To the Editor:
Roger Kaplan’s thoughtful analysis of the extent of anti-Semitism in today’s France, “Incident at Carpentras” [August], misses one key point. The anti-Semitism of Jean-Marie Le Pen, his followers and fellow thinkers, is the scum that floats on the surface of a frothing brew of racism. The North African Arab or black from French-speaking Africa has replaced the Jew as the enemy. It may well be that French anti-Semitism does not make life more difficult or fearful (in the sense of physical danger, social harassment, or employment difficulties) for Jews, but French racism poisons and renders miserable the life of blacks and Arabs in France.
Coming from England, I am used to the coded anti-Jewishness of my fellow countrymen, but after ten years of living in France I am shocked at the openly anti-Semitic remarks that are made by the French. Jean-Marie Le Pen is crudely anti-Semitic in his public discourse, yet French television treats him with dignity and respect. Raymond Barre, the former Prime Minister and a well-established political figure, remarked in 1980 after a bombing outside a Jewish restaurant in Paris in which four were killed that it was all the worse because “One of them was French.” The other three were Jews, you see. At a humdrum level, I am surprised at how French people, including teenagers, identify someone as Jewish—“C’est un juif”—in banal conversation and to an extent which certainly would not be normal in England, America, or Germany.
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