antisémitisme, antisionisme

Antisemitism in France (a short survey)

Yana Grinshpun

I’ll present a general picture of anti-Semitic atmosphere today in France for our english-speaking readers,  taking into account the events of the last 20 years. The ancient forms of anti-Semitism (old-school Anti-Semitism), such as we know them since the 19th century have actually never disappeared in France since the Dreyfus Affair; following the ebb and flow of history since then. Nevertheless, nowadays we witness the rebirth of very aggressive anti-Semitic movements that come both from the extreme right (this kind of anti-Semitism has actually never stopped) and especially from the convergence of the anti-Semitism of the extreme left and the Islamic influence which is very powerful in the French society. For Pierre-André Taguieff, who prefers to use the word “judeophobia”, this new form of judeophobia date back from 1967 (the victory of Israel in the 67 days war). It is different from the ancient forms of antisemitism since it is not based on the “race” argument and doesn’t have anything to do with the conception of “Semite”. The new judeophobia is based upon the polemic conflation between Jews, Israelis and Zionists. It is based on radical anti-Zionism which consists of three levels: Arabic nationalism, Palestinian nationalism and jihadi Islamism that reactivates ancient anti-Jewish stereotypes of the European origin (blood libel, conspiracy, financial manipulation, media power imperialism). It also produces new stereotypes attributed to the Jews and to Israel (“racism”, “apartheid”, “genocide” etc.) Radical anti-Zionism has been forged within the framework of Arab-Muslim wars against Israel, borrowing stereotypes from the different forms of European anti-Semitism and adapting it to the anti-Jewish representations in Quran and the hadiths. Radical anti-Zionsim has come to the West in the bags of Palestinian propaganda. And it essentially mobilized the extreme left and the extreme right. This is by way of the unconditional Propalestinianism that the contemporary renaissance of Jewish hatred has come to the West. (Taguieff 2004, 2010, 2015, 2018)

The actual anti-Semitic events cannot be dissociated from the subtle and sophisticated anti-Zionist campaign led by the national media. (I call « anti-Semitic events » those occurrences with actual physical and psychological attacks against persons of Jewish origin. I call “anti-Zionist campaign” the narrative constructed and broadcast by the French media since 2000).

analyzing the last words of Mohammed Merah, the murderer of Jewish children in

The “Jewish Question” in France since 2000

Today France counts the biggest Jewish community of Europe. At perhaps 600,000-strong (recent estimates place it lower), the French Jewish community accounts for fully half of the Jews presently living in the European Union. This community constitutes 0, 73 % of the whole French population. Anti-Semitic acts have increased every year since 2000. As an example, there were 311 anti-Semitic acts in 2018, there were 541 attested last year.

The wave of antisemitism that can be observed in France is intrinsically linked to the existence of Israel and radical anti-Zionism. Therefore an important part of this talk will be dedicated to the discussion about the contemporary representation of Israel, Zionism and Jews.

It is probably correct to think (cf. Taguieff 2012, 2018) that the outburst of Anti-Semitism is noticed in France since the 2000 Gaza war or the second Intifada. Several major events took place in France at that time: an important number of anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian demonstrations where anti-Zionist and Anti-Semitic slogans of support to Hezbollah and Hamas were heard. The year 2000 was a turnaround in the media campaign already hostile to Israel since 1982 as Leon Poliakov showed it in his “Essai de désinformation” (cf. Poliakov) (there is no translation of this book in English). The second Intifada gave French media a possibility to declare real psychological war with Israel. This assault is symbolized by the so called “Al Durrah Incident”. In 2000, the French channel France 2 broadcast the supposed murder of a little Muhammad Al-Durrah, a 12 year old Palestinian kid, which took place in the Gaza Strip on 30 September 2000 during the Second Intifada Jamal al-Durrah and his 12-year-old son, Muhammad, were filmed by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman freelancing for France 2, as they were caught in crossfire between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. The footage shows the pair crouching behind a concrete cylinder, the boy crying and the father waving, then a burst of gunfire and dust, after which the boy is seen slumped across his father’s legs. The voice-off of a French journalist, Charles Enderlin, based in Jerusalem, but not present during the footage is telling the story. Muhammad, whose name became famous within a couple of hours, became a national Palestinian hero, a martyr in the battle against the Jewish occupants. ( the most accurate analysis is proposed in Taguieff (2010) La nouvelle propagande antijuive, ch.4)

Little Muhammad was hailed throughout the Muslim world as a martyr and Israel as a “Killer of children”. Thus, the ancient myth of Jews as Murderers of Innocent was revived. This incident also had a huge impact on the French Society. Taguieff called it “the first blood libel” of the 21st century. It provoked a wave of anti-Israeli condemnations. A flurry of articles was written about the cruelty of the Jewish army and the malevolent intentions of the Israeli State. The problem is that France 2 has been suspected of staging the film and the narrative presenting Israeli soldiers as professional children killers has been seriously questioned by various experts.

The unanimity of petitions, condemnations and media vociferation were quite impressive. In France, the moral condemnation of Israel was unanimous.

All the following years we assisted at the enriching of this narrative broadcast by the media with impressive regularity. Just one example to show how this pattern has become embedded in the media coverage of Israel as it is founded on a constant repetition of disqualifying words, technics and poly-semiotic methods.

