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15 mars 2006 / 01h58
- Le Mal Persistant / The Persistance of Evil: Reflections on Jews in France

by Laurence Thomas on Tue 07 Mar 2006
Le mal est persistant. Il ne reconnaît ni l’innocent ni le juste. Et ce fait est tout à fait bouleversant. Ce fait est blessant. De nouveau, la France connaît le mal qui s'est manifesté cette fois-ci dans les actions de Youssouf Fofana, le tueur d’Illan Halimi, un jeune juif. Fofana, ayant commis un acte d’agression barbare, vicieux, et du caractère antisémite, est devenu un symbole du mal; et les juifs en France s’inquiètent. D’une part, il ne faut pas exagérer; d’autre part, il faut faire face à la réalité. Un juif peut se demander: Le prochain ? Pourrait-il être moi ?

In protest of Halimi’s murder, a demonstration against racism and antisemitism took place in France last week. Among the associations present was the recently formed L’Amitié-Judéo-Noire. These various groups were united by their horror over the murder of Illan Halimi. Yet, it is sad that there had to be a march against both racism and antisemitism rather simply against antisemitism itself.

Why not simply against antisemitism itself? To be sure, racism against blacks and others is real enough. But if a black had been brutally murdered, it seems to me that hardly anyone would have thought it pertinent to talk about antisemitism itself in drawing attention to the brutality. Talking about antisemitism, given such a context, would have struck many as out of place.

But it a real sign of the times in France that few feel that can protest antisemitism without taking about racism in general. This is most revealing because history makes it abundantly clear that antisemitism has its own malignant character. And the reason rants in the Arabic world have not at all been directed at blacks and other minorities. No, these rants have been directed exclusively at Jews.

No Arabic nation has claimed that the black nations of Africa do not have a right to exist. But Iraq has claimed that Israel does not have a right to exist. And to this date, Hamas refuses to recognize Israel.

Turning to France, again, it must surely be acknowledged that racism is its own problem in France. But, alas, it must just as surely be acknowledged that antisemitism is its own problem in France.

Let me speak more forthrightly. Had a black been tortured and battered and left naked outside in the way that Halimi was, and had this been done by a white: there is little doubt in mind that thousands upon thousands of whites would have taken to the streets to protest such a vicious display of racism.

But an Arab Muslim can do such a thing to a Jew, and by and large the Arabic Muslim population in France goes on about its business. And by and large the white population in France goes on about its business. And by and large the black population in France goes on about its business. And so Jews can rightly ask the question—a rhetorical one, presumably: Are not we, too, human?

And therein lies the problem: Increasingly, it feels like it is only in theory that the question, “Are not we, too, Jews,” is answered affirmatively. In practice, an ordinary Jew, a Jew who is merely trying to make a living can wonder just how equal am I in France. And the concern would be justified. A mere 10 years ago, there was barely a Jew in France who would have had this concern. What happened to Halimi was simply unthinkable. Not only that, their love for France was beyond question. Hence, their was a profound sense of security on their part.

Illan Halimi was as ordinary a Jew as they come. That is, he was no symbol of Jewish intellectual power; he was no symbol of Jewish wealth. He owned a phone shop, just like many others people in France still do—just like many other Muslim Arabs in France still do. He was no beacon of success.

I have said all of this not in order to disparage his life, but to draw attention to what might concern a reasonable Jew in France.

Halimi was attacked simply for being Jewish—and not because he exhibited in his lifestyle any of those so-called Jewish traits that bothers many non-Jews. This is the person whom Youssouf Fofana killed. And any Jew can reasonably say: That could have been me. And wanted to kill a Jew rather than a black. This is antisemitism—and not racism. And to call it racism is to diminish the reality of what happened.

No doubt some university professor will remind me by that antisemitism is but a species of racism. In this theory, this no doubt is true enough. But in practice, racism and antisemitism refers to two different kinds of attitudes.

So the fact that we need to have a demonstration against both racism and antisemitism in order to protest the death of a Jew killed for being a Jew—antisemitism, by any other name—is a profound sign of the precariousness of life for a Jew in France.

George Orwell wrote: All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others. Well, in France there is a slightly different version of Orwell’s famous remarks: Some, namely Jews, are less equal than others.

Haut de page article written by Y.M - Source :

- Rama Yade
The following is a guest post by Eloi Laurent, a French economist. Eloi has proposed a series of biographies of "visible minorities" in power in various walks of French life. This first contribution focuses on Rama Yade.

The Jews and Blacks Alliance of Friendship has joined the joy of millions of men and women because of the election last night of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

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