The marvelous Nidra Poller graced our shores recently. Alas, because of various crises I was unable to see her this time around, but here is a report from the Jewish Ledger about how “pro-Palestinian” people in France are creating an atmosphere for Jews that is reminiscent of the early Nazi period.
May 7, 2004 – To hear Nidra Poller tell it, you’d think she was describing Germany of the 1930’s: the rise of a popular right-wing government; a well-oiled propaganda machine; a ghettoized Jewish community; tolerance for rabid anti-Jewish rhetoric”¦.
But Poller wasn’t describing pre-WWII Germany, she was discussing the France of today, and her words were frightening.
Speaking at Congregation Beth El in Fairfield last week, Poller, an [expatriate] American writer who has lived in France since 1972, detailed the development of a society in which the most virulent forms of anti-Semitism are tolerated.
“Understanding the situation in France is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Beginning in the early weeks of September 2000 [at the start of the current wave of Palestinian violence against Israelis], there were massive Pro-Palestinian demonstrations where people began shouting “˜Death to the Jews,'” Poller said. “It was illegal, but no one stopped them. Soon it was all right to write “˜Death to the Jews’ in graffiti on apartment buildings. Before we knew it, synagogues were being burned, buses carrying Jewish school children were stoned, and Jewish children and rabbis were beaten in the streets. Recently, there have been two ritual murders of Parisian Jews by Muslims.”
French media, she said, was also connected to the Palestinian violence from the earliest stages: prestigious French publications first carried the story of Mohammed al Dura, the boy who became a symbol of supposed Israeli aggression when he was killed cowering behind his father. Poller said that although it was later proven that Israeli bullets could not have reached the child, the credence given to the fabricated reports overshadowed the later findings.
The diminutive, expressive grandmother spoke softly and with a slight accent as she added more pieces to the growing puzzle: a constant barrage of anti-Israel propaganda in the press and anti-Israel sentiment in the government, combined with untethered Arab immigration to France and the new glorification of Islam in the society. “Young girls who were born in France are now wearing black from head to toe, just as they do in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
What can be done to reverse the situation for the Jews in France? Not much, Poller says. After four years of increasingly pervasive anti-Semitism in the society, key elements are blocking a Jewish response. Firstly, that Arabs can act against Jews with impunity “” even those who are caught on film beating Jews, and, unbelievably, even those who confess to murdering Jews “” are not arrested or tried for their crimes. Secondly, anti-Semitism has pervaded the intellectual elite: countless books and articles against Judaism and Israel are circulated, so that there is a propaganda flood similar to the 1930s. Thirdly, the Muslim population is becoming more obviously unassimilated, more violent, and more politicized. And fourthly, there is systematic opposition to Israel and the United States.
The result is that Jews are blocked in.
“Jews cannot sue; they cannot speak out; they cannot write about what’s happening. If one does, one is accused of “˜upsetting the harmony of France’. Jews are in a “˜virtual ghetto’: their choice is either to be publicly anti-Zionist or to face exclusion or victimization. And the Jews think it will blow over! They are very Frenchified, have lived there for generations, and also they are afraid that if they make too much “˜noise,’ they will lose the limited police protection they have now,” Poller said.
Beth El congregant Jerry Gordon, an acquaintance of Poller’s, arranged her lecture in conjunction with the Community Relations Commission.
“Nidra’s message is most important for American Jews to hear, because it puts us all on notice about the dangers of the Arab “Islamist” seduction of France and other European nations, and tolerance of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American rhetoric and actions,” he said.