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Father Patrick Debois


by Rhonda Spivak May 29, 2013

When Father Patrick Debois was in Winnipeg speaking at Shaarey Zedek, I asked him about the issue of current antisemitism in France.

While Dubois was speaking of his efforts in finding and documenting the hitherto unknown mass graves where Jews were shot during the Holocaust, his talk didn’t deal in any way with present day antisemitism in France.

It’s a subject I am aware of keenly as I spend time regularly in Netanya Israel, where I have seen high rise apartment towers with for sale signs only in French to accommodate the growing influx of French Jews, who have been moving to Israel or buying second homes there, as antisemitism in France has increased. It has been this way since 2005. Every summer I return and see new French neighbors and new apartment complexes being built.

According to Guy Milliere on the website for the GateStone Institute [] about 20% of France’s Jewish community has already left France over the last decade (ending up in London, New York , Israel):

“The French Jewish community is the largest in Western Europe. Its existence dates back to the early Middle Ages. A decade ago, it had approximately 500,000 members. Last year, its number fell to 400,000, and continues to fall. If the trend does not stop, the Jewish presence in France will, in the medium term, come to an end.”

There has been a 58 percent rise in antisemitic attacks in 2012 in France.

As Milliere wrote this March:

“Jews feel threatened, abandoned, and a growing number of them consider exile. Over the last two decades, French Jewish families have gradually withdrawn their children from public schools to protect them against bullying and insults. Today, Jewish schools themselves have become a target. What happened in Toulouse was an unparalleled crime, but every day, Jewish children going to or parting from Jewish schools are assaulted.’

Every week, Jewish businesses are subjected to attacks.”

When I asked Father Dubois about antisemitism currently in France he answered:

If I were to answer your question, I would have to ask everyone to take a sleeping bed. It’s complicated.”

Dubois noted that that there “is a difference between regular French anti-Drefus antisemites, and Islamic antisemites.

“Now there is the Islamic movement, those who identify as Palestinians. It’s another story,” he said.

“Actually, unfortunately, it’s very bad in some parts of France. It takes something strong for an anti-Semitic incident to be reported. Toulouse was a turning point. Suddenly, somebody without authority took the decision to kill Jews because they were Jews. The problem is Merah. We call it “after Merah.” Again, we remember the killer, not the victim.

“But if we don’t speak about that, there is no justice. More Merah’s arrive.”

“My job is to bring Catholic leaders to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem.

“The antisemites’ strategy is to push the Jews out of wherever they choose to live. I would say though many Jews have left France, others are coming back.

“So, the position of the Jews is to fight back against antisemitism. The Catholic church is one of their best allies in this.

“If you admit the disease [of antisemitism], you fight it. If you dream, if you are an optimist, you sleep well. The point is not to sleep well and fight.”

Although I respect Father Dubois, I don’t think the overall statistics are showing that there are French Jews that are coming back. Nor does it appear to me to be the case that Islamic antisemitism is going to be curtailed very easily.

As Milliere concluded in his article:

“When they are in private, the police officials say that there "hundreds of Mohamed Merah’s" in France and many Islamist cells, but that they are much more discreet when they are in public.

“France intervened militarily against Islamists in northern Mali, but no French political leader ever said that the fight was waged against Islamists: the official word used was "terrorists" -- only "terrorists." Members of the French Council of the Muslim Faith asked the French political leaders to make no reference to Islam; they were obeyed.

“French political leaders know perfectly well that there is an Islamist threat in France and that the French army is fighting Islamists in Mali; they are afraid to call things by their name. They fear riots in Muslim suburbs. They know perfectly well that Muslim anti-Semitism is rising in France, but, for the same reason, they are afraid to say it. The mainstream journalists are also scared.

“The general atmosphere is impregnated with a submission that dare not speak its name.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.