Saturday, October 11, 2014

Foreign attack damages Iranian research into detonating nuclear warheads

From Times of Israel, 9 Oct 2014:

An unnamed foreign country was responsible for the blast at Iran’s secretive Parchin facility on Monday, a Kuwaiti news site claimed Thursday, quoting unnamed Washington-based European diplomats. 

The report by Kuwait’s Al Rai also claimed Western intelligence agencies believe that Iran has been conducting tests at the facility, aimed at loading nuclear warheads onto ballistic missiles.

It was the Monday strike, the report further said, that prompted Iran to order Hezbollah to target an Israeli army patrol on the Israeli side of the Israel-Lebanon border the next day, in which two soldiers were injured.

There was no independent confirmation of the report, which was also cited on Israel’s Channel 2 news.

The blast, which is said to have killed at least two people, caused substantive damage to 12 buildings at the heart of the site, Channel 2 said Thursday.

According to satellite images taken after the blast, Israeli researcher Ronen Solomon told the TV channel, the affected buildings were bunkers where work was being carried out on triggers to detonate nuclear devices.

The reports emerged just as the latest UN effort to probe suspicions that Iran is working to attain nuclear weapons ended on a downbeat note, with diplomats saying that Tehran refused entry to Iran to a US nuclear expert on the UN’s investigating team.

The diplomats also said Thursday that the trip this week didn’t succeed in advancing a decade of UN efforts to investigate suspicions that Tehran worked on such weapons.

Tehran has denied IAEA inspectors access to Parchin since 2005.

Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, confirmed that an International Atomic Energy Agency staff member was refused a visa. Najafi didn’t identify the person, but told Iran’s Fars news agency that he had a “particular nationality.”

The IAEA’s inquiry is formally separate from US-led talks with Iran focused on long-term caps on Tehran’s atomic programs in exchange for an end to nuclear-related sanctions, which resume next week in Vienna.

But Washington says a successful investigation by IAEA must be part of any final deal. That is unlikely by Nov. 24 — the target date for such an agreement.

Two diplomats from IAEA member nations said the US expert first applied for a visa eight months ago and had been turned down several times since.

Iran says it doesn’t want nuclear arms and never worked toward them. But the IAEA says it has collected about 1,000 pages of information that point to attempts to develop such weapons.

Several meetings have resulted in little progress since Iran and the IAEA agreed late last year on a new effort to try and clear up the allegations.

The agency said Thursday that Iran presented no new proposals at the latest talks with IAEA experts. An IAEA statement gave no date for a new meeting.

On Wednesday, an exiled Iranian opposition group accused Tehran of secretly moving a key nuclear research hierarchy to avoid international inspections.

The dissident group said the Tehran-based Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND) was “the nerve center of the militarization of the Iranian nuclear program,” which has been responsible for “the design and manufacture of the atomic bomb.”

“The transfer of the SPND was completed in July,” said the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has made significant revelations about Iran’s nuclear program in the past.
“Managers and key services were relocated to secret locations, while some administrative officials were left in place to deceive IAEA inspectors,” said dissident leader Afchine Alavi.
The SPND was targeted in August by a new round of US sanctions against companies and individuals seen as providing support to illicit Iranian nuclear activities.

The brains behind the SPND, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, sought for years by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is being “hidden by the regime”, the NCRI said in a report.
“This game of hide-and-seek with the IAEA proves that the regime has no intention of abandoning the military aspect of its program and that it does not want to be transparent.”

Following Monday’s mysterious blast at Parchin, east of Tehran, satellite imagery obtained Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 2 and Israel Defense magazine claimed to show extensive damage at the site.

Images of the facility taken Tuesday, a day after the explosion, showed that several buildings at the location sustained heavy damage and some even collapsed, Channel 2 reported.

The photos “clearly show damage consistent with an attack against bunkers in a central locality within the military research complex at the Parchin military compound,” Israel Defense wrote.

The images were taken by the French satellite Pleiades the morning following the blast.

From the IDF, 8 Oct 2014:
24 hours after the reports from Iran regarding a mysterious explosion at the military compound in Parchin, evidence has been received that refutes the denials of the Iranian government.

Satellite images of the Parchin area, to the east of Tehran, prove: the explosion reported by the Iranian media had, indeed, occurred inside the military compound in Parchin, where, according to western intelligence agencies, trials are being conducted on nuclear missile fuzes. Satellite images obtained by Israel Defense and analyzed by specialist Ronen Solomon clearly show damage consistent with an attack against bunkers in a central locality within the military research complex at the Parchin military compound.

The locality in question is situated at the center of the compound, adjacent to another installation where, according to intelligence sources, the trials being conducted involve controlled detonation of fuzes intended to serve as triggers for nuclear devices. The locality consists of a sizable testing center and what appears to be an area with bunker-shaped structures. "Before and after" images indicate that a complete section of structures was simply eliminated by an unexplained explosion.

The explosion wiped several testing units off the face of the earth while inflicting collateral damage on adjacent buildings, with traces of fire clearly visible in a section located in a sparsely afforested area. 
The images, taken by the French satellite Pleiades at a 0.5 meter resolution on the day following the reports at 07:30 AM, also show vehicles – probably fire trucks.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported Monday that the explosion occurred at a defense ministry plant east of Tehran for the production of explosives.

The Defense Industries Organisation, quoted by IRNA, said a fire broke out at the plant on Sunday night but it gave no further details.

The BBC, citing a report from the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), reported on Monday that the incident happened in an “explosive materials production unit” at the site south-east of the capital Tehran.

According to ISNA, the blast was so powerful it shattered windows up to 12 kilometers away and the glare from the explosion lit up the night sky.

Several arms facilities and military bases are located east of the Iranian capital, including Parchin.

The base lies at the center of allegations of past Iranian research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead.

In August Iran reiterated that it will not allow IAEA inspectors to visit the site.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Turkey on the fence

From Christian Science Monitor, 7 Oct 2014, by Alexander Christie-Miller:

Bursa, Turkey — The future of the Syrian town of Kobane hung in the balance Tuesday as the Islamic State’s three-week assault on the Kurdish-held enclave appeared to enter its endgame.

Its last hope likely hinges on Ankara, whose armed forces remain poised on the border only hundreds of yards from the battle, resisting mounting pressure from Turkey’s own Kurdish minority to assist Kobane's defenders.

Despite a range of strategic and ideological factors inclining Ankara against direct intervention, increasingly angry protests both in Turkey and abroad are creating mounting pressure for it to act.

“Kobane is about to fall,” acknowledged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an interview with Turkish television as he toured a refugee camp in southern Turkey early Tuesday.

Turkish involvement in its fate, however, would only come as part of an allied strategy to address the broader problem of Syria’s festering civil war, Mr. Erdogan insisted.

“We need a no-fly zone, safe havens, and to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria,” he added.

Another of Ankara’s demands in return for playing a more active role against IS is a more direct strategy against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whom Turkish leaders regard as the ultimate author of the country’s unrest.

For Western powers focused solely on the threat posed by IS, and deeply wary of becoming embroiled in the conflict in Syria, such concessions remain a faint prospect.

Meanwhile, any unilateral action against IS involving Turkish troops in Syria could leave the country badly exposed if it was not done without explicit NATO backing, says Hugh Pope, International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for Europe and the Central Asia.

“Turkey has to be extremely careful. If it engages in something that could be seen as an unprovoked attack then NATO’s response could be very ambivalent.”

In recent weeks, Turkish and international media have reported on the presence of a substantial Islamic State recruiting network in Turkey, also raising the fear of possible blowback.

Turkey attracts 35 million visitors a year, including many Westerners, with tourism accounting for 10 per cent of the economy, raising concerns that Islamic State terrorist attacks could cripple the sector.

Equally, Turkey remains as wary of the Kurdish-nationalist militias defending the besieged town as it is of IS itself.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD), an armed organization that has run northeastern Syria’s Kurdish populated region as an autonomous enclave since the Assad regime withdrew in 2012, has close links to the PKK, the Kurdish rebel group that has fought a 30-year-long insurgency for greater Kurdish autonomy in Turkey and is regarded by Ankara as a terrorist group.

“Turkey is more than happy that the semi-autonomy declared by Syria’s Kurds is being demolished by the so-called Islamic State,” says Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Suleyman Sah University.
Earlier this week, intelligence officials in Ankara were visited by the PYD’s leader, Salih Muslim. But they told him that Turkish assistance would only come in return for the PYD abandoning all demands of autonomy, and ending its alleged ties with the Assad regime.

However as anger boiled among Turkey’s 15 million Kurds, the cost of inaction also appeared to be rising.

On Monday night and into Tuesday, Kurdish demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails and set up barricades during protests in Istanbul, Ankara, and cities across the Kurdish populated southeast Monday night and into Tuesday.

In the Kurdish majority town of Varto, police shot and killed a 25-year-old man after reportedly using live ammunition against demonstrators.

For the past 18 months Turkey has been engaged in delicate peace talks with the PKK, whose years of insurrection against the Turkish state have cost 40,000 lives and left the country’s southeast economically devastated.

Last week, the PKK’s imprisoned leader and point man in the talks, Abdullah Ocalan, warned that peace talks would be over if Kobane fell and a massacre of its population were allowed to take place.

