History is repeating itself for Jews in France, most of whom have escaped antisemitism in North Africa. The Wall St Journal reports: (with thanks: Lily)
The four Jews killed at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris
Friday, Johanna Bettach, a pregnant mother of two, stocks up on weekend
supplies at the Hyper Cacher supermarket. Last week, just before she
was getting ready to shop, an Islamist militantgunned down four Jewish customers at the kosher store and took many others hostage.
The Hyper Cacher attack, one of the deadliest against France’s Jewish
community since World War II, spurred outrage across the country. It was
by no means isolated, coming against a backdrop of acts of violence and
three months earlier, Ms. Bettach said, she found her mezuzah—a box
containing a parchment of Torah verses that religious Jews attach to
their doors—torn off and thrown out.
is going from bad to worse in France, and we know that it is not going
to stop,” said Ms. Bettach, 33 years old. “I can’t sleep at night
anymore. All day when my kids are at school, I worry. I just don’t see
any future for my children in this country.”
of France’s roughly half-million Jews are, like Ms. Bettach, of North
African origin, Jewish community officials estimate. Their families
moved to the safety of France mostly in the period between Israel’s
creation in 1948 and Algeria’s independence in 1962, as persecution and
discrimination emptied out the once-huge Jewish communities of former
French possessions across the Mediterranean.
has the world’s third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the
U.S., according to most estimates. “We need to act,” Prime Minister
Manuel Valls said on Saturday as he paid homage to the victims of the
Hyper Cacher attack. “France without Jews is no longer France.”
In 2013, the last full year for which data have been compiled, there were
423 reported anti-Semitic incidents in France, compared with 82 in 1999,
according to the Jewish Community Security Service, a joint body
created by France’s main Jewish organizations that compiles data based
on police reports.
of the recent upsurge of anti-Semitic violence in France has occurred
in rundown towns likes Sarcelles, a north Paris suburb where Jews of
Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian origin live alongside Muslim immigrants
from the same countries.
While feelings of fear and distress
through the French Jewish community after the Hyper Cacher attack, they
are particularly strong among those of North African origin, with their
memories of forced exodus still raw.
had come to the French Republic with the conviction that things would
not happen that way again,” said Elisabeth Schemla, a prominent French
Jewish writer and magazine editor who moved from her native Algeria as a
teenager in the 1960s. “Now, they have a feeling that they are reliving
what they themselves or their parents had lived through already.”
Bettach said her sister moved to New York a decade ago and two of her
husband’s brothers emigrated to Israel. On Sunday, two days after the
Hyper Cacher attack, she began paperwork for moving to Israel.
Algeria, my father had to flee from one day to another because if he
hadn’t left, he would have been killed,” said Ms. Bettach. “At least we
still have time to prepare, to take our possessions with us.”
6,900 French Jews moved to Israel in 2014, up from 3,300 in 2013,
according to the Jewish Agency for Israel, an Israeli organization that
oversees the process. The number is expected to grow to 10,000 in 2015,
the agency said. Many others are moving to Israel informally, or leaving
France for the U.S., Britain and even Germany, Jewish community
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met French Jewish community
representatives over the weekend, said Israel is preparing for increased
immigration of Jews from France and other countries he said have been
hit by anti-Semitism. “I wish to tell all French and European Jews:
Israel is your home,” he said in Paris.
attacks occur elsewhere in Europe. One lethal attack outside France
came in May 2014 in the form of a shooting spree that killed four people
at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. It was allegedly perpetrated by a
French Islamist, who is currently awaiting trial. He hasn’t entered a
plea and according to his lawyer declined to comment.
France, attacks have been particularly violent. On July 20 in
Sarcelles, a pro-Palestinian rally turned into a confrontation that led
to the burning of several Jewish-owned businesses. Two years earlier, an
Islamist gunman killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in
the city of Toulouse. In 2006, cellphone salesman Ilan Halimi in the
Paris area was kidnapped by a gang who held him for ransom and tortured
him to death for three weeks for being Jewish, burning his skin with
acid and gasoline, according to police reports. The perpetrators were
tried and convicted.
are in a situation of war,” said Roger Cukierman, president of the
Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, or CRIF, an
umbrella group representing France’s Jewish organizations.
