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.