France May Well Include in Their Grieving — Je Suis Israel (I am Israel)
It’s horrific that there are so many terrorist attacks occurring throughout the world, that it’s hard to keep up with them. Now with the atrocities in Nice on Bastille Day — France’s national celebration of freedom will be forever celebrated in the shadow of grief. 84 people dead and 308 injured, many children. The irony is that it was reported that a third of the dead in Nice were Muslim.¹ An infamous truck-ramming — the latest terrorist killing technique that Israel has been plagued with for months.
It’s hard to believe it’s already been two years since I was last in France. I was just reviewing my emails from our trip to Israel, France and England, as I write my book. Three weeks that changed my life. As some of you know, our trip to Israel was unique. My frequent emails were my connection to family and friends at home — in case the Palestinian missiles we were dodging, hit their mark. I wanted people to know how we were feeling. I’m writing my book, and my blog because the missiles blasted me out of my complacency. What can we do to help our world — why can’t we seem to live in Peace?
We landed in Israel on July 4, 2014. I was nervous. 3 kidnapped Israeli teenagers had been found dead 2 days before we left, tensions were mounting. I reflected on how Americans at home would be celebrating our Independence Day in which we joyously celebrate freedom with colorful firework displays. It reminded me of the words in our National Anthem, And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb’s bursting in air, I hoped that this would not be an omen of experiences yet to come. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. We toured incredible, historical and sacred places during our vacation, interspersed with Palestinians shooting thousands of missiles at Israel, blown up in mid-air (thank you Iron Dome), and some landing too close for comfort — but I’ll save that for my book…
France was our next country on our trip after we left Israel. Our nerves were frayed having spent days fearing for our lives. I was returning to France again after 18 years. It had been our first major trip together when my husband and I were courting. I was excited to share with our son the magic of Paris and the French countryside. We thought safe at last, nothing to fear here, but we were wrong.
We had had a great day walking throughout Paris. We looked at the beautifully coiffed windows of the Champs Elysees — I always have admired how the French turn a pastry into a colorful piece of art. Shelves were filled with red, white and blue extravaganzas. The French were putting up scaffolding as they prepared for the Tour de France at the end of the month. We took pictures of the Eiffel Tower — the quintessential symbol of France, the splendor of the Arc de Triumphe, Napoleon’s Tomb and the Military Museum.
We decided to take a fun break from walking, by catching a ride. We rode in our pedicab chariot, with the strong driver’s legs whirling on his bike as we
tourists enjoyed the views of the River Seine and the Bateaux Mouche (cruise boats along the river). We ended our frolicking respite, feeling a bit rested, and continued walking back to our hotel.
Suddenly, our joy was disrupted by loud, screaming sirens. What? We’re in France! We had left Israel, and the sirens and the bomb shelters — what was going on? We saw 30 police vans and shuttle buses with their sirens blaring, going somewhere in a hurry. When we got back to the hotel, I turned on the news and went straight to my computer. Pro-Palestinian protesters were demonstrating, rioting and attacking the police amidst the tear-gas. The week before thousands of Pro-Palestinian protesters had assaulted the police and two synagogues.² The locals reported chants of “Gas the Jews” and “Kill the Jews,” as rioters attacked businesses in the Sarcelles district, known as “little Jerusalem.”³
The paper also said that in the last 3 months more Jews had left France than since the establishment of Israel in 1948 with the reason being given — anti-Semitism. This ugly beast just never goes away. By the time 2014 would be over, more than 7,000 Jews would leave France for Israel, almost double the total from the previous year.⁴ In 2015, another 8,000 left for Israel. Now, many Jews feel like second class citizens. Jews comprise only 1% of France’s population, yet they are nearly half of all victims of what French authorities call “xenophobic” violence.⁵ Unfortunately, the stench of what’s happening to Jews in today’s France sounds familiar. I can’t help but be reminded of WWII and how French officials collaborated with Nazi orders willingly — a sad legacy that the French government apologized for in the 1990s.⁶
In the two years since our trip, with the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, the murder of four Jews at Hyper Cacher — a kosher supermarket, and thousands of other less reported incidents of kidnappings, robbery, rapes and acts of torture like at the Bataclan Theatre, the atmosphere for French Jews is becoming more and more untenable.
