(1) A Frenchman or a Jew? (2) British and Israeli MPs as Fagin

March 01, 2004

CONTENTS

1. The Chairman of Blair's UK Labour party describes his Jewish opponent as Fagin
2. The Economist magazine uses similar terminology about Sharon and Peres
3. Anti-Semitism now rife on the European Left, not the center-right
4. The New York Times finally reports on attacks on French Jews - but manages to blame Sharon not Moslem politicians



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach two articles, with summaries first for those who don't have time to read them in full.

DESCRIBING JEWISH MP'S AS FAGIN

"Jewish fury as Labour calls Letwin 'Fagin'" (Sunday Telegraph, London, February 29, 2004).

"Ian McCartney, the chairman [of Tony Blair's ruling] Labour Party, was embroiled in a furious row last night after describing a Jewish member of the shadow cabinet as a "21st century Fagin". He caused outrage by comparing Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor, to the loathed villain in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, during a barnstorming speech meant to rally Scottish Labour MPs at their annual conference... Jewish leaders said that the slur was the height of irresponsibility when there were growing fears over a rise of anti-Semitism in Britain, which has 280,000 Jews.

"Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, of Maidenhead Synagogue, a spokesman for Reform Synagogues, said: "I find the remark highly offensive. It is a throwback to the worst kind of stereotype from a bygone age. It is totally gratuitous to compare someone to a fictitious Jewish villain from 1837. Consciously or otherwise it is a reference to Mr Letwin's face rather than his politics."

"...There have been fears over the re-emergence of anti-Semitism recently. An ICM poll in the Jewish Chronicle last month showed that one in five Britons would not elect a Jewish prime minister, one in seven thought that the Holocaust had been exaggerated, and one in five said that Jews had too much influence."

THE LABOUR PARTY CHAIRMAN DENIES

Ha'aretz adds (March 1, 2004): "British Labor Party chairman Ian McCartney, on Sunday rejected Jewish community charges that he used an anti-Semitic stereotype in criticizing the policies of Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, who is Jewish.

In a statement released Sunday, McCartney said it was "absolute nonsense" to call his remarks racist. "I have spent all my life campaigning against racism and anti-Semitism. No one who reads the remarks in context could interpret them in that way. It is simply a reference to the Conservative Party policy on scrapping the pension credit. This was a comment about Oliver Letwin's politics and the Conservative Party's policies."

THE ECONOMIST MAGAZINE MAKES THE OLIVER TWIST REFERENCE TOO

Tom Gross adds: The Economist magazine has on several occasions denounced anti-Semitism (while at the same time, downplaying the problem with inaccurate information, the latest occasion being in last week's issue). On other occasions it has itself slipped into language bordering on anti-Semitism. For example, as I noted in an article in 2001: "In its news report on the Middle East on May 5, 2001, the Economist described Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres as a pair of "artful dodgers" -- "artful dodgers" as in the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, with clear overtones of Fagin."

ANTI-SEMITISM NOW FLOURISHING ON THE LEFT

Tom Gross adds: McCartney's Fagin remark is the latest in a long line of anti-Semitic slurs made by senior members of Tony Blair's ruling Labour Party. Several of these slanders have been detailed before on this email list, such as the comparison last year between Israel and the Nazis by Labour MP Oona King; and the accusation by senior Labour MP Tam Dalyell that a British-Jewish "cabal" was directing Blair's foreign policy. (In fact Tony Blair has almost no Jews among his cabinet or senior advisors. Blair himself shows no signs of being anti-Semitic, or of being unduly hostile to Israel. But so widespread are such feelings in his own party that Blair seems unable to discipline those expressing them.)

By contrast, since the philo-semitic Margaret Thatcher revolutionized the British Conservative party in the 1970s and 80s, that party (which is now in opposition) has become much more friendly to Jews than the Labour Party. In Britain, the present leader of the Conservative party, Michael Howard, is the first Jewish leader of a major political party (Disraeli being a convert to Christianity.) Howard, the son of a Romanian Jewish shopkeeper, recently disclosed that his grandmother died in a Nazi death camp. He is a member of a liberal synagogue.

The chairman of the British Conservative party, Lord Saatchi (co-founder of the advertising agency that bears his name), is also Jewish, and late last week former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, also Jewish, was selected to contest a safe Conservative seat in the next election.

