The Israel-Palestine issue has always been one of the main factors shaking up the French political arena. Whenever the situation in the Middle East becomes tense, political discussions within France will fall into hysterical wars of words, and it is difficult for intellectuals to have rational dialogue. The same is true now after the war in Gaza broke out. .
France has been in turmoil since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. On the one hand, Israel’s retaliatory actions against Hamas and the severe casualties caused in Gaza immediately triggered a fierce response from anti-Semitic people in France. By mid-November, the number of anti-Semitic incidents had exceeded 1,000, and everyone in the Jewish community Self-danger. However, on the other hand, actions related to supporting Palestine or calling for humanitarian relief for Gaza have also been violently attacked by right-wing civil organizations that support Israel. Although the Emmanuel Macron government has appealed to the outside world to maintain peace, it is not only difficult to integrate a common discussion on this issue within France, but it has even fallen into fierce debates.
Does “standing with Israel” mean condoning its retaliatory actions? Does “having compassion for fellow Palestinians” mean ignoring the terrorist attack on October 7? Does discussing how Israel’s long-term colonial occupation of Palestinian territory deepens the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be tantamount to acknowledging the legitimacy of Hamas’ attacks? Any comments will be magnified and interpreted, and any position will face strong criticism. The only common language left is the empty slogan of “anti-discrimination, anti-racism”, but the connotation of “racism” criticized by everyone seems to be different.
When both Israel and Palestine are both tragic victims and perpetrators of hatred, where should outsiders’ sympathy be placed and who should be targeted for criticism? This is a very difficult question.
However, the turmoil caused by the Israeli-Palestinian issue in France is not only due to the unresolved situation in the Middle East itself, but also related to the special historical context of anti-Semitism in France, changes in French foreign policy, and the development and strategies of various camps in the internal political spectrum. . The latest (November 12) demonstration against anti-Semitism has further shaken the already blurred boundaries between the left and the right.
▌The context of Jewish discrimination and resistance to anti-Semitic movements in France
Anti-Semitism has a long history in Europe, but it originally had only religious connotations, and the racist aspect only emerged in the second half of the 19th century. This time coincided with the rise of the modern humanities. Anti-Semitic ideas absorbed new scientific discussions and framed the Jewish people as a special race in a biological sense to justify their stigmatization.
Such arguments entered France at the end of the 19th century. Taking the famous anti-Semitic work of the time – journalist Édouard Drumont’s 1886 book “La France juive” – as a starting point, the new anti-Semitic thought Starting to take root in France. Drumont’s starting point was to criticize the spirit and system of the Republic at that time. His conservatism and rejection of modernization were combined with traditional anti-Semitic arguments, and he further advocated that the adoption of the system of separation of church and state by the Republic was a Jewish conspiracy.
“Jewish France” specifically demonstrates the characteristics of French anti-Semitic thought: it not only combines traditional religion, racial opinions, and anti-capitalism, but is anti-Semitic in three senses, and also takes the proper connotation of the republic as the center of thinking. From then on, discussions of the Jewish question were tied to the imagination of the republic; conversely, claims to the nation—whether Catholic identity, French national identity, or a national identity that transcended all ethnic divisions— reflections on the Jewish question.
During the Second World War, Europe experienced the extreme level of anti-Semitic racism. After the war, the common memory of the horror was transformed into monuments, large and small, scattered in every town and city, always with inscriptions like “Never Forget” or “Never Forget” or ” With phrases such as “we remember”, he vowed to turn the painful memories of ethnic cleansing into eternal vigilance. The phrase “Never again!” (Plus jamais ça!) has almost become a special phrase in the historical context of World War II, emphasizing that Nazism/anti-Semitism should never be repeated again. These slogans are presented in the form of self-advocacy, because the ultimate source of the Jewish massacre is not an external enemy, but the common Jewish discrimination within European society and in the millennium of history and culture.
During World War II, France’s Vichy regime (Régime de Vichy) accepted the command of Nazi Germany and carried out large-scale arrests of Jews (the Winter Games Incident), which also left a sinful page in contemporary French history. How to face this period of history is an important task in post-war political reconstruction. For the French, the spirit of the new republic must include deep introspection of the Jewish issue, and resisting anti-Semitism has become one of the core political values.
▌Resisting anti-Semitic discourse oriented by international politics
However, the subsequent developments are well known: the painful lessons of World War II did not eradicate anti-Semitic ideas in Europe, and even neo-Nazism emerged. On the other hand, since the founding of the state of Israel, the boycott of anti-Semitic movements is no longer just a universal human rights issue, but an international political issue involving Israel’s interests in the Middle East. Therefore, “opposition to the establishment of the state of Israel” is often synonymous with “anti-Semitic” “Judaism” was equated. But even so, within the basic framework of recognizing the State of Israel, various views on the political situation in the Middle East would not be associated with any direct relationship with anti-Semitism, at least before the year 2000.
In fact, during the period before the millennium, France often showed positions that made the United States and Israel jump to their feet; since the Fifth Republic, every president has not hesitated to criticize Israel’s colonial practices, especially General Charles de Gaulle pointed out more clearly after the Six-Day War in 1967 that Israel knew that its occupation would be accompanied by the oppression and expulsion of the Palestinian people, but the resistance of the Palestinian people was classified as an act of terror by Israel.
Such an argument is unimaginable in France today, especially after the Israel-Kazakhstan war broke out in October. Talking about Palestinian “resistance” would immediately be labeled as anti-Semitic. However, at that time, as one of the major powers in Europe, France could criticize Israel so confidently.
This is because since the Cold War, France, in order to highlight its line that is different from the two major barriers of the United States and the Soviet Union, and to establish an irreplaceable importance on the international stage, has relied on the influence left by its past colonization in North Africa to build France into a Become the Arab world’s trustworthy counterpart in the West. Of course, there are also considerations of crude oil resources behind this. During this period, France’s foreign policy had its own characteristics. It was relatively independent and did not blindly follow the United States. It even had the title of “Friend of the Palestinian People” on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
However, more than 50 years have passed since the Six-Day War, and France’s position is completely different. Since former President Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s foreign policy has gradually moved closer to the interests of the United States and has gradually lost the trust of the Arab world. In his speech on the Israel-Kazakhstan war on October 12, President Macron pointed out that when Israel suffers, it has the right to protect itself. Any suggestion that it also bears some responsibility, or that “even so it should not do anything,” etc., is Unacceptable – the position presented in this speech is completely contrary to the spirit of de Gaulle.
On the same day, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin ordered provincial governors to ban all public events in support of Palestine, making France the only European country besides Hungary to ban such demonstrations throughout the territory (however, the Supreme Administrative Court later rejected this the legitimacy of an order).
This gap of more than 50 years was not formed in one day, but gradually accumulated during the transformation of France’s foreign policy in the past decade: the boycott of anti-Semitic movements was combined with the new national stance, evolving into a set of strict political correctness. Code, resulting in any criticism of Israel or concern for the Palestinians, may be infinitely classified as Jewish racial discrimination.
▌The interactive influence of Jewish issues and left-right politics
In fact, given that Jewish discrimination still exists in society and that the far right has gradually gained strength in recent years, excessive concerns about anti-Semitism are a normal reaction. Especially at this sensitive moment in the Middle East, the government’s stance toward limiting people’s freedom of expression to avoid social unrest is justified by many people. However, precisely because of this irrational culture of speech correction, the label of anti-Semitism is often abused and used as a weapon to attack political opponents.
In addition, in recent years, the far right has attracted many supporters by focusing on the issue of Muslim immigration. Most of these people are white people from the middle and lower classes. They have a more conservative position on national identity. Under the influence of far right discourse, they believe that Immigration has caused difficulties in their economic life, and it is the Islamic culture that is incompatible with Catholic culture that has created social conflicts. Several extremist terrorist attacks in France have deepened the negative stereotypes about the Muslim community. (Extended reading: “ISIS terrorists afraid of self-destruction at the last moment? The mystery of the 11.13 Paris terror attack trial”)
In other words, if there were a ranking list of people who suffered racial discrimination in France, immigrants from the Arab world and their descendants would be at the top, far surpassing Jewish discrimination. The above-mentioned political and social factors have created an unprecedented and complex relationship between the issue of anti-Semitism and the left-right spectrum.