A growing number of observers fear that regardless of Turkey’s current ambivalence, it may sooner or later have to face the Islamic State head on.
“If Kobane falls then the next target for ISIS will be Turkey,” says Nazmi Gur, a parliamentarian for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Einsatzgruppen murderers identified to German Authorities

From, 7 October 2014, by Efraim Zuroff:

The focus of war crimes prosecutions has turned to the acts of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile Nazi death squads such as this in one in Ukraine in 1941
The focus of war crimes prosecutions has turned to the acts of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile Nazi death squads such as this in one in Ukraine in 1941

... the Simon Wiesenthal Center has submitted the names of 80 of the youngest men and women who served in the infamous Einsatzgruppen to the German authorities 

...The only reason there is any hope for successful results in these cases, is because of a fundamental change in Germany's policy on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals...

For almost 50 years before Sobibor death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk went on trial in 2009, a Nazi war criminal could only be convicted in Germany if the prosecution could prove that he or she had committed a specific crime against a specific victim. It was a scenario that became harder and harder as time went by and the number of potential witnesses got smaller and smaller.

In the case against Demjanjuk, however, the prosecution argued that based on service alone, which was proven by documents in the absence of survivors who could identify him, the SS armed guard should be convicted for at least accessory to murder.

Death camp guard John Demjanjuk was convicted by a German court
Death camp guard John Demjanjuk was convicted by a German court

When the court in Munich found Demjanjuk guilty of that crime in May 2011, it established the principle that anyone who served in Sobibor, or any of the other death camps whose primary purpose was the mass murder of Jews, could be convicted, even if there was no evidence that they had committed premeditated murder against an identifiable victim.

This landmark decision created a totally different legal landscape in Germany as far as Holocaust perpetrators were concerned, and not only with death-camp guards. ... the new policy should also apply to those who served in the Einsatzgruppen - the mobile death squads ...[Kurt Schrimm, the director of Germany's Central Office for the Clarification of Nazi Crimes, has confirmed that this has] been adopted by the German judicial authorities.

...In the meantime, the change in German policy has already yielded significant practical results as far as death-camp guards are concerned. During the past year, Kurt Schrimm has announced that his office has located 37 men and women who served in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, as well as an additional 17 who served in Majdanek.

And although it is obvious that not all of these suspects will be brought to trial, since old age and illness are likely to reduce their number, these efforts are worthy and deserve full support. The new approach reflects a much more accurate picture of the reality of those death factories than the previous policy which severely limited the number of perpetrators who could be punished.

In one respect, however, no tangible results have yet been achieved. To date, the German authorities have yet to announce any cases of those who served in the mobile killing squads, which is the reason that I decided to provide the information in the centre's archives on Einsatzgruppen members to the German prosecutors.

It turns out that we possessed the names of close to half of the men and women who served in the Einsatzgruppen (1,293 of approximately 2,950), and in most of the cases (1,069) the data included their date of birth.

The information enabled us to find the individuals most likely to be alive, in this case those 80 persons born in 1920 or later, the youngest of whom were born in 1924.

Due to the stringency of German laws on personal data, we were unable to determine which of the people are alive and their current whereabouts, but this is information which is readily accessible to German officials.

In this context, it is extremely important to note the critical role played by the mobile killing units in the implementation of the Final Solution. The units in question (Einsatzgruppen A, B, C, and D) were the ones who began the systematic annihilation of European Jewry following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, as they followed the Wehrmacht into eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus.

In the course of the years 1941-1943, they murdered well over a million Jews and numerous other innocent civilans categorised as "enemies of the Reich."

For a variety of reasons, this aspect of the Holocaust is far less known than the atrocities which took place in the death camps, and in the concentration camps in Germany, which were liberated by the Western Allies. Future trials of these perpetrators will have an important educational dimension.

Also of importance, will be the fact that these trials will expose the role played in these murders by local, East European collaborators. In countries like the Baltics and the Ukraine, there are currently systematic efforts currently being made to falsify the historical record to hide or severely minimise the role of local killers.

At this point, Germany is doing more than any other country to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. Let us hope that the final effort will be successful and that a maximum number of perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes.

A pathetic attempt to whitewash Herberts Cukurs: a heartless Latvian mass murderer

From i24, 7 Oct 2014, by Efraim Zuroff*:

A new play in Latvia portrays Herberts Cukurs as a national hero - not the cruel killer that he was
This coming Saturday night, October 11, a new musical premieres in the Latvian port city of Liepaja ... the play is a brazen attempt to rehabilitate the image of one of the most notorious mass murderers of Jews in the Baltics during the Holocaust.
Herberts Cukurs, member of the infamous Latvian Arajs Commando unit, in 1937 - executed by the Mossad in 1965
The subject of the play is Herberts Cukurs, the deputy commander of the infamous Arajs Kommando, which played a leading role in the mass annihilation of the Jews in Riga and throughout the country in the year following the Nazi invasion of Latvia, and later was an active participant in the killing of Jews in Belarus (most notably from the Minsk Ghetto). 

Although Cukurs' role in the atrocities was well-known, like many Baltic Nazi war criminals he was able to escape justice by fleeing overseas, in his case to Brazil. Once discovered there, the Soviets asked for his extradition to face war crimes charges, but the Brazilians refused, claiming that they would only send him back to the country in which he committed his crimes. Latvia, however, no longer existed. 

The resulting legal limbo which prevented Cukurs' prosecution and punishment, and an impending possible statute of limitations on the cases of Nazi war criminals in Germany, prompted an uncharacteristic response from Israel, which sent a team of Mossad operatives to execute him. Ironically, it was this act of retribution, which took place in Montevideo in 1965, which paved the way for recent attempts by Cukurs' family and Latvian ultra-nationalists to whitewash his crimes.
This campaign began several years ago with the issuing of envelopes carrying Cukurs' likeness, an exhibition entitled "Herberts Cukurs: The Presumption of Innocence," and a documentary film which sought to promote his innocence. To understand it one must be aware of Cukurs' status as a Latvian national hero during the thirties. 

He earned his fame as a bold aviator, who built several airplanes of his own design, and flew solo to exotic destinations in Africa (Gambia) and the Far East (Tokyo). He even flew to Palestine and later lectured in Riga to Jewish audiences. 
It is this fame, paired with the fact that Cukurs had never been convicted in a court of law for his Holocaust crimes, which forms the basis for the campaign to restore him to national glory in Latvia. Along with the current efforts to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust in the Baltics, it aims to minimize the highly significant role of local collaborators in the murders, and focus more attention on Baltic victimhood under the Communists.
The most powerful arguments against these attempts to restore a mass murderer like Cukurs to the status of a national hero are the numerous testimonies of Jewish survivors, many which were recorded shortly after the end of the war, but in this respect Cukurs' pre-war fame worked against him. Unlike the large majority of the other Latvian Nazi collaborators, Cukurs was well-known, and hence easily identifiable by quite a few of his erstwhile victims.

...Rafael Shub related in a testimony I found in the Yad Vashem Archives, that on July 2, 1941, Cukurs had burned to death eight Jews in the new [Jewish] cemetery in Riga, even identifying his victims - synagogue sexton Feldheim, his wife and four children, and Cantor Mintz and his wife.
Another survivor, Abraham Shapiro, who was interned at the Arajs Kommando headquarters at Valdamaras St. 19, testified that Cukurs had personally murdered two Jews, who failed to follow his orders, and later witnessed Cukurs and other Latvian officers sexually molest and torture a young Jewish girl, while Shapiro was ordered to play the piano. 

The most damning evidence came from Max Tukacier, who told members of the Legal Department of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Germany in 1948 that Cukurs had beaten and executed men, women, and children who could not keep pace when the Jews of Riga were force-marched to be murdered at Rumbula Forest outside the city, in the mass executions of November 30 and December 8, 1941. 

He He also recalled how the famous aviator had ordered an elderly Jew to rape a twenty year old Jewess in front of a crowd of Latvian police and prisoners at Arajs headquarters and when he failed to do so, ordered him to kiss the girl all over her naked body again and again. About 10-15 of the male and female prisoners who could not bear the sight of this humiliation were beaten to death by Cukurs.

The execution of Cukurs - 1

The execution of Cukurs - 2

Needless to say, such testimonies will not be part of the musical, which begins its run this Saturday night. A YouTube trailer for the play, featuring the noted Latvian singer Juris Miller, has elicited enthusiastic responses, but apparently no protests. In today's Latvia, for far too many Latvians, it is Cukurs who earns their sympathy, while his Jewish victims are forgotten, or even worse, erased from the historical record.
*Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office. His most recent book is "Operation Last Chance; One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice." His website is: and he can be followed on Twitter @EZuroff

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Threat of al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) in Southern Syria

From The Washington Institute, POLICYWATCH 2323, October 6, 2014, by Ehud Yaari*:

Coordinated Israeli, Jordanian, and allied assistance in the south could boost the moderate Syrian rebels there, stave off an extremist takeover, and facilitate the ongoing international campaign against ISIS.
In recent weeks, a new situation has emerged in southern Syria, one that could present dangers to Israel but also significant opportunities to help shape the area's future. 

Many observers still perceive the south as merely a secondary front in the ongoing civil war, but this view ignores the potential for drastic change there in a matter of months. 

In particular, the southern governorates of Quneitra and Deraa could become either the latest territories captured by radical forces -- namely the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) -- or a safe haven for non-Islamist rebel groups, some of which maintain contacts with Israel.

Given these rapidly changing developments, Israeli strategists are quietly considering their options. The main question is whether to stay the course of limited involvement in the frontier fighting or be more proactive in influencing the outcome.

