Waves of antisemitism grip France, forcing Jews to conceal identities amid disturbing incidents, from discrimination in salons to shocking attacks on IDF soldiers.
By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner
The current wave of antisemitism sweeping France is compelling many Jews to hide their identities as they face discrimination, threats, and violence in going about their day-to-day routines.
An investigation published on Wednesday by leading news outlet Le Figaro reported several episodes of antisemitic behavior in daily life, from hair salons to taxi cabs to food deliveries and even the post office, where packages and letters being sent to and from Israel risk being vandalized by the postal workers handling them.
While antisemitism has exploded in France since the Oct. 7 pogrom waged by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel, with more than 1,500 outrages recorded over the last seven weeks, the present climate has worsened what was already a precarious situation.
According to a Jan. 2022 survey conducted by Fondapol, a think tank, a full 74 percent of French Jews, who number approximately 500,000, revealed that they had experienced antisemitism, from verbal abuse to physical assault.
The report in Le Figaro included interviews with several Jews who have been confronted with antisemitic discrimination since the Oct. 7 atrocities, some of it comparatively subtle, much of it blatant.
Several cases involved Jews being denied commercial services. A 60-year-old rabbi who gave his name as Elie said that he had received a message from Uber warning him that his account faced suspension because of the consistently low ratings given to him by the firm’s drivers.
“I automatically give five stars to all the drivers,” he said, adding that he was unaware that drivers rated their passengers until six months ago, when a Muslim driver told him that the fact he is Jewish lay behind his poor rating. “I’m afraid it’s because of your yarmulke and your beard that some of my colleagues rate you poorly,” the driver explained.
Other respondents reported similar experiences, among them Samuel Lejoyeux, the head of the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF). Speaking about antisemitism on campus on his cellphone while traveling in an Uber, Lejoyeux was summarily ejected from the vehicle by a furious driver who objected to his conversation.
Even more seriously, Le Figaro reported that it had learned of a taxi driver who was accused of kidnapping and then beating at least two Jewish passengers. The paper added that it was not publishing details of the assaults at the request of the “traumatized victims” who fear reprisals.
It noted as well that a similar reticence to report an antisemitic offense was on display in an incident that occurred four days after the Hamas pogrom, when an Arab taxi driver at Orly Airport in Paris refused to collect a Jewish family who had just flown in from Tel Aviv, telling the father, “I am not taking you, dirty Jew!” The case only came to light after the police decided to pursue the driver independently, as the family refused to file a complaint for fear of retribution.
Despite these reports, a spokesperson for Uber told Le Figaro that the company had not “observed any significant change in the number of incidents” related to antisemitism.
“Any verbal or physical violence reported while using our platform results in immediate suspension of the account which can be permanent,” the spokesperson emphasized.
The discrimination confronted by Jews has manifested in other encounters that once would have been unremarkable. A 31-year-old woman who gave her name as Yael said she was taking legal action against a Paris salon that refused her an appointment on the grounds that she is Jewish. “I’m not going to be able to do your hair, because I support Palestine, and you’re Jewish!” a hairdresser at the salon, which she has been visiting for the last three years, told her when she arrived for an appointment on Nov. 9.
Several of those interviewed by Le Figaro pointed out that the La Poste national mail service company has long been a source of antisemitic agitation. Packages sent to Israel are frequently delivered late, “sometimes in poor condition, with ‘Israel’ crossed out and replaced by ‘Palestine,’” a 50-year-old woman who gave her name as Rebecca said.
“A friend of mine’s son was married three years ago,” she continued. “None of the invitations she sent to Israel reached their destination … We never had a response to the complaints about these lost letters. It’s terrible, but we have the impression that no one is going to listen to us anyway!”
Another interviewee, who gave his name as Michel, recalled that in Oct. 2020, he had sent a message to La Poste on Twitter urging the company to “tell your postmen to refrain from posting anti-Zionist messages when you have packages to deliver to Israel.”
The tweet included a photograph of a package Michel sent to Israel, with the address crossed out and replaced with the words, “Palestine — Israel does not exist.”
Many Jews are hiding visibly Jewish names on mailboxes and on apps that contain personal data. “When your name is Lévy or Cohen, at the moment, it is better to take a nickname,” one woman, who declined to identify herself, reported.
“Removing the mezuzah from the door, hiding kippot under caps, removing Jewish names from mailboxes or mobile applications could lead us to a great erasure,” Yonathan Arfi — president of the Jewish representative body Crif — told Le Figaro.
Emmanuel Abramowicz — secretary general of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Antisemitism (BNVCA) — observed that developments in technology have enabled antisemites to pursue their own personal campaigns against Jews.
“The new antisemite is a civil servant or an employee who uses his company to carry out his little personal jihad against the Jew of his choice,” Abramowicz said. “In addition to our contact details, the delivery people have the codes to enter our buildings … They have all the elements, if they wanted to, to take action.”
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