Quotes of the day

I can confirm that there are casualties: there are three hostages dead, five wounded, three of them seriously, and three policemen of the elite GIGN force are dead. Now also confirmed that Amedy Coulibaly, the alleged hostage-taker, is dead…

One notable thing so far that I can attest to: On TV and on the radio up to this moment, no one—no one—is mentioning or discussing that the hostages are Jews. No one. It’s strange.


The bodies of four French Jews killed in a hostage standoff in a Paris grocery store will be buried in Israel, Israel’s prime minister said Sunday.

In a statement issued from Paris, Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he had “acceded to the request of the families of the victims of the murderous terror attack” and directed “all the relevant government bodies” to assist in bringing the bodies to Israel. A funeral is tentatively set for Tuesday…

Netanyahu on Saturday said he will try to increase immigration of French Jews and others in Europe suffering from a “rising tide of anti-Semitism.” He also asked French President Francois Hollande to maintain heightened security at Jewish institutions.


The Grand Synagogue of Paris shuttered ahead of Shabbat services on Friday night in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks across the city, including a siege on a Jewish market by an Islamic extremist.

The synagogue was evacuated during the event, Le Monde reported, and did not reopen for services on Friday night.

The closure marks the first time since World War II that the synagogue, a Paris landmark, was not open for worship on the Sabbath, according to the Orthodox Union.

“The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.


Jewish schools and synagogues will be protected “if necessary” by the French army, a leading figure in the country’s Jewish community said after meeting with President Francois Hollande on Sunday.

“He told us that all the schools, all the synagogues will be protected, if necessary, on top of the police, by the army,” said Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France.


Jewish activists in Paris, part of the 90-year-old youth Zionist movement called Betar, are preparing themselves for action, as Jewish communities eye unfolding events in Paris cautiously. The 4iéme district in Paris, home to the Rue des Rosier, demanded on Friday that shops in the well-known Jewish market pull down their shutters. The action came as suspected Islamic militants held a number of people hostage in a suburban kosher supermarket to the east of Paris, with other militants holding people hostage in a printing company near Charles de Gaulle airport.

France’s Betar movement is based not far from the Porte-Vincennes area, a predominantly Jewish locale where the hostage situation unfolded on Friday. The leader of Betar’s French “militia,” who goes by the name Yair, told Vocativ by phone today that Betar teams were preparing to defend Jewish communities from attack, and had placed their resources around the Porte Vincennes area…


The rabbi happened to be walking out of the synagogue with his wife. After dispensing with the facts of my Jewish background and American citizenship, I promptly asked, “What’s the situation?” Our shared patrimony obviated any need for further elaboration; as a European Jew addressing an American one, he knew exactly at what I was aiming. “There is no future for Jews in France,” he said…

Weitzmann then shared this chilling anecdote regarding the attack on Charlie Hebdo. “I spoke to a person who teaches history in a high school in one of the suburban Cités,” Weitzmann wrote. “He told me that this is a complete disaster. Teachers are afraid to mention the events. He told me that in his school, students are asking to debate the massacre—and they are justifying it. Thirteen-year-olds, 14-year-olds saying, ‘You shouldn’t insult the Prophet. The killing is justified.’”…

[I]t is not French assimilation policies (or the lack thereof) that are to blame for this week’s deadly acts. There are plenty of “impoverished immigrants” all over the world who do not condone, never mind perpetrate, acts of violence over cartoons. And 72 peecent of French people, according to Pew Research, have a “favorable” impression of Muslims, putting the lie to the claim that France is “Islamophobic.”…

Things will get worse, before, or even if, they get better. “Unfortunately, it looks like the calm before the storm,” the Wiesenthal Center’s Samuels writes. As I read the grim headlines from Paris, I was reminded of another encounter in another European city, Berlin, specifically at the Opernplatz where the Nazis staged one of their most infamous book burnings in 1933. One of the authors whose works they incinerated was the great German poet, Heinrich Heine, whose epigraph now lines a memorial marking this historically ominous event: “That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as well.” And where they drive out and kill Jews, they will ultimately drive out and kill you, too.


A survey last year from the European Jewish Congress and Tel Aviv University found that France had more violent anti-semitic incidents in 2013 than any other country in the world. Jews were the target of 40 per cent of all racist crimes in France in 2013 – even though they comprise less than 1 per cent of the population. Attacks on Jews have risen sevenfold since the 1990s.

No wonder Jewish emigration from France is accelerating. From being the largest Jewish community in the EU at the start of this decade, with a population of around 500,000, it is expected by Jewish community leaders to have fallen to 400,000 within a few years. That figure is thought by some to be too optimistic. Anecdotally, every French Jew I know has either already left or is working out how to leave…

David Tibi, the then leader of Paris’s main Jewish umbrella group, left last July. As he told the Jewish Chronicle: “There is an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the streets. My daughter was attacked in the tramway, so was my son. The aggressors made anti-semitic comments and pushed them around. We no longer have a place in France.”…

Almost of all [recent high-profile] attacks have been carried out by Muslims.


Last summer the new Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, admitted there was a mass exodus of Jews leaving the country for the UK, other parts of Europe, Israel and North America

Joel Mergui, lay chairman of the National Union of French Synagogues, added: ‘At some synagogues, whole benches are suddenly empty.’

Strasbourg-born banker Myriam Amsellem left France for London because the UK is ‘safer and freer’ than her home country, where she claims Jewish traditions were stopped.

She told the Jewish Chronicle last year: ‘We feel a lot more comfortable here. I look at France now and I know I would not want to be there.’


For many in Israel, the deadly attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris was further evidence that France is becoming hostile territory for Jews and authorities are unable to protect them.

“I’m angry with French Jews. Why are they hesitating to pack their bags and come here? France has become a dangerous place for the Jews,” said Manuel Allal, a 26-year-old French-Israeli sitting in an Internet cafe in Jerusalem…

“French-Israelis are in shock. This is the straw that has broken the camel’s back,” said Avi Zana, director of AMI, an organisation that helps French Jews integrate into Israel.

“They are going to put pressure on their families to join them and we can expect that the number of Jews looking to leave France will grow,” he told AFP.


In an interview conducted before the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket massacres, Valls told me that if French Jews were to flee in large numbers, the soul of the French Republic would be at risk.

“The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens,” Valls told me. “To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.”

Valls, a Socialist who is the son of Spanish immigrants, describes the threat of a Jewish exodus from France this way: “If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”…

“There is a new anti-Semitism in France,” he told me. “We have the old anti-Semitism, and I’m obviously not downplaying it, that comes from the extreme right, but this new anti-Semitism comes from the difficult neighborhoods, from immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who have turned anger about Gaza into something very dangerous. Israel and Palestine are just a pretext. There is something far more profound taking place now.”


European Muslim populations come from many countries and bring with them many different cultures and modes of Islamic worship. In Europe, however, some have discovered a more common identity, in which zealous hatred of Jews and Israel provides a unifying bond. In every European country Pew surveyed—even those, like Spain, where the Muslim minority originated nowhere near the Palestinian territories—sympathy for Hamas ran strong. Half of British Muslims, who mostly come from the Indian subcontinent, wished to see Iran gain a nuclear bomb.

A survey of French Muslims in 2014 found a community seething with anti-Semitism. Sixty-seven percent said “yes” when asked whether Jews had too much power over France’s economy. Sixty-one percent believed Jews had too much power in France’s media. Forty-four percent endorsed the idea of a global Zionist conspiracy of the kind described by the Holocaust-denying French Muslim comedian Dieudonne. Thirteen percent agreed that Jews were responsible for the 2008 financial crisis…

A less fundamental, but maybe more immediately helpful, move would be for European leaders to reduce the flow of migration into the continent from less-developed countries outside Europe. In the 2010s, that migration mostly takes the form of refugee flows, which have suddenly spiked as a result of the Syria civil war…

The refugees have been displaced by the same Islamic extremism that terrorized France this week. Their situation is intensely sympathetic. Yet resettling them within Europe is dangerous at a time of high unemployment and inter-communal suspicion, especially given the difficulties that will likely face the children of these resettled refugees.


[I]f there’s a path to greater Muslim assimilation and inclusion, it’s more likely to be pioneered in France. If Islamic radicalism is going to gain ground or mutate into something more pervasive and dangerous, it’s also more likely to happen in France’s sphere of influence than elsewhere. And if Europe’s much-feared far right is going to complete its journey from the fringe to the mainstream, it will probably happen first in Paris…

France has always been a country of extremes — absolutist and republican, Catholic and anticlerical, Communist and fascist. Now it’s once again the place where strong forces are colliding, and where the culture’s uncertainties — about Islam, secularism, nationalism, Europe; about modernity itself — suggest that new ones might soon be born.

The decline has been real, but the future is unwritten. If there is real history yet to be made in Europe, for good or ill, it might be made first in la belle France.


“I say to all French and European Jews – Israel is not just the place you pray to, it is also your home.”

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