Thus far, rebels have gained control over most of the territory adjacent to the 1974 Israeli-Syrian Truce Line, including the narrow demilitarized "Area of Separation" overseen for the past forty years by the UN Disengagement Observer Force. UNDOF was originally established by the Security Council to supervise Israel and Syria's adherence to agreed limitations on their border deployments, but as a result of rebel advances it has now practically ceased to function except in a small remote sector on the slopes of Mt. Hermon. Its forces have abandoned bases and a string of other positions in Syria and discontinued inspections there. Meanwhile, UNDOF's fundamental purpose on that side of the border -- monitoring the Syrian army's order of battle -- has become largely moot because the Assad regime's frontline 61st and 90th Brigades have completely collapsed. The Security Council has routinely extended the force's mandate every six months and may well do so again in November, but that would not remedy the current state of paralysis.

In short, a border regime that fostered decades of quiet and stability may be reaching its end. The Area of Separation has been taken over by rebels who are not committed to the 1974 agreement, and the Syrian regular units that used to prevent border incidents have been pushed back. Israel has new neighbors across the fences and ditches of its Golan border, including JN elements dedicated to al-Qaeda's vehemently anti-Israel doctrine.

Under the current conditions, Israel is obliged to review its policy toward Syria on a daily basis, investing significant intelligence resources to keep up with the ever-changing military and political landscape. No major flare-up has occurred thus far, except a few sporadic incidents in which the Israel Defense Forces launched Tammuz missiles against Syrian army positions that had fired stray shells inside the Golan. In addition, a Syrian fighter plane was shot down on September 23 when it mistakenly crossed into Israeli airspace while trying to block further rebel advances. But so far there have been no exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and rebel units of any stripe.

For its part, JN has avoided any attempt to engage in terrorist operations against Israel. The group's southern units include very few foreign jihadists -- most of its volunteers in the area were locally recruited. Indeed, the group seems to have decided not to get involved in clashes with the IDF for the time being. Its cadres prefer loose, ad hoc cooperation with other rebel factions, including those with ties to Israel. Contrary to some reports, JN controls only a tiny stretch of land in the immediate vicinity of the border, although its members are present on some hilltops further east from which it would be possible to target the Golan.
Regardless of JN's current posture, Israel cannot ignore the potential long-term threat posed by the group, nor can it turn a blind eye to the possibility of ISIS fighters infiltrating the area from the Euphrates Valley strongholds of their self-styled "Islamic State." Until now, the Israeli government has decided against taking preventive action across the frontier to repel al-Qaeda affiliates or disrupt their military strength. This cautious policy has been maintained even in light of the U.S. and allied campaign to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS, which has included attacks on JN targets. Israel was not invited to join that campaign, and its undeclared truce with JN remains in effect. Yet it may soon have to reconsider that course.

Israel's most urgent question is whether to switch to a bolder, more proactive strategy vis-a-vis the Syrian war. So far, most Israeli support for moderate, local, non-Islamist rebel battalions along the border has been limited to humanitarian aid, such as treating 1,400 sick and wounded Syrians in Israeli hospitals, supplying medication, food, and heaters to villagers, and so forth. Some rebel groups maintain constant contact with the IDF, including frequent secret meetings reportedly held in Tiberias, but only a modest amount of weapons have been provided to them, mainly rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Within the next few months, however, a wider scope of military aid may prove necessary as these non-Islamist battalions -- composed mainly of local youths -- fight to defend their supremacy in the south against JN and ISIS. An upgraded support program could also help draw many fighters away from JN, particularly those who hail from local towns and do not necessarily share al-Qaeda's ideology.

In view of the recently announced U.S. decision to arm and train moderate rebels, Washington and Israel -- and hopefully Jordan too -- could seriously begin exploring the option of directing some of this effort to southern Syria. This region offers training grounds, a significant number of non-Islamist fighters, and armed tribal groups in the Leja area. From a military point of view, moderate rebel groups could feasibly link Deraa on the Jordanian border to Quneitra on the Israeli border by capturing the main southern highway leading to Damascus. Their capture of Tal Harra over the weekend demonstrated their momentum toward this objective, and fully achieving it would create a buffer against ISIS and a springboard for a future offensive toward the capital.

If this "Southern Option" is contemplated in earnest, enlisting Jordan's assistance would be very important. In the past, King Abdullah has rebuffed Saudi pressure to use Jordanian territory as a corridor for arms supplies to the rebels. Yet Amman may reevaluate that position if it were approached by Washington for an American-sponsored program. Jordan shares the same interests as Israel: preventing extremist Islamist militias from entrenching along its border with Syria, and seeing the downfall of the Assad regime. Given proper assurances, Amman might be convinced to cooperate in building up a substantial rebel force in southern Syria.

Any such effort must also include ironclad guarantees to the Druze population in Syria's southeastern al-Suwayda province that they will not be overrun by the predominantly Sunni rebel militias. Israel and Jordan have traditionally maintained good links to the Mount Druze area northeast of Deraa, where support for the Assad regime has weakened over the years. Once their concerns are addressed, the Druze may adopt a neutral stance as long as they are not exposed to attack.

The prospects of the current anti-ISIS campaign would be greatly improved by incorporating southern Syria into the battlefield equation. Together with the United States, Jordan, and others, Israel should explore the possibility of more fully transforming this area into a territorial base for moderate rebel forces. And on the Golan frontier, Israel needs to reconsider its prudent policy and help prevent the "ISIS-zation" of areas bordering the Golan or the emergence of "Nusra-stan" there. All of the relevant actors have a common interest in taking coordinated action in the south. Assad's army has proven incapable of regaining lost ground in this region, the birthplace of the insurgency, and moderate opposition forces could find it to be one of the best areas in which to get organized.

*Ehud Yaari is a Lafer International Fellow with The Washington Institute and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television.

Swedish posturing on Arab delusions


IN breaking ranks with its EU partners to become the first European nation since Soviet times to announce recognition of Palestine as a state, Sweden’s new centre-left government has done nothing for the cause of peace in the Middle East or the two-state solution it claims to support.

The move, disclosed by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who is in coalition with the Greens, defies logic. It has the same dizzy irrationality that was evident at the recent NSW ALP conference. Delegates backed Labor recognition of a Palestinian state even though no such state, with the essential prerequisite of defined and agreed borders, exists. It cannot do so unless negotiations are successfully concluded with Israel. While Gaza’s boundaries are demarcated, just what would constitute Palestine in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is uncertain and can be defined only on the basis of negotiations with Israel.

Mr Lofven provided no insight into what his government has actually recognised — the Fatah administration in the West Bank or the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza. Hamas is pledged to Israel’s destruction and steadfastly pursues article 13 of its charter: “There is no solution to the Palestinian question except through jihad.”

It would be easy to dismiss the Swedish move as grandstanding by an L-plated government eager to differentiate itself from its centre-right predecessor. Sweden, however, is an influential EU member and its action is finding an echo in a debate due to be held in the British parliament next week.

It also plays into the delusional notion being peddled by Palestinian leaders that the goal of statehood can somehow be achieved unilaterally through the back door, with the help of compliant nations, rather than through bilateral negotiations with Israel. Such an unrealistic mindset is damaging. 

It undermines prospects for the resumption of genuine bilateral negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. This is the only basis on which peace can be achieved and humanitarian disasters such as the recent Gaza conflict avoided. Naive posturing does nothing to bring the two sides together at the negotiating table.

Europe’s Alarming New Anti-Semitism

Family members held hands during the funeral of an Israeli couple, Emmanuel and Miriam Riva, shot in an attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum. They were buried at Kiryat Shaul cemetery in Tel Aviv on May 27.Reuters

... Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. Never again has become ever again.

In France, worshipers in a synagogue were surrounded by a howling mob claiming to protest Israeli policy. In Brussels, four people were murdered in the Jewish museum, and a synagogue was firebombed. In London, a major supermarket said that it felt forced to remove kosher food from its shelves for fear that it would incite a riot. A London theater refused to stage a Jewish film festival because the event had received a small grant from the Israeli embassy.

More than once during the summer, I heard well-established British Jews saying, “For the first time in my life, I feel afraid.” Twenty years ago, launching a program to strengthen Jewish continuity across the generations, I published a book titled, “Will We Have Jewish Grandchildren?” Today, Jews are beginning to ask, “Will we have English grandchildren?”

And Jews are leaving. A survey in 2013 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights showed that almost a third of Europe’s Jews have considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism, with numbers as high as 46% in France and 48% in Hungary. Quietly, many Jews are asking whether they have a future in Europe.

It would be wrong to exaggerate. Europe today isn’t Germany in the 1930s. Hatred of the Jews isn’t being incited or even condoned by European governments. Many political leaders, notably Angela Merkel in Germany and David Cameron in Britain, have been forthright in their denunciation.

...what is happening is immensely significant ... Historically, as the British Tory MP Michael Gove points out, anti-Semitism has been the early warning signal of a society in danger. That is why the new anti-Semitism needs to be understood—and not only by Jews.

Anti-Semitism was always only obliquely about Jews. They were its victims but not its cause. The politics of hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler and Stalin. It is hardly Jews alone who are suffering today under their successors, the radical Islamists of Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Islamic State and their fellow travelers in a seemingly endless list of new mutations.

