Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism in France

Lawrence Davidson dismantles Macron’s equation of apples and oranges.

By Lawrence Davidson

We are at a new stage of the fight to realize Palestinian rights and free both Palestinians and Jews from the consequences of Zionist racism. There was a time when very few in the West understood the racist nature of the Israeli state. For a long time, the Zionists controlled the public relations message and most people took as fact the fictional account of Israel’s founding—such as the one given in Leon Uris’s book “Exodus.”

After the 1967 war, and Israel’s decision to keep even more conquered Palestinian territory, things began to change. Of course, Israel had always been a racist place designed for one group alone. But now the contradictions created by post-war occupation made, and continue to make, that fact harder to hide, and the mythical picture of Israel as a grand democratic experiment has eroded. Increasingly the real, illiberal Israel has become apparent to Western audiences, and particularly to an increasing number of Jews. As a result, Israel has largely lost the public relations battle at the popular level of Western society.

Orthodex Jews in London’s pro-Palestine protests on Al Quds day, June 10, 2018. (Allsdare Hickson via Flickr)

Orthodex Jews in London’s pro-Palestine protests on Al Quds day, June 10, 2018. (Allsdare Hickson via Flickr)

However, the winning of this battle is not to be equated with the winning of the fight mentioned above. The Zionists are still able to maintain Western financial and military support of Israel at obscene levels despite Israel’s revealed apartheid nature.

Tactical Shift

To combat the popular criticism to which Israel is now subject, the Zionists have shifted tactics. They have abandoned popular debate and now use their influence with the West’s ruling elites to simply criminalize any rhetoric that points out the real discriminatory nature of the Zionist state. The gambit here is to have such criticism legally equated with anti-Semitism.

Last month, on Feb. 20, Emmanuel Macron, the president of the French Republic, addressed the Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF)—the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. Macron’s topic was the country’s “resurgence of anti-Semitism.”

Indeed, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France over the last couple of decades. Significantly, Macron did not attempt to analyze why this was happening. For instance, while asserting that anti-Semites are not worthy of the Republic,” he did not take note of the historical fact that anti-Semitism has been a major force in France for hundreds of years and through multiple French forms of government. Historically it has ebbed and flowed.

We can trace this trend back to medieval France and the absolutist Catholic culture of that time. While ultimately revolutionary 18th century France (a markedly anti-clerical period) was the first European country to emancipate Jews, anti-Semitism never disappeared. It again became particularly virulent in France during the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s and under the Nazi-allied Vichy regime in the 1940s. Thus, the presence in today’s France of traditional anti-Semites, those who are prejudiced against Jews qua Jews, should come as no surprise.

The latest outbreak of hostility involving Jews in France is the product of modern historical factors that more than one Paris government has failed to confront. This failure has increased resentment against some French Jews—particularly those who are Zionists. Yet it is important to note that much of this sort of emotion is not a function of anti-Semitism.  

For instance, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has noted that “anti-Semitism” is now often surfacing among radicalized Muslims in France. While we can take issue with the notion of “radicalized” Muslims and the description of their sentiments as “anti-Semitism,” we will address the assertion of hostility and ask why should this be so.

It may be because France has treated its citizens of Arab origin very poorly while simultaneously and publicly supporting Israel, which, of course, treats its own Arab population even worse.

France has a long imperial and colonial history in the Arab world and fought a bitter, relatively recent war to hold onto Algeria. When, in 1962, it finally abandoned that effort, there were 150,000 Algerian Arabs who had fought with the French. They were disarmed and then abandoned to their fate—prevented from emigrating to France by the government of that day. However, “through the kindness of individual French commanders … several thousand were illegally smuggled to France where on arrival they were confined to primitive rural camps.”

Section of Algerian Casbah after French dynamiting, Oct. 8, 1957. (Wikimedia)

Residence in Algerian Casbah destroyed by French dynamite; Oct. 8, 1957. (Wikimedia)

When they were finally let out of the camps, they continued to be segregated and discriminated against. This prevailing prejudice was maintained in the treatment of other African and Middle Eastern immigrants who subsequently made their way to France. One ongoing sign of this can be found in the culture war against Muslims living in the country. Muslim dress, and even halal food, have been deemed dangerous to traditional French culture. The anger of the French Arab population stems from this continuous discrimination, but why would some of it be directed against a portion of France’s Jewish citizens? 

The Israeli Connection

It may well be because more and more French Arabs, angry over their discriminatory treatment by French society, increasingly identify with Palestinians, who are also discriminated against by Israeli society. And, they are encouraged in this identification by the fact that, except for a brief period under the leadership of Charles De Gaulle, France has been a strong supporter of Israel

This is a tradition that Macron accentuated in his address to the CRIF. He told his audience that he will make anti-Zionism the equivalent of anti-Semitism under French law. Macron justifies this move by claiming that anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism.” 

What Macron is saying is that in France you cannot speak out against the ideological basis for Israeli racism. If you do so, you yourself will be judged a racist and a criminal. Just how unreasonable this is is elegantly explained in an open letter to Macron by the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, posted on Feb. 8 in the publication Jacobin.

Shlomo Sand: Choosing a republic. (Wikimedia)

Shlomo Sand: Choosing a republic. (Wikimedia)

In his letter Sand points out that Zionist Israel is not a republic on the Western model, and certainly not a democracy. It is a “Jewish communalist state.” That is why Sand cannot be a Zionist, because “I am a citizen who desires that the state he lives in should be an Israeli republic, and not a Jewish-communalist state. … I do not want to live in a state that, according to its own self-definition, makes me a privileged class of citizen.”

Sand goes on to explain that “the Israeli Interior Ministry counts 75 percent of the country’s citizens as Jewish, 21 percent as Arab Muslims and Christians, and 4 percent as ‘others’ (sic). Yet according to the spirit of its laws, Israel does not belong to Israelis as a whole, whereas it does belong even to all those Jews worldwide who have no intention of coming to live there.”

Under these circumstances, one cannot be someone who takes republican and democratic principles seriously and still be a Zionist. So Sand has made his choice: he wants to replace Zionist Israel with “an Israeli republic.” Then he asks, 

“Mr. President, do you think that that makes me an antisemite?”

Apparently Macron is oblivious to the logic of Shlomo Sand. Perhaps this is because, at this moment, illogic serves his political purposes much better. And so, in Macron’s France apples become oranges. That is, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism become the same.

Why is this illogical? It is so because anti-Semitism is directed against Jewish people no matter where they are found and based on nothing other than their religion/ethnicity. On the other hand, anti-Zionism is opposition to a specific political doctrine based on its racist nature and practice in the state of Israel. It is not just many French Arabs who understand this. Many French Jews themselves are anti-Zionist. At the same time, French anti-Semites, who probably dream of an exclusive French “communalist state,” want to see all French Jews pack up and move to Israel. This puts these anti-Semites on the same team as avid Zionists. 

Macron: Outlawing opposition. (President of Russia)

Macron: Outlawing opposition. (President of Russia)

And what about the French Jews who are anti-Zionist? Macron is putting these Jewish citizens in a position where they can be legally accused of anti-Semitism. As French journalist Dominique Vidal described the situation to FRANCE 24: “if we consider opposition to Theodore Herzl’s theory as anti-Semitic, then we’re saying that the millions of Jews who do not wish to live in Palestine and the occupied territories are anti-Semites. … It’s historical illiteracy, or worse, stupidity.”

No Shlomo Sand 

Macron is not stupid, but neither is he a principled democratic republican like Shlomo Sand. He knows that if, as his party spokesman now puts it, “denying the existence of Israel [that is, Israel as a Jewish state] … has to be made a criminal offense,” you are making it illegal to stand with the Palestinians and against the racist nature inherent in a religious and ethnically exclusive state. Macron is using the law to silence popular opposition to Israel. Also, in this way the hostility of French Arabs to Zionist French Jews becomes criminal. 

This is exactly the current Israeli strategy in response to having lost the public debate over the true nature of the Zionist project in Palestine—criminalize the arguments of your critics.

No French national leader would support such an anti-democratic strategy unless he or she is a political opportunist who is currying the favor of a politically powerful lobby. In the case of Emmanuel Macron, this is also a maneuver to label his opponents (perhaps France’s Muslims as well as all those protesting “yellow vests”) as anti-Semites.

No French leader would ally with the Zionists in this effort unless they have no problem with corrupting the logic of the law by demanding that apples legally become oranges. And, no French leader would act in this way unless they have little or no interest in dealing with France’s real racial problems by seeking real answers. 

It is this last fact that, in the long run, is most dangerous for French culture and politics. As we have seen, anti-Semitism is nothing new in France. It is embedded in a certain French self-image that is, in the end, reluctant to allow entry to anyone not deemed truly French, be they Muslims or Jews. Unless French leaders are willing to challenge this cultural puritanism, they will find anti-Semitism, and other forms of xenophobic passions, poisoning their national life for the indefinite future. 

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

19 comments for “Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism in France

  1. robert e williamson jr
    March 8, 2019 at 13:25

    I’m of the opinion that the post truth era started some time 1947-1948. The lies started then and have continued to today when a young female politician elected by her constituents speaks the truth. However the congress experts at warping of the truth, and those who, believe in those lies try to shame her. Shame on congress for corrupting the truth.

    The truth is what it is.

  2. March 8, 2019 at 03:46

    Thank you for your informative piece. I enjoyed its reading. You are right when you say that Macron’s proposal to equate anti-Zionism to antisemitism and to criminalize anti-Zionism is a blatant violation of the free speech which is constitutional right. I think, and it has been noted in your analyze, France has been since longtime un country subjugated to a powerful Zionist lobby. the so called philosophers, such Alain Finkielkraut is plainly preaching Islamophobia in France; it is the case with the journalist Eric Zemour . but there is no judicial action against these two Zionists who are invited in the mainstream media owned often by Zionists and controlling information about the Zionist entity in Palestine

    • elmerfudzie
      March 8, 2019 at 14:05

      el mir. You have a few, excellent observations..May I add, or should I say, repeat for the CONSORTIUMNEWS readership, that Frenchmen made a big mistake electing Macron. His rival, Marine LePen is at bottom, a Gaullist and if elected will revitalize Muslim dignity and political influence in France. Speaking here as a “fish” outside the French fishbowl, passing up LePen for a Goldman Sachs shill was something I’d never expect from the average voter. She has been unjustifiably painted as a fascist, anti imperialist, anti capitalist and so on. These propaganda allegations are all trashy stuff and completely untrue. I think she’ll work with any belief system and country but only in the best interest of the average Frenchman (and woman, of course)

      Since the fall of Qaddafi, African Muslims have flooded into France and I predict that in ten years, their population and religion will account for better than twenty percent of eligible voters.. Vive la France!

  3. elmerfudzie
    March 8, 2019 at 01:09

    Historian David Price Jones in his book Betrayal, comments on Zionism as it was viewed by post-Revolutionary France; to the Jews as individuals everything, to the Jews as a nation, nothing. During that Revolutionary period circa 1795 to 1805, it was an emancipatory statement for Jews yet the French saw Zionism as a threat (from England). This French perception that Zionism was the enemy to their (rising) Muslim nationhood and power…Zionism thus became, to the French, nothing but a disguised British tool. From the Dreyfus affair, to the deportation (s) by the Vichy government, these issues greatly divided French public opinion, it continues to this very day. Helping to build the Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel then u- turns, selling arms to Iraq and other Muslim countries. Historically speaking a great and ongoing diplomatic turbulence regarding Jews in general and Zionism, as a movement in particular. These frictions welled up, beginning with the rise of Egypt’s Nasser, Arab nationalism and the loss of Algeria’s connection to France. Then came the six day war (1967), thus once again, changing the entire diplomatic scene. Charles De Gaulle wanted to return to the Muslim culture and worked to rebuild it into French diplomatic politics. This change in homme politique, forced Israel into the arms of the Americans (US) instead of the French. Fate would bring contracts for F-16’s into Israel rather than Mirage F-1’s.

    • anon4d2
      March 8, 2019 at 07:51

      How does Jones’ Betrayal support the view that “greatly divided French public opinion” was largely pro-muslim or anti-zionist due to a “(rising) Muslim nationhood”? It was largely Britain that created and manipulated Muslim states to get oil and the Suez canal after 1900. So without detail it is hard to see why many in France feared the zionists as a British influence.

      • elmerfudzie
        March 8, 2019 at 13:05

        To anon4d2 from elmerfudzie. Can’t presume to paint myself as some sort of historical expert, book critic, or speak on behalf of Mr. Jones. Betrayal, as I recall was a good read but that was almost ten years ago. I’m quite sure it is still available thru used book outlets.

