Wednesday, July 16, 2003

# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANTI-SEMITISM VS. ANTI-AMERICANISM: There is something amusing about French anti-Americanism. It is a strange sort of faith that considers certain carbonated beverages, hamburger franchises and animated children's films to be its mortal enemies. In political terms, this sort of anti-Americanism is little more than an adjunct to the longstanding nationalist pride that is responsible for France's periodic efforts to step on the toes of the American colossus. No wonder that the American response to such sentiments consists of patently ridiculous initiatives such as the liberation of French fries.

But French anti-Semitisim is deadly serious. The incidents described in today's WaPo are both so brazen and so violent that it is almost beyond belief. In one instance
A gang of 15 North African teenagers, some of them wielding broom handles, had invaded the grounds of a Jewish day school on Avenue de Flandre in northeast Paris the previous evening. They punched and kicked teachers and students, yelled epithets and set off firecrackers in the courtyard before fleeing.
In broad daylight in the heart of Europe. Unthinkable. Or rather, in the United States such behavior would be unthinkable. I myself am the graduate of a Jewish day school in Manhattan. If this sort of violent attack took place at my school or at any other day school in New York, it would become the focus of all student activity for months, if not years, to come. Hundreds of thousands of Jews would march on the Capitol and demand an end to anti-Semitism and all other forms of primitive racism.

But what if this sort of attack were not an isolated incident, but rather part of a disturbing pattern. Would American Jews be able to mobilize the same anger if they knew that this sort of attack were inevitable? Consider the following:
Police forensic experts in Lyon, France, investigated an attack on a synagogue in March 2002, in which assailants used a car outfitted with battering rams to smash the doors and then set fire to the building.
The degree of calculated malice involved in that sort of attack is absolutely shocking. It is an act of war. At minimum, there is something comprehensible about the decision of 15 North African teenagers to overrun a Jewish school. Their behavior bears some sort of resemblance to the Crown Heights riots of a decade ago, during which an outraged mob vented its anger on innocent Jews.

But to outfit a car with battering rams? That is not aggravated assault. It is premeditated murder. Perhaps because of such shocking events, the French authorities have begun to take anti-Semitism more seriously. Better late than never. I am afraid, however, that no amount of law enforcement can prevent such motivated criminals from doing their worst. What must ultimately change is the mindset of the Muslim communities from which the attackers come.

In the WaPo article mentioned above, the leader of a Muslim organizaton in Paris attributes the attacks to the disaffection of young Muslims and the influence of television.
"For these kids, television is enormous," he says. "It conditions their minds. Before, they had respect for their parents and their roots. Now with this new generation, the respect is gone. The roots are cut."
I don't buy that for a second. I simply do not believe that either rising unemployment or news broadcasts could provoke anti-Semitic attacks if the teenage assailants were not brought up on a steady diet of anti-Semitism at home and at school.

While anti-Semitic attacks do rise and fall in response to the temperature of politics in the Middle East, one still has to ask why young French Muslims respond to events in the Middle East by terrorizing Jews rather than participating in the French tradition of strikes and protests. Thus, the WaPo was right to headline its report "For Jews in France, a 'Kind of Intifada'". The same inbred, inter-generational hatred that motivagtes suicide bombings in the Middle East has begun to rear its head on the European continent.
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