Video: What's going on in France?

The remarks by French PM Manuel Valls are the most honest assessment of the mess France has made in its fetish over multiculturalism rather than cultural assimilation, but is notable for just how honest Valls is prepared to be. He speaks frankly, if you’ll pardon the pun, about the de facto “geographical, social, and ethnic apartheid” that has evolved, especially in the banlieus. What Valls fails to mention is the specifics of the division that worries France and the West most — the refusal of Muslim immigrant communities to assimilate into French society, and the French distaste for insisting that they do:

Last week, Fox News repeatedly apologized for reporting that the banlieus were literally and officially no-go areas for police and non-Muslims, and for overstating the geography in which that applied. Police in France can go where they wish, but it’s been the case for years that they have avoided those neighborhoods when possible. (Remember the car-burning riots in the banlieus from 2005-2007? As late as 2013, France estimated that 40,000 cars still get torched each year, more than 100 a night on average, although not all of these are in the banlieus.) There has been a passive acceptance for local community shari’a courts to arbitrate disputes, which has led to even more isolation and cultural division in France, even if it hasn’t been an official policy and an explicit retreat of authority.

At least Valls has stopped pretending that the problem doesn’t exist, even if he’s not prepared to be specific about it. (He did explicitly reject the term “Islamophobia” in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg last week, saying the term “is used to silence people.”) This comes at a particularly apt moment, as French security forces are working overtime to dismantle terror networks in their country that align along, er, social commonalities:

Five Russians from Chechnya have been detained in southern France on suspicion of preparing an attack, local prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The five suspects were detained on Monday in the town of Beziers near the Mediterranean coast, around 70 kilometres (40 miles) from Montpellier. …

Chechnya, a highly restive and predominantly Muslim region in Russia, has seen the largest demonstrations against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last week.

A few remarks on Twitter suggested that Vladimir Putin would have to answer for this. It actually boosts Putin, both at home and in the West. Putin has fought a long and bloody campaign against Islamist separatists in Chechnya, sometimes incurring the ire of the West due to his methods. This would allow Putin to argue that he’s fighting the same war on terror as the West, and give him even more political cover to once again get tough on the Chechens.

France has also filed charges against four suspects over the bloody attack on a kosher market earlier this month:

Four men were facing preliminary charges Tuesday on suspicion of links to a gunman involved in France’s deadliest terrorist attacks in decades.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the four, who would be the first to face charges in the case, are suspected of providing logistical support to Amedy Coulibaly. Coulibaly shot a policewoman to death on the outskirts of Paris and then seized hostages inside a kosher supermarket, killing four before he was killed by police. It is not clear whether the suspects were involved in plotting the attacks or even aware of Coulibaly’s plans. …

The French-Algerian brothers who attacked Charlie Hebdo, Said and Cherif Kouachi, had links to and were at least partly funded by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terror network’s Yemen branch.

Coulibaly was friends with the Kouachis, and his common-law wife Hayat Boumeddiene exchanged hundreds of phone calls with one of the Kouachi brother’s wives prior to the carnage. Analysts believe the friendship between the men was the origin of any link between the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the police officer and hostages killed by Coulibaly, rather than coordination between the two terror groups, which are bitter enemies.

What happens when assimilation is discounted as a cultural imperative? Those who actually did assimilate look for somewhere else to live. Glenn Reynolds writes that Europe’s largest Jewish community still extant after the Holocaust may finally have had enough:

As Jeff Jacoby observes: “In 2012, there were just over 1,900 immigrants to Israel from France. The following year nearly 3,400 French Jews emigrated; in 2014 approximately 7,000 left. For the first time ever, France heads the list of countries of origin for immigrants to Israel, and the ministry of immigration absorption expects another 10,000 French Jews to arrive in 2015. That would mean more than 22,000 Jews fleeing France for Israel in the space of just four years, nearly 4.5% of the country’s Jewish population.” Many others are leaving for Britain, America and Canada.

French Jews are leaving for two main reasons: because they don’t feel welcome, and because they don’t feel safe. They don’t feel welcome because a rising tide of anti-Semitism has poisoned the atmosphere in France over the past couple of decades. It’s not so much the old anti-Semitism of the pre-War variety as a new anti-Semitism brought on by a wave of Muslim immigration, though the two have reinforced one another.

And they don’t feel safe because of attacks on Jews. As the Chief Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, notes, it’s not just last week’s attacks on a Kosher deli and on the Charlie Hebdo news weekly: “Jews have been killed and there were the shootings in Toulouse and in Brussels. In general, Jews feel vulnerable in our society. The Jews who were murdered were targeted specifically because they were Jewish.” …

Now European nations are facing population deficits, and they’ve replaced those missing Jews with Muslim immigrants who — unlike the Jews — are for the most part far less educated, don’t really consider themselves part of European society, and have no particularly strong desire to integrate into it, which bodes poorly. As Eugene Volokh — himself an immigrant to the United States — observes, in a democracy, when you let in immigrants, you are letting in your future rulers.

The main choices of destinations — Britain, Canada, the US, and Israel — make a lot of sense. Israel exists to protect Jews from annihilation, and is an obvious choice. The other three have heavy cultural imperatives toward assimilation and the rule of law. They are much less likely to allow informal and parallel legal systems to displace the enforcement of laws created by the self-governing mechanisms of the entire populace rather than just a subset of a cultural minority, as has happened in an ad hoc manner in France.

That is the kind of multicultural respect that works — one law to govern all, along with the freedom to live one’s cultural choices within it as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others to do so as well. Those who find assimilation impossible under those standards should live in their cultural homelands instead, and other nations should not retreat from assimilation as a cultural value to woo them. France is the cautionary tale for the latter approach, and will be for years to come.