        In Europe, three great forces were at work in the fifties and sixties. The Brits wanted to keep what was left of their empire. The Arabs refused to recognize the state of Israel. France, held the well deserved reputation as a diplomatic “spoiler”, then twisted and turned upon itself by entering into a secret agreement with Israel, and England to crush Nassers’ Egypt. Actions taken, in order to seize the Suez Canal from the Egyptians. Perhaps this military troika and conspiracy was interpreted as a Zionist plot concocted in England? Don’t know, lots of water has passed under that bridge… Frankly, this particular moment in history boggles my mind. Where was Rome in all this? the Pope and concurrently, the Catholic church influence (s) over De Gaulles’ France?

        I offer a few, somewhat off topic, disparate observations here. Can any POTUS after IKE, make an open announcement that orders Israel to halt some military action? Secondly, as in the first two world wars, major bankers and their influence(s) were concealed from public view, always running in the background. Surely the Rothschild’s financed the Suez, had developed a special interest in it? To quote the father of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, “the area of the Jewish State stretches: “From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.” According to Rabbi Fischmann, “The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt up to the Euphrates, it includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.” The average Frenchmen knows all about this quotation….

  4. Alois Mueller
    March 7, 2019 at 14:20

    ” The Jewish people as a whole will be its own messiah. It will attain world dominion by the dissolution of other races, by the abolition of frontiers, the annihilation of monarchy, and by the establishment of a world republic in which the Jews will everywhere exercise the privilege of citizenship. In this new world order the children of Israel will furnish all the leaders without encountering opposition. The governments of the different peoples forming the world republic will fall without difficulty into the hands of the Jews. It will then be possible for the Jewish rulers to abolish private property, and everywhere to make use of the resources of the state. Thus will the promise of the Talmud be fulfilled, in which it is said that when the messianic time is come, the Jews will have all the property of the whole world in their hands.”

    Right or wrong? They themselfe always point in that direction!

  5. bardamu
    March 7, 2019 at 12:54

    Of course antisemitism has been a leading folly in France for ages. In the 20th Century particularly, it was fueled by notions that Jewish people were banks or bankers or Rothschilds. Of course, few were or are.

    By claiming that opposition to Zionism or to the specific violent and racist abuses of the state of Israel, of European and American policies that support and propel it, and of the policies of international finance and imperial monopoly over oil-producing regions are in some way antisemitic, Macron and his bankster allies and employers perpetrate the same bizarre and antisemitic notions.

    Perhaps they do so quite cynically, possibly with similar results. Hopefully, the inevitable and necessary response against the class of rentiers and financiers can distinguish between the quintessentially European and American bull-baiters who rule and torment them and people who happen to be Jewish or “of Jewish extraction” or of the Jewish faith or Israeli.

    Apparently hiding behind Israel and behind Jewish people is one way that that the imperial rulers intend to continue their abuse. If it is by chance not itself an antisemitic idea, it is not by that a kinder one.

  6. bardamu
    March 7, 2019 at 12:09

    Have we a way to flag sales-related posts so that they can be removed?

  7. March 7, 2019 at 08:03

    Zionism is a political movement. Hostility to political movements is more or less normal, anti-Communism, anti-Bolivarianism, anti-fascism, anti-Corbynism etc. It is not always benign, e.g. 500,000 to 1 million were massacred in Indonesia invoking anti-Communism, but anti-Communists, including liberal ones, did not see it as a proof of insidiously vile nature of anti-Communism.

    Liberals, and Macron seems to be one, stand fast for their principles: not standing too much for anything, but getting with the flow. E.g. cash flow.

  8. Zhu
    March 7, 2019 at 03:38

    Well, classic Jew-haters ARE calling themselves “anti-Zionists” these days. Both Lefties and Righties like to blame the US’ Middle East follies on Israel, rather than on Americans. Christian Zionists and Dispensationalists in the US are almost almost never get mentioned, in spite of their numbers and their ekectoral clout.

    • anon4d2
      March 8, 2019 at 07:30

      I have never met a “classic Jew-hater” nor a Jewish person who thought there was any significant faction of that kind. Are you not speculating from what the zionist-controlled MSM have told you?

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      March 9, 2019 at 10:29

      You’d be wrong to assume that someone who criticizes Israel’s undue influence on American policies doesn’t also criticize American Christian Zionists. One can do both, just like one can criticize both Trump and Obama – as I do.

      There are antisemites, who pretend to be Antizionists. There are pure antizionists (like me and many other people), and there are naked antisemites, there are zionists who are antisemites (yes, that too is possible). Here too, it is not black and white, either or.

      For those, who’ll pause and think, the broad brush definition of antiseitism is the proof of moral bankruptcy of Zionism.

      BTW, if one pauses and thinks, which in this post truth world is as rare as a unicorn, then on would realize that Arabs are semites too!

    • DDearborn
      March 12, 2019 at 04:02


      Zhu the problem with your attempts to deflect blame for the violence and suffering of the Palestinian people on pretty everybody except israel is that is ignores the facts, is devoid of logic and rational thought, not to mention plain old common sense. Israel is directly responsible for its war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and Apartheid against the Palestinian and Syrian people. The fact that they bribed and manipulated members of the US government to help commit them, in no way absolves their guilt.

      Using your own line of logic, one can readily claim with the same certainty as you that the current crimes of israel are “classic zionist criminal activities using the same tired, worn and patently dishonest feigned victim hood and phony antisemitism to protect them from prosecution. I personally believe the current criminal behavior of the State of Israel and 10,000s of thousands of rabid criminal zionists commiting crimes against the Palestinian people in the West Bank has nothing to do with “Judaism” and everything to do with being manipulated by radical far right wing zionist ideologues preying on the brain washed minds of young israelis…….

      One thing is certain my friend: the days of criminals hiding behind their religion while they continue to commit horrific evil crimes is OVER.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    March 6, 2019 at 23:17

    The defenders of dual loyalist interest are scrambling to make any questioning of this long well use propagandistic trend go away. Any measure taken to subdue criticism of the apartheid state and its various actors are met with charges of invented and veiled anti-Semitic values unwanted by the current status quo so, therefore these critics need to be silenced… oh but what is that I hear coming from the same community crying foul but well appreciated Jewish voices declaring loud and clear their support for Representatives Ilhan Omar.

    These are the Jewish voices that need to be heard and, not merely the voices of the lobbyists paid for congresspeople who have by the many traded off their patriotic allegiances to another foreign state.

    The same diametric flowing through Macron’s France is the same diametric awkwardly flooding our US Congressional Halls of debate. The gnashing and wailing you hear from the bought and paid for establishment is a last ditch effort to sure up a dying relationship of a right wing Israel’s influence on an American government more inclined to its individual selfish greed for the dollar as these scoundrels of the legislative process deny America and the world’s people their peaceful due towards a better life.

    All people are equal. Peace.

    • Al Pinto
      March 7, 2019 at 15:53

      While I agree that “All people are equal”, in reality, it’s never the case regardless of the political system. I should know, I lived in both…

      Equating anti-Zionism to antisemitism is nothing new. This was started by the Zionists in the US in early ’90s, when they have achieved control of the US Congress. What we see today about Ilhan is pretty much the result of that. There has been a study on this subject back in 2006, that had also been marked as antisemitism:


      The study pretty much covers lobbying efforts by Zionists/Israel from the start to 2006. There’s nothing that changed since then, if anything, it’s got worse. One interesting aspect is the Bush the second’ take on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. If you can believe the study, he was for a two-state solution. It’s a long read with lot’s of references…

  10. Sam F
    March 6, 2019 at 21:51

    While “xenophobic passions” are worth the analysis, and simple tribalism herds the fearful to support tribal tyrants, the pro-zionist politician is simply a sell-out schmoozing with opportunist scammers. Only the last degradation of the western former democracies would consider laws to prohibit political viewpoints. That politicians align with the zionist tyrants over the Jewish tribe tells the story of their corruption very plainly: it is the gold of tyranny they love, without regard to race, creed, or color. As Mark Twain said (in 1875), “I think I can say, and say with pride, that we have some legislatures that bring higher prices than any in the world.” We owe everything to the gangsters: liberty and justice for tyrants!

  11. Jeff Harrison
    March 6, 2019 at 21:21

    Good piece. My personal take on it is that Zionism is to Judaism as Evangelical Christianity is to Christianity. Israel will lose this battle completely unless it stands up and recognizes its crimes.

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