French government has said on many occasions that it will do all it can
to protect the country’s Jews. Asked if violence against Jews is on the
rise in France, a spokeswoman for President François Hollande’s office
said that the “fight against anti-Semitism is a permanent engagement.”
part of its response to the killings at the kosher store, the French
government appointed a special official in charge of Jewish security and
deployed 4,700 troops to guard 717 Jewish sites across the country. In
Sarcelles, mothers now push their prams into the Jewish crèche past
three policemen standing ready with rifles.
Bettach said she appreciates what the government is doing now, with
armed troops staying overnight in sleeping bags at the Jewish school
attended by her children, aged 7 and 1. “But we know they will not stay
there forever,” she added. “And once they go, what will we do then?”
four million people demonstrated in France against last week’s attacks,
in which Amedy Coulibaly, a follower of Islamic State, killed four
people at Hyper Cacher and killed a policewoman, and brothers Chérif and
Said Kouachi, followers of al Qaeda in Yemen, gunned down 12 people at
Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine.
Muslim community leaders in France have condemned the attacks. “The feeling of
the French Muslims is shame and fear,” said Slimane Nadour, head of
communications at the Grand Mosque of Paris. “Shame because people could
commit those crimes in the name of Islam, and fear because we feel that
our community is being blamed for the actions of a small minority of
extremists commanded from overseas.”
Asked whether the French Jews have a reason to be increasingly afraid, Mr.
Nadour said: “Everyone in France, including the Muslims, is afraid of
the radicals. Muslims themselves are the biggest target of radical
Many French Jews say the level of public outrage was relatively muted after the 2012 killings in Toulouse.
“Even if the French are against anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic attacks don’t
provoke the same display of emotion due to their repetition, it gets
trivialized,” said Maurice Lévy, chief executive of French advertising
company Publicis Groupe SA . “We have to fight against this trivialization.”
At the end of the 18th century, revolutionary France removed Medieval
restrictions against its Jews and led the push to give equal rights to
long-oppressed Jewish communities across the continent. Many of its Jews
prided themselves on assimilating into the mainstream. A Jewish prime
minister governed France in the years before the outbreak of World War
About a quarter of France’s prewar Jewish population of around 300,000
perished in the Holocaust, killed by the Nazis and their French
collaborators, according to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial and
research center in Jerusalem.
Then, the numbers started growing again, thanks to the postwar influx from
North Africa. These newcomers from North Africa were often more
religious than France’s established Jewish communities, sparking a boom
in the creation of Jewish schools, kosher restaurants and places of
worship—turning France into the center of Jewish life in Europe.
When you reach that high, you cannot envisage for yourself or your children
the future of Jews who have to live in hiding,” said Michel Gurfinkiel,
head of the Jean Jacques Rousseau Institute, a Paris think tank, and a
member of the board of governors of the union of French synagogues.
Over the past decade, however, the country’s Jews increasingly began feeling
threats from a new direction—targeted by Muslim militants angered by
Israel’s actions in the Middle East.
There were similar attacks in the past, such as a 1982 bombing that killed
six people in a Jewish restaurant in the Marais district of Paris.
Those, however, were mostly perpetrated by Palestinian terrorist groups.
By contrast, the second Palestinian intifada in 2000 spurred a wave of
anti-Semitic violence by France’s Muslim youths. That wave has yet to
abate, with spikes closely tied to events in the Middle East, according
to the Jewish Community Security Service.
The 423 reported anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2013 included 49 acts
of “physical violence” and 152 incidents of insults or verbal threats
and gestures, according to the service’s report. This means that in
2013, 40% of racist violence in France targeted Jews, who represent less
than 1% of the French population, the report said. Many more incidents
just don't get reported, Jewish organizations said.
Delphine Sultan said her daughter decided to leave for Israel when some fellow
students at her university south of Paris refused to observe a minute of
silence for the Toulouse victims. “She came home in shock and said: ‘I
don’t have a future here,’ ” said Ms. Sultan, a 48-year-old Parisian of
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For Jews in France, plus ca change