Non­fic­tion

HATE: The Ris­ing Tide of Anti-Semi­tism in France (and What It Means for Us)

  • Review
By – July 4, 2019

This time­ly and high­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed study by a well-respect­ed French jour­nal­ist pro­vides new insight into the upsurge of anti­semitism in France. Some of the events dis­cussed will be famil­iar to read­ers because of their cov­er­age by the inter­na­tion­al media; many prob­a­bly will not. The var­i­ous roots of the cri­sis are explored and at once shown to be dis­tinc­tive and yet interwoven.

Weitzmann’s vivid, prob­ing analy­sis rocks back and forth between the more obvi­ous strands and the cul­tur­al­ly com­plex. He explains why the explo­sion of anti­semitism in France should have been pre­dictable and why it nonethe­less, over decades, con­tin­ued to sur­prise. It has been a phe­nom­e­non under­stood in a vari­ety of ways accord­ing to one’s social, polit­i­cal, reli­gious, or cul­tur­al ori­en­ta­tion. He sug­gests that anti­semitism has been rip­ping this nation apart, and it is like­ly to be trans­plant­ed across Europe and beyond. The basic premise includes the dis­ap­pear­ance of the French colo­nial empire; the migra­tion of pop­u­la­tions from the for­mer empire’s colonies (Alge­ria in par­tic­u­lar) to France; and the con­di­tions of life for these immigrants.

The sto­ry of the Maghreb (North or North­west African) region of Mus­lim Arab pop­u­la­tions and their inter­ac­tion with west­ern cul­ture — and to some extent Soviet/​Russian cul­ture — fea­ture promi­nent­ly. As does the sto­ry of gov­ern­men­tal mis­takes; cyn­i­cal polit­i­cal manip­u­la­tion; scape­goat­ing; and the rapid-fire accel­er­a­tion of per­ceived insults into mur­der­ous revenge in which nobody wins for long and blame, quite improb­a­bly in most cas­es, finds its way to the Jews time and time again.

France has faced many of the same prob­lems that have trou­bled the Unit­ed States, but on a larg­er scale and for a longer time. One of these prob­lems is the con­fu­sion of pos­si­ble motives for anti­se­mit­ic and anti-estab­lish­ment mass mur­ders. The debate over whether a ter­ror­ist event is the work of a lone wolf” or an estab­lished Islamist orga­ni­za­tion too often seems to be a mat­ter of polit­i­cal con­ve­nience rather than demon­stra­ble fact. For those who per­ish and their loved ones, the motive dimin­ish­es in impor­tance. Weitz­man explores this issue in sig­nif­i­cant detail.

Because Weitzmann’s report­ing has probed so deeply over a long peri­od of time, often work­ing back­wards from more recent events to almost for­got­ten ones and because he has drawn upon the per­spec­tives of so many play­ers, par­ti­sans, vic­tims, and wannabes of all stripes with such car­ing acu­men, he has pro­vid­ed in his eight stur­di­ly built chap­ters a com­pelling, fright­en­ing, and absolute­ly nec­es­sary map of the near future.

Philip K. Jason is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of Eng­lish at the Unit­ed States Naval Acad­e­my. A for­mer edi­tor of Poet Lore, he is the author or edi­tor of twen­ty books, includ­ing Acts and Shad­ows: The Viet­nam War in Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Cul­ture and Don’t Wave Good­bye: The Chil­dren’s Flight from Nazi Per­se­cu­tion to Amer­i­can Free­dom.

Discussion Questions