The assault on Israel and Jews world-wide is part of a larger pattern that includes attacks on Christians and other minority faiths in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia—a religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing. Ultimately, this campaign amounts to an attack on Western democratic freedoms as a whole. If not halted now, it will be Europe itself that will be pushed back toward the Dark Ages.

Some of what we are seeing in Europe is the old anti-Semitism of the far right and the radical left, which never went away and merely lay dormant during the years when attacks on Jews were considered unacceptable in polite society. That taboo is now well and truly broken.

But the driving thrust of the assault on Jews is new.
Today’s anti-Semitism differs from the old in three ways. First, its pretext. In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated for their religion. In the 19th and 20th centuries, they were hated for their race. Today, they are hated for their nation state. Israel, now 66 years old, still finds itself the only country among the 193 in the United Nations whose right to exist is routinely challenged and in many quarters denied.

This isn’t to say that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Manifestly it is not. Israel itself is one of the most self-critical nations in the world, and criticism of its policies is a legitimate part of democratic debate. But the supporters of Hamas aren’t interested in this policy or that, these borders or those. They are committed as a matter of principle, stated in their charter, to the complete destruction and elimination of the Jewish state.

There are 102 nations in the world where Christians predominate, and there are 56 Islamic states. But a single Jewish state is deemed one too many. And the targets of terror in Europe are all too often not Israeli government offices but synagogues, Jewish schools and museums—places not of Israeli policy-making but of ordinary Jewish life.

Second, the epicenter of anti-Semitism has moved. Jews have long been attacked because they are the archetypal “other.” For a thousand years, they were the most conspicuous non-Christian presence in Europe. Today, they are the most conspicuous non-Islamic presence in the Middle East.

But the anti-Semitism that has taken hold in the Middle East isn’t endemic to Islam. Coptic and Maronite Christians introduced the blood libel—the slander that Jews use the blood of gentiles in religious rituals—into Egypt and Syria in the 19th century. Nazi Germany, via its ally, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, added to this mix the notorious conspiracy tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

These two myths entered Islam from the outside. Now Islamist radicals have brought them back to Europe. Whenever you hear that “Jews control the media” or “Israel targets Palestinian children,” you are hearing “The Protocols” and the blood libel yet again.

Third, the legitimation of anti-Semitism has changed. Hatred, when taken into the public domain, is singularly difficult to justify, which is why anti-Semites have always sought vindication from the highest source of authority in the culture. In the Middle Ages, it was religion. In 19th-century Europe, it was science. German anti-Semitism was based on the so-called “scientific study of race” and social Darwinism, the doctrine that in human history, as in nature, the strong survive by eliminating the weak.

In the era since World War II, the great authority has been the Enlightenment ideal of human rights. That is why the new wave of anti-Semitism was launched at the U.N. Conference against Racism at Durban, South Africa, in the summer of 2001. There Israel was accused of the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide.

Human rights matter, and they matter regardless of the victim or the perpetrator. It is the sheer disproportion of the accusations against Israel that makes Jews feel that humanitarian concern isn’t the prime motive in these cases: More than half of all resolutions adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council since 2006 (when the Council was established) in criticism of a particular country have been directed at Israel. In 2013, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a total of 21 resolutions singling out Israel for censure, according to U.N. Watch, and only four resolutions to protest the actions of the rest of the world’s states.

Anti-Semitism has always been, historically, the inability to make space for differences among people, which is the essential foundation of a free society. That is why the politics of hate now assaults Christians, Bahai, Yazidis and many others, including Muslims on the wrong side of the Sunni/Shia divide, as well as Jews. To fight it, we must stand together, people of all faiths and of none. The future of freedom is at stake, and it will be the defining battle of the 21st century.

*Lord Sacks is the emeritus chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth. He currently teaches at New York University, Yeshiva University and King’s College London.

ISIS Will Sprout in Tunisia Next

From Arutz Sheva, 6 Oct, by Mordechai Kedar:

Uqba ibn Nafi was one of the most renowned military leaders of the beginning of the Islamic period. He stood at the head of the Islamic army when it North Africa in the seventh and eighth decades of the seventh century. Uqba was known for his courage, as well as for his skill at the sword, and was a symbol and model to his soldiers and officers in the way he "challenged" the attachment of heads to  shoulders on the bodies of soldiers vanquished by his forces. This "bravery" granted him a place of honor on the list of Islamic heroes.

For the last two years, a group of Jihadists in the border areas between Tunisia and Libya are sporadically destroying Tunisian army vehicles and killing a good many of their occupants. This group calls itself – charmingly – "The Uqba ben Nafi Brigade". Its Jihadist agenda has been known from the first, as has its ability to recruit fighters, equip itself with varied weapons and sow fear and trembling in its ever-widening surroundings. The Brigade is seen as part of the widespread and familiar "Al Qaeda of the Islamic Magreb" – Al Qaeda's North African branch.

Except that recently the group's affiliation has been called into question, because information has begun filtering down claiming that it is now  swearing allegiance to Caliph Abu Bakr el Baghdadi of Islamic State. This possibility is important because of the existing split beween Al Qaeda and its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri on the one side and Islamic state and its leader El Baghdadi on the other.

The Western onslaught against Islamic state makes the split between Al Qaeda and Islamic State – which began as the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda in 2004 – an issue of ever-rising significance. Now, due to the Western attacks, calls are heard calling for the two Jihadist Sunni groups to unite against the infidel onslaught.

In this context it is important to note that one of the forces fighting Islamic State is the Peshmerga, the Kurdish army. This force has sustained several losses in its campaign against the "Islamic Army" over the past few months, but the last few days have seen it gain victories in the field, thanks to new and deadly  weapons, mainly anti-tank missiles which it has received from Iran.

This is especially interesting because Iran is a Shiite nation while Peshmerga is Sunni – yet both sides have recognized the common danger facing them and are cooperating at this point in time. It is quite possible that there are those in the West and possibly in Washington, who have been encouraging Iran to provide the Kurds with advanced weapons, realizing that when the time comes to deal with Iran's nuclear weapons the Iranians will be able to call upon the debt owed them for the help they gave in fighting Islamic State.

And now, back to Tunisia.

Tunisia's Interior Minister, Loutfi ben Jaddo, revealed that Al Qaeda has given its fighters in North Africa instructions to eliminate, yes, eliminate anyone who attempts to bring the idea of Islamic State to the region, whose control by Al Qaeda was unchallenged  up to now. This echoes the bloody dispute going on between Jabhat al Nusra and Al Qaeda in Syria, a dispute whose victims are also the ordinary citizens that each attempts to entice to its side. The Tunisian government, and that of Jihad adherents, is convinced that a similar struggle on their soil will lead to mass murders as it has in Syria –  not limited to the Tunisian borders with Libya in the east and Algeria in the west, but  also inside  the poverty stricken suburbs of its cities, whose residents are highly fundamentalist.

The most well known names among Al Qaeda supporters in the area are Abd al-malik Durkedal the Algerian and  Louqman Abu Sakhr, the Tunisian. To their happiness, Islamic State has not officially declared its presence in Tunisia, but there are signs that more and more people are sympathetic to that entity. This is deduced from social media, where praise and awe at Islamic States' accomplishments in Iraq and Syria are being posted, along with expressions identifying with its goals and the means used to achieve them.

The most immediate danger facing Tunisia comes from the hundreds of Tunisians who have returned from the Jihad fields of Syria and Iraq, having gained much experience in explosives, mine laying, terror and butchery, as well as being provided with additional training in the Libyan Jihad camps. If these returnees join  Uqba ibn Nafi, they will turn it into the Tunisian branch of Islamic State.  It is quite possible that this has already happened, because there has been a report that the Uqba ibn Nafi brigade has sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr, calling on him to "advance, cross the borders and destroy the thrones of the infidel despots everywhere."

The Tunisian government has been fighting the Brigade from the day it began its activity in the mountainous areas on the Tunisian-Algerian border, especially Mount  Ash-Shaʿnabī and succeeded in killing tens of soldiers and policemen. Destroying the organization is especially important in light of the government's plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in October and November of this year.

Tunisia sees its struggle against the Jihadists as a battle of life and death, especially in the context of what is going on in Iraq and Syria. During the past year, according to the Tunisian Minister of the Interior, more than two thousand terrorists were arrested, about a quarter of them returnees from the Syrian and Iraqi Jihad. According to his claims, the Tunisian security machine maintains a strong presence within the Tunisian population and its agents have revealed attempts to commit terror attacks in the country during the Moslem holiday celebrated this week. Security forces staged mass arrests among the suspects in the poverty-stricken municipal neighborhoods, which serve as dormant terror cells.

Tunisia's main problem, however, is the fact that its Algerian and Libyan borders are meaningless lines on the map, drawn over mountainous areas where army vehicles cannot compete with donkeys, mules or even people laden with weapons and arms, who stride with impunity on the narrow, winding and steep paths, easily jumping over " hills and dales". Look at the Sinai, where the Egyptian army cannot overcome the Jihadist terrorists.

The Tunisian government is not a dictatorship, but it is in the main a game of political democracy, one in which the players are political parties, some of them secular liberals, some religious Islamic, with many of the politicians themselves steeped in corruption. That makes the system vulnerable and apt to crumble, and is the reason political crises have been frequent since President Ben Ali was deposed in January 2011.

Tunisia's economy is shaky so that many sectors feel that democracy has not improved their personal and financial situations. The secular public still identifies with the country to a large extent, but those sectors closer to Islam tend to accept the Islamic solution to the ills of society and nation. The daylight between the Islamic solution and the Al Qaeda and Islamic State's solution shrinks as the political crises which plague Tunisia last longer and longer.

It is unclear if the West can help the Tunisian government at this point, beyond providing secret intelligence data on the progress of  Jihadist organizations. Any obvious Western aid weakens the already limited legitimacy of the government in the eyes of those loyal to Islam. It is, however, quite clear that if the government fails in its struggle against the Jihadists – whether Al Qaeda or Islamic State – the West will be drawn into the resulting chaos just as it was into the predatory swamp of Iraq and Syria.

The danger that Tunisia poses to Europe is in no small part due to its proximity to that continent, and an armed terrorist boat can reach Italy from Tunisia in one night's rapid sailing. European intervention in Tunisia will take place much earlier than serious intervention in Syria or Iraq, which is why the Tunisian arena may turn out to be even more incendiary than that of Syria and Iraq.

Without doubt, the time has come to rewrite the rules of war and the international agreements that stand at the foundations of international law regarding conflict management. These were decided on when the world talked in terms of armies and nations, and they are irrelevant in the present wars, in which a modern nation finds itself fighting militias using methods taken from the seventh century.

Noble Ideas such as "distancing the war from civilians", "human rights of fighters", "the treatment of prisoners" that were laid down in post World War Europe have lost their relevancy in recent years. Most of the wars fought in the past twenty years were against organizations not subject to international law and unaffected by it. These militias attempt to paralyze the organized armed forces facing them, who,forced to battle fighters in civilian clothing who hide in populated areas, are prevented from hitting them effectively because of their extreme sensitivity to the possibility of harming peaceful citizens.

After Gaza, good luck to anyone trying to convince Israelis to withdraw again.

From Tablet magazine, October 7, 2014, by Yonit Levi and Udi Segal*:

... the 24-hour news cycle began almost a month before Operation Protective Edge: It all started June 13, after three young Israelis were kidnapped on their way home from a rabbinical seminary by Hamas terrorists.

The continuing newscasts, fueled by politicians’ vague messages regarding the situation of the youngsters, created the false hope that Israel could capture the kidnappers and release the hostages alive. Eighteen broadcast days later, when the bodies were found in an open field near Hebron, the public attitude was one of shock, mourning, and calls for revenge. And when a few days later Hamas began the barrage of rockets targeting Israel, the national mood and the media platform were equally prepared for war.

During the 50 days of the war in Gaza, Israelis, and the rest of the world were watching two completely different wars. 

In Israel, the country was under attack and it was all happening on live television: The camera leaped between different cities being targeted—showing the rocket’s trajectory from the Gazan border, the subsequent sirens, and civilians taking shelter in Israel and, often, the rocket’s interception by the Iron Dome anti-missile system several minutes later—moments of deep anxiety, followed by relief, over and over, throughout the day. Israeli networks co-operating with the IDF’s Home Front Command aired banners clearly stating which region was under attack, and in some areas where the sirens weren’t loud enough, this turned out to be life-saving information.

It might be difficult for an outsider to understand, but when your child is spending their summer vacation running to find shelter—with merely a 15-second warning in the south, 90 seconds in Tel Aviv—one has limited emotional capacity to see what is happening to the children on the other side. When you add to that the fact Hamas controlled all data and information coming from Gaza—and banned Israeli reporters—you see the juxtaposition emerging. The world showed the war in Gaza, and its effect on Gazans, while on Israeli television Gaza was a sidebar.

Thus, while the world castigated Israel for using excessive force, on Israeli television the prime minister was upbraided for not doing enough—lengthy studio discussions brought forth the opinions of former generals and, astonishingly, sitting cabinet ministers, saying more could and should be done. Indeed, television was the only place the phrase “we should reconquer Gaza” was stated over and over again, while in reality no one in the Israeli government even came close to contemplating such a move (although when asked about it in interviews, even left-wing ministers made sure to stress that “all options” were on the table).

Ten days into the war, when Hamas rejected a cease-fire offer and sent terrorists through a tunnel into Israel, the IDF’s ground operation began. Here, too, it is important to note the disparity: The international media sees Israeli soldiers as legitimate military targets, while to Israelis they are quite literally “our boys”—who are sent off at the age of 18 into mandatory military service. In this war Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon’s close friend lost his son, the grandson of a prominent left-wing politician was severely injured, and every anchor or reporter knew someone who was fighting in Gaza. In Israel there is often only one degree of separation.

Not only were Israelis watching a different war on television, but the pictures they saw were embedded in a different narrative that, in a nutshell, was this: We left the Gaza Strip, dismantled all settlements, completely retreated to the 1967 lines, and the outcome was that Hamas took over Gaza and we got rockets, which at any moment might strike our homes. The world, in contrast, heard the story of Israel bombing innocent civilians in an Israeli-made prison—and saw pictures of the devastation inflicted by our military might.

Our purpose is not to declare who’s right and who’s wrong but rather to point out the enormous and continuing gap between how the Gaza war was perceived in Israel and how it was generally represented elsewhere in the world. This difference in perception will in turn deeply affect the likely outcome of Operation Protective Edge.

The worldwide conviction is that the only realistic solution to the gruesome pictures of destruction and death that were broadcast on TV is to step up efforts to negotiate a two-state solution—an effort that seems even more pressing now than it did before the war.

Israel, on the other hand sees a dark reality in which a piece of land that was evacuated and turned over to the Palestinians became a haven for terrorists who shot missiles into homes and dug tunnels into communities in order to launch further attacks. Good luck to anyone trying to convince Israelis to withdraw again.

*Yonit Levi is the anchor of the Evening News on Israel’s Channel 2. Udi Segal is the network’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent. His Twitter feed is @usegal.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Culture and business cement Israel-China relationship

From The Times of Israel, October 3, 2014, by DAVID SHAMAH:

The top foreign investor in Israel’s economy no longer comes from North America or Europe — it’s China. 

... While there are misgivings – as evidenced in the opposition of some Knesset members to the purchase of Tnuva by China’s Bright Foods from the British Apax Partners, which owned the majority of shares, it should be noted – most Israeli business people – and many government officials – welcome the relationship.

Last May, during a confluence of trade shows and government-sponsored events, there were nearly 1,000 Chinese business people in Israel at one time. Among those meetings was the first-ever Israel-China Economic Summit.

Nearly all of the Chinese participants were in Israel for the first time, taking in the sights and scenery of the Start-Up Nation and shopping around for technologies they can take home to help solve China’s manifold problems. The Summit was attended by several MKs, including Robert Ilatov and David Rotem, along with Minister of Agriculture Yair Shamir. It was organized by a group called the Israel China Interflow Association (ICIA).

Much of the technology that China needs, according to Chen Gang, mayor of Xiang He City outside of Beijing, revolves around environmental issues, an area where Israel excels. On his first visit to Israel, Chen was just getting to know Israeli high tech, but was already impressed.
“I knew Israel was a leader in technology, and I also knew its accomplishments were out of character for a nation of its size — with the kind of technology you would expect only in bigger countries — but you have to come to Israel to understand what the term ‘Start-Up Nation’ really means.” 
Words alone, he said, cannot express the level of innovation and entrepreneurship in Israel.
Edouard Cukierman (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Edouard Cukierman (Photo credit: Courtesy)
...[Edouard] Cukierman, chairman of Cukierman & Co. Investment House and managing partner of the Catalyst Investment Funds, has done his part to promote the Israel-China business relationship. He is one of the founders of the Catalyst CEL Fund, a joint fund managed by Israel’s Catalyst Equity Management and Hong Kong-based China Everbright Ltd. focusing on investments in agriculture, industrials/manufacturing, health care, water, energy, technology, media and telecommunication, among others, chosen for their potential success in the Chinese market. The fund secured more than $100 million at its first closing in March 2014, and is targeting $200-$300 million for its final closing.

In addition, Cukierman sponsors the annual Go4Israel Conference, one of Israel’s biggest international business gatherings, with a special emphasis on bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, and government officials from around the world – with a special emphasis on China.

Nathan Low, an Israeli-American investment banker whose ZionTech Angels group has paired up dozens of Israeli companies with foreign investors, also sees China as a place where Israelis can do business – lots of it. Low is the grandfather of Israeli high tech angel investing, having invested in 70 Israeli startups for a cumulative total of over $80 million in angel investments.

Already as a child, Low had the feeling that China was going to be important in his life. He began studying Chinese and learning about Zhong Guo, the Middle Kingdom, when he was in first grade. Now, a Mandarin language tutor comes to his house twice a week to teach his eight children. For Low, who is an observant Jew, the Chinese and Jewish cultures have many similarities: Both peoples are 5,000 years old, venerate their elders, have a love of books, hold the family as a central value.

