Anti-Semitism Has a Lot to Do with the French Riots—Just Not in the Way Many Think

When riots swept through France following the death of a seventeen-year-old at the hands of the police, it was hard not to see important resonances with the recent experiences of French Jewry: the rioters tended to be young Muslims of African origin from the slum-like suburbs known as banlieues—in other words, they came from the same population that has been the source of pervasive, and sometimes murderous, anti-Semitism. Many observers cited the vandalization of a World War II memorial in the city of Nanterre; one article described the outbreak of violence as an intifada. But Marc Weitzmann argues that it is wrong to see the rioters as motivated by anti-Semitism:

There is a reason why [so many writers are] using the Nanterre memorial as evidence of the riots’ anti-Semitism: there is no other even vaguely plausible example. In fact, even the case of Nanterre is deceiving. First of all, the Nanterre wall is neither “a Holocaust memorial” nor a “memorial of deportation” [of French Jews by the Nazis] but a monument dedicated to “the martyrs of deportation and of the Resistance.” . . . If the Nanterre memorial symbolizes anything, . . . it is the ambiguity of French memory regarding World War II.

Were kosher restaurants and Jewish stores ransacked during the riots? Of course they were—but no more than non-kosher restaurants and stores that happened to be within reach of the rioters and looters. In fact, from a Jewish standpoint, if anything is remarkable, it is the almost complete lack of specificity in the choice of the businesses targeted.

What this outburst of anti-French violence shares with previous instances of anti-Jewish violence, according to Weitzmann, is a common cause: France’s failure to integrate immigrants from Muslim countries and their descendants into its society—and their refusal to integrate.

Aside from racism, one of the most underestimated reasons for why the French failed to develop any active policy to integrate migrants from their former colonies was that this would have been seen as a casus belli by the new nationalist Algerian and Moroccan regimes, whose oil and gas were vital to the French economy. . . . The former colonies made a point of directly controlling their nationals on French territory, a deal to which the French state assented. As a result, the ex-colonies also controlled the mosques and migrant culture in France.

In that regard, it is therefore tempting to see the random, spontaneous, anti-Semitic attacks that plagued France between 2000 and 2014 and beyond—that is to say before and after the terror wave—as a non- or pre-verbal designation of the enemy: the energetic condition, so to speak, for the subsequent terror to fall on everyone.

Read more at Tablet

More about: European Islam, France, French Jewry


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict