Mireille Knoll was brutally murdered in her Paris apartment on March 23. She was 85 years old with a disability and a Holocaust survivor. Police suspect anti-Semitism may have motivated the attack upon her; all prompting an emotional outpouring.
A mass silent procession known as a “White March” was called for March 28, the same date as the national day of mourning for Arnaud Beltrame, the gendarme (military police) who died after substituting himself for a hostage during a terrorist attack on a supermarket in the town of Trebes.
However, the solemnity of the occasion was undermined by a crass declaration from Francis Kalifat, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Organisations (CRIF). Kalifat declared that La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) movement leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and its other members of parliament were not welcome at the march.
His rationale was that the far left promotes “hatred of Jews” and “hatred of Israel”. Kalifat concluded that neither France Unbowed nor the far-right National Front should attend.
Not surprisingly, the French left condemned this attempt to lump together the inheritors of the resistance to fascism with an organisation that has roots in collaboration with the Nazis. Knoll’s own son rejected the call by the CRIF to exclude the left from the event, saying all were welcome.
The CRIF is fiercely pro-Israel and falsely claims to represent all French Jews. It routinely equates legitimate criticism of Israel’s dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians with anti-Semitism.
This may be a morally bankrupt line of argument, but it has powerful backers. In July last year, French President Emanuel Macron declared anti-Zionism to be a “re-branded form of anti-Semitism”.
Furthermore, France is one of the few countries in the world where publicly supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is classified as an illegal “hate crime”, giving lie to its claim to be a bastion of free speech.
It has echoes in the repeated allegations by right-wingers in the British Labour Party that there is a problem with anti-Semitism in the organisation under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
On the day of the march, a violent far-right Zionist group called the Jewish Defence League (LDJ) physically attacked representatives of France Unbowed. They also protected the delegation from the National Front, who were being heckled by the crowd.
Melenchon and his team chose to leave rather than have the confrontation overshadow the event.
The actions of the LDJ seem incredible, considering that National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen infamously declared the Holocaust to be a “detail of history”. However, his daughter now has the reins of the party and she has toned down the anti-Semitism, kicked her father out of the organisation and is concentrating her fire on Muslim migrants.
Anti-Semitic attacks remain a real problem in France. But as in other Western countries, Jews have long since been replaced by Muslims as the main official scapegoat and “enemy within”. They also work a double shift as the uncivilised enemy abroad.
The modern equivalent of 1930s anti-Semitism is Islamophobia — and that suits some defenders of Israel just fine.
In response to the CRIF, the pro-Palestinian, left-wing and secular French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP) declared in a statement: “The UJFP struggles and will continue to struggle relentlessly against anti-Semitism, while simultaneously rejecting these pathetic and obscene attempts at manipulation, and with the conviction that the fight against anti-Semitism must not be set apart from the general struggle against racism.”