To put the numbers into perspective there are approximately 465,000 Jews that live in France, putting it third behind the United States and Israel in terms of its total Jewish population — a significant number of Jews, since our numbers were decimated by the genocide of the Holocaust.⁷ However, the number is negligible compared with France’s total population of 64 million.⁸
It is estimated that there are 5 million Muslims in France⁹ — second only to Catholics in the country.¹⁰ They represent 7.5% of France’s population.¹¹ France is also home to the largest Muslim immigrant population. The immigrants have settled in France from Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia fleeing wars, tyrannies and poverty. It is an age-old story of immigrants — many Muslims have succeeded in their new environment, yet many remain the unemployed, excluded and alienated — some because of their circumstances, and some by choice.
Guy Milliere, in his article, France: After the Third Jihadist Attack, July 23, 2016, speaking about these immigrants, chillingly talks about how “whole areas of France are under the control of gangs and radical imams.” He says “the government delicately calls them ‘sensitive urban zones’ — there are 570 of them. “Hundreds of thousands of young Muslims live there. Many are thugs, drug traffickers, robbers.”¹² Essentially, what the French refer to as the banlieues — the suburbs around certain French cities, including Paris, are Muslim slums. The French city of Marseille with a Muslim population of 40%, has the ugly distinction of being named “the most dangerous city in Europe.”¹³
Milliere says that they are told by jihadist recruiters that if they kill in the name of Allah, they will attain the status of martyrs.”¹⁴ This is a fact that they can easily verify. The Palestinian Authority’s policies proclaim terrorists who attack Israel and kill Jews, martyrs, and heroes — naming schools after them and paying their remaining families salaries — the more Jews killed, the higher the pay.¹⁵ Mr. Milliere says, “Twenty thousand people are listed in the government’s ‘S-Files,’ an alert system meant to identify individuals linked to radical Islam. Most are unmonitored.”¹⁶ How scary is that?
Yet these extremists are not the only voice of Muslims. Beyond the tweets, “Je Suis Charlie” by moderate Muslims showing solidarity after the Charlie Hebdo murders,”¹⁷ there are many Muslims productively going about their daily lives — so often called the Silent Majority. Why are so many silent? I sometimes wonder what they must feel as they listen to the news. Fear — surely is a component — from within their communities as well as from others condemning all Muslims, based on the actions of extremists. We can’t lump all Muslims together as if they have only one voice no more than we can do that to any other group, including Jews. It reminds me of the old joke that if you have 2 Jews and ask them a question, there will be at least 3 opinions : )
We need to watch closely to see how the French democracy handles this increasingly complex situation. What can we learn from them as they wrestle with this minefield of terror, denial and confusion? During a hostage incident, a French journalist, Marc Weitzmann noted that, “On TV and on the radio, up to this moment, no one, no one is discussing that the hostages are Jews. No one. It’s strange.” He says, “It’s part of Europe’s anti-Semitism predicament — too many are hesitant to identify victims and perpetrators.¹⁸ One moment French television news anchors were assuming that the truck ramming almost certainly had to be an accident or French authorities suggested that the driver could be a madman.¹⁹ The next, Prime Minister Manuel Valls reiterated his comment from 18 months ago, “France is at war.” The enemy he named was “radical Islamism” but he emphasized that it had nothing to do with Islam.”²⁰ In July 2014, after so many violent Pro-Palestinian demonstrations, France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said they were a “threat to public order” and tried to ban them. His move was condemned as “an attack on democracy.”²¹ A cacophony of mixed messages. So it goes.
