France: "It's not a political problem; it is not growing, and in fact it does not exist"

France: "It's not a political problem; it is not growing, and in fact it does not exist"

Jacques Attali is fed up with talking about anti-Semitism in France. "There are more important things to discuss than my view on a nonexistent problem," he told me last week in an interview conducted in the headquarters of his consulting firm. Attali, an economist and a prolific writer who has a weekly column in a number of media outlets, was the most important adviser to perhaps the most important French president, Francois Mitterrand.


Is there no problem of anti-Semitism in France?

"Zero! None whatsoever. It's a lie. It's a pure lie. Not true. There are some well-known anti-Semites, but it is not a problem at the national level."

There is a trend among French Jews to immigrate to Israel, and many of them say it's due to an anti-Semitic atmosphere.

"I think it is not true. I think it is propaganda, Israeli propaganda."

But don't the numbers prove it?

"There are some French Jews who take a two-week holiday in Tel Aviv and then they are back to Paris or elsewhere. There are French Jews who buy apartments in Israel the same way the British buy apartments in the south of France: for vacations. For the past decade, Israelis have engaged in some kind of wishful thinking that the situation in France is a disaster and that people are immigrating to Israel. It is very dangerous propaganda, to make people believe that the situation in France is terrible. It's ridiculous! I am an example of the fact that it is not true. I came from nothing and I advanced - worldwide but also in France. France has the most modern Jewish community and the most modern Arab and Muslim community. It is absolutely crucial for there to be success in relations between Jews and Arabs in France. It's crucial to Israel and to the whole world for the two communities to get along. These relations are of strategic importance: if they cannot live in harmony here, they cannot live in harmony anywhere."

But right now it doesn't look so promising.

"That is not true. There are a lot of discussions. Of course there are some disputes, but there are a lot of meetings and discussions."

That's at the political level, not the street level. You and I would not put on a skullcap and go wandering in certain Paris suburbs. I know people who take off their skullcap out of fear, even in the metro.

"Maybe that's true, but no one ever told me they do that."

Don't you think there is a problem of anti-Semitism among the Muslim community in France?

"Absolutely not. They are absolutely adamant to avoid it, wherever and whenever. Of course they are against the Israeli policy in the territories. Of course you can't say there is no problem at all. You can always find crazy people in every part of society. But it's not a political problem; it is not growing, and in fact it does not exist. If you look at the numbers you cannot prove it."

Of course you can. During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Molotov cocktails were thrown at synagogues and Jewish institutions in France and anti-Semitic graffiti was sprayed on walls. The number of anti-Semitic incidents leaped threefold, according to statistics of the European Jewish Congress. "Look," Attali interrupts, "I am not here to defend France. I am here to tell you my opinion: bullshit, peanuts, lies. This is not what you and I should be talking about. I am disappointed. We should talk about larger issues. There are more important things to discuss than my views on a nonexistent problem. You are an Israeli journalist and all your questions are about that."

These are only some of the questions.

"But it is a problem which does not exist. I say very bluntly: I am disappointed to be talking about a caricature of France. And I am not here to defend France."

Ilan Halimi's mother told me the reason her son was killed was because no one believed there is anti-Semitism in the suburbs.

"I respect her, and I do not want to comment on what she said in grief."


Source: Haaretz (English)

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