Sunday, November 18, 2012

France: 'The yoghurt's expiry date is now'

 The scene after the terrorist attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in March 2012.

 You might agree or disagree with Michel Gurfinkiel's view that the French President, Francois Hollande, has woken up to antisemitism in France - and events in Gaza will probably only make matters worse. One thing is certain - from bitter experience of the Shoah and their expulsion from Arab and Muslim lands, many French Jews already see the writing on the wall, or as Gurfinkiel quaintly puts it in the Middle East Forum, the expiry date on the yoghurt pot.

(..) an elderly gentleman of Moroccan-Jewish descent confided to me last week: "The yogurt's expiry date is now." The gentleman elaborated:
Back in Morocco, we used to be members of the national elite. Right after independence, in the late 1950s, my father was seen as a close friend of King Mohamed V. He had access to everybody in the government. He held important positions. Then, one day, he told his stunned family that we were leaving for France. And forsaking the best part of our money and belongings. We, the children, were aghast: "What is going on?" we asked. And our father told us: "The yogurt's expiry date is now. From now on, we have no future anymore in Morocco. We must go, as long as we can go."
Indeed, most Jews left Morocco in less than twenty years, and most had to relinquish most of their goods upon leaving. There were 350,000 Moroccan Jews — out of a global population of 10 million — in 1956, when the French and Spanish protectorates were lifted and the "Sharifian Empire," as it was then known, resumed full sovereignty. In the early 1970s, only a few thousand were left.
Some Jews left for Israel even before independence, when the French still ruled most of the country. Most left for Israel, France, or Canada during the first ten years of King Hassan II's reign, from 1961 to 1971. Hassan II was then playing the "progressive," pan-Arabist, and proto-Islamist card, and gave free rein to anti-Jewish intimidation or harassment.

He changed his mind when he survived two assassination attempts, in 1971 and 1972, and realized that some of his hitherto closest advisors were involved. Some say that he then remembered an old prophecy according to which the Alawi dynasty he belonged to would last as long as Jews would be found in Morocco. Some others more soberly say that he needed American aid to survive, and that America paid much attention to his attitude towards Jews. Whatever his motivation, the king made sure after 1972 that the last Jews still living in Morocco should stay, and that even some other Jews should be cajoled into starting business or buying property in the country. All in all, a residual three thousand-soul community has thus been maintained to this day. (But its young people are moving away every year, never to return - ed)

As for Mohamed VI, who succeeded Hassan II in 1999, he has so far been a friend of the Moroccan Jewish community, both in and outside Morocco, and a genuine moderate in Israeli-Arab affairs. The 2011 constitution — passed as the Moroccan answer to the so-called "Arab Spring" — specifically mentions the Jewish heritage as part and parcel of the national Moroccan heritage, a noble and praiseworthy move on the part of an Arab country.

But the point is that at least 98% of the counted Moroccan Jews were induced to leave Morocco under very short notice. Which gave some weight to what the elderly gentleman had to say next:
I never thought anything like that would happen to me again, and in France at that, of all countries. … But here we are. The expiry date has been reached again. We must go. My children and grandchildren must go. And I, an old man, must go too.
That most Jews in France feel utterly insecure by now and that many consider leaving for another country is an open secret. Interior Minister Manuel Valls — who is seen as even more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel as Hollande — insists that Jews are an integral part of the French nation, and that "France cannot countenance" a mass exodus of its "children"). Which means that such a mass exodus is indeed being discussed.

French Jews certainly love France and are loyal to the French nation. On the other hand, they are either the survivors or the survivors' children of two major cataclysms: the Shoah in the 1940s and the near-total expulsion from Islamic countries from the late 1940s to the 1980s. All of them know or were told by their closest relatives about previous "expiry dates."

The Toulouse massacre was certainly a turning point. But more anti-Jewish violence was reported throughout the summer in France. It culminated in an attack against a kosher supermarket in Sarcelles, in the Paris suburbs, on September 19. Two weeks later, on October 6, the French police dismantled an Islamist cell that was apparently involved in the Sarcelles attack and was planning more attacks, including the assassination of several Jewish leaders. What was noteworthy about it was that its members were mostly converts to Islam rather than Muslims by birth.

Le Monde, the authoritative if somewhat left-wing newspaper of France, two days later published a landmark editorial:
A sinister fact was validated over the weekend. There are in France groups that are decisively engaged in anti-Jewish violence. … All in the name of Islam, and of an unbelievable ideological hodgepodge where the Muslim community's concerns over the Middle East coalesce with questions over Afghanistan. … What is however really new and really frightening is that the anti-Jewish violence borrows a lot from the old European anti-Semitism that prevailed at the end of the 19th century. … And that the Internet spreads the anti-Semitic renewal through a myriad of anti-Western sites.
The link between anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, Islamism, and global anti-Western militancy is not breaking news, to say the least. What is important here is that Hollande (at least implicitly), Valls (much more explicitly), and Le Monde and the French intellectual and political establishment it stands for do not attempt any longer to deny it or to underestimate it.

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1 comment:

Empress Trudy said...

In 1895 Herzl stated that efforts to combat antisemitism in Europe were comical and counterproductive because the will never amount to anything. The only answer is aliyah.