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Faced with the ultranationalist drift in Israel, the difficult awakening of French Jews


In the French Jewish community, the radicalization of the Jewish state, led for three months by a coalition of ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalists, is causing more embarrassment than indignation.

When Binyamin Netanyahu published his government program on December 28, 2022 in Jerusalem, the American and Canadian Jewish diasporas immediately mobilized, in unison with the protest movement in Israel. In these communities, the forceful entry of Jewish supremacists into the Israeli executive and the projects they promote, both the questioning of the independence of the Supreme Court and the creeping annexation of the West Bank, arouse a strong concern. This is expressed in the press, on social networks and in the form of demonstrations.

But, in France, where the third largest Jewish community resides – far behind Israel and the United States – beyond a few liberal voices who oppose this drift, it is a form of embarrassment that dominates. On February 2, during Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to the Elysee Palace, the President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), Yonathan Arfi, a 42-year-old business leader who has the difficult task of representing a heterogeneous French Jewish community, was content to ask the Israeli Prime Minister to make efforts to “communication towards the diaspora”.

Fading left vocals

Political scientist Dominique Schnapper, author of several books on French Jews, attributes this attitude to the fact “that many of them find it difficult to follow the ups and downs of Israeli political life and fear the accusation of double allegiance, when they first feel that they are French citizens”.

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This reservation is not new. The heated debates of the 1990s around, in particular, the defense of the two-state solution disappeared with the collapse of the peace process and the gradual fading of left-wing voices within the Jewish intelligentsia – due to a lack of succession and the right-wing of the French intellectual field. Fewer thinkers and megaphones, fewer arguments.

The very significant increase in anti-Semitic acts and Islamist attacks in France in recent years has also changed the situation. “It’s not that we don’t talk anymore within the Jewish community, explains the lawyer Patrick Klugman, former president of the Union of Jewish Students of France and former vice-president of SOS-Racisme, very critical of the new Israeli coalition. But I feel the fear that the criticism will be brought by malevolent people towards Israel. »

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