Friday, June 30, 2006

At least Zabars has good cheese

It's been a tough time for the young and male, French and Jewish. First Ilan Halimi, on the cusp of making aliyah, gets kidnapped, tortured, and killed by a Parisian anti-Semitic gang. Then Gilad Shalit, a French-Israeli dual citizen and Israeli soldier, gets kidnapped by Palestinians who want to "exchange" him for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Which leaves what, exactly, as an option?

That was a rhetorical question to which the answer is, of course, the Upper West Side.

Or is it? According to the ever-useful European Jewish Press, French-Jewish leader Pierre Besnainou has a different idea:

[Besnainou] raised some controversy with his proposal to give Jews in France automatic double French-Israeli citizenship, even if they don’t do [sic] aliyah to Israel. “I would like to be able one day to sing the Hatikvah (the Israeli anthem) in total freedom at a France-Israel football match without feeling guilty,” he told critics. “For non-Jews, Jews and Israelis are part of the same people, so why not make it official?” he asked.

Everyone always criticizes French Jews--now and historically--for being too passive in the face of anti-Semitism and too eager to show gratefulness and not merely allegiance to France no matter how it treats them. This is certainly a step in the opposite direction. But shouldn't French-Jewish self-defence be about French Jews remaining as such? This includes a right to have pro-Israeli sentiments, but a right to actually be Israeli, without so much as wanting to move to Israel? Wouldn't this be a problem for those French Jews who simply want to remain French, if they were assumed of dual citizenship--whether or not they actually were--simply because of their religion? Will all French Catholics get a dual citizenship with the Vatican, and French Muslims with the Islamic state of their choice? Sure, the Jewish-Israeli case is a bit unusual, what with the notion of Jewish nationality, and especially the law of return. But that law is supposed to only apply to those who, well, return.

As I've made clear so many times, both on-blog and off, Jewish nationality exists, makes sense, and is not in the least bit a new idea. I've also pointed out that citizenship and nationality, while related, are not the same thing. Just as American Jewish blogger Matthew Yglesias is not Israeli, just as I also am not Israeli, French Jews wishing to remain in France ought not to be called up to serve in the Israeli army if they take too long a vacation to Tel Aviv; nor should they have the right to send in absentee ballots from the Marais, having never visited Israel in their lives.

Now, I suppose nationality and citizenship could be treated as one, but this would be a disaster. Who knows, France might do well to allow its citizens to define themselves as having multiple identities, rather than French and only French. But multiple citizenships, simply on account of having a non-majority religion or ethnicity? The mark has most definitely been overshot.

Moreover, if a French citizen happens to go to synagogue and not church, he should be considered no less French than the next person. But if he finds himself rooting for Israel over France in soccer matches, barely repressing the urge to belt out Hatikvah, he might consider El Al.


Alex B. said...

Thanks for pointing out that Gilad is French. I didn't know it, since oddly enough, nobody in the Canadian media mentioned he is a dual citizen.

I hope they find a way to rescue him.

Alex B said...

Just perfect.

Phoebe said...

Two different alex b's I take it...

Alex B. said...


Anonymous said...

"nor should they have the right to send in absentee ballots from the Marais, having never visited Israel in their lives."

thats alright, there is no such thing as absentee ballots in Israel, (except for diplomats and very special categories of government workers)