Such Left-Right attitudes towards Jews are also reflected in political parties and the media throughout Western Europe. As The Economist magazine noted in its editorial of May 8, 2003: "Oddly, the leftwingers in politics and the media who most readily drift into crass anti-Semitism, particularly by conflating British Jews with Israeli misdeeds, real or imagined, are also those who react with horror to even the faintest stereotyping of groups like blacks, gays or Muslims."

AT LAST, IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times yesterday finally ran a lengthy article about the attacks that French Jews have been enduring since 2000, many of which have been detailed on this email list since that time.

The photo the Times ran to accompany the article, with the caption "The aftermath of an attack at a Lyon synagogue in March 2002" was two years old. It is a pity that the Times did not properly report on this and similar attacks two years ago.

Here is a summary. The full article, which runs to over 4000 words, is at the end of this email.

"A Frenchman or a Jew?" (By Fernanda Eberstadt, New York Times, February 29, 2004).

"In a working-class neighborhood of the 20th arrondissement in Paris, on a rainy, lead-gray morning last month, the housing blocks looked like sodden cardboard. But inside Brigitte Stora's apartment was a brass menorah. Stora, an Algerian-born Sephardic Jew, is a slim, impish-looking woman in her early 40's with a mop of black hair.

...A former Trotskyite who quit a career in journalism to raise her three children, Stora belonged for decades to a political movement devoted to the cause of equal rights for Arab immigrants. French Arabs were her friends and political allies, and the integrated neighborhood in which she chose to live reflected those commitments. In the last three and a half years, though, Stora's perspective has changed. Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000 and the subsequent rise of Ariel Sharon to the premiership of Israel, France has suffered what is widely considered the worst epidemic of anti-Jewish violence since the end of the Second World War, much of it at the hands of young Muslims.

[Tom Gross adds - as usual the Times publishes misinformation about Ariel Sharon. Probably the worst wave of recent attacks against French Jews was in the fall of 2000, when Ehud Barak, not Sharon, was in power. In 2000, five synagogues, mainly around Paris, were firebombed, and 19 more attacks on Jewish schools, houses, businesses and other institutions were reported.]

"According to S.O.S. Vérité-Sécurité, an anti-Semitism watchdog organization, 147 Jewish institutions -- schools, synagogues, community centers, businesses -- have been attacked. There have been reported instances of rabbis being assaulted. Secondary schoolteachers, under pressure from Muslim students, have canceled classes on the Holocaust. On the last Saturday of January, during a concert attended by the wife of President Jacques Chirac, a Jewish singer called Shirel was heckled by a group of French North African youths, who shouted: "Filthy Jew! Death to the Jews!"

...Although the frequency of anti-Jewish incidents is said to have abated somewhat in the past year (thanks in part to more vigilant policing), many French Jews remain frightened, angry and dispirited. In 2002, the number of French citizens emigrating to Israel more than doubled from the year before to over 2,000. Like many of the country's secular Jews, Stora finds herself reconsidering the venerable French assumption that she and her family must be French first and Jewish second. For a thoroughly assimilated Frenchwoman (her husband is a deputy mayor of Paris), it is no small turnabout in her self-conception.

"I've always loved our neighborhood, its mix of African, Arab, working-class French," she said. "For years, we lived in what I now realize was an illusion of solidarity. In kindergarten, my son learned to cook African dishes; my daughter was taught Arabic calligraphy. Now that's finished. The young mothers picking up their children from preschool wear head scarves; teenagers born in France speak Arabic in the streets -- before, never. Their spirit of rejection is absolute."

"...Even so, her children have embraced a much stronger form of Jewish self-identification -- one that is all the more militant for finding itself besieged. "Because of anti-Semitism," she said, "my children feel more radically Jewish than I ever did. Their attachment to Israel has become absolutely primary."

... "Now," she said, "my heart sinks when my children come home saying, 'Mama, it's hard being a Jew.' For them, it means a constant low-level barrage of hazing, blows. These days, my daughter hides her Star of David under her shirt." Hanna, the teenage daughter, explained: "If I wear it, my friends jump on me: 'Where do you think you're living? Take that thing off!' At school, it's cool to be anti-feuj" - feuj means Jew in verlan, a popular street slang... Stora said that when she complained to Hanna's teacher about the anti-Semitic remarks, the teacher was dismissive. "Of course it's because of Sharon," Stora recalled the teacher saying. "I'm surprised your daughter takes it so personally."

