Je Suis … Under Attack in Paris

Je Suis
“Je suis Juif” means “I am a Jew” and has been chanted at recent demonstrations in solidarity for the Jewish victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris 10 days ago. The world has been awe-struck by the recent assaults on innocent lives in France and chants and slogans have also included “Je suis Charlie” and “Je suis Ahmed.” The question on many people’s minds is why Jews have been targets so often in recent years.

Je suis Juif. Anti-Semitism is an old story, since the beginning of Christianity over 2000 years ago, and before. It has been prominent throughout history as a recurrent theme, during the Spanish Inquisition, the Pogroms in the former Soviet Union, and of course during the Holocaust. Many ask why the resurgence at this point in history.

Christopher Caldwell, a journalist at The Wall Street Journal provides insight into this question. He explains that the trauma of Nazism during World War II was never fully dealt with. He describes that the Holocaust “demoralized and paralyzed” Europe.

Furthermore, European leaders did not feel morally strong enough to deal with the problems resulting from the persecution that led to the murder of three-quarters of its population of Jews. Six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust.

Caldwell likens this to the lack of moral strength in U.S. leaders’ handling of issues regarding race during the “wake of desegregation.” One might draw the conclusion that today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement has emerged as a result of unresolved issues from the Civil Rights era.

In France, there exists a conflict between anti-racism, anti-Semitism, and freedom of speech. The Gayssot Law of 1990 introduced punishment for denial of the Holocaust. This has led to a delicate balance of and heightened awareness regarding the political correctness of language.

Je suis Juif. Why Parisian Jews are under attack remains a question for those in Europe and abroad. Economic difficulties frequently result in political unrest. Europe is facing economic strife that has not been fully resolved since the 2008 global financial crisis. For example, The Wall Street Journal announced today that the European Central Bank is proposing a stimulus plan to address its fragile economy.

Hitler used the faltering economy of the 1930s and his charisma to spur on his followers. He used the economy as a building block for his diabolical plan to rid the world of those he deemed different from himself, and specifically, Jews.

To be sure, the forces of today’s anti-Semitism do not carry the same weight as the Nazi era. However, they are within the same realm, gaining strength. This past spring, gravestones in Jewish cemeteries were desecrated and a French YouTube video demonstrating a Neo-Nazi Hitler salute had 120,000 hits. The current situation has been elevated to the outright murder of Jews in a kosher butcherie ten days ago.

In May, a flurry of right-wing, anti-Semitic leaders were elected into the European Parliament. For the first time, the far-right French National Front party’s provocative leader Marine Le Pen won the French elections in the Parliament. With its growing strength, her party could eventually result in reduced control of the ruling Socialist party. The founding platform of the National Front party, which is gaining in popularity, was anti-immigration rhetoric. The direction of the party has changed into promoting France’s disengagement from the euro.

In Europe, problems central to immigration and to anti-Semitism and racism are intertwined. France has had a contradictory relationship with its immigrants, who make up a significant portion of its population. According to Caldwell, when mass immigration began in the country after the end of World War II, very little attention was paid to the influence of Islam. Caldwell cites bigotry as a potential cause of Islamic terrorism and says that the French are responding to the crisis in their country with the same tools that failed them in prior crises.

“Je suis Juif” is the call for solidarity among Parisian Jews struggling to maintain a sense of security while feeling under attack. The question remains as to whether the French government can and will make the necessary changes to stem the current tide of anti-Semitism and racism, while at the same time, handling the need of its citizens to maintain free speech and addressing the terrorist threat before it strikes again.

Opinion by Fern Remedi-Brown

Related articles by the author:
Anti-Semitism Rise of Terror [Video]

Sources:
The Jerusalem Post
The Wall Street Journal
Letter from World Jewish Congress, December 31, 2014
National Monitor
The Wall Street Journal
Photo courtesy of Maya-Anaïs Yataghène – Flickr license

2 Responses to "Je Suis … Under Attack in Paris"

  1. Fern Remedi-Brown   January 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    The U.S. as well as countries in South America harbored Nazis immediately after WWII. It is true that the U.S. has in our Constitution that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” However, the Civil Rights era showed that we had a long way to go. What I was trying to say in the parallel is that the #BlackLivesMovement has shown that there is much more work to be done before these one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Eastern Europe is replete with anti-Semitism. Look at the examples of Ukraine and Hungary. Here are two articles that I wrote in 2014 about the elections and mounting anti-Semitism in the region:
    Hungary Post-Election Woes and Rising Fascism, http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/hungary-post-election-woes-and-rising-fascism/ and Holocaust Repeated in Ukraine? http://guardianlv.com/2014/04/holocaust-repeated-in-ukraine/

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  2. 1aviva   January 23, 2015 at 4:49 am

    This is a very poor defense, and not comparable in the least to America’s experience with racism during the Civil Rights movement. For one, we in America have the Constitution, whose words say it all “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We did not have a government who entirely bought into that at the time, but clearly one that recognized it had to strive for it, unlike Europe who has legally sanctified anti Semitism, but permitting Nazi’s to HOLD SEATS in Parliament. What the hell is that all about.

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