Pierre Birnbaum. Journal of Israeli History. Volume 25, Issue 1. March 2006.
This article highlights the deep ambiguities of the French radical right’s vision of the future of the Jews. While being hostile to the Jews’ integration into the French nation—whose Catholic nature they are alleged to corrupt by promoting Anglo-Saxon liberal and cosmopolitan values—the far right at first manifested sympathy for Zionism, the perfect solution for expelling the Jews. At the same time, although it despised Arab immigrants in France, it nonetheless had a positive view of the values of the Arab world, seen as being hostile to money. Subsequently, except for the period of the Algerian War, when its interests seemed to coincide with those of Israel, the far right became fervently anti-Zionist. Today it rushes to the aid of the Arab world (from Palestine to Iraq), which is seen as dominated by the State of Israel, an instrument of international capitalism.
The violently anti-Semitic French radical right has frequently endorsed Zionism as a solution that would facilitate the longed-for emigration of the Jews, their ardently hoped-for departure to that distant Palestine whence, above all, they must not return: Zionism as a miracle solution, bringing the Jewish presence in the diaspora to an end. As early as 1891, Edouard Drumont suggested getting rid of the Jews, “sending them all back to Palestine,” and, a little later, was highly complimentary about Theodor Herzl’s recently published book, Der Judenstaat, stating at a conference: “Dr Herzl wishes to restore a Homeland to this people that is a people; and I see nothing wrong in this as long as this Homeland is not mine …. I have seen with great pleasure in the Archives israélites the full-page advertisement by the Jewish National Society … the Zionist movement represents the democratic element in Jewry.” By 1903 Drumont was congratulating Max Nordau on his nationalist arguments, writing: “The Jew who aspires to reestablish a homeland for himself is worthy of esteem. The Jew who wishes to have a flag is a decent Jew … . Is not having a homeland the most critical of all duties? France for the French! Palestine for the Jews.” In this way, Drumont—the inventor of political anti-Semitism, the man who made anti-Semitism into an organized mass movement from which the Austrian and German anti-Semitic movements would draw their inspiration—pursued a formidable line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, declaring himself openly in favor of the Jews’ departure for Palestine, which would restore France’s authentic nature.
In 1898, when the Dreyfus Affair was at its height, a subscriber to the Monument Henry (a fund publicized by Drumont’s La Libre Parole paper to finance the legal proceedings brought against Joseph Reinach by the widow of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry after the latter committed suicide) sent the following outspoken note with his contribution: “Let the Jews be treated like plague victims and sent packing to Palestine.” At the same time, Jules Soury, the inventor of racial anti-Semitism, wrote: “any man of the Aryan race, whether Christian or Buddhist, far from desiring the Jews’ conversion, wishes only to buy wheat and dates from them after they have reverted to being farmers in their ancient land of Canaan.” Likewise, Urbain Gohier, Drumont’s friend, issued the following call: “Palestine for the Jews! The Jews in Palestine! And France and its thousands of millions for the French!”—a slogan that would frequently be heard in Algeria, where Drumont’s ideas enjoyed great popularity and where crowds of “poor whites” (petits blancs) would frequently shout, “France for the French! The Jews in Palestine,” both at the end of the nineteenth century and during the interwar period. Innumerable statements in favor of Zionism were made by radical-right writers who, when espousing the slogan “France for the French,” evinced an unexpected degree of Zionist fervor. In their eyes, Zionism would make it possible to re-establish a French cultural identity undiluted by outside influences. For Jean Drault, Drumont’s friend and closest associate, “France is being poisoned by these indigestible Jews. The remedy for indigestion is a simple one: to take an emetic, a purgative. When it has sent them packing, back … to Palestine, France will soon recover.” In a similar vein, La Vieille France hoped for the advent of “Herzl’s prophecy for the salvation of France, Europe, and the White Race.” The radical right had one concern only: to halt the process of assimilation of the Jews that had been taking place since the French Revolution, and to challenge their emancipation, which was adversely affecting France’s identity. Understandably, for the opposite reasons those who advocated the model of Israelites integrated into French society opposed the Zionist enterprise as well as its unexpected allies, and hence Henri Prague, editor of the Archives israélites, wrote:
Do you not consider suspect this patronage that our worst enemies are according an enterprise which is represented to us by its promoters as being designed to contribute, not just to the Jews’ moral recovery, but to their social and political reinstatement also?! One can understand the legitimate mistrust that is triggered by an agitation whose most ardent sycophants come from the ranks of Israel’s mortal enemies…. Anti-Semitism championing Zionism, wishing for it to triumph—this is not the stuff that stirs the hearts of Israel.
