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“You Can’t Blame the French, or Can You?”

Every waking moment in Los Angeles has been spent meeting with old friends who are dearly missed, all while soaking up the California sunshine, also dearly missed. (If L.A. weather could be imported to Paris, I’d do it…but I always joke that if the weather in Paris were better, the city would be even more inundated with tourists!)

They all talk about the politics of the nation, they all talk about the popularity or lack of popularity of the current administration and they all want to know what’s going on in France…particularly related to the economy, unemployment, student protests and reports of anti-semitism. These are questions often asked by you readers, too, so I try to address them, although certainly I’m no expert on the subject. I can only relate my personal findings or derive information from articles and reports, just as you would.

The media is rarely unbiased, remember that. As much as any journalist would like to believe they report JUST THE FACTS, it is impossible for anyone not to relate them from their own point of view, or the point of view of the medium for which they earn their living, which dictates the “slant,” the “spin,” or whatever you choose to call it. Plus, what IS NOT TOLD can often be more important than what is told, to complete the whole picture.

So, before answering these kind of potentially inflammatory questions, it is important to understand that we probably shouldn’t really believe anything we read (!), at least not without reading it in many different places in order to make our own assertion of what is true and what is not.

Nonetheless, both my daughter and myself reported that we personally don’t feel the anti-semitism in France, certainly not living in Le Marais, where the residents are a very eclectic mixture of Jewish, Gay, Chinese and you name it, with a Jewish mayor (Pierre Aidenbaum, 3rd arrondissement) and a socialist/green party flavor.

The French Jews we know are greatly assimilated into French society. They don’t wear Mogen David stars on their chests, and don’t necessarily attend synagogue, but they don’t change their names, either. They intermarried. They easily get jobs or open their own businesses, and from what we see, don’t bear the burden of their backgrounds any more that they do elsewhere. You understand, this is our point of view…only.

The Arab community has a very different and more difficult problem. In fact, the French call it “The Arab Problem.” They are highly prejudiced against, don’t easily get jobs, and changing their names doesn’t change their physical traits which give them away. Of Arab descent is what I wouldn’t want to be in France if I could help it, mainly because the opportunities are so much more limiting.

‘Course, it comes from the Jerusalem Post, so already you can consider the spin it could easily take, however to all of you who ask this question, it behooves you to read it, in it’s entirety.
He begins: “Ask people outside the French immigrant community why the Jews are leaving their country, and the usual answer is that they are making aliya [immigration to Israel] to escape the rising tide of anti-Semitism. Ask the French olim [immigrants] themselves, however, and the responses become more diverse and complex.”

“Many recent arrivals say in no uncertain terms that it was primarily anti-Semitism that brought them from France to Israel. Others acknowledge that while anti-Semitism has increased in recent years, the phenomenon has been due largely to the intifada and emanates mainly from young Muslim immigrant men, mostly from North Africa and poorly integrated into French culture and society.”

The real story is always more complex than might meet the naked eye. That’s why when you receive an email urging you to boycott France because of the recent increase in anti-semitic activities, not only should you NOT pass on this sort of propaganda, but you should learn the real story yourself before taking on this advice.

Hoffman reported: “‘France is not an anti-Semitic country,’ said Roger Cukierman, president of an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in France, in April 2005. ‘Out of a population of about 600,000, some 2,400 people making aliya is not very many, in spite of all the talk about leaving.'”

From our world in central Paris, where a very multi-cultural society seems to live relatively peacefully, where Jews hold high positions in politics and assimilate as well, if not better, than most of the others, we simply don’t see or feel anti-semitism on a daily basis — certainly no more than I’ve felt living in certain parts of the U.S.

If you want to read something that is so racist and anti-semitic that it will turn your stomach, visit He’s an American who comes from my home town, New Orleans. Pretty embarrassing, isn’t it?…and you can’t blame the French for this one!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Feel free to pass this message on to all your friends who have asked you the same questions!


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