In business, too, there are many ways China and Israel can work together. “Israeli startup companies can solve problems with the technologies and products they already have in hand, eliminate or vastly reduce China’s food and water shortages, improve freight logistics, optimize municipal bus schedules, reduce pollution, as well as improve health care,” said Low.
“China and Israel are destined for partnership. China has the money and the markets. Israel has the products to solve problems and address opportunities....”
While many Israelis look at China from thousands of miles away, Zvi Shalgo has the advantage of being an Israeli who looks at China up close – every day, because that’s where he’s based. Shalgo, who has lived and worked in China for the past 18 years, is managing partner of Synergy China Funds and chairman of the PTL Group – China, a pioneer in paving the way for Israeli firms seeking to business in the country.
Zvi Shalgo (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Zvi Shalgo (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Shalgo said he has seen many changes in the country since he arrived in 1996. “Working conditions and wages are much better than they were when I first came here,” Shalgo said.
“Labor is more expensive, and this is having an impact on many things – the cost of living, the growth of the middle class, and the decisions foreign business people take on what work to do in China.” 
Already, a good part of the automated factory work China has been known for over the past decades is being exported to other Far Eastern countries – while China upgrades to the high-tech manufacturing and services more typical of a developed economy.

That upgrade is providing Israeli tech firms with unprecedented opportunities to get involved in the Chinese market. 
“Israel has technology that is essential for the Chinese market. The economy is ripe for the kind of innovation that Israel is well known for. There is money in China, there are competent managers and professionals here Israelis can work with. Israelis and Chinese have a lot in common, especially a desire to succeed. I see the increasing closeness between our countries as a very positive thing.”

Do Jews still have a future in France?

From Mosaic Magazine, 5 Oct 2014, by Robert Wistrich*:

As the sound of “Death to the Jews!” filled the streets this summer, much of the French elite averted its gaze or blamed the Jews for their own misfortune...
Summer in Paris
Police officers chase rioters in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles on July 20. Several Jewish-owned stores were burned. Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images.
On July 13, the eve of Bastille Day (a national holiday in France), a mob laid siege to the Don Abravanel synagogue in the Eleventh district of Paris. The “protesters,” mainly of North African Arab origin, had broken off from a larger demonstration supported by a small band of left-wing allies—Communists, militant anti-Zionist Trotskyists, a few environmentalists, and trade unionists—waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Death to the Jews” (Mort aux Juifs) along with the Islamist battle cry, Allahu Akbar!
The synagogue, located in Rue de la Roquette, was filled with about 200 congregants who were forced to barricade themselves within as the rioters, some of them armed with chairs, clubs, and knives, sought to break their way in. They were held off by a small group of policemen, Jewish activists, and members of the Jewish Community Protection Service. But it took three hours for the siege to be lifted, and then only thanks to the very belated arrival of special police reinforcements...
The surrounding days saw no fewer than eight attempts to invade, damage, or set fire to synagogues in the Paris area. Already on July 11, two days earlier, a synagogue in Aulney-sur-Bois had been firebombed during Friday-night services. A week later, in the northern suburb of Sarcelles (known as “Little Jerusalem”), with its large Sephardi Jewish population, a failed effort to set the synagogue aflame led the enraged rioters to burn cars and destroy a Jewish-owned pharmacy, pizzeria, and other stores. In a scene reminiscent more of the Middle East than of Western Europe, the police needed recourse to water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to subdue the attackers.
Not that France was alone in the democratic world in witnessing an escalation of anti-Jewish violence during this summer’s conflict in Gaza. From London, England to Sydney, Australia, from Boston, Massachusetts to Santiago, Chile, the chorus of anti-Israel protest—often spilling over into anti-Semitism—could be heard world-wide. 

In Great Britain alone, over 200 anti-Semitic incidents were registered in July, a record for a single month. In Germany the anti-Israel mood was particularly visceral, with a visiting imam in Berlin inciting Muslims to slaughter the Zionist Jews and demonstrators screaming slogans like “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight!” Protesters in Antwerp, Belgium, marched while reportedly chanting threats to “kill the Jews.” In Malmö, Sweden, the synagogue was vandalized for the third time in a year, swastikas were painted on Jewish-owned shops, and Jews were insulted on the streets.
But none of these incidents caused the same devastation as in France, where, according to official statistics, no fewer than 527 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the months from January through July of this year, double the number for the same period of the previous year. Violent acts were especially common, increasing by 126 percent. And no wonder: a variety of factors, starting with the respective sizes of its Jewish and Muslim populations, combine to make France a special but also an emblematic case for a European Jewry whose overall future now seems to be under a menacing cloud.

I. Jihadism Hits Home

At perhaps 600,000-strong (recent estimates place it lower), the French Jewish community accounts for fully half of the Jews presently living in the European Union. But if France’s Jewish population stands out for sheer size, its Muslim population is at least ten times greater, anywhere from six million to perhaps as high as eight million: easily the largest such concentration in the EU, and constituting about 12 percent of the total French population (and a much higher percentage of France’s younger generation). Like most of France’s Jews since the 1950s, French Muslims immigrated principally from the country’s ex-colonies in the Maghreb—Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco—augmented later by Muslims from West Africa as well as from Turkey and Iran.
These immigrants and their progeny have proved particularly receptive to anti-Semitic as well as anti-Israel propaganda and incitement. Things have grown progressively worse in this respect ever since the onset of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000 and the growth of a massive Muslim presence in Europe, but there is a prehistory here that is now largely forgotten. French (and European) Jews first became victims of Arab rage against Israel between 1979 and 1983, when Palestinian groups and their local allies carried out a campaign of terrorist attacks.
For example: on October 3, 1980, a bomb intended to murder the maximum number of worshippers at the Reform synagogue of Rue Copernic in Paris exploded prematurely, killing one Israeli woman and three non-Jewish passers-by. Around the same time, in another portent of things to come, a pro-Palestinian narrative emerged in France accusing Israel of using disproportionate force, gratuitously killing Palestinian children, and committing war crimes and even genocide. In 1982, left-of-center newspapers like Le Monde, the left-wing daily Libération, the Communist daily L’Humanité, and the Catholic-left Témoignage Chrétienshamelessly denounced an imaginary Israeli “genocide” in southern Lebanon.
It is now a truism:  to be seen wearing a kippah in public is to invite curses, insults, harassment, and physical aggression.
It was during the second intifada (2000-2004) that anti-Jewish violence began soaring to unprecedented heights in France. The slogans behind the violence were by now familiar, mixing classic European anti-Semitic tropes with radical Islam and hatred of Israel. But the form was different. For the most part, the perpetrators were not operatives of terrorist organizations but were drawn from Muslim immigrant families in the banlieues, metropolitan “suburbs”—more accurately, urban slums—containing high proportions of foreign-born residents and plagued by unemployment, crime, drugs, family breakdown, and gang terror. Much of the violence took the form of pogrom-style mob attacks, spontaneous harassment, and vandalism. But some of it was carefully planned and orchestrated.
Although the violence abated somewhat after 2004, two years later French Jews received a chilling reminder of their vulnerability with the murder of Ilan Halimi, a twenty-three-year-old Jewish salesman in Paris. Halimi had been gruesomely tortured to death on the outskirts of the city by a gang appropriately called “Les Barbares.” Although the media, the police, and much of the public stubbornly resisted seeing the murder as an anti-Semitic act, it eventually emerged that the gang leader (Youssef Fofana) was a West African Muslim with Salafist connections who had already focused on Jewish targets in previous kidnapping attempts, and gang members had hurled anti-Semitic insults at the boy’s father during abortive ransom negotiations.
Six years later, in Toulouse, home to 20,000 Jews, a thirty-year-old rabbi, his two small children, and an eight-year-old pupil were gunned down at the Ozar Hatorah school, an academy of high repute located in a region relatively free of so-called “inter-community” tensions (the usual euphemism for anti-Semitic disturbances). The twenty-three-year-old killer, Mohammed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent, had been born in Toulouse, imbibed Islamist and extreme anti-Semitic attitudes at home, became further radicalized in prison as a juvenile delinquent, and subsequently trained as a jihadist in Afghanistan. His grisly executions, which he recorded on camera, and his own death in a shoot-out with police succeeded in turning him posthumously into a heroic figure to many of the alienated young Muslims in France’s banlieues.
Indeed, following Merah’s vicious acts, incidents of anti-Semitic aggression by other Muslims—especially against Jewish adolescents—soared. In Toulouse itself, though messages of sympathy were extended to the grieving Jewish community, Jews were also bombarded with threats and insults after the killings. As for the French general public, the innocent victims were quickly forgotten as the media, in their haste to change course after having reflexively posited the murders as the work of neo-Nazi or far-right extremists, instead soon developed a perverse fascination with the killer.
Which brings us to the grim reality of the present and to the actions of twenty-nine-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche, who committed the brutal killings at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May of this year. One of Nemmouche’s four victims, a retired art publisher, had arrived in the Belgian capital only two months earlier, having left her home in France because of the increasingly pervasive anti-Semitic atmosphere there. Instead of tranquility, she met a cruel death. Her assailant, like Mohammed Merah, was a French-Algerian jihadist, born in the northeastern French industrial city of Roubaix —today a mecca of French Islam—and (as it subsequently emerged) had just recently returned from a stint with Islamic State in the killing fields of Syria.
The growing presence of such jihadist elements has greatly accelerated the sense of eroding confidence among Jews all over Europe. In France, this is particularly the case for less affluent Jews living in places like Sarcelles or other heavily Muslim-populated suburbs of Paris where their situation has been precarious for some time. It has by now become something of a truism, for Jews living in any area largely populated by Muslims, that to be seen wearing a kippah in public is to invite curses, insults, harassment, and physical aggression. More than anything else, this one homely fact (amply documented inMosaic by such close observers as Michel Gurfinkiel and Annika Hernroth-Rothstein) sums up the somber truth concerning contemporary Europe and 21st-century anti-Semitism.

