Commentary Magazine


French Jewry’s Moment of Truth

On July 13, Bernard Abouaf, a French Jewish journalist, posted on his Facebook wall: “I just passed through one of the truest moments in my life.” A bit earlier, he had been an eyewitness to a pogrom attempt.

About one hundred Muslim thugs had gathered in front of the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue in Central Paris, a few blocks away from Place de la Bastille (Bastille Circle), and threatened to storm it. Two to three hundred worshipers, who had gathered for a pro-Israel religious service, were locked inside. There were five police officers to protect them–and two dozen Jewish youths trained in martial arts who were members of the Jewish community sponsored Security Organization or of the more militant Jewish Defense League.

For Abouaf, whose family is of Tunisian Jewish descent, the whole scene looked like a reenactment of the storming and torching of the Great Synagogue in Tunis during the Six-Day War in 1967: a traumatic event that accelerated the flight of Tunisian Jews to France or to Israel.

“What I have seen today,” he remarked, “is Arab hatred against Jews. Pure hatred. Right in the middle of Paris. Don’t try to ‘explain’ or ‘understand’, it was hatred, period.” Irving Kristol famously said that a neoconservative was a liberal mugged by reality. Something similar was befalling Abouaf. This was the “truth” he was so eager to share.

The Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue was not stormed. Its bunker-like shape (it was built in 1962) and its strong, straight, iron gates were probably helpful. Even more effective were the young Jewish defenders, who did not shy away from confronting the Muslim rioters. Older Jewish men and women, some in their late forties or early fifties, fought back as well. “The whole thing looked like street guerilla,” one witness said. At least two of the synagogue’s defenders–including a young Chabad chassid–were severely wounded and rushed to a nearby hospital.

The prime minister (and former interior minister) of France Manuel Valls called Serge Benhaim, the synagogue chairman, on his cell phone to assure him that more police forces, including CRS (anti-riot units) would soon be dispatched. It took some time before his orders were implemented; once deployed, even the heavily equipped CRS had to engage into hard fighting and some of them were wounded. Eventually, the worshipers were not just evacuated from the synagogue but escorted away to safer streets or a Metro station: “I will not forget the fear in their eyes as they went out,” wrote Abouaf. This time, it was not just the Tunis pogrom he had in mind, but “scenes of the Holocaust itself.”

Similar incidents occurred all over Greater Paris and France at about the same time. The morning before–that is to say, on the Sabbath–a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a synagogue at Aulnay-sous-Bois, a Parisian suburb. At Asnieres, another suburb, the police said a Muslim mob of 300 gathered in front of the synagogue and shouted anti-Israel slogans for about half an hour. Smaller group of Muslim mobsters attempted to get into the Belleville synagogue, in northeastern Paris, and into the Tournelles synagogue, in the Marais district.

No less horrid were the many pro-Palestinian rallies, in Paris, Marseilles, Lille, Bordeaux, and other cities, complete with Palestinian and ISIS flags and proudly displayed fake Fajr rockets. The demonstrators–almost all of them of North African or Subsaharan African origin–shouted explicitly anti-Semitic slogans, notably “Itbah al-Yahud!” (Slaughter the Jews, in Arabic.) Any time they would spot Jewish-owned shops or professional offices they would cover the doors or windows with stickers urging, “to boycott the racist State of Israel.” On Sunday, several thousands pro-Palestinian and pro-jihadist demonstrators marched for miles across the city, from the heavily Muslim Barbes neighborhood to places with large Jewish populations and many synagogues like the Bastille area. The mobsters that attacked the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue were some of them.

“We reached a new and very ominous stage in the deterioration of Jewish life in France,” remarked Joel Mergui, the chairman of Consistoire, the National Union of French Synagogues. Sammy Ghozlan, a former police commissioner and the head of BNVCA, an anti-Semitism monitoring organization, observed even more bluntly: “This is going to be a turning point for most French Jews. More people will move to Israel or other places. People who never considered such options are changing their mind. There is a widespread sense of betrayal or of an impending catastrophe.”

One level of betrayal is what Claude Barouch, one of the leaders of the French Union of Jewish Professionals (UPJF), called “a global media failure.” Indeed, according to Jean Szlamowicz, professor of English literature at the Paris Sorbonne University, many media, from Agence France-Presse (AFP)–the basic news source for French-language media all over the world–to national newspapers or radio or TV channels, either ignored or downplayed the current anti-Jewish violence or even more perversely allowed pro-Palestinian demonstrators to make their point in a seemingly reasonable way.

But then, AFP and many radio or TV media are state-owned; and even private radio and a government appointed body, the Audiovisual Media Higher Authority, supervises TV media. So much so that the main issue may be in fact the political class and the government. François Hollande, the French president, observed on July 14–Bastille Day–that “Middle Eastern conflicts should not be imported to France.” François d’Orcival, a noted columnist, rightly retorted that they have already been imported. And one may actually wonder whether the French government, either for cynical electoral reasons (the Muslim vote is growing) or just out of weakness and fear, is willing to do something about it.

