Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the context of ‘yellow jacket’ protest in France

According to a comprehensive survey among 16,300 Jews in 12 European countries released earlier this week by the European Commission and the E.U. Fundamental Rights Agency, anti-Semitism has once again spiked in France.

“Yellow-vests” movement protest in Belfort, France, on Dec. 1, 2018. Photo by Thomas Bresson via Wikimedia Commons.
“Yellow-vests” movement protest in Belfort, France, on Dec. 1, 2018. Photo by Thomas Bresson via Wikimedia Commons.

According to a comprehensive  survey among 16,300 Jews in 12 European countries released earlier this week by the European Commission and the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), anti-Semitism has once again spiked in France.

Results show that French Jews—the largest Jewish community in Europe with a total around 500,000—exhibit the highest level of concern over anti-Semitism (95 percent).

While the survey was conducted in May and June, an additional anti-Semitic element has come up over the last weeks  as a result of the so-called “yellow jacket” social-protest movement against taxes imposed by the French government. The movement has led to extremely violent clashes between protesters and police, especially in the center of Paris. Most violent clashes erupted  Saturday around the Champs-Elysées.

The Chabad House located on Champs-Elysées temporarily closed its doors last Shabbat for the first time in decades.

In another instance, a huge banner that was displayed on an overpass over the main highway between Paris and Marseilles accused French President Emmanuel Macron of being a “w—- to the Jews.” Macron was once called “President Rothschild” by an opposition politician in an antisemitic connotation reference to the president’s past functions as banker.

Social media networks have also been plagued with anti-Semitic sentiment in the last weeks. An anonymous source wearing a mask claimed, “it was the rich Jews who brought Macron to power so that he would be their puppet, and they are the ones who are pulling the strings. They caused him to nullify taxes on the assets of rich people, and they are responsible for the entire economic situation.”

At least several protesters in the “yellow jacket” movement have posted videos with anti-Semitic content. One far-right activist invited people to protest a Chabad menorah-lighting during Hanukkah, claiming that while France was suffering Jews were busy celebrating.

Since police forces in Paris have been mobilized primarily to restore the general order, the Jewish community has had to provide security on its own. The Jewish community also felt it necessary to recommend at least for the past Shabbat, against bringing children to the synagogues.

“There has clearly been a spread of conspiracy theories on Internet,” Johanna Barase, from the Inter-Ministerial delegation to combat racism, antisemitism and anti-LGBT hatred in France (DILCRAH), a body which is under the authority of the Prime Minister, told European Jewish Press.

“The yellow jacket movement is not itself antisemitic but this protest is multiform, unorganized on national level and very autonomous. Because of that, there have been manifestations of racism and anti-Semitism in various forms, linking the Jews to the ‘power elites,’ ” she explains.

Moreover, some notorious anti-Semites like so-called humorist Dieudonné or Hervé Ryssen, both convicted several times for inciting hatred against Jews, have grafted themselves on the movement. “The yellow-jacket movement attracts anti-Semites who try to infuse theories like Jews, Zionists are the elites, the financiers … ”

‘Increase efforts for those seeking to move to Israel’

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, better known as “The Fellowship,” which brings thousands of Jews from 29 countries on aliyah (immigration) to Israel including from France, said it is responding and mobilizing to offer special assistance to French Jews who express the desire to move to Israel.

“In light of the situation in France, we are preparing for a spike in French aliyah by allotting additional budget, staff and volunteers, to help any Jew who wishes to immigrate to Israel through us and to receive help in their resettlement in Israel,” said the group’s president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

“I hope that the European leadership will succeed in its efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism, but until then, it is important that we take action to secure the synagogues and Jewish schools. and increase our aliyah efforts for those seeking to move to Israel,” he said.

Uriel Saada, head of the Fellowship’s desk in France, said that he has already received dozens of requests from Jewish families who are interested in moving to Israel.

“Just last Friday, I got about 10  calls, which is very rare because usually no one calls on Fridays,” he noted.

Earlier this week, Israel announced a new plan to promote and encourage French aliyah.

Israeli Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett, who participated in the annual conference held by Qualita, the umbrella organization for olim (“new immigrants”) from France in Israel, declared: “There are 200,000 Jews in France who would immigrate to Israel tomorrow if we would do what is needed. The situation in France is not good, and they want to come. This has been a tremendous missed opportunity, but we are not looking back, we are looking to the future.

“We have already begun at the Ministry of Education with the program for children and youth from France, but this is just one part. Therefore, I raised the issue at the Cabinet meeting, and I was pleased the prime minister understood the importance and bestowed upon me the task to lead the formulation of the plan. Since no one has led this issue up until now, I declare today clearly: I will be the ‘father’ of aliyah from France. From now on, I am the French minister in the Israeli government.”

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