The French and British Left—and the Jews

Nov. 21 2018

The UK Labor party’s descent into anti-Israelism and outright anti-Semitism has gained significant attention in the English-language Jewish press. But parallel developments in French politics have garnered less attention, even as they take place in an atmosphere of growing anti-Jewish violence unparalleled in Great Britain. Paul Berman, in a detailed consideration of the left and the Jewish question, explains:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon . . . is the leader of the Unsubmissive France party—which, at least for the moment, has replaced the left wing of the Socialist party and the old Communist party as the main political organization of the French left. And Mélenchon’s relations with mainstream Jews have likewise resembled [those of his British counterpart, Jeremy Corbyn], with variations. . . . Mélenchon is a more sophisticated man than Corbyn, more experienced, better educated, a better orator—a more attractive figure, all in all. Nobody takes him to be a man of hidden bigotries. [Nonetheless], Unsubmissive France has ended up as anti-Zionism’s principal home on the French left. Mélenchon himself has ended up as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement’s leading champion in France.

Anti-Zionist street protests got under way in the summer of 2014, at the time of the most recent of the full-scale Israel-versus-Hamas wars in Gaza, proclaiming solidarity with Hamas. At a demonstration in Paris—called by one of the smaller Trotskyist parties, not under Mélenchon’s leadership, but drawing on the public that is his—a street full of marchers broke into a cry of “Death to the Jews!” And “Jew: Shut up, France is not yours!” together with “Allahu Akbar!” and “Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!,” which are not normally Trotskyist slogans. Such has been the cultural degeneration in nether regions of the extreme left.

Mobs set out to attack synagogues in Paris and in the suburban town of Sarcelles [and] attacked Jewish stores. And, just as Corbyn has systematically failed to notice the nature and meaning of anti-Zionism on the British left, Mélenchon managed not to notice what was going on among a significant portion of his own social base. Instead of rebuking the rioters, he congratulated them. It was the [leading Franco-Jewish organization] CRIF that issued an angry denunciation. Mélenchon responded by inveighing against the “aggressive communities that lecture the rest of the country,” by which he meant CRIF, and not the people who were staging pogroms. . . .

[T]he political significance of these French events is hard to miss, if you stop to consider that, in the first round of the 2017 presidential election in France, Marine Le Pen [of the far-right National Front] and Jean-Luc Mélenchon attracted, between them, some 40 percent of the vote—which becomes still more striking when you recall that Corbyn’s odds of becoming prime minister someday soon are pretty good.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, France, French Jewry, Jeremy Corbyn, Marine Le Pen, Politics & Current Affairs, United Kingdom

How to Prevent Saudi Arabia from Getting Nuclear Weapons

Skeptics of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran warned that it could prompt a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. As they predicted, Saudi Arabia has been seeking assistance from the U.S. in obtaining civilian nuclear capabilities, while also speaking—in imitation of the Islamic Republic—of a “right” to enrich uranium, something it pledged not to do in a 2008 agreement with Washington. Were Riyadh to begin such enrichment, it could also produce the fuel necessary for nuclear weapons. Emily Landau and Shimon Stein warn of the dangers inherent in Saudi proliferation, and discuss how the U.S. and Israel should respond:

So long as the motivation to go nuclear remains strong, states are likely to find a way to develop [nuclear] capabilities, even if they have to pay a price for doing so. In Iran’s case, the major motivation for going nuclear is to enhance its hegemonic power in the Middle East. . . . But in the case of Saudi Arabia, if strong international powers . . . were to take a harsher stance toward Iran’s regional aggressions and missile developments and were to cooperate in order to improve the provisions of the [2015 nuclear deal], this would most likely have a direct and favorable impact on Saudi Arabia’s calculations about whether to develop nuclear capabilities.

A decision by the U.S. administration (or for that matter any other supplier) to allow Saudi Arabia to have enrichment capabilities will confront Israel with a dilemma.

On the one hand, it has been Israeli policy to do its utmost to deny any neighboring country with whom it does not have a peace treaty the means to acquire and develop a nuclear program. If Israel remains loyal to this approach, it should seek to deny Saudi Arabia enrichment capabilities. In practical terms this would imply making its opposition known in Washington.

On the other hand, given the “tactical alliance” with Saudi Arabia which has been primarily developed in response to the common Iranian threat, Israel could consider sacrificing its long-term interest in denying nuclear capabilities for the sake of its current interest in cultivating relations with the Saudis. Israel, [however], should support the traditional U.S. nonproliferation policies that allow states to have access to nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, while denying them the option to produce it themselves.

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More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Nuclear proliferation, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia