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Thinking of Spending Time on the French Riviera This Summer?  Think Again !!

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Thinking of Spending Time on the French Riviera This Summer?  Think Again !!

Jews from America and around the world have often made the French Riviera their preferred summer vacation destination; spending several weeks or even months there.  Tragically, times have changed as the most egregious manifestations of anti-Semitism have become all too commonplace throughout France, especially since the brutal Hamas massacre of 1200 Israelis and others in southern Israel on October 7th. In the immediate aftermath of the sadistic assault, an avalanche of anti-Israel hatred has been unleashed globally and it is particularly pronounced in France. This should come as no surprise to any student of history, as France has morphed into a hotbed of visceral Jew hatred in the last several decades.

Having said this, it would be well advised for Jewish travelers to seek alternative destinations for their upcoming summer vacations rather than spending their hard earned dollars in a country that is replete with government endorsed anti-Semitic policies. Moreover, safety concerns should take precedence in any decision making process regarding the selection of any vacation destination.  Scholars on contemporary anti-Semitism have noted that statistics reveal that Jew hatred in Europe and the United States has increased dramatically; to the point where some have compared it to pre-Holocaust Europe; circa 1938. Others have said that this perennial form of prejudice is totally off the charts; an ominous phenomenon that is on a grease slide with no brakes.

The recent European elections in France have reignited an age-old question that carries profound weight and urgency: “Est-ce bon pour les juifs?” — “Is it good for the Jews?” This question, typically emerging during periods of crisis, takes on an existential dimension in the current political climate. For the first time in French history, the country stands on the precipice of being governed by coalitions from both ends of the political spectrum, each harboring the specter of anti-Semitism.

The National Rally’s (RN) unprecedented success in last week’s elections for the European Parliament has sent shockwaves through France. Under the leadership of Jordan Bardella, a protégé of Marine Le Pen, the RN secured over 30% of the vote, outpacing President Emmanuel Macron’s party and closely followed by the Socialist list led by Raphaël Glucksmann. This victory, however, is more than a mere numerical triumph; it signifies a disturbing shift in the political landscape.

Historically, the RN has been confined to specific regions, but its latest victory shows a broader appeal, extending even to Île-de-France, including Paris, traditionally a bastion of anti-RN sentiment. Moreover, the party has attracted demographic groups that previously shunned it, such as older and university-educated voters. This shift in voter base underscores a growing normalization of the RN’s ideology, which remains fundamentally ethno-nationalist, anti-immigrant, anti-European, and anti-pluralist, despite efforts to cleanse its image.

Marine Le Pen’s strategic rebranding of the RN, distancing it from its Nazi-adjacent, anti-Semitic, and Vichy sympathizer roots, including expelling her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has undoubtedly played a role in this success. Yet, the core tenets of the party remain unchanged. The RN’s façade of respectability belies a deeply ingrained anti-Semitic undercurrent. Jean-Marie Le Pen’s infamous assertion that the Holocaust was a “detail of history” casts a long shadow over the party’s rhetoric and policies.

Moreover, the simultaneous rise of anti-Semitic sentiments on the far-left compounds this threat. While the RN’s anti-Semitism is overt, the far-left’s anti-Semitic tendencies often masquerade under the guise of anti-Zionism, complicating efforts to combat them. This dual-front menace necessitates a robust and unequivocal response from all sectors of French society.

Case in point: The Jewish News Syndicate web site recently reported that “a French district court banned all Israeli nationals from participating in Eurosatory, the largest international exhibition for land and air-land defense and security.

The decision follows the May 31 announcement by the French Armed Forces Ministry banning all Israeli defense companies from exhibiting at the show. Seventy-four Israeli firms were set to exhibit at the event, which takes place every two years at the Paris-Nord Villepinte Exhibition Center.

Under the May 31 ban, individual Israeli citizens were still permitted to attend the trade show, which takes place on June 17-21. However, an anti-Israel group challenged that concession in French court. They argued that Israeli citizens might act as intermediaries for their country’s defense firms.