II. The Irresistible Uses of Anti-Semitism

Neither the murder of Ilan Halimi nor the Toulouse killings, however, seemed to alert mainstream French society to the gravity of growing anti-Semitism—or, no less significantly, to the exact nature of its 21st-century face. But a wake-up call, of sorts, did come in the form of a mass demonstration on January 26, 2014, known as Le Jour de Colère (“The Day of Anger”). That 17,000-strong march (which I personally witnessed) included a vocal and heterogeneous group of militants shouting slogans like “Jew, Jew, France does not belong to you,” “Jews, get out of France,” and “The gas chambers were a bluff.” These merged seamlessly with the demonstrators’ more generalized expression of anti-elitism, hostility to the French state and its confiscatory taxes, fury at the policies (and the personal life) of President François Hollande, and much else besides. As then-Interior Minister (now Prime Minister) Manuel Valls remarked, it was a dangerous cocktail—the symptom of a morbid climate of opinion linking both left and right extremes against the Republic.
In an Orwellian inversion, the mythical “Jewish lobby” in France was accused of seeking a monopoly over public compassion for the victims of genocide.
Valls was at least partly right—but the toxic populist brew he described is itself not without precedent in French political history. Moreover, from the 1930s onward, some French politicians have not failed to exploit or abet this mood of bitter discontent, complete with its strong anti-Semitic admixture, even as they express shock and alarm at its potential for havoc. For our purposes here, it may be worth sorting out the main strands from the most recent past as they affect the Jewish situation in particular.
In 1990, a historic Jewish cemetery was vandalized in the southern French town of Carpentras. No doubt sensing an opportunity, President François Mitterrand—France’s first socialist president, but soon to become the object of embarrassing revelations about his wartime service to the Vichy regime—marched in a huge demonstration against anti-Semitism and “fascism” attended by some 300,000 people. Conveniently, or obediently, the French media at the time blamed the cemetery desecration on the right-wing National Front (FN), which in fact had nothing to do with it. Evidently, anti-Semitism, now defined by the left as a subcategory of racism or “fascism,” was to be pressed into service as a political weapon against the right.
But the uses not only of anti-Semitism, and specifically of the Nazi Holocaust, were to prove both many and irresistible. In short order, French blacks, Arabs, gays, and other minorities were fighting for institutional recognition of their suffering, and journalists, intellectuals, and politicians began equating anti-Muslim xenophobia with anti-Semitism if not with the Holocaust. The turnabout was completed when, in an Orwellian inversion, the mythical “Jewish lobby” in France found itself accused of seeking a “monopoly” over public compassion for the victims of genocide.
Thus, it is no accident that since 2000, both Holocaust memorialization and the “Jewish Lobby” have come under relentless attack by Dieudonné M’bala-M’bala, the French-Cameroonian “ex-humorist” who stands at the extreme ideological forefront of the new anti-Semitism in France. Dieudonné claims that Jews themselves, since the days of Abraham, have been consummate and archetypal racists. He shares this obsession with his bizarre close ally Alain Soral, a white, pseudo-intellectual, ex-Communist, and ex-National Front activist who today proudly proclaims himself to be a National Socialist à la française. The pair’s mix of left and right anti-Semitism is held together by the paranoid theory of a world “Zionist” conspiracy, a theory that has proved viral in several senses of the word. Even as their videos portraying Jewish domination of the economy, politics, culture, and the media reach an audience of millions, their reputation as convinced Holocaust deniers and admirers of Iran has borne fruit in the form of Iranian financing for their campaign to win membership in the European parliament through the frankly named Anti-Zionist party.
Exploiting their notoriety, Dieudonné and Soral have bridged the gulfs among whites, blacks, and beurs (Arabs), between middle-class youth and the impoverished drop-outs of the banlieues, between FN supporters and the far left, and between old-school French anti-Semites and younger immigrants. Crucial to their success has been their ability to link their eclectic, hybrid anti-Semitism to their anti-establishment, “screw the system” politics. The link is symbolized in Dieudonné’s quenelle—an inverted Nazi salute and a mutual recognition sign for like-minded followers around the world. As at the January 2014 “Day of Anger,” the many Internet images of individuals showing off their quenelle salutes in front of Jewish memorial sites—whether in Paris, Berlin, or Auschwitz—encapsulate the process by which Gallic “anti-racism,” ostensibly conceived as a tool to counter and prevent anti-Semitism, has been recomposed as gutter anti-Semitism.

III. Delusion and Denial

European elites seem powerless to respond to this hybrid anti-Semitism, especially insofar as it is connected with Islam. Denouncing the anti-Semitism of Alain Soral has not been difficult—he is, after all, a white reactionary—but the anti-Semitism of Dieudonné is much harder to grapple with. For most French intellectuals, leftist by inclination, to designate any group of blacks or Muslims as “anti-Semites” is considered highly suspect, if not racist and “Islamophobic.” It can also lead to the accuser’s being stamped as himself an “agent of Israel” seeking to cover up “Zionist crimes.”
And so, when anti-Jewish violence by Muslims occurs in France, or anti-Jewish hate speech fills the air, the media, intellectuals, and many politicians simply deny its existence—or blame it on the actions of Israel and/or the Jewish community itself. In stark contrast, Muslim youths from les quartiers difficiles (a euphemism for violent inner-city neighborhoods) are never held responsible for their criminal actions, any more than are the Palestinians in the Middle East. Perhaps needless to say, their solidarity with Hamas, complete with its rabidly anti-Semitic “Sacred Covenant” of 1988 and its death-cult call to Islamize Palestine “from the river to the sea,” raises remarkably few eyebrows.
When anti-Jewish hate speech fills the air, the media, intellectuals, and many politicians simply deny its existence—or blame it on the actions of Israel and/or the Jewish community itself.
Is the French right any better? The answer is at best a qualified yes. Opposition to so-called creeping “Islamicization” in France has traditionally been led by the National Front (FN), which carries significant historical baggage of its own. Under its current leader, Marine Le Pen, the movement has sought to distance itself from the more openly anti-Arab legacy of her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, and its spectacular success in the European parliament elections of May 2014 (it polled first among French parties, with 25 percent of the vote) has made it, for the first time, a possible contender for power. Unlike the far left and some socialists, the FN took no part in the pro-Palestine marches of July 2014, and Marine Le Pen has even made some overtures to the Jews of France.
The resistance of the FN to the threat posed by radical Islamists, along with its new emphasis on republican secularism (laïcité), has indeed been welcomed by some Jews. But suspicions remain: in light of the party’s trivialization of the Vichy past, its current links with far-right populist movements in Europe, and its vehement rejection of Jewish communal representation (about which more below), most Jews have trouble seeing it as an ally. Moreover, when public display of the quenelle and Dieudonné’s anti-Semitic performances fell under a government ban, the FN voiced criticism in the name of free speech. (In the past, Le Penpère went so far as to express appreciation for the “provocations” of Dieudonné, and a 2005 rapprochement between the two former opponents was well publicized.)
But to return to the mainstream elites: in addition to the reluctance to identify Islamic anti-Semitism as such, there is an almost reflexive hostility to Jewish expressions of sympathy with Israel. One of the most common reproaches against Jews who defend the Jewish state has been that of “communitarisme,” which in English means not communitarianism but “communalism.” However inoffensive the term may sound, it is anything but. In French political discourse, communalists are tribal, selfish, and particularist, concerned only with their own community and not with the general interest. This, in some circles, is tantamount to a violation of the “republican contract” of 1791 when France became the first European nation to emancipate its Jews, granting them full civic and political rights on condition that they renounce their former communal autonomy except in the restricted sphere of religious practice.
By and large, French Jews adhered meticulously to this unofficial pact until it was brutally sundered by the French state itself in 1940. The race laws instituted by the Vichy regime in that year abolished Jewish emancipation and paved the way for the deportation by French police of 76,000 Jews and their murder in the Nazi death camps.
That was almost 75 years ago, and much happened in the decades following the war to restore the old status quo and contribute to Jewish flourishing. But today, and indeed ever since the second intifada, Jews who defend Israel have found themselves consistently branded as tribal communalists. In addition, any rise in anti-Semitism is immediately identified as the product of so-called “inter-communal tensions,” thus creating the appearance that it is the outcome of unresolved issues between French Jews and Muslims for which both parties may be equally to blame. Yet there has never been a single case of French Jews assaulting mosques, Muslim community centers, schools, or individuals because of their being Arab or Muslim, while there have been countless incidents of this kind perpetrated by Muslims against Jews.
In other words, the aggression has been in one direction only, something the official mantra covers up and may be intended to cover up. It certainly helps to explain the marked apathy on the part of successive French governments toward attacks on Jews. Between 2000 and 2003, during the high point of the second intifada and of anti-Jewish violence on French soil, ordinary Jews felt increasingly abandoned by the state. And with reason: not only were there official insinuations that Israel’s “aggression” against the Palestinians was the prime or perhaps even the sole cause of anti-Jewish incidents, but leading French officials, from President Jacques Chirac on down, denied that there was any anti-Semitism in France or invented grossly false symmetries between Jewish and Muslim behavior.
In Paris this August, I confronted a stark example of this entrenched attitude and the loaded vocabulary in which it is couched. The center-left magazine L’Express had just published a special report criticizing the response of French Jews to the riots of July, riots that included the three-hour siege of the Don Abravanel synagogue and its congregants described at the beginning of this essay. Accompanying the report was an editorial by the magazine’s publisher Christophe Barbier, a prominent journalist and pundit, entitled Les Nouveaux Baal-Zebub (“The New Beelzebubs”). Barbier’s allusion to a medieval name for the devil went unexplained, but I assumed he was warning French Jews not to surrender to the demons of fear.
One journalist hinted darkly that, by placing their Jewish identity first, Jews risked playing into the hands of those who had always warned there was a “Jewish problem” in France.
I was mistaken. Barbier’s screed began by vigorously attacking the Jewish Self-Defense League, a voluntary organization that had helped resist the rioters and that he contemptuously dismissed as a “communalist [sic] gang” that should be dissolved. Assuming a more solicitous tone, he then assured his readers that such efforts to “defend the tribe” were in any case counterproductive, bound to backfire and to lead only to more violence.
But if self-defense was bad, emigration (aliyah) to Israel was worse: in Barbier’s judgment, such a vote of no-confidence in the Republican order represented a virtual desertion of the colors, a “betrayal” (his word) of France. What’s more, it would be a flight to “nowhere,” an “imposture,” reprehensible and cowardly in itself and a disgraceful abandonment of those Jews who chose to remain in France. For good measure, Barbier accused French Jewry as a whole of self-asphyxiation, of “bunkerizing” Judaism and retreating into a self-imposed ghetto: in short, of communalism run amok.
And he still wasn’t through. If the Jews abandoned ship, Barbier now insinuated, almost pleadingly, the wound to French institutions would be so great as to leave other communities prey to “barbarism.” Therefore, Jews must stay, resolving to fight anti-Semitism as a point of honor and in the clear interest both of themselves and of Israel (!). In doing so, however, they would have to abjure any support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—a “war-mongering” nationalist—or for Marine Le Pen, lest they encourage a “civil war” in France that would only redound to their harm. Finally, Barbier hinted darkly that, by placing their Jewish identity first, Jews risked playing into the hands of those who had always warned there was a “Jewish problem” in France.
These admonitions, at once hysterical and almost breathtakingly candid, were no less representative for that—representative not only in their contortions, which effectively turn the victims of aggression into culprits, but in what they so conspicuously omit. They completely fail to grapple with the central issue of Islamism: a danger to the French Republic and to Europe that is threatening enough, one would think, to dwarf the putative danger posed by 5,000 French Jews arriving in Israel by the end of 2014. Put that modest figure next to the shouting mobs on the Paris streets, and the very real prospect of nearly 1,000 native-born jihadists returning soon from Iraq and Syria after having trained with IS or similar groups, and one begins to grasp the accumulating layers of delusion and denial that paralyze the educated European mind.

