Komorebi Post– Two media events on February in France led to declare unilaterally, by the French president, anti-Zionism part of antisemitism. The discrimination of French Jewish is more a justification of a political discourse rather than a social problem to resolve.
On the 16th of February, during the 14th demonstration of the Yellow Vest in Paris, French Jewish philosopher and prominent media figure Alain Finkielkraut was insulted by some of the demonstrators. The whole scene was filmed in the streets of Paris. The most strident among the protester was arrested on the 20th of February. He denounced noisily the philosopher as a “shitty Zionist” and “full of hatred”. French President Emmanuel Macron rapidly reacted on Twitter after the event, asking for strong judicial measures against these “antisemitic insults”.
On the 19th of February, the day the Socialist Party call for a civic gathering against antisemitic acts for the evening in Paris, the city of Quatzenheim in the east of France discovered its Jewish cemetery defiled: according to the French channel LCI, nearly 80 tombstones were tagged in blue paint with Nazi crosses. This time again, Macron reacted and went to the city to see the damages and denounced another hateful crime.
These two events, which launched a variety of reactions in the media and political spheres, in France and abroad, might appear to a non-French eye as distinct: in one hand, insults on a controversial media figure, whose positions on the Israeli occupation of Palestine or communities from African immigration in France, among others, have been subjected to many criticism; on the other hand, a clear racist act with reference to Nazism. But the government and even Macron consider them on the same level.
On the evening of the 19th of February, in the eastern part of Paris, another gathering apart from the one organized by the Socialist Party regrouped many leftist associations. Its members denounced antisemitic crimes, among other racist offenses and the instrumentalization by the government of current events. Media coverage can be divided with the two interpretations of anti-Zionism: for le Point, this demonstration is an illustration of communautarism, conspiracy theories and finally, a bit antisemitic; for Libération, this reunion of associations fighting racism and criticizing the government, following the motto of the Yellow Vest movement. The interpretation of anti-Zionism is the breaking line of those two points of view.
A semantic battle took place this last Yellow Vests’ demonstration, with which the press gets a hard time (this article of the Parisien is one of those which are supposed to “shed light” on this subject): should sayings against Zionism (to be fast, let’s call it Anti-Zionism…) be heard as antisemitic discourse? The President answered this question to the affirmative, as stated by Le Monde, announcing that the government will propose a law to mark antizionism as a racist offense, during the yearly diner hosted by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF). Still, the multiple interpretations of the term lead to different approach, and complexifying what could be seen or not as an offense.
Benjamin, a 45-year-old employee in private security, was stunned by Macron’s speech at CRIF’s diner. “Now, I might go to prison” he told his wife and son. Benjamin considers himself a “French citizen before a French Jew”. For him, one of the most important legacy of Jewish civilization is criticism, available through thinking and study. He rejects Zionism, as a political project consisting of stealing Palestinian land and making Israel a country only for Jews. “What Macron is doing is more discrediting the Yellow Vest movement rather than protecting the French Jewish citizens. It’s an instrumentalization the government is using to do politics”.
Maybe the key to solve the problem of discrimination of French Jewish is what Benjamin mentions: a process of thinking all the terms and discussing them within the whole French society, as well as denouncing the obvious antisemitic acts. The situation seems more complicated than defining the good and the bad with vocabulary effects. But reaction and opportunities are a big part of the political agenda.