Sadly, Macron’s words appear to be too little and too late and do not match France’s policy actions towards Israel and the Middle East.
French President Emmanuel Macron recently told a Jewish audience that anti-Semitism in France has reached “its worst levels since World War II.”
In a phone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Macron said that France intends to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which includes anti-Zionist opposition to Israel’s existence.
While anti-Semitism is spreading across Western Europe, France stands out as a particularly troublesome place for Jews. Sadly, Macron’s words appear to be too little and too late.
France prides itself as the first Western European country that granted civic citizen rights for Jews following the French Revolution. Yet while some liberal streams did originate in France, so did anti-Jewish bigotry.
Like in many other places, anti-Semitism in France is rooted in wider social and economic problems afflicting society. The infamous anti-Semitic Dreyfus case followed in the footsteps of France’s humiliating military defeat by Germany. While the current widespread Yellow Vest protests in France are mainly addressing socio-economic problems, once again Jews are the scapegoats chosen by bigots seeking simple answers to complex challenges. Jewish intellectuals like Alain Finkelkraut and Jewish gravestones are tempting targets for anti-Semites looking for excuses to attack Jews.
It should come as no surprise that France has the dubious honor of having more cases of anti-Semitism than any other Western European country. France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community as well as its largest Muslim population, which is growing rapidly. At least 10 percent of France’s population is Muslim, many of whom are not integrating properly into French society. Anti-Semitism is thriving in this toxic environment of socio-economic challenges coupled with radical Islamism, which uses the Arab-Israeli conflict as an excuse to target Jews in France.
Hatred against Jews is also endemic among the “progressive” left and far right. Since it is mainly displayed as anti-Zionism, it has, until recently, been largely tolerated by the French government. Macron’s decision to include anti-Zionism as an expression of anti-Semitism is a step in the right direction. However, it is contradicted by France’s own problematic actions and policies towards Israel and the Middle East.
For years, France has been one of Europe’s harshest critics of Israel. Its criticism has not been limited to the presence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. France has systematically interfered in Israel’s affairs and vocally opposed Israel’s Nation State Law that seeks to defend Israel as a Jewish state. Paris also condemned America’s decision to move its embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. Alongside Germany, France has also enthusiastically embraced political and commercial ties with Iran’s anti-Semitic regime that openly calls for Israel’s destruction.
When it comes to anti-Semitism in France, the government’s policies towards the Jewish state are part of the problem rather than the solution. Unless Macron’s new declarations are matched with appropriate actions, anti-Semitism in France will continue growing unabated.