In 2005, 26th of march, Euronews broadcast a TV show called “No comment”. Israeli soldiers are shown in front of a little boy to whom they scream something in Hebrew. The boy then takes off his pants, they continue to scream and he takes off his shirt. Without comments and a close-up the impression of spectators is terrible: again and again they witness acts of humiliation of Palestinian kids by the Israeli sadists. The problem is that on the same day other media explained that the child was a kamikaze wearing an explosive belt and the soldiers were giving him precise instructions in order not to blow himself up.

Daniel Dayan, a prominent French media analyst, explains that in many cases so called “information” tends to become a confirmation of a preconditioned knowledge (Dayan 2012). The news become the very embodiment of the story-telling incorporated to the doxa, ie (common knowledge). The average spectator, listener or reader of the French media “knows” only what he is shown and told by the media, he is familiar with the story -telling that has been constructed for decades by the press,  radio,  television and social networks.

In 2009 the famous Goldstone report contributed to shaping a public opinion in France about Israel. Richard Goldstone is the former South African judge who investigated the 2008-09 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas on behalf of the United Nations. By 2007 Hamas extremists had taken control and fired some 3000 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing civilians, including children, and injuring hundreds of people. Israel sought a diplomatic resolution, but in December 2008, in response to condemnation of the UN Secretary General, Hamas fired yet more rockets. Israel finally responded with the military action and it has always maintained that it was justified as an act of self-defense. 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Goldstone accused Israel of war crimes. In 2011 in an article published by Washington Post he regretted his biased conclusions and disclaimed what he wrote in the report. But the harm was done, since the report and its conclusions also fitted existing stereotypes. Thus, this report has constituted a very effective means of propaganda in the national media despite the later refutation of it by its author. Israel has been accused of being a “racist state”, committing “genocide”. That’s how Dominique de Villepin (ex-prime Minister of France and a prominent politician) depicted Israel in Le Figaro in 2014 .


Thus Israel is accused on the basis of rumors in this hyperbolic manner. A rumor is a sum of beliefs, convictions or non-verified information that express certain fears shaped into the narratives illustrating what the public already knows. These rumors are based on stereotypes translated into a cultural code well known by the public and adapted to the sociohistorical context. When Israelis are massacred by Palestinians in the cruelest way, the French media almost never talk about it, or if they do, they construct the titles of the articles in a very perverse way. There was no mention about the savage death of two Israeli soldiers who were tortured and cut into pieces by a Palestinian mob in 2000. It was only broadcast by I24 news.


No trace in French media, no condemnation of these barbarian acts.

When in 2016 a young Israeli adolescent Hallel Ariel has been savagely murdered in her sleep by a 19 year old Palestinian, the French media titled the article in a very perverse way:

Hallel Ariel, 13 ans, victime de la haine des Hommes

“Hallel Ariel has died as a victim of hatred of Men”.

Which may lead to various conclusions: That she was a misanthropist (she hated mankind), or that she was hated by human beings. The title doesn’t mention the real reason: a brutal murder.

The story-telling of the conflict is constructed by the media and today by certain left-wing intellectuals. It implies predefined roles. These roles are: Victim and Persecutor.  The Palestinians represent the absolute victim in a European narrative and the Israelis the absolute persecutor. When the events don’t fit this scheme, they disturb and confuse the narrative and are silenced or presented in minimized version. As Daniel Dayan puts it, the ordinary French Media story-telling has constructed a huge sacrificial painting with a clear religious dimension. Where the figure of Palestinians is the one of Jesus and the Jews play the role that they always had in the Christian tradition: It is not about to inform about real suffering of Palestinians, but to endow them with a sacred status, thus inventing new forms of compassion. This sacred status of a people-martyr gives the narrative a Christian fiber though the addressees of these discourses are agnostic or atheists. It’s a standoff between the martyr and the torturer, Palestinians vs Jews or Israelis. And if anyone doubts this dogma, they will be considered as pitiless and immoral exactly as the “persecutors” who are condemned unanimously and accused to be the henchmen of Israel.

The role of the intellectuals

This is how Propalestinianism as a belief has become a main stream media narrative and it can be also considered a new moral order. The famous and influential French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze didn’t hesitate to speak about “genocide” committed by Israel. He thus compared the Jews to the Nazis by a rhetoric inversion. In 2002 he published an article in La revue d’études palestiniennes where he says “This is a genocide where the physical extermination is subordinated to geographic evacuation.” Deleuze then compared the events of the second intifada with Oradour-sur-Glane, a French village where in 1944 the massive extermination of the inhabitants of this village by Panzerdivison das “Reich” (Waffen SS). In the same vein, a decade before, a famous French film maker Jean-Luc Godard didn’t hesitate to overlap the images of Golda Meir and Adolf Hitler in his movie Ici, ailleurs (Here and elsewhere  diapo 4). Godard also liked to say ironically that the Jews saved Israel by dying in the camps. Fundamentally, he said, there were “6 million of kamikazes”. That’s how Israel and the Jews in general are intrinsically connected as the same entity in the mental representations of people.

One of the main evidence of this identification is the fact that the most popular anti-Semites in France are Jews (people who claim that their violent accusations of Israel and their radical Anti-Zionism is first of all justified by their Jewish origins). This is the case of Rauny Brauman, Esther Ben-Bassa, Michèle Sibony, notorious media figures of radical anti-Zionist Jews. They specialize in deligitimation of Israel and their statements are excepted as an absolute proof of the Zionist Evil because these statements come from the Jews.


Taguieff, P. A. (2010) La nouvelle propagande antijuive, Paris:PUF

Taguieff, P.A. (2018), Judéophobie, la dernière vague. Paris: Fayard

Dayan, D. (2012) « Mentir par les médias », in Ecrire l’histoire, n°9

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