Tag: Jews of France

Is Eric Zemmour an antisemite?

What are we to make of Eric Zemmour, the Algerian-Jewish pundit who has burst the French political scene wide open?  He has been called a Jewish antisemite. Because he considers himself first and foremost a French patriot, his Jewish identity has to take a back seat. Profile in the Tablet by Mitchell Abidor and Miguel Lago: 

Eric Zemmour’s Jewishness is a weapon he uses in disconcerting ways. Though he doesn’t hide his ancestry, it is not something that he foregrounds. He has defined his vision of Jewishness as that expressed in 1789 in the Comte de Clermont-Tonerre’s speech on religious minorities (“Nothing for the Jews as a nation, everything for the Jews as individuals”) and by Napoleon: “Henceforth you should consider Paris to be your Jerusalem.” And yet Zemmour’s Jewishness is always at his disposal, granting him license to make statements it would not be possible for a non-Jew to make

But Zemmour goes further than Le Pen père. He is opposed to any memorialization of the murder of the Jews during the Second World War, and of laws protecting the memory of the Holocaust. He rejects the legitimacy of the apologies offered for France’s role in the massacre of its Jews, claiming this was part of an enterprise to make the French feel guilty for crimes perpetrated by Germans alone. In his latest book, which sold 200,000 before it was even published, Zemmour cited the work of “anthropologists” when he labeled the four Jews killed by a terrorist at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 as “above all foreigners,” because their bones were eventually buried not in French soil but in Israel. (According to Zemmour’s anthropologists, it is the final resting place of one’s remains that determines nationality.) Not even Captain Dreyfus escapes Zemmour’s scorn, as he insists that the French general staff had good reason to suspect him of espionage since he was “German.” Alfred Dreyfus was, in reality, Alsatian, and his family chose France after Germany conquered Alsace in the Franco-Prussian War. It is not surprising that the monarchist and antisemitic organization L’Action Française, which led the charge against Dreyfus in the 1890s, posts videos of Zemmour on its YouTube channel.

It is easy to condemn Zemmour’s statements as those of an antisemite, and there are some Jews, like political kingmaker Jacques Attali, who are comfortable defining him as a “Jewish antisemite.” But Zemmour’s inflammatory remarks are not the product of Jew-hatred; they are just one expression of what truly lays at the heart of his ideology, which also includes hatred of Muslims and immigrants. For Zemmour there is only one France and one French history, one of eternal grandeur and glory. He thus despises any form of ethnic particularism and any claims to victimhood at the hands of the French nation. He hates particularism because it denies the oneness of France; he detests claims to victimhood because they put into question the unerring nature of France, of the mythic France he wants to restore—one that is white, Christian, and free of dissent from the dominant discourse.

Because France’s actions are unimpeachable, demands for justice for Jews are an implicit criticism of all Zemmour considers essential. His Jewishness serves here as a vehicle for expressing a vision of France that was weakened by demographic and geopolitical changes and died at the hands of critical scholars, a vision that once led colonial Africans, like every schoolchild in France or living under French rule, to speak of “our ancestors the Gauls.” France did not mistreat its Jews because, in Zemmour’s eyes, it could not mistreat its Jews—France being the essential, almost angelic nation of history. To say otherwise is treasonous.

Read article in full

Moroccan-born mogul moves into Britain

Art lover and founder of Israel’s i24 News, Patrick Drahi is now the biggest shareholder in the British Telecoms company, BT. The Guardian profiles the Moroccan-born billionaire:

Patrick Drahi
Born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1963 to two maths teachers, Drahi moved to France as a teenager and holds Israeli, French and Portuguese citizenships.
He lives in Switzerland, where he has homes in Geneva and the ski resort of Zermatt. Drahi attended the École Polytechnique in Paris, the French university famed for turning out the country’s most successful business leaders and politicians.
 After working for a number of cable and satellite TV companies he co-founded two of his own in the south of France in the mid-1990s.

Bensoussan: ‘Ashkenazim do not understand Arab antisemitism’

It may take another 15 years before French Jews living in their Ashkenazi bourgeois bubbles begin to  appreciate the full extent of Arab and Muslim antisemitism, warns historian Georges Bensoussan in this Israel Hayom piece questioning what the future holds for Jews in France. (With thanks: Lily)

Georges Bensoussan: Ashkenazim don’t know the Arab world 

 Moroccan-born French historian Georges Bensoussan was one of the first ones to warn of the Arab-Muslim antisemitism in France in a book he published in 2002. He was and continues to be boycotted in France due to his academic views on the matter. 

“The dividing line among French Jews in terms of experiencing antisemitism is connected to each person’s individual situation,” he said.

“Firstly, there is an economic dividing line: a Jew in Sarcelles felt the danger 20 years ago, and a Jews who live in Paris’ bourgeois neighborhoods will need 15 more years in order to understand the new face of antisemitism. 

 “There is also a Sephardic-Ashkenazi dividing line, which is must stronger than people think. Ashkenazis live with the memory of the Holocaust, while Jews who came here from North Africa are much more open and happy. 

 “The level of religiosity is also a dividing line: children who go to Jewish schools and Jews who go to synagogues are clear targets for antisemitism. Whoever does not have a Jewish appearance, is not observant, who has an Ashkenazi name and lives in a bourgeois neighborhood, cannot understand what antisemitism is. 