The Zionism of the radical-right anti-Semites thus constituted a threat to the Jews’ integration in the French nation. Hence, curiously, the wholehearted commitment of the radical right to expelling the Jews coincided with the very heart of Zionist logic, which held that Jewish life in the diaspora inescapably implied the disappearance of an identity and a culture stretching back thousands of years.
This anti-Semitic Zionism is surprisingly constant. The following contribution comes from one René Gontier in 1939:
The Zionism which seeks to reestablish a national homeland in the Holy Land is a most interesting undertaking. The racist wishes for the rebirth of an Israelite State where an out-and-out Jewish nationalism can develop, with its own language, its folklore, its customs, and its culture. The efforts that the Palestinian Jews have made along these lines are laudable. They have reinstated the use of Hebrew.
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, an extreme anti-Semite, was in complete agreement with these sentiments, enthusiastically supporting the idea of sending the Jews back to Palestine: “If we were to stem the flow of all these Jews, to send them back to Palestine with their Freemason big shots, since that’s what they love. We would no longer be “Untouchables.” We would have no wars, no bankruptcies. And we would have far more room …. Instantly. Immediately … Truly the best development.” Céline took a broad view of the situation, and was prepared to give the Jews an enormous swathe of territory: “The Jews in Jerusalem, a bit lower down on the Niger, they don’t bother me! I’ll give them the entire Congo! the whole of their Africa.” Even after World War II, Céline was still writing the following: “A new man is coming into being over there … a builder … a grower … a warrior.” His friend Georges Montandon, who developed the theory of ethnic racism, likewise stated in his book, “we think that the solution to the Jewish problem is as follows: to bring about a completely independent Palestine which will have its legations and its consuls in all countries. Those Israelites who opt for Palestine would be foreigners when not at home; the others would have no reason not to assimilate.” This physician, who would play a crucial role in the deportation of the Jews under Vichy by ruling whether or not they were circumcised, was an enthusiastic advocate of the idea: acknowledging the “cramped space available in Palestine,” foreshadowing the extremist pro-transfer theories to be found in modern-day Israel, he considered that “the Arabs can all find a place somewhere in Arabia, and these transplanted Arabs will have to be compensated by the Jewish community.”
During the Occupation, tracts circulated in the streets of Paris, proclaiming, as at the turn of the century, “France for the French, and the Jew in Palestine.” This pro-Zionism of right-wing nationalists was frequently to be found in a number of publications of the Vichy regime. An example of this can be seen in the famous issue entitled “Le Juif et la France,” published by Notre Combat, which states:
What is needed is a site-territory for the Jewish reality of this world. In what must be a vast territory, the inward moral revolution of the Jewish soul must be able to take place through the people coming into contact in a very real and direct fashion with its most distant past …. Only through total immersion can Zionism undertake this normalization of the Jewish people …. The entire Jewish people must set out in order to conquer.
This form of Zionism enjoyed quasi-unanimous support at the time, so much so that even somebody like Pierre Drieu la Rochelle declared in his “will”: “I die an anti-Semite (respectful of the Zionist Jews) … I like races from elsewhere in their homelands; I would have sincerely liked the Jews in their homeland. They would be a fine people.” At this time, there were no sacrifices that people were not prepared to make in order to advance this solution; thus, “in order to repatriate Karfunkelstein, aka Léon Blum,” the Progrès de Seine-et-Oise insisted that “Marianne offer the bogus great man of the Popular Front a free ticket for Tel Aviv, Palestine,” a desire shared by Le Franciste, which had but one hope: that “Léon Blum and the entire tribe take the first boat for Palestine.” This unanimity was touching: André Chaumet and H. R. Bellanger considered that
the solution of the Jewish problem is grounded in an all-inclusive form of Zionism, a one hundred per cent Zionism. And in a Zionism that is mandatory for this accursed people. If Zionism is not mandatory, the Jew will not submit to it. We dream of a world in which Jerusalem will be the capital of the new Kingdom of Judea. After an absence of two thousand years, Israel must direct its gaze to Palestine.
Commenting on observations by Theodor Herzl or Chaim Weizmann, wholehearted endorsement was expressed of the revival of Hebrew, with statements such as the following: “Israel must return to the Promised Land and live there for good, occupying a territory that extends to Transjordan, the granary of ancient Palestine”.
Undoubtedly the most systematic presentation of this intransigent form of Zionism is provided by Herman de Vries de Heekelingen in a learned study intended to show that “Theodor Herzl, the initiator of modern Zionism, reached exactly the same conclusion as his”—namely, “the urgent necessity to revive the nationalist Jew, proud of his nationality, to replace the rampant Jew lurking in the guise of a bogus Frenchman.” In his view, there was but one possible solution, as suggested by Leon Pinsker in his brochure Auto-Emancipation, a solution that was “extraordinarily perceptive” and gave rise to an “all-inclusive Jewish nationalism.” For him, “Jabotinsky represents the purest form of nationalist Zionism, a solution that would bring about the definitive solution to the Jewish problem.” An enthusiastic advocate of the agricultural methods implemented by the Zionist pioneers, he praised their efficiency compared with the archaic methods of the Arab peasants. If the latter failed to understand them, “there is no shortage of places if they want to emigrate …. All that must be done is to use strong-arm methods, after all whole populations have been transported, Greek and Armenians, for infinitely less important reasons than the solution of the excruciating Jewish problem.” As de Heekelingen explained:
Palestine will never be able to contain all of the world’s Jews …. It will therefore be necessary to look at the other side of the Jordan, where there are vast expanses …. Palestine together with Transjordan could become a centre which will contain at least half, if not two-thirds of the Jews living in the Diaspora …. It is not impossible that part of Syria and Mesopotamia might be joined to the Jewish State.
As a self-confessed advocate of Greater Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates, de Heekelingen reiterated the point that it was necessary to “allow the Jews, and if necessary to force them, to set up a State similar to other states, in other words to eliminate the diaspora.”
Many more such declarations could be cited. They were intended to call a halt to the French Revolution by reverting to an ethnic conception of the French nation, by doing away with the universalist vision advocated by a theorist such as Ernest Renan and adopted by the secular, rationalist Third Republic. Gérard Verdeveine likewise held that “the Jews must be reinstated in their original homeland. This requires transferring the Arab populations to other parts of Asia Minor in return for generous compensation in terms of land, livestock, etc.” According to Georges Batault, “everything will change the day that a real Jewish State exists.” In a similar vein, Gabriel Malglaive called for the “recognition of a Jewish Nation, hand in hand with the naming of a territory to be granted to it. Henceforth, all the Jews in the world would legally, officially regain the Jewish nationality that their heart has always secretly chosen. Those wishing to remain in France or Germany would remain there with the status of aliens.” Having become citizens of the Hebrew State, those French Jews who for lack of room were unable to emigrate to Palestine, would in this way be excluded once and for all from the public space—a solution that would eliminate for ever the menacing presence of the “state within a state” denounced since the French Revolution by right-wing counterrevolutionaries. The loathsome “Jewish Republic” would disappear, insofar as this collective departure would bring to an end the Jewish presence in the midst of the French State—a presence responsible for so many measures adversely affecting Catholicism and the virtues of French identity, for its decadence, for the decline in its virility, its “feminization,” a depravity introduced by the Jews who came from the Orient.