The world is shrinking. We are seeing in our own country, how hate and divisiveness is playing out in the political race. How entire peoples are being painted with ugly, broad strokes — inciting fear and prejudice. Israel, another democracy, has tried to deal with terrorism since its inception and continues to struggle miserably. France is now up at bat. Will the U.S. be up next again in the line-up? I pray that it isn’t the case, but the clock is ticking. In our modern, hashtag world of few words tolerated and quick fixes demanded, this problem refuses to comply. The first step in any problem is to be aware of it.
I’m reminded of a poem that I learned so many years ago by Pastor Niemoller, a Protestant pastor who at first supported the Nazi regime, but as Hitler continued implementing his evil plans, the pastor changed his mind…
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
I hope this blog, causes you to take notice, pause and think. Do us all a favor and the next person you see — especially, if you don’t know them, give them a warm smile or greeting. It may not be a giant step, but at least it will be a move forward toward a better world : ) Shabbat Shalom. I invite you to Join Me On My Journey…
¹ Alissa J. Rubin and Lilia Blaise, A Third of Nice Truck Attack’s Dead Were Muslim, Group Says, The New York Times, July 19, 2016.
² https://www.rt.com/news/172492-france-march-pro-palestinian, Pro-Palestinian march turns violent in Paris, synagogue attacked, RT Question More, July 14, 2014.
³ Jessica Elgot, France’s Jews Flee as Rioters Burn Paris Shops, Attack Synagogue, The Huffington Post, July 22, 2014, updated July 23, 2014.
⁴ James Kirchick, Do Jews Have a Future in France? The Daily Beast, January 10, 2015.
⁵ https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-france-an-uncertain-future-for-jews/2016/05/07/7b6e2e8c-12e8-11e6-a9b5-bf703a5a7191_story.html, James McAuley, In France, an uncertain future for Jews.
⁶ James McAuley, In France, an uncertain future for Jews,The Washington Post, May 9, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-france-an-uncertain-future-for-jews/2016/05/07/7b6e2e8c-12e8-11e6-a9b5-bf703a5a7191_story.html
⁸ 2014 Jewish Population by Country.
⁹ The Week Staff, France’s Alienated Muslims, The Week, January 24, 2015.
¹⁰ The Week Staff, France’s Alienated Muslims, The Week, January 24, 2015.
¹¹ The Week Staff, France’s Alienated Muslims, The Week, January 24, 2015.
¹² Guy Milliere,http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8522/france-jihadist-attack, France: After the Third Jihadist Attack, July 23, 2016.
¹³ Dan Greenfield, January 4, 2014, French City With 40% Muslim Population is the Most Dangerous City in Europe, http://www.france24.com/en/20130627-debate-Marseille-gangs-out-of-control-part1/)Europe
¹⁴ Guy Milliere, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8522/france-jihadist-attack, France: After the Third Jihadist Attack, July 23, 2016.
¹⁵ Algemeiner, Palestinian Authority Rewards Terrorists for Number of Jews They Kill, February 8, 2015.
¹⁶ Guy Milliere, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8522/france-jihadist-attack, France: After the Third Jihadist Attack, July 23, 2016.
¹⁷ Zoe Mintz, Moderate Muslims Use #Je Suis Charlie To Condemn Charlie Hebdo Attacks in Paris, January 7. 2015.
¹⁸ James Kirchick, Do Jews Have a Future in France? The Daily Beast, January 10, 2015.
¹⁹ Guy Milliere, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8522/france-jihadist-attack, France: After the Third Jihadist Attack, July 23, 2016.
²⁰ Guy Milliere, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8522/france-jihadist-attack, France: After the Third Jihadist Attack, July 23, 2016.
²¹ By Peter Allen for MailOnline, “Outrage as France becomes first country in world to ban pro-Palestine demos,” July 18, 2014.
Originally published at pennystee.com on August 1, 2016.