Sunday, June 18, 2006

Newish Jewish

Baron Eric de Rothschild defends France, claiming anti-Semitism there is not a problem, and that Jewish nationalism is unnecessary. The year is 189?.... wait a second. The times are a'staying exactly the same. According to a Jerusalem Post interview, the philanthropist believes "the priority for Jewish giving... should be helping Israeli Arabs." Of course it should. Forget Jewish self-defense, Zionism, or even traditional Diaspora Jewish philanthropy that helps Jews in particular and human beings in general--the baron might as well have said, "Oh, please like us, pretty please?"

Also in the Jerusalem Post, news of a newish Jewish Defense League in France. While part of why I mention this is that I've never before had a chance to type "newish Jewish," it also provides evidence that Rothchilds do not define French Jewish politics. I found this quote, though, especially amusing:

"Jews are fed up," said a league member named Maxime who refused to give his full name, saying he feared for his safety. "We've been nice for 30 years. Now, we gather and fight back."

30 years indeed. I had no idea that we are now in the year 1821. But that said, while I'm not sure what I think about any modern nation collapsing into a bunch of militias, it makes sense, given the history of French Jews--who relied time after time on official roads to justice and on reverance for universalist rights of man only to get completely screwed over--that some would want to take matters into their own hands. Pierre Birnbaum, in his book about the anti-Semitic riots of 1898, argues that contrary to popular belief, the Jews did stand up for themselves. He gives examples mainly of Jews filing reports with the police or otherwise reacting to rather extreme, frightening levels of anti-Semitism in what I would call the most meek ways possible. While this meekness may have been defensible given the circumstances, it was still just that, meekness.

Why are things different now? Is it because Jewish nationalism succeeded, if not in garnering approval for the "please, please like us!" types, in creating a Jewish state? That's usually my assumption, along with the fact that the Holocaust gave European Jews a better idea of what's in store if they remain silent. Another possibility is that the current French Jews are culturally different from the pre-WWII population, less Ashkenazi, or just different culturally in some way that makes them less inclined to remain silent. (I have no sense of what would make Ashkenazi Jews different from Sephardic Jews politically, in 2006, but it's the only cultural difference I could think of that might apply here.)

There's more on this subject, including a response to all the Dreyfus info left in the comments to the post below by my friend "Anonymous." I also need to read a TON more about all of this, possibly immerse myself in French Jewish life via moving to a charming apartment in the Marais and eating so much falafel and so many pastries, before I can say anything more substantive.


Anonymous said...

Not sure how much basis there is to this, I’m not particularly knowledgably about French Jews (absent what I get form this site), but could the less meek behavior of French Jews today be less a cause of Jewish nationalism as embodied by Israel and more a product of global changes?

The modern movie hero is very rarely meek and very often violent and willing to fight to defend his cause. To the extent that someone grows up watching movies rather than reading philosophy one would expect a more forceful activist reaction to adversity and bigotry.


(I’ve been in meetings all day so if my brain is friend and this makes no sense that’s the reason)

arnlieb said...

I wandered into this blogsite for the first time yesterday because I googled "now vee perhaps may begin", looking for the last line of Roth's Portnoy and was rewarded by a few fgood jokes on he matter and read and posted replies to some 2005 entries --now I'm glad to see your blog is very much alive and current ---I'm not too keen on militant Jewsih nationalism --I've met some very impressive Israelis in exile in America who feel that Israeili triumphalism after ther 67 war has taken Israel in a bad direction ---much to be said but too contentious to go into here right now