maandag, juli 19, 2004

The wolf that cried wolf

BBC NEWS | Middle East | French Jews 'must move to Israel'

Ariel Sharon is not only a rabid wolf himself, but he cries wolf as well.

The recent report by a disturbed woman of an anti-semitic assault on her and her child turned out to be false, but for Sharon, the non-existence of the attack is no barrier to exploiting it to perpetuate the myth that France is on the verge of a second Final Solution.

Sharon has told a meeting of the American Jewish Association in Jerusalem that Jews around the world should relocate to Israel as early as possible. Nothing new there: Israel's friends and leaders continue to describe the country as being a refuge for Jews around the world escaping from anti-semitism, despite the reality of it easily being the most dangerous place in the world for Jews. What is new is that added to the usual call to return to the mothership, was Sharon’s commandment that those living in France "must" move because of the supposed rising violence against Jews there specifically.

"We see the spread of the wildest anti-Semitism" in France, he said.

Anti-semitism exists. It is as pernicious as any other oppression: racism (it's close relative), sexism, homophobia. But we must make a distinction between the anti-semitic attacks of neo-Nazi thugs who physically assault Jews and other minorities, and the thuggish attacks of young, often unemployed Muslims in western countries who face the twin assault of virulent Islamophobia and the exclusions and bigotry of the security measures in the West that accompany the war on terror - who rightfully simultaneously see their own plight as lying on same continuum as the occupations of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

Not that it feels much different on the receiving end: a vandalised synagogue or cemetery looks pretty much the same whether performed by Nazi thugs or Algerian kids from the Paris suburbs. But one is the act of psychotic, bigoted-to-the-bone white Christians - members of the dominant race and religion in the west, while the other is the act of misguided members of a severely oppressed group acting out in counter-productive and offensive fashion against the butchery of the Israeli state.

It must be said: There is no new wave of anti-semitism around the world. There simply isn’t.

This is not to condone such acts. The left must work much harder to incorporate minorities in general and Arab youths in particular into our organising for global justice and against the war, thus offering a much more constructive outlet for this frustration. This is especially the case in France, where the left, with a few exceptions, has lined up with the Chirac government in its racist attacks on Muslims who wear the Hijab in the name of some ‘laïcisme républicain,’ - the defence of which looks little different to national chauvinism elsewhere. When progressives do not open up space for the excluded and marginalised, where else does such anger go but into such destructive acts? In Britain, however, for all its considerable problems, the Socialist Workers’ Party has been a near model of integrating Muslim and ethnic minority working class communities into campaign work and the Stop The War Coalition.

And the number of attacks by these kids, such as do exist, is a fraction of the daily, often violent assaults on Muslims in the west by racists, the police and security services. In Canada, attacks on Muslims (and Sikhs and Hispanics, who, you know, are darkies too) are a daily occurrence, but rarely make it to the front pages of the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star.

In France, are Jews being rounded up, arrested in secret, tried and sentenced in secret, without being able to contact family, employers or even legal representation, deported or tortured and killed? No? Because that is happening on a daily basis in the United States to Muslims. We have no idea how many have been arrested in this way. It could be dozens. It could be hundreds. We have only the reports of these ‘new desaparecidos’ from their families in immigrant communities in the US. Then there are the thousands of ‘normal’ arrests and deportations.

If there is one good thing to come out of this affair, it will be that the French will react with indignation against Sharon’s accusations, and will likely now be more skeptical of Israel. He has also probably killed off the considerable (but mad as cheese) movement of French liberals against an anti-semitism where it doesn’t exist.

Fascism and anti-semitism do exist in elsewhere France, however. But you’ll find them both in the Front National, for which thousands of French Jews have voted in recent elections, knowing full well that Jean-Marie Le Pen and his party is anti-semitic, but overlooking that picayune inconvenience in order to support his brass knuckles approach to (Arab) immigration.