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Je Dis Non

The Carnaval de Nice “chars” (floats) lumbered slowly along the tracks of the tramway past the congregation of people gathered at Place Garibaldi. Connected like elephants holding nose to tail, they were lined up in preparation for the “corso” (parade) scheduled to start at 9 p.m. at Place Masséna. The rally, an organized “rassemblement” by the En-Marche party with the hashtag #JeDisNon (I Say No), was an effort by Emmanuel Macron’s party to call upon the citizens to “say no to anti-semitism” by meeting in hundreds of cities throughout France last night.

His party wasn’t the only one to rise to the occasion. All parties in France, except for the right-wing National Rally Party (aka National Front) led by Marine Le Pen who was uninvited (!), took part: Socialists and Communists, Green Party, Ecologists, League against Racism and Antisemitism, GayLib Party, Farmers, and others — 14 in all. This is a reaction in response to the recent report that there’s been a shocking rise of anti-semitic acts in France. High profile politicians were sure to show their faces at various rallies including former French president François Hollande. Macron was not “en marche” (attending any of the rallies) but instead will be attending the 34th annual dinner of the “Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France” (CRIF) today where he is scheduled to speak.

This 74 percent rise in anti-semitic acts between 2017 and 2018 sent everyone reeling. The French are outraged, and not just the Jews. Still bruised by the devastation of World War II and the Holocaust, the French are saying NO to taking it lightly. Swastikas drawn on portraits of the late Holocaust survivor Simone Veil and the word “Juden” (“Jews” in German) scrawled on a bagelry window put the people and authorities over the top. The tree planted to commemorate the young Jewish man who was tortured to death in 2006 because of his religion was chopped down. These signs of a growing hate are not being tolerated.

While I was at the rally here in Nice, colleague Patty Sadauskas attended the rally in Nimes in the Languedoc Roussillon region. Ours was quiet — in fact rather solemn. There were a few people holding signs, but mostly people just gathered to show their support. The police had the roads surrounding the square blocked and police, uniformed and plain-clothes were everywhere. Here’s a line-up of where the rallies in France took place.

I think it’s time to stop blaming “The French” for being anti-semitic. For all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve heard this rhetoric from the American Jewish community who don’t live here and don’t really know the situation from the inside. Jews are highly assimilated in France — even more so than their American counterparts. They didn’t anglicize their names to fit in like they did in the U.S. (Leeds used to be Liebstein!). They didn’t have to. They could be who they were and were proud of it. From my perspective, Europe is more of a real melting pot than the U.S., which I see as more like a “salad” where individualism is more important than nationalism.

And it’s clear, they don’t want the random acts of a few fanatic anti-semites to mar their reputation, which is already tough to defend. They aren’t proud of their role in the horrors that took place on French soil during World War II and will do whatever they can to rectify that. You see it on the plaques all over France that acknowledge their guilt and the constant reminder that they won’t tolerate the “haine” (hate).

When I looked around at the faces of the people who gathered at the rally last night, I took a rough assessment of how many I thought were Jewish and how many were not. We joked about how good was our “Jew-dar” (Jewish radar) and sure, some were pretty obvious by their physical characteristics or their clothing (anyone wearing a “kippah” [small brimless head-covering] we knew we could count on!). But, most others just looked “French.” There were old and young alike.

The number of Jews living in France is more than 500,000, with 300,000 of them living in Paris. Marseille has 65,000, Lyon and Nice each have 20,000, Toulouse has 18,000 and Strasbourg has 12,000. Nimes likely has a small community, but you can see from the photos that Patty took that the showing was substantial and that says a lot about how many non-Jews came out to send a message.

Let the world see that France is battling anti-semitism and all forms of hate. The French want a united Europe and a united people with a strong sense of nationalism. Anti-anything won’t cut it here.

Je Dis Non.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor of Parler Nice


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