"When an Arab torches a school, it's rebellion. When a white guy does it, it's fascism."What sort of Frenchmen are they?
Finkielkraut: "In France, they would like very much to reduce these riots to their social dimension, to see them as a revolt of youths from the suburbs against their situation, against the discrimination they suffer from, against the unemployment. The problem is that most of these youths are blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity. Look, in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult - Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese - and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno-religious character. These people were treated like rebels, like revolutionaries. This is the worst thing that could happen to my country. Why? Because the only way to overcome it is to make them feel ashamed. Shame is the starting point of ethics. But instead of making them feel ashamed, we gave them legitimacy. They're `interesting.' They're `the wretched of the earth.' "Imagine for a moment that they were whites, like in Rostock in Germany. Right away, everyone would have said: `Fascism won't be tolerated.' When an Arab torches a school, it's rebellion. When a white guy does it, it's fascism. I'm `color blind.' Evil is evil, no matter what color it is. And this evil, for the Jew that I am, is completely intolerable.
"Moreover, there's a contradiction here. Because if these suburbs were truly in a state of total neglect, there wouldn't be any gymnasiums to torch, there wouldn't be schools and buses. If there are gymnasiums and schools and buses, it's because someone made an effort. Maybe not enough of one, but an effort." I think that the lofty idea of `the war on racism' is gradually turning into a hideously false ideology. And this anti-racism will be for the 21st century what communism was for the 20th century. A source of violence. Today, Jews are attacked in the name of anti-racist discourse: the separation fence, `Zionism is racism.' This is really a bigger problem: We're living in a post-national society in which for everyone the state is just utilitarian, a big insurance company. This is an extremely serious development.
Barricaded in Paris
French Jews are leaving the country in ever-growing numbers, fleeing a wave of anti-Semitism. They are moving to Israel, the United States, and increasingly, Montreal -- where the mostly English-speaking Jewish community is preparing for its greatest demographic change in decades. Mr. Barthel walks me through the school, which was built three years ago to what he calls "new specifications for a new reality." "All of our windows are made with glass both bomb- and bullet-proof; there are security cameras in all the common rooms," he says. "You will also notice there is no sign outside of the school that could single it out as a Jewish place." He says the Jews of France have increasingly felt as if they have had to take safety into their own hands. "For us now, this means one of two things: bunker in with bomb-proof glass, or leave." That Quebec contains the largest French-speaking city outside of France is a fact, and that the city of Montreal has one of the oldest Jewish communities in North America is an idea spreading by word of mouth. Since 2001, French Jewish immigration to Montreal has increased by more than 700%, an influx of European-born Jews from a single country in numbers not seen since the middle of the past century.
"But our future here is hard to envision, even if [we are] just looking at demographics." There are 500,000 to 600,000 Jews living in France, and the population is dwindling. "There are six million Muslims," he says, "and their population is growing." Mr. Malka says even though most Muslims in France are moderate, "for Jews this is still not a comfortable situation, even from the standpoint of politics. For politicians, it's plain where the votes are." "Sometimes it's best," says Mr. Barthel, "to just look clearly and say, 'OK, it's been nice in the past, but now it's time to move on.' "In the span of history," he adds, "this is a not an altogether unfamiliar situation for us."