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

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy