Last Sunday upwards of 50,000 engaged in the “Day of Anger” mass rally in Paris with groups shouting anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial slogans; “Jews, France does not belong to you” and “Faurrison is right”and “the Holocaust was a Hoax”. The more vocal protesters were supporters of anti-Semitic comedian, Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala and followers of French Holocaust denier, Robert Faurrison. France passed a law in 1990 prohibiting both anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. According to Michel Gurfinkiel, noted French conservative journalist, commentator and head of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in Paris, “this was an additional warning to France’s Jews that things are getting very unpleasant for them in this country”. We caught up with Gurfinkiel, with whom we had just completed an interview for the February 2014 New English Review on the topic of “Is There a Future for French Jews?”
Gurfinkiel found it “shocking” that no one, the rally organizers, demonstrators nor bystanders intervened to remove anti-Semitic protesters in violation of French hate speech laws; not even the police. Further, he noted ominously “this is the first time since the end of World War Two you had compact groups shouting explicit and violent anti-Semitic slogans on the streets of Paris”. He said, “France a founder of the Eropean Union may be joining the league of fringe anti-Semitic countries in the EU; Romania, Hungary and Greece”. “The majority of the country was shocked. However France harbors an anti-Semitic minority”. He indicated this episode raises the question about the ability of French democracy to control the problem.
Some people, Gurfinkiel said, are “starting to consider leaving the country”. He drew attention to the comments on the Facebook page of a young French Jewish writer and philosopher, who said she used to go out publicly wearing a Jewish Star of David and that her children were safe attending public schools. She never she hear anti-Semitic slogans on the streets of France until last Sunday. Now “she is losing faith in humanity and faith in this country”. Gurfinkiel said it was “very revealing of the present mood”.
He said the police had estimated 20,000 protesters in Sunday’s “Day of Anger” rally. The rally organizers alleged estimated more than 100,000. Other sources said 50,000. Nevertheless, Gurfinkiel indicated that Sunday’s “Day of Anger” rally was a significant big protest.
Watch this JN1 TV news video of the Day of Anger rally:
He described in our interview how the “Day of Anger” protest rally was spawned. Last year there were a number of anti-gay marriage protests organized by Catholic groups, but on a non-political basis. They were “hijacked”, according to Gurfinkiel, by a far right grass roots, Far right, non-partisan group, “French Spring” which he considers “up to a point similar the Tea Party movement “here in the US. Other protesters including the Anti-Tax groups in Brittany and the Red Bonnets had arisen in the fall and winter protesting a “totally absurd” ecological tax against French farmers. There were also protesters against the Hollande government over economic issues, as well. The Day of Anger rally protesters had issued a national call to many organizations to join Sunday’s rally in Paris. The Red Bonnets and the Brittany anti-Tax protest groups elected not to join Sunday’s “Day of Anger” contingents. Sunday’s mass rally was joined by several hundred supporters of Dieudonne whom Gurfinkiel observed probably may have been the source of the anti-Semitic and holocaust denial slogans. Gurfinkiel considered the assembly a veritable “galaxy of left and right wing groups.”
One group conspicuous by its absence was the far right National Front. Its leader, Gurfinkiel said, Ms. Marine Le Pen, has distanced herself from” explicit expressions of anti-Semitism and racism”. The National Front had also not participated in last year’s anti-Gay marriage protest rallies. Gurfinkiel believed that Le Pen viewed the organizers of the “Day of Anger” rally as “competitors”. One follower of Dieudonne, who had once been close to her, “she saw as a competitor within her party”, had been ejected from the National Front.
Today, Gurfinkiel reported that French police had invaded an apartment of Dieudonne and found nearly $1 million dollars in undisclosed cash and other questionable financial items. The BBC reported the basis for the police seizure of Dieudonne’s property:
He is suspected of a fraudulent declaration of bankruptcy, money-laundering and abuse of company assets.
The government has vowed to make him pay fines for hate speech.
According to French media, he has transferred 400,000 Euros (£331,000; $547,000) to Cameroon since 2009 while failing to pay fines totaling 65,000 Euros.
Dieudonne has been convicted six times of hate speech against Jews and popularized a gesture called the “quenelle”, widely regarded as an inverted Nazi salute.
Gurfinkiel, noted in the coming weeks, there will be local municipal elections in France. “Perhaps”, Gurfinkiel opined, “a few cities may be taken back by the classic Right”.
Clearly, the future for France’s Jews, the largest community in Europe, is uncertain. Read our NER interview with him in the February edition to find out more. Listen to our recorded interview with Gurfinkiel on the “Day of Anger” protest rally, here.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.