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‘I felt the hatred’, says philosopher attacked by gilets jaunes ‘I felt the hatred’, says philosopher attacked by gilets jaunes
(25 days later)
The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut is at home: an airy apartment with walls packed floor to ceiling with books in one of Paris’s more chic arrondissements.The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut is at home: an airy apartment with walls packed floor to ceiling with books in one of Paris’s more chic arrondissements.
Today, however, the writer and commentator does not feel entirely at home in France. That feeling was heightened dramatically when, last weekend, a gilet jaune protester shouted at him that he was a “dirty Zionist shit” who should “go back to Tel Aviv”.Today, however, the writer and commentator does not feel entirely at home in France. That feeling was heightened dramatically when, last weekend, a gilet jaune protester shouted at him that he was a “dirty Zionist shit” who should “go back to Tel Aviv”.
“I am home, but not to these people. Those who shout ‘go back to Tel Aviv’ believe Israel is stolen land, so what they are saying is that I have no place here, I have no place there … that I have no place on earth,” he told the Observer.“I am home, but not to these people. Those who shout ‘go back to Tel Aviv’ believe Israel is stolen land, so what they are saying is that I have no place here, I have no place there … that I have no place on earth,” he told the Observer.
It is all part of what he calls “new winds blowing across Europe. Where are they taking us? Nobody knows,” he said. “It’s very worrying.”It is all part of what he calls “new winds blowing across Europe. Where are they taking us? Nobody knows,” he said. “It’s very worrying.”
The sharp rise in antisemitism and racism in France is a “new turn of events” that could be linked to the gilets jaunes demonstrations that have swept the country, according to President Emmanuel Macron. Swastikas have been daubed on public buildings, on Jewish gravestones and on postboxes bearing portraits of the late Simone Veil, a politician and Holocaust survivor. The German word Juden (Jews) was sprayed on the window of a bagel bakery on the Île Saint-Louis, in the heart of Paris.The sharp rise in antisemitism and racism in France is a “new turn of events” that could be linked to the gilets jaunes demonstrations that have swept the country, according to President Emmanuel Macron. Swastikas have been daubed on public buildings, on Jewish gravestones and on postboxes bearing portraits of the late Simone Veil, a politician and Holocaust survivor. The German word Juden (Jews) was sprayed on the window of a bagel bakery on the Île Saint-Louis, in the heart of Paris.
In a video recorded of the verbal assault on Finkielkraut, whose Polish-Jewish father survived deportation from Paris to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1942, a man whose face is contorted with rage screams: “We are the French people, France is ours.” At one point the protester, who was later arrested, shows his keffiyeh, a traditional Arab scarf.In a video recorded of the verbal assault on Finkielkraut, whose Polish-Jewish father survived deportation from Paris to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1942, a man whose face is contorted with rage screams: “We are the French people, France is ours.” At one point the protester, who was later arrested, shows his keffiyeh, a traditional Arab scarf.
“I felt the hatred, the hostility,” Finkielkraut said. “I’ve felt this increase in hostility for some time, but this was shocking.“I felt the hatred, the hostility,” Finkielkraut said. “I’ve felt this increase in hostility for some time, but this was shocking.
“I’m not afraid, let’s not exaggerate, and I’m not going to change the way I live, but it’s worrying that, not being anonymous, I am now at the mercy of the merest cretin who wants to attack me. And it’s clear there are now parts of France where I cannot go.”“I’m not afraid, let’s not exaggerate, and I’m not going to change the way I live, but it’s worrying that, not being anonymous, I am now at the mercy of the merest cretin who wants to attack me. And it’s clear there are now parts of France where I cannot go.”
Antisemitism in France, Finkielkraut suggested, is now a two-headed beast. One represents the historical racism, symbolised by the Dreyfus affair and the Nazi-collaborating Vichy regime. It is the almost institutional antisemitism revealed in comments in 1980 by Raymond Barre, the late prime minister, who said that an “odious” attack on the Copernic synagogue that killed four and injured more than 40 others “was aimed at hitting Israelites attending the synagogue and has hit innocent French people”. And it is revealed in the provocations of the former Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.Antisemitism in France, Finkielkraut suggested, is now a two-headed beast. One represents the historical racism, symbolised by the Dreyfus affair and the Nazi-collaborating Vichy regime. It is the almost institutional antisemitism revealed in comments in 1980 by Raymond Barre, the late prime minister, who said that an “odious” attack on the Copernic synagogue that killed four and injured more than 40 others “was aimed at hitting Israelites attending the synagogue and has hit innocent French people”. And it is revealed in the provocations of the former Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
That Finkielkraut’s gilet jaune attacker was a 36-year-old Muslim convert has also reinforced his controversial view that antisemitism’s second head is radical Islam in Europe.That Finkielkraut’s gilet jaune attacker was a 36-year-old Muslim convert has also reinforced his controversial view that antisemitism’s second head is radical Islam in Europe.
