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The Anti-Semitic Derangement

The Anti-Semitic Derangement

France's Jews are leaving, and that never bodes well for the society driving them out.

by

Even before last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, the French prime minister was concerned about the continued viability of Jewish life in France. In an interview with The Atlantic prior to the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket massacres, Manuel Valls made a grim prediction:

"If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure."

His misgivings were far from groundless. An exodus of French Jews is already underway and accelerating rapidly. 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.

The departure of 100,000 French Jews might once have been inconceivable. No longer.

That would mean more than 22,000 Jews fleeing France for Israel in the space of just four years, nearly 4.5 percent of the country's Jewish population. The departure of 100,000 French Jews might once have been inconceivable. No longer. In a survey last spring of France's Jewish community, the largest in Europe, three out of four respondents said they were considering emigrating.

These are staggering numbers – all the more so in a "Jewish community that has been in place for centuries and feels itself deeply attached to being French," as Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has written. But what is driving so many Jews to leave "is not Israel's pull…. It is France's push."

Over the past 15 years, that "push" – violent eruptions of French anti-Semitism – has grown relentless. The murder of four Jews by jihadists at the Hyper Cacher market on Friday was only the most recent on a long list of ominous events, including mob attacks on synagogues in Paris last summer, and the targeting of Jewish teens with Tasers, tear gas, and pepper spray.

To his credit, the French prime minister has been forthright in his condemnation of Islamist anti-Semitism. Over the weekend he declared that France was at war "against terrorism and radical Islam," a war in which "journalists were killed for drawing" and "Jews were killed because they were Jewish." But strong words from a prime minister will not halt the anti-Semitic derangement, and Valls is right to fear what that derangement would mean to France's future well-being.

Anti-Semitism is commonly regarded as a variety of racism, but the prolific English historian Paul Johnson suggests that it should be seen as a kind of intellectual disease, fundamentally irrational and highly infectious. It exerts great self-destructive force, Johnson wrote in a notable 2005 essay, severely harming countries and societies that engage in it. In a pattern that has recurred so predictably that he dubbed it a "historical law," nations that make Jewish life untenable condemn themselves to decline and weakness.

For example, Spain's expulsion of the Jews in the 1490s, and its subsequent witch-hunt of the converted "New Christians" who remained behind, meant a loss of Spanish financial and managerial talent at the very moment the New World was being opened up to lucrative colonization. That had "a profoundly deleterious impact," Johnson argued, "plunging the hitherto vigorous Spanish economy into inflation and long-term decline, and the government into repeated bankruptcy." More than 500 years later, Spain – where, incidentally, Valls was born and lived until his teens – still regrets that self-inflicted wound, and has looked for ways to rectify it.

Johnson pointed out other prominent examples of the phenomenon. Czarist Russia's persecution of Jews, reinforced by the encouragement of brutal pogroms, fueled a massive migration of Jews to the West, especially to Britain and the United States; those countries' cultural and entrepreneurial gain was Russia's debilitating loss. Germany's descent into demonic Jew-hatred under the Nazis ended in devastating military defeat, followed by a decades-long Cold War rupture and the end of German renown as Europe's intellectual center. The Arab world, steeped in anti-Semitism and obsessed with the Jewish state, squandered vast oil riches "on weapons of war and propaganda," wrote Johnson. "In their flight from reason, they have failed to modernize or civilize their societies, to introduce democracy, or to consolidate the rule of law." Arab culture once led the world in learning, innovation, and pluralism. Today it is a world leader in almost nothing, save fratricidal violence and Islamist fanaticism.

France's Jews are leaving, and that never bodes well for the society driving them out. The prime minister puts his finger on it: If there is no Jewish future in France, if the anti-Semitic cancer has metastasized so alarmingly that tens of thousands of French Jews are ready to flee, then France will indeed no longer be France. It will be something darker and more deformed, wrecked by an injury it inflicted on itself.

This article originally appeared in the Boston Globe.

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Visitor Comments: 33

(24) Hilary, Nairobi Kenya, January 20, 2015 10:11 AM

I can't help but concur with Bert Cohen. It is unfortunate the nations or their leaders fail to see it so clear in Bible. Prophecies are being fulfilled. I also think SusanE is right in her opinion. The world may remain in the dark, but we know by God's grace what is happening. God bless the Jews!

(23) Hilary, Nairobi Kenya, January 19, 2015 3:22 PM

I can't help but concur with Bert Cohen. It is unfortunate the nations or their leaders fail to see it so clear in Bible. Prophecies are being fulfilled. I also think SusanE is right in her opinion. The world may remain in the dark, but we know by God's grace what is happening. God bless the Jews!

(22) scott, January 19, 2015 12:46 AM

French Jews?

How can there be French Jews? There can be Jews living in France, but how can observant Jews be truly French? If the French considered jews French then they would have fought to the death to prevent their countrymen from being led to the slaughter by the Nazis. They handed their Jews over on a silver platter and a with a smile. It was only Jews. Ever consider that g*d may be stomping his foot warning those misguided Jews who are living amongst people who hate them that truly bad times are coming? When the Jew hatred in Europe is so virulent that there are actually antisemitic political parties in every country to combat the influence of Jews who make up less than1% of the population....how can any Jew be so clueless to call Europe home? Why do you think jihadists pull this stuff in Europe in the first place? Because Europeans support anti jewish and anti israel terrorism and their political ambitions. Personally I think the murderers are surprised that the French reaction was so critical of their actions. I wonder what kind of reaction they would have gotten if it was just the murders at the kosher market, without the first act at the newspaper killing non Jews? In the 1930s there was nowhere to go. Today there is no excuse for staying.

Archi Rondel, January 21, 2015 2:17 PM

A lot of French did fight against nazism.

Pre WWII UK and USA denied entry to Jews fleeing nazism, that was governments. There were many brave Frenchmen and British people that fought and helped Jews. But of course there will always be those that are anti-semitic, as there are different Jews. Some Jews do not even recognise other Jews, although I don't accuse them of trying to 'exterminate' those they do not like. However some of what I have seen on 'live TV' of Israeli securrity treatment of young Palestinians may go some way to how outsiders see Israeli Jews. Not an anti-semite, check out family name on Yad Vashem's Shoah Victims.

(21) Rafael Picon, January 18, 2015 11:31 PM

French Jews vs Islamic Jews ?

it seems like the problem with diaspora Jews is diaspora Islamics. This has made managing French affairs a nightmare . If La Pen gets elected , she will come down on any ethnic organization in France who's socio / political values are not in harmony with France The diaspora mentality does imply a separation of loyalties. A general law directed at French Islamics might affect active Jewish Zionist living in France

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