Mitchell Abidor and Miguel Lago’s Dec. 2 New York Times opinion essay attacking French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour as a racist is an especially remarkable document, though for entirely ironic reasons.
I hold no brief for Zemmour. He strikes me as yet another in a long list of dangerous buffoons and demagogues that typify today’s global populist movement. None of this, however, justifies Abidor and Lago’s despicable slanders against the French Jewish community — which in themselves constitute precisely the kind of racism and antisemitism the two authors claim to condemn.
They assert, for example, that while France does have a long history of antisemitism, “with the advent of mass immigration from France’s former colonies, antisemitism was largely replaced by anti-Black and, especially, anti-Arab racism.” They charge further that “Mr. Zemmour, an Algerian Jew, is demonstrating a perverted version of Jewish assimilationism.”
“The threat posed by French right-wing antisemitism is long dead,” they explain. “The attacks on French Jews in recent years have been the work of isolated individuals, mobs, or terrorists.”
“In Mr. Zemmour, the Jew, formerly the outsider, is now an insider, and the Jewish insider defends France even when it has harmed its Jews,” they state.
While they admit that “the Jewish community, like all of France, is deeply split over Mr. Zemmour,” they then assert that “given this split, among the many things the Zemmour campaign represents is the assimilation of French Jewry.”
The takeaway from Abidor and Lago’s essay is quite clear: French Jews are now a protected and privileged class. French Arabs have become the new Jews. Jews are perpetrating and perpetuating racism in order to serve their own assimilationist interests.
These are, of course, monstrous — and monstrously racist — claims. Nonetheless, it is worth asking what Abidor and Lago’s motives may be, given that these motives are compelling enough to force both men to render themselves hypocrites who violate all of their professed values and engage in precisely the kind of racism and antisemitism they ostensibly despise.
The answer, it seems, lies in their claim that “the attacks on French Jews in recent years have been the work of isolated individuals, mobs or terrorists.”
What they fail to mention — or, more likely, deliberately conceal — is that nearly all these individuals, mobs, and terrorists have been French-Arab Muslims. The atrocities these individuals, mobs, and terrorists have committed against Jewish citizens of the republic include the murder of children, the elderly, and Holocaust survivors; beatings, assaults, and acts of torture too numerous to recount in detail; intimidation and vandalism of all kinds; and the fostering of an atmosphere of murderous anti-Jewish racism that pervades the French-Arab community and has become, for many, an essential part of French-Arab identity. French Arabs indeed face racism and discrimination, but this is no excuse for their own racism, or the abject failure of the French-Arab community’s leadership to deal with the problem.
What all this has resulted in is quite simple: an ethnic cleansing in slow motion. French Jews are leaving, mostly for Israel. Indeed, if I had a dollar for every time I have heard French spoken on the streets of Tel Aviv, I would be a decidedly rich man. And I have also heard enough horror stories from French-Jewish immigrants to know exactly why they have come: French-Arab antisemitism and the depraved indifference of the French authorities have made Jewish life in France unlivable.
To Abidor and Lago, however, none of this exists, because they do not wish it to exist. If they admitted to the truth, it would crush their illusion that French Arabs are innocent victims of racism and the Jews their malicious persecutors. It would demolish the brazen act of cultural appropriation and erasure that allows them to make the ludicrous claim that French Arabs have somehow become the French Jews that French Arabs often hate with a murderous passion.
It would, in other words, expose Abidor and Lago for what they are: petulant, hypocritical racists and antisemites who are furthering on paper what those they fetishize as beautiful innocents are committing on the streets. And they do not simply blame the victim, they demonize the victim. Theirs is a paper pogrom, but a pogrom all the same.
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