Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Whoever is President There: France Fries While Its Leaders Avert Eyes

In the tiny town of Barr, France—population 6000—in Alsace near the German and Swiss borders, there is a tiny parking lot near the main street. You pull into it, take one of the dozen or so spaces, and then notice the sign, “Parking de Synagogue.”

For a moment one thinks that this is the parking lot of a synagogue. But then you see the small sign saying that in 1882 a synagogue was built on this spot and in 1985 it was torn down to make the parking lot.  It isn’t the parking lot for the synagogue but the Synagogue Parking Lot, the only one in town.

The next village down the road, Bergheim, population 1500, is far tinier and even more charming, about the closest thing to a perfectly preserved Medieval place I've ever seen. There, too, is a sign where a synagogue once stood. In both places, I visited the well-organized tourist information bureaus but they could find no picture of the synagogue and knew nothing of their village’s Jewish history....

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These communities disappeared and we are now seeing a new version of this story being enacted due to the physical and psychological insecurity of the remaining Jewish community, now focused in France’s big cities.

On the streets of the larger towns in eastern France, there were the small placards for selling magazines which featured a photo of a little girl with the headline, “The girl who made all of France cry,” one of the children murdered by an Islamist terrorist in Toulouse a few days earlier.

Yet the media in France and internationally largely spun the Toulouse story as the tale of troubled young man, perhaps himself a victim, despite the fact that the French police arrested 20 other psalmists, the killer trained at a camp in Afghanistan, his father was a member of an Islamist terror cell in Toulouse, his brother was a known and possibly violent extremist, and the killer who was unemployed had access to a fund of 20,000 Euros.

So the killings allegedly made France cry, but did they make France think? 

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

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