IV. A Thin Ray of Light

If one were looking for a ray of light in this depressing picture, it could be located—unexpectedly—in the embattled Hollande administration, which has been quite robust in its response to the increasingly violent manifestations of anti-Semitism in France. On July 16, 2014, at a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the French roundup of Jews in Paris, many of whom were later transferred to Auschwitz and other death camps, Prime Minister Valls publicly defended his decision to forbid any provocative pro-Palestinian demonstrations and unequivocally condemned any “anti-Semite who hides his hatred of the Jew behind an appearance of anti-Zionism and the hatred of Israel.” This was sharper language than any adopted by previous French leaders, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
A few months earlier, President François Hollande had been equally firm at a dinner organized by CRIF (the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions) in Paris. Far from denying what was happening in French society, he spoke forthrightly:
Jews are being attacked on the streets because they are wearing a kippah. Children in French schools are being insulted because they are Jewish. Synagogues are being desecrated with swastikas. This is the reality of anti-Semitism.
On the same occasion, Hollande stressed that the rage manifested at January’s “Day of Anger” was not owing to unemployment, poverty, or hard times. It was, he averred, the old hatred of Jews “searching for someone to take the blame.” If once the anti-Semites were more cautious, now they had come out into the open—marching in the streets, using the Internet to spread their lies and false rumors, performing in theaters, publishing books.
Hollande genuinely regards anti-Semitic acts as an attack on France. But even the best intentions will not suffice to overcome three decades of official apathy.
I do not doubt that Hollande genuinely regards anti-Semitic acts as an attack on France and the fundamental “values of the Republic.” But even the best intentions will not suffice to overcome three decades of official apathy toward (or passive complicity with) intolerance, indoctrination, insults, and hatred. It seems doubtful, moreover, especially when the president’s own popularity is at such an all-time low, that his views will find much resonance among an increasingly morose and indifferent French public. For a population increasingly battered by social malaise, economic stagnation, and fragmenting politics, the specific ailments afflicting the Jews would appear to be a very low priority.
And so, despite the current government’s welcome attitude toward anti-Semitism and the radical Islamist danger, many Jews in France feel themselves trapped. For years they have heard declarations by government ministers to the effect that an assault on the Jewish community is an “attack on France” and “the values of the Republic,” but the violent incidents have continued unabated. Legislation penalizing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial remains severe on paper, yet seems to have little effect in practice. Despite the efforts of government to maintain a more balanced position on the Middle East, at home there remains a great reluctance to name the main perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts for who they are.

V. Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Less than ten years ago, an officially commissioned report to the French Interior Ministry made bold to connect the rise in anti-Semitic violence with the rise of radical Islam. French schools, those time-tested incubators of solidarity with the values of the Republic, were instead, the report noted, becoming the “lost territories of the Republic”—to borrow the title of a book edited by Emmanuel Brenner in 2002. All of the trends manifested across Europe today were already then present in French schools, where Jewish children, adolescents, and teachers were being harassed, insulted, mocked, and abused by Muslim pupils originating from North Africa—young people whom the French state was egregiously failing to integrate into French society or to bring into conformity with the “values of the Republic.”
Where did those young Muslims acquire their virulent anti-Semitism? In large measure, it was an integral component of a militant ethno-religious identity, based on hatred of the West, France, and the Jews, that they or their parents brought with them from the Maghreb. This Islamist identity blended a Qu’ran-oriented hostility to infidels with traditionalist contempt for non-Muslims (both Christians and Jews) and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories derived from European sources like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. What we see today, in other words, is ground that was well seeded early on, fertilized by the global jihad, the rise of Salafism, and the cult of Osama bin-Laden—and then, once transplanted to France, copiously watered by urban anomie, juvenile delinquency, economic depression, and cultural nihilism, not to mention the ongoing crisis of French national identity itself.
What we are witnessing is the slow death of the sanctified French model of integration, and with it the beginning of the end of French Jewry.
In the 1960s, General Charles de Gaulle could still project a powerful sense of Gallic pride, rooted in the continuities of French history, the global reach of France’s influence, and the country’s successful modernization. But much of this national self-confidence has been eroded in the past 45 years, not least by the failure to control immigration from the Third World or to adapt more creatively to the challenges of globalization. One symptom of these and other failures has been the refusal of French elites to acknowledge, let alone to address, the issue of anti-Semitism or their own conspiracy of silence and acquiescence in the face of radical Islam. Today’s awakening has come 30 years too late.
What we are witnessing, in sum, is the gradual fragmentation of the much-vaunted and sanctified French “republican synthesis,” and perhaps even the collapse of de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic. It is as a possible harbinger of this slow death that we can already identify the beginning of the end of French Jewry—hitherto considered one of the great Jewish success stories of the postwar era. That latter event may take decades fully to come about, but its likelihood can no longer be excluded.
From my own research and many discussions with French Jews who have just arrived in Israel or are currently contemplating such a move, I have reached a number of conclusions. On the whole, those leaving France believe that Jews have no future there. Though still fond of the country, its beauty, its culture, and its past greatness, they are convinced that something has definitively snapped in the republican model of integration. The French system simply does not work any longer—not for Jews, not for Muslims, and not, critically, for the nominally Christian majority. Jews, however, have experienced a unique period of personal insecurity, a feeling that they are no longer protected by a state that has somehow lost its grip. Even in an Israel at war, the new immigrants tell me that they feel far more secure in the Holy Land, where they are protected by the Israeli army and free to give expression to their Judaism in the public sphere.
I have visited France countless times during recent decades; never before did I hear French Jews say so often that they consider Israel to be their homeland. This is new. Something has indeed radically changed. A process that began its incubation after 2000 and gestated slowly thereafter is now finally arriving at its maturity.
To be sure, some French Jews would categorically reject these impressions, attributing them to panic, fear, or alarmism. But I think they deceive themselves. The resurgent tide of anti-Semitism is very real in France, and it will not disappear any time soon. This is certainly not the sole reason for emigration to Israel or elsewhere, but it is a major trigger.
In that respect, the disgust expressed by many Jews at the consistent disinformation about Israel in the French media, and their genuine anxiety about the frightening levels of Muslim, far-left, and populist hostility to both Israel and themselves strike me as an entirely healthy and normal reaction. In France, as in much of Europe, the freedom to live one’s identity as a Jew has become not only much more limited but also much more perilous. If an image of the European Jewish community is wanted, the emblematic picture today is that of the synagogue in Rue de la Roquette, its congregants huddled within, marauders screaming “Mort aux Juifs” at the doors, the intellectual elites averting their gaze or blaming the Jews for their own misfortune, an apathetic civil society, and authorities seemingly powerless to stem the tide.
For some this may be a sad, perhaps even a tragic conclusion. These are feelings I can understand. But I also remind myself that what France loses, Israel will gain.

*Robert S. Wistrich is professor of Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he heads the Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism.