In March, an Islamist gunman in Toulouse, France, murdered three Jewish children as well as one of their fathers in a shooting spree outside of a school. The crime was widely condemned (especially when at first it was thought to be the work of a neo-Nazi rather than a Muslim), but the link between this outbreak of deadly violence and the rising tide of anti-Semitic incitement throughout Europe was clear. Yet, rather than the murders signaling a turning point in the battle against Jew-hatred in France and Western Europe, it may have been just an indication that anti-Semitic incidents are becoming commonplace, a conclusion that has been reinforced by a shocking increase in attacks on French Jews since March.
Nevertheless, the latest indication of the dark climate in France is all the more painful because it involves the same school that was targeted by the Toulouse shooter. As the European Jewish Press reports, on Wednesday night, a 17-year-old student from the same Ozar HaTorah school that was the site of the March murders was attacked in a Lyon train station. The student, who was wearing “identifiable religious symbols” was set upon and beaten and subjected to insults. The teenager reported the attack and the assailants were caught, but the message from the incident is clear: it is open season in France on Jews who publicly identify themselves in this manner. If even after the shock over what happened in Toulouse violence against Jews is going up, it is no longer possible to put it down to the actions of isolated individuals. The incessant drumbeat of anti-Semitism— often rooted in anti-Zionist prejudice against Israel and all who publicly identify with the Jewish state and Jewish identity — throughout Europe is inciting violence that can no longer be ignored.
The problem here is not just al-Qaeda sympathizers such as the Toulouse shooter or the importation of Jew-hatred from the Middle East that have taken root among French Muslims. It is the way that such views have melded with attacks from intellectuals on Zionism, Israel and its supporters in such a way as to dignify the sordid hatred flung at Jews on the streets of Europe. There is a long and dishonorable history of anti-Semitism in France, but what we are witnessing now is an updated version of traditional bias that is casting a shadow over the future of the Jewish community there.
It was bad enough when such sentiments were linked with the traditional right in France and then Muslim immigrants, but nowadays Jew-hatred is part of the parlance of so-called human rights groups that vent bias against the Jewish state. Thus, while the French government condemns such incidents, anti-Semitism continues to grow, and Jews must now wonder whether it is safe to go about wearing anything that might give away their identity. That is no way for anyone to live in a democracy, but that is the situation in France. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to envision much of a future for Jews in Europe.