Thursday, March 02, 2006

For several reasons ( some of them historical ) Israelis believe that France is paradise on earth for anti-Semites in Europe. Since I have never visited any European countries except for Holland and France ( as a child I crossed the German border once on foot, and after a few meters ran back, afraid that soldiers with big mean dogs would come to arrest me ) I cannot really make any comparison, but one thing I know for sure: if ever I really experienced anti-Semitism it was in the Israeli army, when I did my basic training with some of the worst Russian immigrants that I came across here ( which does not mean that I have anything against Russians, after all, some of my best friends are Russian immigrants, no really ). During all my visits to Paris I never hid the fact that I am Jewish and from Israel, and whenever I visited archives, institutes, libraries, shops etc. in France's capital I was always helped in the most friendly and courteous manner one could imagine ( which some people who visited Paris might find remarkable ). Without the wonderful help from French - Jewish and non-Jewish - librarians, archivists, colleagues and friends I would not have had such very productive and pleasant times in Paris. The French can sometimes be aloof and annoying, but I never got the impression that that is personal, they only like others - no matter whether those others are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheist - to adapt to their manners, customs and culture. That is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when we consider what a fascinating and entertaining culture ( and what a beautiful language ) they have. From my knowledge of the history of and my experiences in France and Holland I can tell you that when it comes to anti-Semitism France is not better or worse than the Netherlands, even though incidents such as this one or the brutal murder of Ilan Halimi z"l suggest otherwise. One thing is certain: both the French media and the French authorities are very much aware of the problem and of their responsibilities, which does not necessarily mean that they know exactly what to do about it ( few of us do ) or have the - political - will to confront it properly. The fact that 'classical' forms of anti-Semitism and 'new' forms - sometimes disguised as anti-Zionism, mixed with anti-globalism, Islamism etc. - overlap and intermingle makes it harder to fight the phenomenon. The most important thing is for Jews and non-Jews alike to recognize anti-Semitism: not to ignore it when it is there, and not to cry A-wolf when it isn't. As for us Jews, in Israel and abroad, we have to acknowledge that anti-Semitism has stopped long ago being a problem of the goyim only.

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