The court agreed, ordering the trade fair to ban all Israeli citizens, maintaining that allowing them into the event was a loophole that might permit the participation of Israeli defense companies through their representatives.

The court called the event organizers’ decision to allow Israelis into the fair blatantly illegal. The court also called on Eurosatory’s organizers to post the decision at the entrances of the exhibition center where the event is held.”

In a dramatic move that has sent shockwaves through the French political landscape, President Emmanuel Macron took to national television on the night of the European election results to announce the dissolution of the National Assembly and the calling of new legislative elections. This unprecedented decision, only the second time in the 66-year history of the Fifth Republic, comes at a critical juncture as France grapples with the rising tide of extremism and anti-Semitism.

Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure aptly captured the sentiment of this historic moment, proclaiming, “We have succeeded. A page of French history is now being written.”

At the heart of this coalition lies a significant ideological rift between Jean-Luc Mélenchon of Defiant France and Raphaël Glucksmann of the Socialist Party. Mélenchon’s recent assertion that France has only a “residual” amount of antisemitism has sparked outrage and underscored the deep divisions within the left. Glucksmann, a vocal critic of Mélenchon’s stance, has been adamant that any coalition agreement must include unequivocal commitments to fundamental principles.

In a recent radio interview, Glucksmann emphasized that all parties involved in the coalition have agreed on key issues: recognizing the October 7 events as a terrorist massacre, committing to the fight against anti-Semitism, and supporting Ukraine’s resistance against Russian aggression. These principles, he argues, are non-negotiable and essential for the coalition’s credibility and moral standing.

Glucksmann’s insistence on these points is a response to Mélenchon’s evasiveness on matters of anti-Semitism and international solidarity. By securing agreement on these principles, Glucksmann aims to ensure that the coalition stands on a firm ethical foundation.

The upcoming legislative elections in France have cast a long shadow over the nation’s Jewish community, leaving many in a state of despair and confusion. A recent poll by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) reveals a stark reality: 92% of Jewish respondents believe that the extreme-left La France insoumise (LFI) is responsible for the rise of anti-Semitism in France, while only half attribute the same to the Rassemblement national (RN). This sentiment is so pervasive that nearly 60% of respondents would consider leaving France if an LFI member became prime minister, compared to 37% under an RN government.

This data underscores a profound crisis of trust and safety among French Jews, who find themselves trapped between two political extremes, both marred by anti-Semitic associations. The emergence of a new Popular Front coalition, aimed at challenging both Macron’s Renaissance Party and Le Pen’s National Rally, has yet to provide the reassurance or hope that many in the Jewish community desperately seek.

The palpable sense of unease was eloquently articulated by Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur in a recent sermon in Paris. Drawing from the Torah, she highlighted its role as an inspiration for the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen and the constitutions of Western democracies. Yet, she lamented the current state of the Republic, likening the Jewish community’s plight to an exile in the desert, uncertain of when, or if, they will find a place of safety and acceptance.

This metaphor of the desert is a powerful reminder of the Jewish historical experience of wandering and searching for a homeland. Today, French Jews face a similar existential uncertainty, exacerbated by the political landscape. The extreme-left’s failure to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism and the extreme-right’s historical and ongoing associations with anti-Semitic ideologies create a scenario where the community feels besieged on all fronts.

The mainstream political discourse must unequivocally reject anti-Semitism in all its forms. This involves holding accountable those who perpetuate hate, regardless of their political affiliation, and fostering an environment where diversity and inclusion are celebrated, not vilified. Educational initiatives, community outreach, and stringent legal measures must be employed to counteract the normalization of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

In conclusion, the question “Is it good for the Jews?” encapsulates a broader concern for the health of French democracy. The rise of the National Rally and the persistence of anti-Semitic attitudes across the political spectrum represent a significant threat to the Jewish community and to the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. It is imperative that French society confronts and dismantles these toxic ideologies, ensuring that the country’s political future is one of inclusion and respect for all its citizens.

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