 “They don’t know the Arab world, they have not heard of the Farhud pogroms in Iraq, and therefore, when they talk about Arab antisemitism, they don’t understand what they are talking about. Moreover, compared to the Holocaust, Arab antisemitism does not look terrible.

Here in the neighborhood, there are Jewish schools, students walk around in kippahs and do not see an atmosphere of terror,” said Bensoussan, whose interview was conducted not far from where the Halimi murder occurred. 

 “The situation is worrying. In modern history, there always were Jews who chose to look the other way and not see the situation for what it is. The rise of Arab antisemitism caused Jews to congregate with themselves and separate from French society

Read article in full

More about Georges Bensoussan

Will Sarah Halimi St pave the way to true justice?

Sarah Halimi will have a Paris street named after her. But a street name is a poor substitute for justice: Dr Halimi’s murderer is to walk free after the French Court of Appeal acted that he was acting under the influence of drugs. The Jerusalem Post reports:

Some 20,000 protested at the travesty of justice that would allow Sarah Halimi’s killer to go free (Photo: Geoffroy Van der Hassselt/ AFP via Getty images)Paris will soon inaugurate in its historic Jewish quarter a street named for Sarah Halimi, Mayor Anne Hidalgo said amid protests over authorities’ handling of the killing. 

Hidalgo made the announcement on Sunday following a rally by about 20,000 people, mostly Jews, who demonstrated against the April 14 ruling by France’s highest court on the 2017 slaying.

“We need to honor Sarah Halimi’s memory. And that’s what we’ll do,” 

Hidalgo said in a statement, France3 reported Tuesday. “There will be a Sarah Halimi Street. It will be a way of achieving justice for her.”
The street will be in the 4th District, also known as the Marais, which before the Holocaust was the heart of Jewish life in Paris.

Read article in full

Ronnie Dellal, a Jewish refugee from an Arab country now living in London, wrote this letter of protest (With thanks: Lisette):


J’ Accuse: Open letter to the French President M Emmanuel Macron:

I am writing to you and invoking the famous words of Mr Emile Zola when he addressed a century old anti-Semitic travesty that blighted the name of a previous French Republic under M. Félix Faure: 

 “Would you allow me . . . . to draw the attention of your rightful glory and to tell you that your star, so happy until now, is threatened by the most shameful and most ineffaceable of blemishes? 

 Over a century ago, the Dreyfus affair marred France’s reputation in the free world and ultimately gave rise to the most disturbing events and heinous crimes.

 France is now facing the same challenges, with the outrageous handling of Dr Sarah Halimi’s murder. France and its reputation is, today, at a crossroads. The path it takes will depend on whether good men and women will stand up, defend and honour the ideals of the French Republic (Liberté, égalité, fraternité) or not. Yet, M Le Président, you have in your power, as your predecessor had, to stop the above travesty from taking place and right a wrong before it raises its ugly head again. 

 The cornerstone of the French revolution and the Republic’s ideals is that all French citizens should be able to live in freedom, treated equally and enjoy the same rights and responsibilities regardless of colour, background, religion and beliefs. 

 Yet there is a small, but sizeable, minority which feels that the above ideals do not apply to them. They are unable to live in freedom and forever need to have special security in their communal buildings; places of worship and even their shops. All the while their children are attending schools behind high fences and security guards. With the travesty of Dr Sarah Halimi’s murder, they have now been denied equality under the law, due process and their individual right to live freely and without fear. Ultimately, if not already, they will no longer feel that they have equal rights as the rest of their French brothers and sisters.

 M. Le Président, you have it in your power, if not your responsibility, to address an injustice before it becomes forever rooted in French culture. You have the power to say, not only, ‘no’ to anti-Semitism but more importantly, ‘never again’. 

 How you will act now will show how far France have moved on from the Dreyfus affair and how your presidency might contrast with that of M. Félix Faure, your predecessor.

 Respectfully yours 

 Ronnie Dallal 

More about the Sarah Halimi case


Halimi sister: ‘Sarah’s killer should stand trial in Israel’

Following the decision of the highest court of appeal in France that the murderer of a French Jew of Tunisian origin should not stand trial, a huge protest demonstration is planned for Sunday in France and rallies have already been held in the US and Israel.  Meanwhile, Sarah Halimi’s sister, Esther Lekover,  is calling for the murderer to be tried in Israel, the BBC reports.

The sister of an Orthodox Jewish woman murdered in France in 2017 is to file a legal claim in Israel in the hope of getting a trial against the killer. 

 Kobili Traoré cannot stand trial in France after a court deemed he was not criminally responsible due to his mental state.

He killed Sarah Halimi, 65, in what French courts have now accepted was an anti-Semitic attack.

He chanted verses from the Quran as he attacked her inside her Paris flat. 

 He also chanted God is great in Arabic before throwing her over the balcony of the third-floor flat in the city’s eastern Belleville area.

Murder of Paris woman, 85, ‘anti-Semitic’
France warns of steep rise in anti-Semitism
Mr Traoré, who was 27 at the time of the attack, is currently in a psychiatric hospital. 

 Israel’s criminal law may apply to anti-Semitic crimes committed abroad that have been denounced by an Israeli citizen, in this case Ms Halimi’s sister Esther Lekover.

 However, France does not extradite its nationals.

Ms Lekover’s two lawyers “deplore being forced to expedite this procedure, but they cannot accept a denial of justice which offends reason and fairness far beyond the Jewish community of France”, they said in a statement.

Read article in full

Halimi killer won’t stand trial: ‘a devastating blow’


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.