...Still, Saida testified to a residue of anti-Jewishness in popular Maghrebian culture, the belief that Jews are somehow ritually unclean: "I've heard that some people think the word 'Jew'" -- juif -- "comes from the Arabic for 'carrion'" -- djeefa. "After a battle in which all the Jewish men were killed, Abraham told the women to sleep with the corpses, and that's how the Jewish people survived."

... Hajiba added, however, that today, both sides, Muslim and Jew, are responsible for inflaming the problem."

[Tom Gross adds: This is an odd sentence not explained by the Times. In fact during the period covered by the Times' article, law-abiding Jews have been the victims of entirely one-sided attacks by Moslem gangs in the cities of France (and elsewhere). Yet not a single Jew has stabbed an imam or set fire to a mosque or bombed a pizzeria or beaten up a Moslem child. Such incitement has been made in the speeches of (among others) Yasser Arafat, broadcast into French homes on satellite TV. But the Times doesn't mention this.]

 



FULL ARTICLES

JEWISH FURY AS LABOUR CALLS LETWIN 'FAGIN'

Jewish fury as Labour calls Letwin 'Fagin'
By Melissa Kite, Chris Hastings and David Bamber
Sunday Telegraph (London)
February 29, 2004

Ian McCartney, the Labour Party chairman, was embroiled in a furious row last night after describing a Jewish member of the shadow cabinet as a "21st century Fagin".

He caused outrage by comparing Oliver Letwin, the shadow chancellor, to the loathed villain in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, during a barnstorming speech meant to rally Scottish Labour MPs at their annual conference.

During an attack on Tory spending plans Mr McCartney lampooned Mr Letwin, the descendant of Jewish refugees from Ukraine, as "Slasher Letwin". He told delegates: "The real danger... is the Tories. What would life under Slasher Letwin look like? No Oliver Twist, this man, more of a Fagin.

"This 21st century Fagin will pick the pockets of Scotland's pensioners by abolishing the pension credit and then plan for a new generation of poor pensioners by abolishing the second state pension."

Jewish leaders said that the slur was the height of irresponsibility when there were growing fears over a rise of anti-Semitism in Britain, which has 280,000 Jews.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, of Maidenhead Synagogue, a spokesman for Reform Synagogues, said: "I find the remark highly offensive. It is a throwback to the worst kind of stereotype from a bygone age. It is totally gratuitous to compare someone to a fictitious Jewish villain from 1837. Consciously or otherwise it is a reference to Mr Letwin's face rather than his politics."

Perhaps the best-known image of Fagin is Ron Moody's portrayal in the musical, Oliver, which won the 1968 best film Oscar.

Moody, who is due to revive the role at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury next month, said he was outraged by the remarks and urged Mr McCartney to apologise.

"I think it is disgraceful and irresponsible. Someone in Mr McCartney's position should choose his words more carefully. Fagin is a monstrous creation. He is a fence, a thief and a corrupter of children.

"I do not think any Jewish person should be compared to him. Such a description is anti-Semitic."

Lord Janner, the Labour peer and chairman of the Holocaust Education Trust, said he was "amazed" by Mr McCartney's comments.

He said: "I know Ian is not an anti-Semite but comments like this do sound anti-Semitic. I know him very well and I like him very much. I am, however, astonished by the fact that he should make a comment like this."

Mr Letwin's spokesman said: "It is sad that Labour have used this character in such a way and refuse to debate our policies in a more serious manner."

Friends of the shadow chancellor said that he was proud of his ancestry and believed it to be insensitive of Labour to use such a stereotype against him.

His parents, Shirley and Bill Letwin - the name comes from "Latvian" - were Jewish American intellectuals, whose parents fled persecution in Kiev.

Mr McCartney said in a statement that it was "absolute nonsense" to say his scripted remarks were racist. "I have spent all my life campaigning against racism and anti-Semitism. No one who reads the remarks in context could interpret them in that way. It is simply a reference to the Tory policy on scrapping the pension credit. This was a comment about Oliver Letwin's politics and the Tory Party's policies."

Mr Howard, the son of a Romanian Jewish shopkeeper and the first Jewish leader of the Tories in 100 years, disclosed in his anti-racism speech in Burnley that his grandmother died in a Nazi death camp. He is a member of a liberal synagogue.

Until December, when he stood down to devote his time to being shadow chancellor, Mr Letwin was a director of NM Rothschild, the London branch of the Jewish banking dynasty. Lord Saatchi, the Tory chairman, is also Jewish.

There have been fears over the re-emergence of anti-Semitism recently. An ICM poll in the Jewish Chronicle last month showed that one in five Britons would not elect a Jewish prime minister, one in seven thought that the Holocaust had been exaggerated, and one in five said that Jews had too much influence.

 

A FRENCHMAN OR A JEW?

A Frenchman or a Jew?
By Fernanda Eberstadt
New York Times
February 29, 2004

Photo: The aftermath of an attack at a Lyon synagogue in March 2002.
Sébastien Erome/Editingserver

In a working-class neighborhood of the 20th arrondissement in Paris, on a rainy, lead-gray morning last month, the housing blocks looked like sodden cardboard. But inside Brigitte Stora's apartment was an explosion of scarlet, ocher and flame gold, of Israeli and North African textiles, of pottery and a brass menorah. Stora, an Algerian-born Sephardic Jew, is a slim, impish-looking woman in her early 40's with a mop of black hair. She was wearing baggy jeans that revealed a strip of designer-style Jockey shorts, and she sewed a ripped camisole as we talked. In the kitchen, her teenage daughter, home sick from school, cooked herself a plate of pasta.

A former Trotskyite who quit a career in journalism to raise her three children, Stora belonged for decades to a political movement devoted to the cause of equal rights for Arab immigrants. French Arabs were her friends and political allies, and the integrated neighborhood in which she chose to live reflected those commitments. In the last three and a half years, though, Stora's perspective has changed. Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000 and the subsequent rise of Ariel Sharon to the premiership of Israel, France has suffered what is widely considered the worst epidemic of anti-Jewish violence since the end of the Second World War, much of it at the hands of young Muslims. According to S.O.S. Vérité-Sécurité, an anti-Semitism watchdog organization, 147 Jewish institutions -- schools, synagogues, community centers, businesses -- have been attacked. There have been reported instances of rabbis being assaulted. Secondary schoolteachers, under pressure from Muslim students, have canceled classes on the Holocaust. On the last Saturday of January, during a concert attended by the wife of President Jacques Chirac, a Jewish singer called Shirel was heckled by a group of French North African youths, who shouted: "Filthy Jew! Death to the Jews!"

There are about 500,000 Jews in France -- the largest Jewish population after those in Israel and the United States. There is a reason Jews have come to France from places like Eastern Europe or North Africa: ever since the French emancipation of the Jews in 1791, the country has -- with infamous lapses -- provided an enviable model of equality, an enlightenment ideal, enshrined in the French Republic, according to which individual difference is subordinated to common citizenship. But today this ideal is threatened by a tide of ethnic harassment and challenged by a surge of religious pride and self-identification among France's Jews and Muslims alike.

Although the frequency of anti-Jewish incidents is said to have abated somewhat in the past year (thanks in part to more vigilant policing), many French Jews remain frightened, angry and dispirited. In 2002, the number of French citizens emigrating to Israel more than doubled from the year before to over 2,000. Like many of the country's secular Jews, Stora finds herself reconsidering the venerable French assumption that she and her family must be French first and Jewish second. For a thoroughly assimilated Frenchwoman (her husband is a deputy mayor of Paris), it is no small turnabout in her self-conception.

"I've always loved our neighborhood, its mix of African, Arab, working-class French," she said. "For years, we lived in what I now realize was an illusion of solidarity. In kindergarten, my son learned to cook African dishes; my daughter was taught Arabic calligraphy. Now that's finished. The young mothers picking up their children from preschool wear head scarves; teenagers born in France speak Arabic in the streets -- before, never. Their spirit of rejection is absolute."

Secular French Jews of Stora's generation have felt the impulse to return to their roots before. As Stora pointed out, she, like thousands of girls born around 1960, was named after the cinema sex kitten Brigitte Bardot, but for her own children she chose names from the Hebrew Bible. "I suppose I felt the need for my own moorings," she said. Even so, her children have embraced a much stronger form of Jewish self-identification -- one that is all the more militant for finding itself besieged. "Because of anti-Semitism," she said, "my children feel more radically Jewish than I ever did. Their attachment to Israel has become absolutely primary."

At first, Stora was gratified to see her children drawn unselfconsciously to their Jewish identity. Her son asked for a bar mitzvah; her daughter wore a Star of David made of sequins to parties -- a gesture Stora said she could not have imagined making in her own adolescence. But her gratification has faded. "Now," she said, "my heart sinks when my children come home saying, 'Mama, it's hard being a Jew.' For them, it means a constant low-level barrage of hazing, blows. These days, my daughter hides her Star of David under her shirt."

