It feels like a bad dream. Last week, while hundreds of Jews prayed in two synagogues In Paris, rioters surrounded the buildings and trapped them inside.

paris 2

It took the arrival of battalions of French police to secure a safe exit. The story triggered my heart and mind. See, while I have never experienced overt antisemitism, I have studied it.

My focus in college was modern European history. One of its defining moments was the so-called “Dreyfus Affair,” in which the highly-decorated Jewish French Colonel Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason.

The accusation was accompanied by riots in Paris in which thousands yelled “Death to the Jews.” Colonel Dreyfus was publicly stripped of his rank. He was lampooned in the newspapers. And Jews around the world woke up to the fact that vicious antisemitism was alive and well in Paris.

100 Years Later 

Defying all logic, the echoes of the Dreyfus affair resound today.  On July 14, Bastille Day, more than 7000 rioters surrounded several Paris synagogues. They shouted “Death to the Jews,” “Murderous Israel,” and “One Jew Some Jews All Jews are Terrorists.”

People inside the synagogue were trapped. They had to wait several hours for dozens of French police reinforcements before they could safely leave.

Even if we are not French and not Jewish, we should be deeply concerned. Hatred anywhere threatens decency everywhere.

How Do I Know? 

1. Jews are often the miner’s canary of the Western world: The miner’s canarycanary is the bird brought with miners to test the toxicity of surrounding gases. If the canary died, the miners would avoid that particular area.

In France the tarring and feathering of Colonel Dreyfus foreshadowed the hatred that would rise throughout the twentieth century. He was the miner’s canary of the hatred that would sweep across Europe.

Consider Nazi Germany: Jews were the first target of genocide. They were not the last. In the Middle East Jews were the first target of fanatical Islam. Others have joined them.

The rioters in France today and their supporters threaten not only Jews. They threaten anyone who cares about tolerance, decency and democracy.

2. It does not take long for a lie to appear as truth: It took Colonel Dreyfus’s accusers a few days to convince thousands of Parisians of the guilt of a totally innocent man. Lies about others can spread quickly.

We see this truth among the rioters in Paris. The underlying lie of the rioters is that Israel is a “murderous” “terrorist” state.

People are entitled to their own opinions. They are not entitled to their own facts.

In neighboring Syria the government has killed over 100,000 of its own citizens. In Israel the army has taken every step to avoid civilian deaths in its response to its neighbors shooting rockets into its major cities. Which one would you call “murderous?”

The present conflict in Israel is a complex and tragic one. I have written about it here. But facts don’t lie.

[callout]The rioters in France today and their supporters threaten not only Jews. They threaten anyone who cares about tolerance, decency and democracy.[/callout]

3. Without honesty peace is impossible: It was not until 1906 that Colonel Dreyfus was officially exonerated by a French military commission. He was readmitted to the army and served with distinction in the First World War.

Until we speak honestly and avoid the hateful rhetoric, peace in the Middle East seems unlikely. A country under siege is not eager to make sacrifices for peace.

Consequently, those who seek a Palestinian state should be the ones supporting Israel in its quest for secure borders.

The world has progressed much since World War II. The change in the relationship between Jews and Christians has been nothing sort of revolutionary.

Yet, in some parts of the world, hatred remains a potent force. The Jewish people are often its first victims. They are never the last.

Rabbi Evan

I show the way Jewish wisdom make our lives richer and happier. In particular, I help Jews appreciate their heritage and Christians uncover the Jewish roots of their faith. Get my FREE Jewish holidays cheat sheet by clicking here.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments