Antisemitism in France

On January 5, 1895 the ceremony of degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the French Jewish artillery officer who was falsely convicted of treason, took place in the courtyard of the Military School in Paris. The event was greeted with pamphlets, articles, and street mobs crying “Death to the Jews.” A hundred and twenty years later, on August 13, 2015, at the one-day celebration at a beach event in Paris called “Tel Aviv Sur Seine,” pro-Palestinian demonstrators chanted slogans, “Jews out of France.”

In France as in other European countries the virus of antisemitism has continued to infect the body politic. Though it has been transmuted into different forms it has remained a problem with historical roots that have contaminated the present. The essential question is why the French political and civic emancipation of Jews did not lead to the elimination of antisemitism.

A timely warning of the presence of antisemitism in France today has come from an official source. In a strong speech in the French National Assembly on January 13, 2015, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declaimed, “It is time to say to those who have not sufficiently reacted to the terrorist acts (in Paris in January) that antisemitism cannot be accepted.”