Hanna, the teenage daughter, explained: "If I wear it, my friends jump on me: 'Where do you think you're living? Take that thing off!' At school, it's cool to be anti-feuj" - feuj means Jew in verlan, a popular street slang. "Kids say, 'This pen doesn't work; it's feuj.' In the cafeteria, it's 'Why are you eating alone like a feuj?' It's just a way of kidding, but I find it hard to live with."

Stora said that when she complained to Hanna's teacher about the anti-Semitic remarks, the teacher was dismissive. "Of course it's because of Sharon,'' Stora recalled the teacher saying. "I'm surprised your daughter takes it so personally."

The worsening of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has created painful rifts among French Jewish intellectuals, aggravating the relations between those who feel dutybound to condemn Israel's human rights abuses and those who maintain that support for Israel is a prime obligation of diaspora Jews, especially in a political climate rife with anti-Zionism. Even if they are critical of Sharon's leadership, many French Jews resist what the lawyer and activist Serge Klarsfeld has called the pressure to become "political Marranos" -- Jews called upon to renounce Israel much as Jews during the Spanish Inquisition were compelled to renounce their faith.

In a widely condemned polemic that appeared on the French Muslim Web site Oumma.com, Tariq Ramadan, a well-known Swiss Muslim philosopher, accused a number of leading French Jewish intellectuals -- including the philosophers Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut -- of having betrayed their commitment to the universal ideals of the French Republic for a narrow sectarianism. (Read: Zionism.) What shocked French readers most about Ramadan's essay was that he explicitly identified his targets as being Jewish (including, notably, one who wasn't) -- an argumentative tactic that until recently stood in flagrant violation of the Republican taboo against racial or ethnic profiling.

Most European intellectuals insist on a distinction between even the fiercest criticism of Israel and an endorsement of anti-Semitism. Recently, however, this distinction has blurred. During demonstrations in May 2002 organized by France's mainstream antiracist organizations, protesters shouted anti-Semitic slogans and tried to attack a couple of passers-by whom they believed to be Jewish. Veteran leftists like Stora, who find themselves and their children confronting a new and very real anti-Semitism, feel abandoned by their former comrades. "For 15 years," she said, "I was a militant in the Communist Revolutionary League. We fought for the rights of women, homosexuals, immigrants. In the 80's, we were at the forefront of the antiracist movement." In 1990, she noted, after the desecration of a Jewish cemetery at Carpentras -- presumed to have been the act of European-born neo-Nazis -- 100,000 people marched in protest in Paris, with the Socialist president Francois Mitterand leading the way. Yet today, when synagogues are firebombed, she complained, the left is silent because the anti-Jewish violence is perceived as coming from radical Muslims, whose cause the left has adopted as its own.

With bitter humor, Stora summed up the generational shift in the French left, from the anticlericalism of Zola's time to today's sympathy for Islamists: "The father and grandfather devoured priests, and the sons demonstrate in favor of head scarves!"

The rise of anti-semitic incidents in France began with the outbreak of the second intifada, and ever since the violence has closely followed world events. On Oct. 3, 2000, not long after Ariel Sharon's controversial visit to the Temple Mount, a synagogue in the Parisian suburb of Villepinte was set on fire. Within weeks, four more synagogues, mainly around Paris, were firebombed, and 19 more attacks on Jewish schools, houses, businesses and other institutions were reported.

There was a sharp spike in violence after Sept. 11 and then again during the Israeli Army's assault on the West Bank town of Jenin in April 2002, when the Ministry of the Interior reported 395 anti-Jewish incidents around France. In the spring of that year in Perpignan, the southern town where I live, fear gripped what had been a rather laid-back provincial Sephardic community: cement barricades were raised around the synagogue; policemen body-searched anyone seeking admission; congregants who once gathered in the street after services disappeared quickly down alleys, thrusting telltale skullcaps into their jacket pockets.

At first, the Socialist French government was painfully slow to react. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and his colleagues appeared unable or unwilling to acknowledge either the systemic discrimination faced by North African immigrants and their children or the plight of Jews who, for the first time since Vichy, were being persecuted for their religion. When Jospin visited the West Bank, Palestinian students pelted him with stones for his perceived lack of sympathy for their cause. Many French Jews, too, were devastated when Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine dismissed the anti-Semitic violence in France as "hooliganism" and when a public prosecutor described three arsonists who were convicted of burning a synagogue in Montpellier as "petty delinquents."

