Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 11 July 2004

Shocking anti-semitic attack in Paris

A young woman, with her baby in a pram, has been savagely attacked in a train in Paris, the motive apparently being that she might be Jewish; papers found in her purse indicated and address in the 16th arondissement and the attackers apparently said words along the lines of 'only Jews live there'. As it so happens she is not. They cut her clothes with knives and marked her stomach with swastikas, as well as cutting her hair. Nobody came to her assistance!

Jean-Paul Huchon, president of the Ile-de-France region surrounding Paris, despairing of the lack of reaction from fellow passengers and recalling the French deportation of Jewish children during German occupation in World War II, said:

"And now, we let people be attacked like this without reacting, without doing anything."

Quite.

The French are lovely people (mostly) and I enjoyed living there, but there is something in the French character, despite their pride in their country being a haven on many occasions for refugees, which is blind on certain matters - and this is one of them! In this attack, and others against Jewish people and places of worship recently, the perpetrators have been 'of north African origin', but unfortunately metropolitan French have a by-no-means unblemished record themselves in this area as the quote above indicates all too clearly. The comedian Coluche is no longer around (he was killed in a motorcycle accident years ago), and ironically he was himself an immigrant (from Italy), but his stock-in-trade jokes often centred around French xenophobic tendencies, whilst getting his audience to laugh at themselves. Despite this I don't think they have ever faced up to their own deep attitudes to race and nationality - whether it be Indo-China or Algeria.

It so happens I lived in the 16th arondissement when I was in Paris and I'm not Jewish either, but so what? The part of town where our office was (near the Opera House) had a lot of financial institutions in the area and employees who were not metropolitan French were unusual, in my experience. Our office was a notable exception - we had staff from most of the major religions and of various ethnic origins (Arab, Caribbean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc) - although it is true that our internal policy of complete indifference to such factors was not always shared by some of our French employees. I wrote only a couple of days ago about recent racist outrages in France and a speech made by President Chirac; it is all very well throwing up your hands in horror when such outrages are perpetrated, but unless the government is going to have a fundamental rethink about how it handles the problem, and how it educates all sections of the population to live in harmony (and this includes the political elite who seem to ignore this mostly), then I don't see a great likelihood of positive change. [Who am I to talk? - we have our own difficulties in Northern Ireland in religious terms and in the north of England because of racial and religious differences. So of course does the US in some cities between the various ethnic groups.]

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