After World War II, the successes of the Jewish state further strengthened this conviction as displayed by the leading lights of the radical right. In this spirit, Xavier Vallat, former Commissioner for Jewish Affairs under Vichy, made no effort to disguise his “reasons for being a Zionist” following the Six Day War, especially since Israel was thus taking revenge for France’s 1962 defeat, the loss of Algeria. As far as he was concerned,
How can this State within the State justify itself? Simply by restoring to the members of this ethnic group their affiliation with their nation—the Jewish nation—and reinstating their status as aliens. That is why I am a Zionist. That is why I hope that Israel, at the end of this third war, will receive international guarantees for its historical borders, from the Sinai to the Hermon, and from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.
Even somebody like the fascist writer Lucien Rebatet, who espoused an obscene form of anti-Semitism, realised that “over there, the cause of Israel is the cause of all Westerners. I would have been really surprised if in 1939 somebody had prophesied to me that one day I would be hoping that a Zionist army would be victorious. But today that’s the only solution that seems reasonable to me.” At this stage, the Zionism of the radical right was fed by a political approach that was hostile to the Arabs who were responsible for the loss of Algeria. In this vein, another writer, Thierry Maulnier, celebrated the Israeli army’s military victory which had enabled this “resurrection of Israel on the land that the Omnipotent Eternal One gave to His People.” Lastly, according to Aspects de la France, the nationalist monarchist weekly,
Maurras’ long-standing teaching about international and anonymous Jewish finances does not apply to Israel, because Israel is the complete opposite. Here we do not have men lurking in the corridors of enormous banks, influencing the policies of countries drained by their profits. What we have is a nationalist state, all of whose men have become rooted in an utterly natural fashion in the soil and the skies of which Maurice Barrès spoke.
Anti-Semitism would inevitably lead to Zionism, through nationalist fervor vindicating the honor and credit associated with being Jewish—in Israel, proof, if such were required, of the need for a culturalist vision that binds every nation closely to its own, unique cultural code, in the tradition of Herder.
However, this Zionist infatuation on the part of the radical right lasted for a while only, and at the end of the war in Algeria it took very little time for things to revert to a form of Semitism which, as in the past, was slanted towards the Arabs, an ideal perspective for the revival of a form of anti-Semitism which henceforth would go hand in hand with anti-Zionism. Straight out of Drumont’s contradictory thinking (the desire to send the Jews back to Palestine versus admiration for Arab anti-Semitism and pride), from now on it would be the “proud Arab” who would enjoy the approval of the extreme right, the “noble Arab” as opposed to the timorous, treacherous, evil Jew. For the author of La France juive, the Arab was “temperate,” “proud by nature,” “honest and straight,” whilst in Algeria the Jews constituted “an abject race that lives solely off disgraceful trafficking activities, pinching the poor wretches that fall into their clutches and squeezing them until they are bled dry.” Following this approach, the noble Catholic and the proud Arab must join forces in order to confront the depraved Jew, especially since the latter was the product of a cosmopolitan, rootless Anglo-Saxon form of capitalism. Indeed, the supporters of the radical right ultimately come to question the Zionist undertaking, which was in such stark contrast to the Jews’ real nature. According to Georges Saint-Bonnet, “Rather than their own resurrection, they prefer their comforting denials [of Christ] … parasites do not live on parasites. The Jews need an Aryan to feed off. New Jerusalem is collapsing. The Wandering Jew remains the wandering Jew, Tel Aviv is not the gate through which he enters the Promised Land.” The facts had to be faced: in the nineteenth century, the Jews were no more interested in a Zionist revival than they were in a form of revival along the lines espoused by Abbé Grégoire during the French Revolution, since both implied going back to the land, to manual labor, to brute force, to normality. Becoming disillusioned, supporters of the radical right constantly put the situation prevailing in Palestine in the dock, excoriating the governing plutocracy that they saw as benefiting the ruling capitalism. For those holding these views, the Jews henceforth maintained the domination of the rootless Anglo-Saxon capitalism that had always been heartily loathed by France’s counterrevolutionary Catholic right; hence the need to fight the Zionist enterprise, because it constituted part of the global strategy for world imperialist domination.
Without a doubt, Roger Lambelin was the radical-right pamphleteer who in the interwar period most systematically developed the thesis equating Zionism with the Anglo-Saxon powers—a thesis that would enjoy an extended period of success, down to the present day. Following World War I, he maintained,
maneuvring those who hold power in the United States and Great Britain, the representatives of a race of thirteen or fourteen million individuals have managed to impose on the world a pax judaica and a super-government called the League of Nations, of which they are the masters. As a sign of victory, they have managed to install a National Homeland for their people in Palestine and, under the aegis of the British Empire, the flag is already flying over Jerusalem, the Christian world’s holy city.
The Balfour Declaration, from this point of view, represented a genuine war machine against the interests of Christian France: according to Lambelin, “Zionism not only aims to establish a Jewish state; it is undertaking an even more important task, that of world domination, as revealed by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Along the same lines, Georges Batault believed that “we are seeing the Zionist movement being taken over by the magnates of international Jewish finance to the benefit of England … the Zionists want to make Palestine into an English dominion.” In this spirit, the counterrevolutionary French right, attached to defending traditional French geopolitical interests, and hostile to Anglo-Saxon capitalism which had always been considered corrupting, suddenly changed its views and condemned Zionism as a pure and simple instrument of cosmopolitan capitalism which was so powerful in New York and London alike. While Jewish nationalism was as respectable as any form of nationalism, Jewish imperialism in the service of Anglo-Saxon capitalism coordinated from Zion was henceforth generally looked upon as a fearsome threat.
Similarly—and this will be the ultimate argument in favor of a policy resolutely hostile to the Zionist movement, a policy that prevails to the present day among the radical right, distancing itself from a previously pro-Zionist position—Catholic France had as a matter of urgency to stand up for the Arab masses in their struggle against the Jewish immigrants. The argument was now completely stood on its head: having previously disdained the Arab world and ignored its inherent desire to maintain its presence in Palestine, the counterrevolutionary right, henceforth hostile to Zionism, proclaimed its support for the Arab population’s resistance to Zionism. Very detailed plans, including travel costs, were now drawn up for how to organize the departure of the Jews of Palestine to French Guiana, where they would be required to perform forced labor like the convicts in Cayenne: “Since the Palestine Arabs cannot put up with the Jews in Palestine, there is no option other than to send the Jews to Guiana.” Since no viable solution could be seen, either in France, where assimilation was out of the question, or in Palestine, and Zionism was illegitimate because this time it was harming Arab interests, “let us leave them to the countries which are poor in them: Lapland, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, and so on.” Roger Lambelin, one of Zionism’s most intractable foes in the name of the struggle against the Anglo-Saxon plutocracy, was one of the pamphleteers who paid most attention to the fate of Palestine’s Arab populations, from the very beginning highlighting the shared destiny of Arabs and Christians when confronting the Jewish foe:
Palestine’s Arab populations, with their sweet and peaceful ways, took a while to be roused by the Zionist projects, which aim more or less directly at expropriating and expelling them. The Christian States should raise their voices, should defend against the British authority, which has been harnessed to serve Zionism, the rights and privileges of the old-established Islamic and Christian populations, which have lived there for centuries in peace and tranquility.
Jean Drault himself, always faithful to Drumont, now modified his stance, which had previously supported Zionism as a strategy for expelling the Jews of France; henceforth, he too would take up the cudgels in favor of the Palestinian Arabs: “They are defending their hides, their country. They are doing what the French no longer do, providing them with a very instructive example of energy and tenacity.” And Céline himself now called a halt to his Zionist enthusiasm: “It is the Jews who have practiced racism for 2,000 years! Including in today’s Palestine.”