All this has changed under the center-right government of Jacques Chirac, who was re-elected in 2002 on the strength of a far harsher view of "delinquency." Nicolas Sarkozy, Chirac's ruthlessly energetic minister of the interior, has waged a "zero tolerance" war on hate crime while also taking steps to improve the position in French society of North African immigrants and their children -- creating an official Muslim council, for instance, and advocating affirmative action in government appointments.

Chirac is a smooth showman for whom most Frenchmen profess at best a weary tolerance, but he has his moments. It was Chirac who, in 1995, insisted that the French bore a collective responsibility for the Vichy government's crimes against the Jews and Chirac who tried to press Britain and the United States into intervening further in the Bosnian slaughter. Last November, after the burning of a Jewish school in the Parisian suburb of Gagny, Chirac went on national television and declared that "an attack against a French Jew is an attack against France."

Since then, the Chirac government has made the crackdown on anti-Semitism a top priority. It has taken a series of emergency steps, from tighter policing of Jewish sites to quicker investigation and prosecution of hate crimes to proposing a heightened focus on the Holocaust in the public school curriculum. In recent weeks, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has moved to block the broadcasts in France of Al-Manar, Hezbollah's television station, which shows anti-Semitic propaganda. But nothing has grabbed as much attention as the government's proposed "anti-head-scarf" law, which would ban the wearing of "conspicuous" religious signs in school. Joseph Sitruk, France's grand rabbi, has supported the head-scarf ban, and many French Jews own up to a guilty sense of relief at the reassertion of an official secularism -- from which French Jews historically have benefited. Younger Jews may feel more Jewish than their parents did, but even Brigitte Stora's daughter, Hanna, says she believes that a sequined Star of David is something you wear to parties, not to school.

Thanks to tougher policing, the ministry of the interior reports that anti-Jewish acts in 2003 declined by 36 percent and anti-Semitic threats by 37 percent. But even as France struggles to vanquish its demons, French anti-Semitism is routinely seized upon by others -- by American conservatives, in and outside the Bush administration, eager to discredit a contentious ally; by world Jewish organizations and Israeli officials, eager to cast an ugly light on France's pro-Arab sympathies. Earlier this month, the Israeli minister for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs, Natan Sharansky, announced that contrary to official French estimates, anti-Semitic incidents in France had in fact doubled in 2003 and that if the French government didn't address the problem, it could expect a massive exodus of Jews to Israel.

With so many firemen fanning the flames, it is all the more necessary to accurately identify the very real anti-Jewish hatred alive in contemporary Europe. Is the man who was reported to a watchdog group for refusing his employee a day off on Yom Kippur an anti-Semite or just a jerk? On the other hand, a lot of old-fashioned anti-Semites have managed to clothe a disreputable hatred in the raiments of "the Palestinian cause."

After leaving Brigitte Stora's apartment, I went to visit the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut at a cafe across from the Jardins du Luxembourg. A rumpled, bespectacled 54-year-old, Finkielkraut comes from France's well-established Eastern European Jewish bourgeoisie. In his 1981 book, "The Imaginary Jew," he described his postwar upbringing as a child whose own relation to the long history of Jewish persecution was bookish, theoretical. But his engagement with anti-Semitism today is now anything but theoretical. He has loudly sounded the alarm about what he calls a new "Islamo-progressive" alliance, in which the political left tolerates an age-old form of racial hatred that it has legitimized by calling it anti-Zionism.

"The loathing of Israel today is so thick you could cut it with a knife," he said. "There is a consistent Nazification of the Jewish state: the memory of the Holocaust is always turned against Jews. Antiracism has become the contemporary key to understanding the world. In post-nationalist Europe, it's the Jews now who are called racist in their stubborn adherence to a territorial sovereignty Europe has only just renounced and the Palestinians whom the left certifies as kosher. Of course, Sharon is an extraordinary alibi."

For European Jewry, anti-Semitism has the bitter taste of repetition. The school where Stora's children's classmates today declare themselves "anti-feuj" bears a plaque commemorating the Jewish schoolchildren who were rounded up there and deported to the death camps. Which is why, when Jewish-owned businesses are once again being sacked, some Jews wonder whether they're living in the 1930's.

