France: Importing conflict from, and exporting problems to the Middle East
It came as a surprise for Israel’s leadership that at the UN Security Council, France voted in favor of Palestinian statehood. This was contrary to the positions held by the United States, Australia and Great Britain.
The French vote should primarily be seen as one more gesture made toward its Muslim population: Muslims massively supported the candidacy of François Hollande in the 2012 French presidential elections.
The French vote at the UN is a small part of far larger and more complex processes occurring in France and elsewhere within Europe. On Bastille Day, July 14, 2014, while Operation Protective Edge was taking place, Hollande announced that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be imported [to France.] The previous day French Prime Minister Manuel Valls had already stated that France would never tolerate having the Israeli-Palestinian conflict imported to French soil, via verbal violence or actions. The main reason behind these repeated declarations was the slate of attacks on French synagogues and other Jewish targets by Muslims.
These statements distorted the French reality. Hollande and Valls should have said something more truthful, to the effect of, “We will not let the Muslim aggressions against the Jews continue. French anti-Semitism in 2014 was even more severe and more prevalent than in previous years.
The attacks on the synagogues were, yet again, extreme acts of violence by Muslims against Jews and Jewish targets in France.”
The local anti-Semitic incidents largely began to manifest after the year 2000, almost immediately after the beginning of the second intifada.
Before that, some Middle Eastern Muslims had already made heir intentions known. In Paris in 1982, for instance, at the Jewish-owned kosherstyle Goldenberg restaurant, six people were killed, most probably by the Arab Abu Nidal group.
The remarks of Hollande and Valls regarding “importing the conflict” implied that the two so-called French “proxies” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, namely, Muslim immigrants and French Jews, were fighting each other. This is not the case.
For the past 14 years there has only been unilateral aggression, with most violence coming from one distinct direction: Muslims. Well before the start of the Protective Edge campaign, Sammy Ghozlan, the president of the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism in France, was quoted as saying that the vast majority of physical attacks in France against Jews are committed by Muslims.
The “import” of the Middle East conflict and the ensuing increase of anti-Semitism in France had already commenced much earlier. The potential for Muslim aggression against the Jews was already present the moment France allowed millions of Muslims to immigrate, unselectively. A 2014 Anti-Defamation League study showed that Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco are among the 10 countries with the highest percentage of anti-Semites in the world. Immigrants from these countries brought their culture with them to France, and for some of them, that included their anti-Semitism. Polls confirm the disproportionately large level of anti-Semitism among French Muslims as compared to the general population.
The Jews were the first and foremost targets of the aggressors, but certainly not the only ones. By the autumn of 2005, major violent disruptions and acts of vandalism had broken out all over France. The rioters were either all Muslim or almost all Muslims. Hooligans and criminals of North and West African descent destroyed not only thousands of cars, but also large amounts of other public and private property.
These disturbances had nothing to do with either the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or with any Muslim-Arab identification with the Palestinians.
The riots were anti-French in nature, did not focus particularly on the Jews, and were a result of an immigration policy which France should have never allowed. The size of the immigrant population alone could have easily indicated to the various governments that France could not possibly integrate them into French society.
The issue of importing conflicts however, is much wider than France.
The massive immigration from Arab and Muslim countries has brought about increased and more extreme anti-Semitism in many other Western European nations. Not only is the number of anti-Semitic incidents in which Muslims are involved disproportionately larger than the percentage of those involving the local population, but the most severe of such incidents are often perpetrated by Muslims.
Another social ill imported with part of the immigrant population is the marked tension between various groups of immigrants and between immigrants and native populations within several countries. For example, in 2007 in Doetinchem, the Netherlands, all-night violence broke out between dozens of Kurds and Turks.
In July 2014, there was a pro-Islamic State demonstration in The Hague.
In October 2014, 60-70 Kurdish protesters occupied part of the Dutch Parliament in The Hague, demanding international action to defend the Syrian town of Kobane against IS fighters.
The main country of conflict nowadays, however, seems to be Germany.
Along with the support for Islamic State among some German Muslims also came protests against this terrorist group, particularly by Yazidi and Kurdish immigrant groups in Germany, who were acting in solidarity with their home communities. In August 2014 in Herford, Germany, 300 Yazidi immigrants from Syria and Iraq protested Islamic State actions against their communities. During the demonstration they were attacked by pro-IS supporters. Earlier in the day, a Yazidi restaurant owner and a 16-year old were attacked and wounded by Islamic State supporters for displaying a poster advertising the anti-Islamic State demonstration. There were also over the years conflicts in asylum centers between Christians and Muslims.
In October 2014 there were violent clashes in the German cities of Celle and Hamburg. In Celle there were also clashes between Yazidi and Chechen Muslim immigrants. In Hamburg, an initially peaceful protest by Kurdish immigrants turned violent when Salafist Muslims confronted them.
In addition, certain German extremists have joined the “imported battle.”
They demonstrate under the banner “Hooligans against Salafists.”
In the absence of Salafist demonstrations, they confront the police in the meantime. This was the case when 4,000 football fans and members of a neo-Nazi organization confronted police, causing major riots in Cologne, Germany. The authorities faced great difficulties in containing the situation.
All this, however, pales in comparison to current reactions to German immigration. A new group called Pegida, (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West”) now marches against Muslim immigration and against having public funds support immigrants in the town of Dresden.
Only a minority of the over 15,000 Pegida supporters there are neo-Nazis.
The remainder are ordinary citizens.
What can one conclude from all of this? Once again, the Jews were the first to suffer, this time from Europe’s unselective immigration policies. Yet now the negative consequences of unselective Muslim immigration have assumed completely different dimensions.
And as far as the recent French UN vote and France’s political stance are concerned, the French authorities may give futile excuses for the way they voted. The prime reason, however, is related to the massive number of unselectively imported Muslims in France. In order to please them, the current French government is supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state, and thus exporting its domestic problems to the already much-troubled Middle East.
The writer is a former director of the Jerusalem Institute for Public Affairs.