In the past few years, left-wing political parties and the media have often been targets of attack, mostly because they were considered not politically correct enough in the process of defending the rights of immigrant groups or in the way they handled information from all parties – that is, If you say you don’t support Israel enough – you will be accused of anti-Semitic tendencies or of inciting ethnic hatred.
Such political trends have even given rise to a new term: “islamo-gauchisme”, which may have different meanings depending on the context of use: the left contaminated by Islamic culture; the conspiracy between Islam and the left; or in the name of leftist demands , in fact, in order to achieve the interests of certain Islamic groups). This creates a paradoxical situation: in order to strive for equality between ethnic groups, the left is considered to be seeking the interests of specific ethnic groups.
However, what is more paradoxical than this is at the other end of the spectrum: the far right, which was notorious for being anti-Semitic in the past, has begun to downplay Jewish issues in recent years in order to expand its voter base.
Marlene, the spiritual leader and former chairperson of the National Alliance (RN, formerly the National Front FN). Marine Le Pen took over from her father Jean-Marie Jean-Marie in 2011. After the far-right party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen, it began to quietly whitewash the party’s anti-Semitic image. Chanmari. Le Pen has been indicted and convicted on numerous charges for anti-Semitic and downplaying remarks about the Holocaust. One of the cases stemmed from his famous saying: “The gas chambers were only one detail of World War II.” However, his daughter Marlene. Le Pen is quite clear that if she wants to expand her party’s power, this stain must be resolved so that people can vote for them with a clear conscience.
And in this war between Israel and Ha, Marlene. Le Pen found her opportunity: she took members of the National Rally to participate in the boycott of the anti-Semitic march on November 12. Although CRIF, the main representative organization of the Jewish community in France, had spoken before the march to criticize Marlene. Marine Le Pen believes that she is not eligible to participate in the march and that her participation will blur the focus. However, because the event is open to public participation, neither CRIF nor anyone else can prevent the National Alliance from joining.
Marlene. After the news that Le Pen would participate in the march was made public, many public figures who were expected to participate fell into brief hesitation: How to support the Jews while walking with the far right? In the end, the only solution was “avoid walking near them”.
The event ended peacefully with the participation of more than 180,000 people. Many important political leaders attended, including French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and former French Presidents Sarkozy and François Hollande. However, the largest political party in the left camp, “La France insoumise”, decided to boycott and was absent. The main reason was that the demonstration was launched at a time when Israel was launching full firepower against Gaza. They believed that in this context, To call for a ceasefire without specifically calling for a ceasefire but to advocate in general terms to resist anti-Semitism is tantamount to using anti-Semitism as an excuse to condone Israel’s current actions.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the Unyielding France, even said through his X (former Twitter) account: “Those who support unconditional massacre are suitable to participate in this march.” – The provocative tone attracted people from all walks of life, even from his own camp. criticize. It seems that if the left cannot learn to be politically correct, it will only continue to be entangled with accusations of anti-Semitism.
We all think that anti-Semitism has only one evil face, and that efforts to resist anti-Semitism must come from the same light of justice. In fact, there are hundreds of forms of both, and the racism you see may be the exact opposite of what I see.
But what’s the point of all this fuss? The war is in the distance and life continues to disappear, but you and I are here uncontrollably arguing about our immediate interests and positions. Only when one is far away from the political theater can one realize how ridiculous and incredible it is that people argue so passionately over ideology. Just like the owner of a Mexican taco restaurant called Chamas in a small town in southeastern France, he suddenly discovered that a distant war could actually cause him to be ordered to close down, just because of the C on the sign. The letter bulb is out.