But some comparisons, however tempting, are not useful. Today, the people who shout "Mort aux juifs!" in concert halls and throw stones at Jewish school buses are not agents of the state. They are not on the verge of coming to positions of power. They are, for the most part, second-generation Maghrebi (North Africans from Morocco, Algeria or Tunisia), many of whom have grown up in the decaying housing projects of the city outskirts, or banlieues, and for whom the promise of the Republican integrationist ethic is belied by high rates of unemployment and institutional racism. Many are born-again Muslims, trying to reclaim a heritage that is thin because their parents were illiterate in Arabic and uninstructed in Islam. They feel despised and disenfranchised, jealous of what they regard as the luxury and influence of Jewish institutions.

"The Jews have everything; we have nothing" is a complaint that I have heard often from French Muslims, many of whom say that a recent spate of anti-Muslim violence -- the vandalizing of mosques, the desecrations of tombs -- has not been addressed by the French government or news media (nor has the small and underreported core of assaults by Jewish extremists on Muslims and Jewish peace activists). "There's a hierarchy of racism," Mouloud Aounit, secretary general of the antiracist movement M.R.A.P., said to me. "If a synagogue is burned, the president and the prime minister hop on a plane to offer condolences. If a mosque is burned, nothing." Many French Muslims watch virulently anti-Semitic programs via satellite television, they surf Islamist Web sites that show Muslims being persecuted by non-Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, Palestine and Iraq and they glorify their own daily frustrations and failures by (in the current catch phrase) "bringing the intifada home to the banlieue."

Certainly, the story of anti-Arab discrimination in France is real and has become no easier since Sept. 11. Even French conservatives admit that their country's record on integrating the Maghrebi has been dismal. In Perpignan, I have seen bouncers at chic bars turn away young French North African men and women, and I have encountered landladies who with perfect impunity tell callers that, yes, the apartment's available, but they don't rent to Arabs. S.O.S. Racisme, an antiracist organization, discovered that a bank turned down a job applicant when his name was Raouf but offered him the job when he reapplied as Thierry. It's no wonder that many young French Maghrebi, tired of being second-class citizens, have opted for a more valorizing identity, immersing themselves in varieties of Islam ranging from the most white-bread Sunnism to the paranoid realms of fundamentalism.

I asked every Muslim I met in the course of reporting this article what he or she felt about Jews -- and asked Jews what they felt about Muslims. Most of the Muslims I spoke with expressed revulsion at the anti-Semitism being drummed up by Islamist demagogues. Saida, a 40-year-old Algerian-born social worker who insisted on being referred to by only her first name, lives in a housing project adjoining Trappes, one of the more notoriously fundamentalist banlieues of Paris, where a synagogue burned to the ground in 2000. A "modern" Muslim, Saida doesn't eat pork but doesn't mind if her children do, celebrates both Christmas and the Muslim holidays and smokes but doesn't drink. She said that she was disgusted by the bigotry of the born-again Islamist vigilantes who have wreaked havoc on Trappes' Jewish community. She complained bitterly of being harangued "by kids whose diapers you changed, who've only just got out of prison on a drug bust, and now their 10-year-old daughters are wearing head scarves."

Still, Saida testified to a residue of anti-Jewishness in popular Maghrebian culture, the belief that Jews are somehow ritually unclean: "I've heard that some people think the word 'Jew'" -- juif -- "comes from the Arabic for 'carrion'" -- djeefa. "After a battle in which all the Jewish men were killed, Abraham told the women to sleep with the corpses, and that's how the Jewish people survived."

For Hajiba (who also insisted that her last name not be used), born in Morocco and raised in a housing project in Strasbourg, the current wave of anti-Jewish violence is best understood as the product not of old-country prejudice but of an imported fundamentalism whose arrival in France she herself witnessed. Well before the second intifada and the recent flurry of violent incidents on French soil, she said, fundamentalists transformed the way many French Muslims regarded Jews. A tall, majestic woman with huge eyes like black grapes and an air of intense drama, Hajiba described the changes that took place in her easygoing Strasbourg banlieue in the early 80's.

"After the Iranian revolution," she said, "suddenly radical Islam arrived in France." Its growth was made possible by a legal loophole according to which foreign governments -- most notably Saudi Arabia's -- were able, through the medium of charitable foundations, to build their own mosques and appoint their own fundamentalist imams in France, a dispensation that is only just being questioned.

This newly imported Wahhabi-style Islam contained a high-octane dosage of anti-Semitism. "Until 1980, there was no talk of 'the Jews,'" Hajiba recalled. "In Morocco, we had Jewish neighbors, although they didn't come to our house the way Christians did." It was the fundamentalists who started stirring up an anti-Jewish discourse in the banlieues. Hajiba added, however, that today, both sides, Muslim and Jew, are responsible for inflaming the problem.

