Despite this history of sorrow, Jews spent long periods living unmolested in Europe.
And even amid the expulsions and persecutions and pogroms, Jewish culture prospered.
But he has lately come to find radical Islamism to be a more immediate, even existential, threat to France than the National Front. I think there is real violence in her,” he told me.
“But she is so successful because there actually is a problem of Islam in France, and until now she has been the only one to dare say it.”Suddenly, there was news: a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, in eastern Paris, had come under attack. “The Jews.” Even before anti-Semitic riots broke out in France last summer, Finkielkraut had become preoccupied with the well-being of France’s Jews.
“It would be easier for the left to defend the Jews if the attackers were white and rightists.”I asked him a very old Jewish question: Do you have a bag packed?
“We should not leave,” he said, “but maybe for our children or grandchildren there will be no choice.”Reports suggested that a number of people were dead at the market.
I had come to discuss with him the precarious future of French Jewry, but, as the hunt for the Charlie Hebdo killers seemed to be reaching its conclusion, we had become fixated on the television.
To his disciples, he is a Jewish Zola, accusing France’s bien-pensant intellectual class of complicity in its own suicide.
To his foes, he is a reactionary whose nostalgia for a fairy-tale French past is induced by an irrational fear of Muslims.
(Some in Europe and the Middle East take this line of thought to an even more extreme conclusion: “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism,” the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said last year of Israel.)The previously canonical strain of European anti-Semitism, the fascist variant, still flourishes in places.
In Hungary, a leader of the right-wing Jobbik party called on the government—a government that has come under criticism for whitewashing the history of Hungary’s collaboration with the Nazis—to draw up a list of all the Jews in the country who might pose a “national-security risk.” In Greece, a recent survey found that 69 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views, and the fascists of the country’s Golden Dawn party are open in their Jew-hatred.