How French Economic Protests Turned against Jews

Feb. 22 2019

On November 17, demonstrations broke out throughout France in reaction to an increase in fuel taxes; the participants’ distinctive yellow vests gave their name to a movement that has not yet abated. As the protests have continued, a number of demonstrators have displayed and chanted anti-Semitic slogans; last weekend, a group of them verbally attacked the Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. And this is one anti-Semitic incident among several in just the past week, not to mention the 74-percent increase in attacks on Jews last year. Jeremy Sharon writes:

Although the [yellow-vest] movement started out as a protest against fuel-tax hikes, it has morphed into a protest movement against the socioeconomic condition of the French working and middle class with a highly populist strain of anti-elite rhetoric and beliefs. At the same time, the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist sentiment, alive in significant portions of France’s large Muslim population, has been an engine for anti-Semitic attacks in the country for the last two decades.

It appears that the combination of these two phenomena, and a snowball effect in which one anti-Semite is emboldened by the anti-Semitic attack of another, is behind the recent outbreak of attacks.

Yonathan Arfi, vice president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, says that significant elements within the yellow-vest movement have identified French Jews as part of the “elite establishment” that is keeping them down and oppressing ordinary, working French citizens.

Even though French Jews are largely in the same economic circumstances as many in the middle and lower-middle class, they are associated with the establishment and blamed for the perceived wrongs done to other French citizens. Anti-capitalist sentiment has become a notable feature of the yellow-vest protests, which quickly morphs into anti-Jewish stereotypes and prejudices. . . . “Everything comes back to the Jews, ‘They have money; they have power; they are Zionists,’ and even though they have nothing to do with the issues in France, when there are problems, Jews get blamed,” said [the French-born Israeli activist] Ariel Kandel.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, France, French Jewry, Politics & Current Affairs

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey