July 16 saw the commemoration of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in Paris: the 1942 mass arrest, carried out by the French police on Nazi orders, of over 13,000 French Jews who were then shipped off to extermination camps. At the ceremony this year, French President Emmanuel Macron apologized for France’s actions and pledged to make France a country where the Jewish victims, among them over 4,000 children, would have wanted to live.
But, writes Nidra Poller, the “tragic reality” is this: as shown most recently by the April murder of the sixty-five-year-old Sarah Halimi by a radicalized twenty-seven-year-old Muslim, France can’t and won’t fulfill that pledge:
If the descendants of those [murdered] children lived in France today, they might have to hide their kippot and Magen Davids, they might be harassed out of schools and neighborhoods, beaten up in the métro, accused of genocide against the Palestinians. If the descendants of those children lived in France today, the children hunted like animals by the French and exterminated by the Nazis, . . . they might be assassinated at a Jewish school in Toulouse [as in March 2012], their lives might be shattered by the savage murder of their grandmother in Paris in 2017. And who would be persecuting them? The descendants of immigrants and refugees from Arab-Muslim countries, the underprivileged victims of discrimination whom President Macron vows to protect [by means of the same] tender consideration that put a Kobili Traoré in the apartment downstairs of Sarah Halimi wthout first making sure he had integrated the values of the Republic.
[Unlike the situation in 1942], the French police did not pound on the door and drag Sarah Halimi from her home in the middle of the night. The police stood down, waiting interminably for reinforcements, while Kobili Traoré beat, smashed, and exterminated a defenseless Jewish woman.
The courage and lucidity to acknowledge the French crimes of the past falters in the face of French crimes of the present.