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Rabbis and sages produced texts and wrote liturgical poems that are still used today. But the story Europeans tell themselves—or told themselves, until the proof became too obvious to ignore—is that Judenhass, the hatred of Jews, ended when Berlin fell 70 years ago. We are witnessing today the denouement of an unusual epoch in European life, the age of the post-Holocaust Jewish dispensation.Emancipation and enlightenment opened the broader culture to Jews, who came to prominence in politics, philosophy, the arts, and science—Chagall and Kafka, Einstein and Freud, Lévi-Strauss and Durkheim. When the survivors of the Shoah emerged from the camps, and from hiding places in cities and forests across Europe, they were met on occasion by pogroms.France’s 475,000 Jews represent less than 1 percent of the country’s population.
We knew nothing about this new attack—except that we already knew everything.
“People don’t defend the Jews as we expected to be defended,” he said.
“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.
(In Poland, for instance, some Christians were unhappy to see their former Jewish neighbors return home, and so arranged their deaths.) But over time, Europe managed to absorb the small number of Jewish survivors who chose to remain. At the same time, the countries of Western Europe embraced the cause of the young and besieged state of Israel.
The Shoah served for a while as a sort of inoculation against the return of overt Jew-hatred—but the effects of the inoculation, it is becoming clear, are wearing off. Memories of 6 million Jewish dead fade, and guilt becomes burdensome.Finkielkraut sees himself as an alienated man of the left.He says he loathes both radical Islamism and its most ferocious French critic, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s extreme right-wing—and once openly anti-Semitic—National Front party.The statistics in other countries, including Great Britain, are similarly dismal. One of the least surprising phenomena in the history of civilization, in fact, is the persistence of anti-Semitism in Europe, which has been the wellspring of Judeophobia for 1,000 years.In 2014, Jews in Europe were murdered, raped, beaten, stalked, chased, harassed, spat on, and insulted for being Jewish. The Church itself functioned as the centrifuge of anti-Semitism from the time it rebelled against its mother religion until the middle of the 20th century.Jews were the creators of both communism and capitalism; they were clannish but also cosmopolitan; cowardly and warmongering; self-righteous moralists and defilers of culture.Ideologues and demagogues of many permutations have understood the Jews to be a singularly malevolent force standing between the world and its perfection.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.For half a century, memories of the Holocaust limited anti-Semitism on the Continent.That period has ended—the recent fatal attacks in Paris and Copenhagen are merely the latest examples of rising violence against Jews.