There is a deadly logic in such matters. Governments that do not set the rules and do not enforce them whatever the cost are likely to disintegrate as governments. In Lille, the local préfet (government commissioner) authorized a mass pro-Palestinian and pro-jihadist demonstration on July 13. Muslim activists then planned for a second demonstration on July 14–which the préfet forbade. It took place anyhow.

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8 Responses to “French Jewry’s Moment of Truth”

  1. GERARD MULLER says:

    It’s not “French Jewry’s Moment of Truth” as much as the French government’s “moment of truth” to the extent that they have to consider more proactive efforts to control Muslim activists without further inciting them. This is nothing new in Paris or France in general. After all, the reason that there are so many Jews in France is that it was the country that provided refuge for them as it did and does for many other ethnic and religious groups. Before encouraging Jews to leave France, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to see how the government handles the situation?

    • DAVID S LEVINE says:

      We’ve ALREADY seen how they “handle” the situation. Why was there a delay in getting police forces to the Abravanel Synagogue? Isn’t that in itself a message? Hollande received over 70% of the Moslem vote and although he seems to be a better man than his voters he still NOT ADEQUATE for the challenges he faces (like another leftist I can name). The European left parties truely are “National Socialist” in their orientation.

    • ALAN NATHANSON says:

      Has the French government ever “handled the situation” as you refer to “it” in any other way other than with craven cowardice? The government clearly panders to the Islamic vote. There were similar riots against “the Jews” during the Dreyfus Affair carried out not by Muslims but by native jewhating Frenchmen. And shall we rehearse the actions of the French police during the shameful roundup of Jews in Paris at the Vel d’Hiv in 1942? Within 30 years the wonderfully “tolerant” French wake up to see
      Notre Dame converted into a mosque just as the Turks did to the churches in Constantinople in 1453.

      • GERARD MULLER says:

        It should be recalled that without France there would be no Israel today. Specifically, the ’67 war was won using French Mirages and other attack aircraft and the Yom Kippur war would have been lost without Golda Meier threatening to “go nuclear” (based on nuclear technology provided by France) if the US did not release the combat materiel being held back by Nixon/Kissinger. It should also be recalled that France provided the wire-guided anti-tank technology that enabled Israel to overcome superior Arab tank numbers. Israel only gained US support when the Arabs turned to the Soviets. Until then US State and Defense Depts. were vehemently anti-Israel, and still are to an extent today.

        The idea that all Jews should go to Israel is something that only the Iranians and Arabs would cheer because then the Iranians could use the nuclear and ballistic missile technology they are about to be granted by the US and EU to destroy most of the remaining Jews in the world. Only by Jews staying dispersed as they are along with the existence of Israel can Jews survive. Concentrating them all in Israel will only encourage their extinction.

  2. DONNA RUBIN says:

    France will not protect its Jews because it has no desire to, and because it can’t. I appreciate the Prime Minister. As Interior Minister he tried to send back and contain those who wished to destroy France. Europe is just too far gone, and the U.S. will not be far behind. The Jews will be first, then Christians and anyone else who believes in freedom and liberty.

    • MIKE BATTERMAN says:

      To suggest that it isomehow important for Jews to maintain their numbers in France is folly. That damned bell is tolling, surly for us and most probably for all non muslims as their birth rate continues to soar and craven French politicians do , well, what craven politicians inthe states do, cave to the loudest mouth and the most easillygarnered vote.
      Perhaps they mightmiss the stroll on the Champs Elysees, moonlight in Montparnasse or those great escargot at that cute corner bistro, but not to pack up for the States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Kiwiland or even friendly Italy is sheer stupidity.

  3. JAY R SHAYEVITZ says:

    This is truly the end of Jews in Europe. With the emptying out of the former Soviet Union in the late 1980’s the last major Jewish population center in continental Europe was France. With unchecked migration of Muslim Arabs into Europe (and UK), and with the rise of the anti-Israel left, Jews will no longer even be tolerated there – or anywhere else in western and central Europe. It is time to turn out the lights on European Jewry’s 2000-year history. Israel, despite its problems, seems to be the only place left in the world for organized Jewry to survive.


    News Flash!!! Europeans don’t like Jews!!! Europeans love Arabs!!! Therefore, Europeans don’t care what happens when Jews are attacked by Arabs. That’s why they don’t care when Hamas fires rockets at Israel. But gosh, Israel must not be permitted to respond for fear an Arab may be caught in the conflict because he can’t read warnings of an incoming missile, or understand a telephone call, or radio and TV warnings and instead will run to put himself and his family under an in-coming. ?Seems reasonable only to those who support savages that strap bombs on their children so they can kill Jews who’s only “crime” is being Jewish. Too bad that’s most of Islam and a lot of Europeans.

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