On Jan. 17, some 7,000 people marched from the Place de la Republique to protest the newly proposed law banning head scarves from public schools. There were Muslim women wearing everything from head bandannas to full-length black robes. There was a phalanx of turbaned men, wearing the traditional shalwar kameez, from a Belgian Islamist party. Many of the marchers, who had learned about the event from postings on Muslim Web sites, were portraying the ban as a civil rights issue: green ribbons were pinned to chests in an echo of the AIDS ribbon; a poster proclaimed "It's My Business What I Do With My Hair."

But this was not a typical civil rights demonstration, for it was led by a man who is considered to be France's most infamous Muslim anti-Semite: Mohamed Latreche, a Tunisian-born founder of the tiny Strasbourg-based Muslim Party of France. He stood in a flatbed truck, and he teased the television cameras: "Come meet the real anti-Zionists."

Two days before, I had met Latreche at Association al-Ghadir, a Lebanese Shiite mosque in the Paris suburb of Montreuil that is linked with Hezbollah, a group Latreche likens to De Gaulle's Free French. Latreche is a glossy, high-spirited man who was sporting an embroidered silk shirt he had just had made by a tailor in Damascus. He was flanked by bodyguards, one of whom filmed our interview -- either as propaganda for the party or to make sure I didn't distort his words. (Latreche is once again facing the threat of legal action for hate speech.)

Latreche represents the meeting point of radical Islam and the European far right: in February 2003, he traveled to Baghdad as a ''human shield'' with Herve Van Laethem, head of the extreme right-wing Belgian party Nation; he declares himself "proud" to have as a friend Serge Thion, a notorious Holocaust revisionist. Latreche's signature theme is the Jew as Nazi. "Where's the difference between Zionism and Nazism?" he demanded. "Israel is a nation founded on the idea of racial superiority. They dare talk about Nazi concentration camps when they are doing the same thing to Palestinians. Bush, Sharon, Hitler, what's the difference?"

When I asked if he believed Israel to be a U.S. proxy, Latreche laughed merrily. "If only! It's America that's a proxy of Israel. You'll see. If another country comes along that's more powerful, Israel will drop you, just as it dropped Britain." Latreche is a professional provocateur who knows that saying Zionism is Nazism makes headlines. After the January march -- which was boycotted by every mainstream Muslim organization in France -- he garnered the front page of the national newspapers as well as a lead editorial in Le Monde denouncing his anti-Semitism.

Latreche's ability to continue to translate infamy into influence will depend on how well France manages to resolve its Arab-Jewish conflict. For two centuries, France has embodied a Republican ideal of common citizenship, according to which "difference" is something you practice at home. French people don't flaunt the fact that their grandparents were Armenian or Portuguese. Now the old integrationist ethic is beginning to crumble, as it has already done in America, under the onslaught of identity politics.

What strikes me, listening to French youths, is how many use the word "French" to describe someone other than themselves. Nasty, a hip-hop musician and Muslim who was born and raised in France (and whose real name is Mourad Saadi), told me that when he informs his friends that he couldn't care less if his future wife's a virgin, they retort, "Stop playing the Francais." More startling, considering how long Jews have been part of the French establishment, was when Hanna, Stora's daughter, told me that in her school "Jews stick with Jews and the French with the French."

The French state, once so confident in its fundamental assumptions, is undergoing a painful period of self-questioning. The conflict between French Maghrebi and French Jews, evoking the twin demons of colonialism and Vichy collaboration, strikes to the core.

Yet France, for all these doubts, remains a society in which the government wields enormous power to shape public attitudes. "I'm not interested in the socioeconomics behind anti-Semitism," Sammy Alain Ghozlan, an Algerian Jewish ex-cop who founded S.O.S. Vérité-Sécurité, said. "I'm interested in policing it." Sarkozy is cracking the whip, and France is seeing the results. "Before, when Jewish kids were beaten up in class, they were the ones who got moved," he said. "Now it's their assailants. In recent months, the violence has definitely calmed down."

Whether France has the will to negotiate a lasting peace between its Arabs and Jews remains to be seen. But how it chooses to adjudicate the claims of identity politics and those of the Republic is of crucial importance in a newly retribalized world.

Fernanda Eberstadt is a novelist who lives in France. Her most recent book is "The Furies."


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