What we can see, therefore, is a complete turnabout in alliances, reversing the previously pro-Zionist position of the radical right—a pro-Zionism that would reappear only occasionally, as during the Six Day War, as revenge exacted against the Algerian enemy but dissipating swiftly once this temporary alliance was forgotten. Henceforth, and as at the end of the nineteenth century from the perspective of a figure such as Drumont, anti-Semitism in France would be accompanied by a stance that was radically hostile to Israel and favorable to the noble Arab world, which was not dominated by money, to that austere people with its fighting spirit, which spurned rootless Anglo-Saxon capitalism. The powerful anti-Arab racism directed against the presence of immigrants in mainland France, a racism that is continuously expressed in violent terms among the French radical right, the incendiary declarations, the attacks and frequent physical threats for which responsibility is claimed by such people as National Front militants, the rejection of mosques in the French landscape, the overt desire to send back immigrants from North Africa who have often become French—none of this prevents an open admiration for an Arab world that is preserving its culture against the Judeo-American domination that is sapping national identities. As long ago as 1963, Défense de l’Occident wrote: “Nothing can justify keeping Israel in the Arabs’ racial geographic space.” Charles Saint-Prot, a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite, also strove to demonstrate his Arabophilia and his disdain for Israel, the lackey of Anglo-Saxon capitalism, when he waxed lyrical in praise of Saddam Hussein who, according to Saint-Prot, shared with de Gaulle a passion for national renewal. He lauded the merits of this “great fighter,” who was seeking a “third way” between capitalism and communism, taking up the defense of this “proud fighter” from “the desert” who was standing up to the fearsome international cosmopolitan forces. The Gulf War was considered to be a “Jewish war” and many of the posters put up by the weekly Minute in the streets of Paris denounced that “Jewish war” without upsetting anyone in the slightest. Pierre Sidos, the long-time driving force behind Occident, the extremist and anti-Semitic movement, and known to be consistent to a fault, did not even try in Le Soleil to conceal his enthusiastic admiration for the courage of Saddam Hussein, “the heir of Nebuchadnezzar, that King of Babylon who took the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the last State of Israel by deporting the Jews to Mesopotamia”; and in the same vein, he issued a clarion call: “The Golan Heights for the Syrians, Palestine for the Palestinians, and France for the French!”—which left no home at all for the Jews, let alone the Israelis, who were supposed to vanish entirely from history. “No to the war for Israel,” declared the Tribune nationaliste, contrasting in stark terms “George Bush, the Jews’ lackey” and “Saddam Hussein, the Arab nationalist.” In the same weekly publication, Claude Cornilleau, wishing to “defend our motherland and our race,” vehemently denounced the “deceitfulness practiced by Israel,” which preferred “to push the whites to do the dirty work in its stead.” The French nationalist volunteers who joined the Iraqi camp in order to take up arms and fight side by side with it also underscored with admiration the fact that “Iraq is fighting tooth-and-nail to defend its Arab race, its race.” In the National Front’s paper, National Hebdo, there was fulsome praise for Saddam Hussein, “the Assyrian who is from the race of empire builders,” noting that as “an ethnic Assyrian, nobody could be more terrifying to a Jew.”
All members of the radical right were unanimous in defending Saddam Hussein and lauding the heroism of Arab soldiers waging a desperate struggle against the “lobbies.” In the name of respect for local cultures, they protested against the cosmopolitan and materialist menace which was now besetting Arab nationalism, just as it had no qualms about attacking French society’s Catholic identity in the name of an eternally Jewish and Anglo-Saxon cosmopolitan market. By passing himself off as the defender of both of these cultures—there Muslim and here Catholic—Jean-Marie Le Pen shared Saddam Hussein’s struggle to protect those nations which were confronted by invasions that undermined their coherent identity. Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism were now one. According to the National Front leader, whose anti-Semitism is undisguised and unwavering, and who does not mince his words in attacking the Jewish presence in France, Israel represents an “artificial State created for the oil interests of America and Great Britain.” In 1996, just as in November 1990, right in the middle of the Gulf War, Jean-Marie Le Pen still wanted to go to Baghdad, asserting that “the Americans are entirely responsible for this matter because of their unconditional support for Israel’s sordidly mercenary policy.” While increasingly using anti-Semitic insinuations of varying levels of explicitness (given new French legislation against anti-Semitism), Le Pen attacked Israel as well, flying to the assistance of the Jewish State’s most intractable enemy, Saddam Hussein. During the traditional May 1 procession, National Front militants chanted, “France for the French!” “Zionists—racists, imperialists,” “Israel is a murderer, Americans are accomplices,” and shouted, “Deauville, Sentier, occupied territories.” When the National Front organizes happenings, the entertainment includes skinhead rock groups, one of whose songs is called, “One bullet for the Zionists, one bullet for the cosmopolitans, one bullet for the Yanks.” In April 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen was still denouncing “the barbaric Anglo-Saxon behavior in Iraq,” as well as Israel’s deadly policies.
Today, it is in France of all places that bizarre and surprising conjunctions result from the pro-Arab positions that are expressed by some radical right leaders. A selective alliance against the Zionist enemy, and the Jews with their natural affinity for the latter, is developing between the National Front and certain minority Muslim circles. Contacts are being established between Muslim fundamentalists and right-wing extremists. As Le Monde reported in 2000, “from the first Gulf War onwards, the NF undertook activities in order to entice youngsters from the underprivileged suburbs into its ranks,” spurred on by a profound anti-Semitism. In Paris, since the demonstrations against the Gulf War, cries can also be heard of “death to the Jews, death to Israel,” often uttered by demonstrators with a North African background who shout the same slogans as the far-right militants. Maurice Latrèche, who is head of the French Muslim Party and whose anti-Jewish views are well known, went to Iraq in February 2003 in order to organize a “human shield” operation there at the same time as far right militants, and in 2004, at a number of marches organized in Paris and Strasbourg by Muslim organizations opposing the law banning girls from wearing the Muslim headscarf at school, cries of “death to the Jews!” could be heard, while Palestinian flags were flown in the midst of the demonstrators. Ties are being established between fundamentalist Muslims and far-right militants, both groups being hostile to the United States, the war in Iraq and the Jews in France. Thus an anti-Semitic pamphlet called Le Manifeste judéo-nazi d’Ariel Sharon, which is being circulated in radical pro-Palestinian circles in France, attesting through its revisionist positions on the Holocaust to the shift from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism, is published by the French Muslim Party and La Pierre et l’Olivier, a pro-Palestinian association close to both Third World circles and the radical right. These conjunctions also sometimes involve the Vert écologiste environmental movement, which became responsible for certain near-anti-Semitic gaffes in its opposition to Israel when one of its leaders, Jean Brière, published a diatribe in 1991 called “Israel’s War-Mongering Role and the Zionist Lobby.” According to Brière, Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party “professes a humanist and secular socialism, combined with an Arab nationalism,” which is wrongly attacked by “Jewish journalists.” He went on to argue that “the weight of the Jewish lobby was decisive in swinging the vote in favor of war” in Iraq. Drummed out of the Greens, Jean Brière triggered a major crisis which led to the resignation of militant ecologists for whom anti-Semitism was unacceptable even when used to condemn Israel. This crisis recurred in 2003 when some Greens marched side by side with pro-Palestinian militants, who violently attacked two young left-wing Jews.
