fair article on the issue. They rightly pointed out that the French government has been in the international spotlight since Ariel Sharon accused France of anti-semitism in 2004. Since then, anti-semitic attacks have fallen by nearly half. And the magazine also reminds its readers that religion (i.e. Islam) was NOT a factor in last fall's riots, despite what some people abroad have suggested.
What needs to be added though is that anti-Semitic attacks have often been committed by people who see them as justified by Israeli attacks against the Palestinians. A lot of those people are Muslims but not all of them. And none of them have actually anything to do with the Palestianian cause other than being Muslim 'brothers' (a lot could be said about the manipulation). What the French government has really been afraid of is that the conflict between Israel and Palestine spreads to France which has the largest Jewish and Muslim communities. The fear is that the younger generation is going to use the conflict in the Middle-East to settle the records about everything else they are not happy with (unemployment, racism, etc...). In fact, there has been radicalization in a fringe of both the Jewish and Muslim communities, even though the situation has improved over all.

A good illustration is the photograph published by the Economist along with their article .

Interestingly, in this picture taken during the recent demonstration (Paris, February 26, 2006) you can see the French flag fly above demonstrators who carry flags of the Jewish Defense League and of srael as they participate in the march. Incidently, right at the beginning of the same march, a far-right wing politician (De Villiers) was thrown out of the demonstration by the organizers because his presence was seen as "a provocation" (his rhetoric is often perceived as very anti-Muslim), and I think for the same reason, the Israeli flag should have also been taken out. Its presence has nothing to do with anti-semitism in France and it sends the wrong signal, adding more fuel to the tension and giving the other extremists who love mixing problems more rationale for their action.

I think the demonstrations should also have broadened its aim - and not remained simply anti-semitic. After all, the terrible tale of Ilan Halimi is no worse than the death of the girl Sohanne who was burned alive by a gang in 2002 because she refused to conform to their backward idea of what a 'proper' woman should be [see this article on the association 'Ni pute, ni soumise' - 'Neither whore, nor submissive'].
And what about
this 35-year-old gay man was severely burned by attackers who doused him with gasoline and ignited it... because he was gay?!
So, are we going to have a different community demonstrating for their own cause every time one of theirs is attacked... or are they going to get it that unity is needed and that it is all the same in the end?


At 16:37, Anonymous marc said...

Even though "anti-semitic attacks have fallen by nearly half" and "the situation has improved over all" I don't feel that reassured. Being jewish, you know what it's like. Memory and paranoia, plus, hopefuly,a touch of humour. Verbal abuse may be more hurtful than attacks and is seldom reported.


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