French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has claimed that if the Jews leave France, France “will be judged a failure.” Valls made those remarks in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic on Saturday.
The choice was made by the French Revolution in 1789 to recognize Jews as full citizens,” Valls told me. “To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews. It is a founding principle.”
Valls, a Socialist who is the son of Spanish immigrants, describes the threat of a Jewish exodus from France this way: “If 100,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
Valls also identified what he called “a new anti-Semitism” when talking about the violence targeting Jewish businesses and institutions this past summer.
“There is a new anti-Semitism in France,” he told me. “We have the old anti-Semitism, and I’m obviously not downplaying it, that comes from the extreme right, but this new anti-Semitism comes from the difficult neighborhoods, from immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who have turned anger about Gaza into something very dangerous. Israel and Palestine are just a pretext. There is something far more profound taking place now.”
Goldberg quoted a leader of the French Jewish community who credited Valls with being “the first one who has spoken out so clearly, without any ambiguity, about the reality we are facing.”
On Saturday, Valls declared in a speech, “It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.”
The French government is taking action to back up Valls’ sentiments. The New York Times reports that nearly 5,000 police will be assigned to guard French Jewish schools.
In addition to the military deployment, the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said on Monday that 4,700 police officers would be posted to guard the country’s 700 Jewish schools and other institutions after three days of bloodletting last week, when three assailants killed 17 people in attacks on targets including a satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and a kosher supermarket.
Mr. Cazeneuve announced the new protections in an address to parents at a Jewish school south of Paris, according to French radio and news agencies.
Last year, when he was France’s interior minister, Valls said, “Criticism of Israel that is based on anti-Zionism — that’s anti-Semitism today, this is the refuge of those who do not accept the State of Israel.”
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