“This is not classic antisemitism that we saw with Hitler – this is another antisemitism altogether,” he said. “It does not come from France; it’s brought to France by a new population from Arab-Muslim countries and from black Africa and is then relayed by the extreme left.“This is not classic antisemitism that we saw with Hitler – this is another antisemitism altogether,” he said. “It does not come from France; it’s brought to France by a new population from Arab-Muslim countries and from black Africa and is then relayed by the extreme left.
“This antisemitism is very different from the swastikas on monuments. But if we point this out, we are called racist and accused of discrimination. I am called a racist because I criticise young Muslims who have been radicalised by Islamism, but in criticising Islamic extremists I am not criticising Islam in general. “The idea that we cannot hear antisemitism from people who suffer from racism themselves is a kind of blackmail and denial of the situation.”“This antisemitism is very different from the swastikas on monuments. But if we point this out, we are called racist and accused of discrimination. I am called a racist because I criticise young Muslims who have been radicalised by Islamism, but in criticising Islamic extremists I am not criticising Islam in general. “The idea that we cannot hear antisemitism from people who suffer from racism themselves is a kind of blackmail and denial of the situation.”
Finkielkraut, who was elected to the Académie Française in 2014 – making him one of the country’s “Immortals” – blames “intellectual antisemitism” among the French hard left, where, he says, support for the Palestinians has led to the view that all Jews are to be blamed for actions of the state of Israel. “If you raise the memory of the Holocaust, they say Israel is doing the same thing to the Palestinians. They use the memory to criminalise Israel and all Jews who are automatically linked to Israel,” he said.Finkielkraut, who was elected to the Académie Française in 2014 – making him one of the country’s “Immortals” – blames “intellectual antisemitism” among the French hard left, where, he says, support for the Palestinians has led to the view that all Jews are to be blamed for actions of the state of Israel. “If you raise the memory of the Holocaust, they say Israel is doing the same thing to the Palestinians. They use the memory to criminalise Israel and all Jews who are automatically linked to Israel,” he said.
Leading gilets jaunes have condemned the attack on Finkielkraut, insisting that the movement, which began last November as a grassroots protest against taxes and a political class seen as out of touch, is not antisemitic. Many gilets jaunes joined demonstrations across France under the slogan “Enough!” to protest against the recent spate of antisemitic attacks.Leading gilets jaunes have condemned the attack on Finkielkraut, insisting that the movement, which began last November as a grassroots protest against taxes and a political class seen as out of touch, is not antisemitic. Many gilets jaunes joined demonstrations across France under the slogan “Enough!” to protest against the recent spate of antisemitic attacks.
Others, including Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left La France Insoumise, have sought to play down the attack on Finkielkraut, saying that linking it to antisemitism is an attempt to discredit the gilets jaunes movement.Others, including Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left La France Insoumise, have sought to play down the attack on Finkielkraut, saying that linking it to antisemitism is an attempt to discredit the gilets jaunes movement.
It is undeniable, however, that over the past three months the movement has grown to take in wider grievances and, hardened by ultra-left and extreme-right agitators, now rails against the “elite”, the powerful, bankers and the media often with conspiracy theories that echo the antisemitic tropes about a powerful global Jewish cabal.It is undeniable, however, that over the past three months the movement has grown to take in wider grievances and, hardened by ultra-left and extreme-right agitators, now rails against the “elite”, the powerful, bankers and the media often with conspiracy theories that echo the antisemitic tropes about a powerful global Jewish cabal.
Finkielkraut, who has previously expressed support for the protests, does not believe that he was attacked by “ordinary” gilets jaunes, but he has not been reassured by the political response.Finkielkraut, who has previously expressed support for the protests, does not believe that he was attacked by “ordinary” gilets jaunes, but he has not been reassured by the political response.
“The future looks dark for two reasons,” he said. “Immigration continues to spread and the more it does, the more assimilation becomes difficult. Plus the school system has collapsed in France and does not play its role in integration. Then we have an extremely worrying convergence of the extreme left and intellectuals.”“The future looks dark for two reasons,” he said. “Immigration continues to spread and the more it does, the more assimilation becomes difficult. Plus the school system has collapsed in France and does not play its role in integration. Then we have an extremely worrying convergence of the extreme left and intellectuals.”
Finkielkraut says he is particularly concerned about Britain’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of Mélenchon. Last year, the French politician was described by CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, as “a danger to democracy”.Finkielkraut says he is particularly concerned about Britain’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of Mélenchon. Last year, the French politician was described by CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, as “a danger to democracy”.
“Jeremy Corbyn is at the doors of power. If he gets into 10 Downing Street it will be the first time in post-Hitler Europe that a great nation would be led by a leader who quite clearly has antisemitic tendencies,” Finkielkraut said. “And that for me is a very great worry.”“Jeremy Corbyn is at the doors of power. If he gets into 10 Downing Street it will be the first time in post-Hitler Europe that a great nation would be led by a leader who quite clearly has antisemitic tendencies,” Finkielkraut said. “And that for me is a very great worry.”
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