France and the antisemite. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Special Report

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” -Elie Wiesel

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose | What goes around comes around

          Marc Knobel

Marc Knobel is Director of Studies at CRIF, the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France, the umbrella organization of French Jewish organizations. This week his first article, out of a total of five, was published in France. “Is antisemitism developing [in France] on the dirt of Israelophobia and anti-Zionism?”

For many of our readers who are following the alarming increase in antisemitic news emanating out of Europe, you will find Knobel’s conclusions daunting.

 The version below is translated from the French and is republished in its entirety with the permission of CRIF and the author. The remaining articles will be available to read on the CRIF website.

By Marc Knobel, Director of Studies at CRIF

Some people imagine that the world would be better off if Israel was destroyed. This radical Israelism and/or anti-Zionism is one of the major causes of contemporary antisemitism. In this regard, CRIF offers a series of five articles on the theme: How do Israelophobia and anti-Zionism carry the seeds of antisemitism and reveal its incredible violence?

The Israelophobian

These individuals are animated by a feeling of hostility to Israel more or less drawn-out and exacerbated by the media coverage of clashes in the Middle East. Beyond that, they make Israel the cause of all national and international evils.

The historian Annette Wieviorka explains it this way: “this cashing-in on anti-Zionism is very close to the antisemitism of Nazi Germany” (1).”

For the Israelophobian this facilitates their prognosis into a conflict, which in their eyes, even reproduces in some, exclusion and failure schemes that they feel victimized in France.

By reading and reiterating that the Israelis behave like monsters; in opposition to idealizing the Palestinian cause, some people attack French Jews in the absence of Israelis.

All this was taking place again in a context where antisemitism and anti-Zionism conquered global rights in August 2001 in Durban, South Africa at the UN Conference against Racism. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which had no claim there, occupied all the participants and Israel was marginalised by the countries participating.

In addition, Islamists know how to work the field, they know how to designate the enemy or the enemies such as the Jews, France etc. For them, Jews and to a lesser extent, Christians, rejected the Prophet and Islam. In their sermons or on the Internet, they present a conspiracy view of Islam allegedly threatened by Americans, Europeans and Jews.

And so for them, Israel focuses a conspiratorial imagination, says the philosopher Pierre-Andre Taguieff. The names ‘Israel’ and ‘Zionist’ have for half a century been replacing the name ‘Jew’.

In an interview with L’Express, Taguieff goes back to the origins of Judeophobia to understand why Israel is perceived “as the head of an international conspiracy” (2). He describes more precisely what Israelophobia is:

“Israelophobia is only the visible tip of anti-Zionism which, in its radical forms, aims at the destruction of the Jewish state. The denunciation of the ‘Zionist world conspiracy’ is the product of a legacy of European antisemitism which, since the 1920s, has gradually become globalized, before becoming increasingly Islamic from the 1950s. The dreamt up victims of the Jewish paleo-plot were Christians. Those of the great ‘Zionist conspiracy’ are now first and foremost Palestinians, Arabs and more broadly the Muslims.”

Most of the stereotypical accusations against Jews are projected on Israel: hatred of the human race, criminal tendencies, will dominate the world, the propensity to conspire, to lie and manipulate opinion, racism (“apartheid”) and imperialism. 

What do the statistical figures in France say about this?

We have an important measurement to talk about on this subject. Statistical data make it possible to measure the trend when we talk about an increase of antisemitic acts in France. (3).

-In 1998 and in 1999, 81 antisemitic acts were recorded.

-In 2000, they suddenly jumped to 744, nearly a ten-time increase.

The annual figures then fluctuated, downward or upward.

-In 2002, 936

-In 2004, 974

-In 2009, 832

-In 2012. 614

-In 2014. 851

-In 2015, 808

Let’s look at the numbers:

In 2000, 2002 and 2004 the number of antisemitic acts in France were 744, 936 and 974 respectively.

However, these figures can be related to the importation into France of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, namely the 2000-2004 Second Intifada (4).

This conflict provokes strong emotion. For the Israelophobian, the fight boils down to this equation:

Jews = Israelis = Nazis.

However, there is a peculiarity here. Not all conflicts in the world arouse such passion, such as tension. Strangely, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to manifest all emotions.


The sociologist Smaïn Laacher analyzed the profile of young people who took action [against French Jews] as referred to in Le Monde of Friday, November 3, 2000. Laacher states:

“It is the strength of the images (of this conflict) seen on television that has leaned more young people towards being motivated towards lawbreaking. In fact, for many observers, the impact of television images is the main reason for this act.”

“For me, it’s identification in a world of the image. These young people see very violent clashes on TV and they feel solidarity and, by amalgamation, attack Jewish symbols because of the lack of Israeli targets,” said Mehdi Lallaoui, director of the Mouvement Associatif and himself an activist in the outer city areas for more than twenty years and the major figure in the 1983 Marche pour l’Egalité.

-In 2009, 832 antisemitic acts in France are recorded against 397 in 2008. Another Israeli – Hamas conflict developed in 2008. (5).

-In 2012, 614 antisemitic acts in France are listed against 389 in 2011. Again, 4,000 km away in 2012, the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza against Hamas (6).

-In 2014, 851 antisemitic acts in France against 423 in 2013 (7).

-In 2017, antisemitic acts in France continued to grow. After the US decision to transfer their embassy to Jerusalem, the Hamas leadership chose the launching of a new ‘intifada’. Violence took place in France.

And the logic is strictly the same. For we are dealing with an import of the paroxysm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and this has repercussions in several countries and not only in France. Unable to attack Israelis, Jews were targeted who were suspected of supporting Israel’s policies.

Anti-Zionism, which accuses the State of Israel of systematic violence, racism, apartheid and in its radical form, wants Israel’s disappearance pure and simple by accusing it of all the evils of the world and establishes for the philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff the last avatar of the ancient and multiform hatred of the Jews. “The slogan, ‘Death to Israel!’ has replaced the slogan, ‘Death to the Jews!’”

1) Annette Wieviorka, “The debate is always disproportionate about Israel”, Le Monde, February 21, 2019, p. 26.

2) The interview appeared in L’Express under the title “Taguieff dissects the conspiracy theories” (comments collected by Alexis Lacroix), May 12, 2018, -repondent-has-a-need-of-ordre_2007876.html. See also: Marc Knobel, “Hate and Antisemitic Violence. A Retrospective 2000-2013 “, Paris, Berg International, 2013, 350 pages.

3) The census records antisemitic acts that have been the subject of a complaint or a day-to-day contact with the police services and sent to the SPCJ. It is enriched and cross-referenced by reports from the various police services in France and centralized at the Ministry of the Interior.

4) The Intifada is unleashed on September 28, 2000, after the visit of Ariel Sharon – at the time opposition leader of the political right on the Mosque Esplanade in Jerusalem.

(5) On December 27, 2008, the IDF launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza following continuing terrorist activities and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

6) On 14 November 2012, the IDF launches Operation Pillar of Defense against terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.

7) Our Brothers’ Guardian Operation was launched by the Israelis following the kidnapping of three young Israelis, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, by the Hamas terrorists, during the month of June 2014. The purpose of this operation was to find those boys and hit Hamas.

Editor’s comment: Every language has its unique grammar system with its own nuances, meanings and connotations. With this in mind, in translation we have attempted to follow Marc Knobel’s article as near as possible to its original form.

Photo credits: CRIF; Marc Knobel- Babelio

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