Incidents such as these speak volumes about unacceptable alliances. They are symbolized by the Abbé Pierre affair in 1996, concerning a most eminent figure in France who is renowned for his courageous fight to help the poor. When Roger Garaudy, a former thinker of the French Communist Party who converted to Islam, published his book Les Mythes fondateurs de la politique israélienne, issued by a revisionist publisher, indicating his “skepticism” about “the myth of six million Jews who were exterminated”—a work that would go on to become a major bestseller in the Arab countries—Abbé Pierre publicly expressed his support, also regarding the figure of four million exterminated Jews to be “exaggerated,” while in the same breath condemning “the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians.” While the liberal left very much regretted these statements, the far-right press welcomed them greatly. Henceforth, far-right anti-Semitism could cite the support of famous individuals with a far-left background or embodying the qualities of the downtrodden masses, thus joining forces with the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic struggle of certain groups of radical Muslims who also admire Garaudy’s works. Using the jargon of the far right, Abbé Pierre now denounced what he called “the international Zionist lobby”—a statement that pleased not only the National Front leaders and the French Fascists in the Oeuvre française, but also the major newspapers in Egypt, Qatar and Syria, where rallies were held in defense of Garaudy, who was defending Palestine. Al Ahram even went so far as to compare the Garaudy Affair with the Dreyfus Affair, when a French court sentenced the writer to pay a fine.
Thus Israel has become a perfect target for radical-right circles, heir to Edouard Drumont, in their desire to extend their anti-Semitic fight in France. On the one hand they continue to condemn the presence in France of North African immigrants—many of whom have become French; they are pleased that Muslim women wear the headscarf that so antagonizes the “real” French; but on the other hand—a token of the imminent danger at home—they join with part of the Arab world in denouncing Israel, a project with marked anti-Semitic overtones that finds unexpected allies among a number of thinkers from the far left. If one bears in mind the fact that in December 2003 about one in four of the French population supported Le Pen’s ideas, and that the latter came second in the first round of the 2002 presidential elections, one can estimate the popularity of anti-Zionist arguments in today’s France. These arguments, drawing on all kinds of sources, lead to violent anti-Semitic acts which target synagogues (67 synagogues were attacked between 1 September 2000 and 31 January 2002), schools, and so on, almost on a daily basis, to the extent that nowadays anti-Semitic acts, according to the observations of France’s Advisory Commission on Human Rights, constitute the lion’s share of racist behavior. It would appear, however, that the French population is incapable of taking a decision to openly show its indignation at this state of affairs. The commission’s latest report, published in 2004, noted that 588 anti-Semitic incidents took place in 2003, of which 125 were violent acts (physical attacks on individuals, arson attacks on synagogues or schools, and so on).
This anti-Semitism is leading to the increasing isolation of France’s Jewish citizens, who are desperately worried by the violence of these acts, for which responsibility is most frequently claimed by youngsters with a North African background, projecting the Palestinian Intifada onto French territory, attacking French Jews as symbols of Israelis: their growing Judeophobia impels them to attack all signs of Jewish presence in the public space. This anti-Semitism of the poverty-stricken suburbs, which the French left does not always dare to condemn publicly, exacerbates the delicate situation of the Jews, who are practically bereft of organizations to defend them at a time when the state itself is in retreat, no longer clearly undertaking to protect them, thus calling into question their traditional vertical alliance with the state, the traditional royal alliance protecting them from the masses. This hostility toward the Jews, who are regarded as Israelis, also emanates (albeit nowadays less visibly) from far-right militants who paint Nazi slogans on graves in Jewish cemeteries, even though the National Front, engaged in a process of integration within the French political system, shows itself anxious to officially limit anti-Semitic blunders. Anti-Zionism is now leading to an anti-Semitism with multifarious origins, but which can nonetheless be traced to Drumont’s praise of the noble Arab warrior so long ago, which even then went hand in hand with a robust contempt for the cowardly Jews, the lackeys of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. Moreover, it should be recalled that Drumont’s movement represented a populism that brought together far left and far right alike, in which white supremacists took part, along with Guedists and sometimes even socialists, who had no scruples about being involved in a large-scale anti-Semitic movement that overwhelmingly drew its inspiration from the far right. Is history repeating itself at a delicate moment, when the Jews are less able than in the past to count on the protection of the state, and when they see themselves as more or less equated with a conquering Israel, allied to the Anglo-Saxon world which openly rejects French geostrategy?