Yarmulke, Yankees Cap

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Troubling news from France, one of the only countries in Europe with a large Jewish population:

The Chief Rabbi of France, Rabbi Joseph Sitruk, called on that country's Jewish community to wear baseball caps instead of skullcaps while not in their homes, in order "to prevent being attacked in the street." Daily newspaper Le Parisien reported in its Wednesday edition that Sitruk made the comments Tuesday in an interview on Radio Shalom, a Jewish community radio station. [?]

"I do not want young people traveling alone on trains or the Metro to become easy targets for attackers," he said. "Covering one's head is an important religious dictate, which should not be overlooked. On the contrary, today, more than ever, the Jewish community cannot shut itself off in a ghetto; it should be open, at ease and safe."

Link via Andrew Sullivan.

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  1. jb, i’ve little doubt that you’re being honest when you say that your wife traveling the metro is unthreatened — after all, anti-semitism isn’t french state policy.

    however, things are different in france and much of europe on this subject than the us, and that shouldn’t be denied either. the american jews i work with are more or less afraid of france, having been there and knowing people there. their experiences must be different from yours and your wife’s somehow — perhaps more of it taking place outside of paris?

    and it doesn’t take much analysis to see that the muslim population of france is much higher as a proportion than in america, and much more active in its anti-israeli voice — a voice that has a popular sympathy in france which is does not in america. while having a political system in which all voices are permitted is inherently positive, imo, it is also true that le pen could never have run for office in the states.

    so, is it as bad as this warning might make it seem? no, i’m sure. but that’s not to say there is no issue here.

  2. Getting back to the topic at hand, how popular are baseball caps in France? As far as I know, the sport isn’t played to any significant extent in that country; are baseball caps so ubiquitous in Europe that French Jews won’t be as easily identified wearing them as they would wearing a yarmulke?

  3. “it is also true that le pen could never have run for office in the states.”
    David Duke(?) Pat Buchanan (?)

    Put LM LePen’s comments in the hot button, dogmatic language and culture on this side of the Atlantic, and you’ve got your LePen here. Tom Delay. Al Sharpton. Rep. Rangle. Those hatemongers do the same thing. They’re involved in public discourse. Whazizname from W. Virginia, the Klan guy, Byrd. Letsee. That’s three Democrats, too. Louis Farakhan. HRC (she claims to be a Yankees Fan that has to be bad, from the POV of a Met fan especially), Didn’t Jesse Jackson reference New York with an AntiSemitic comment a few years back “Hymietown” or something like that?

    Evil politicans grab power or try to grab power here too. This is unfortunate. One thing that hasn’t happened, is that we do not have politicans campaigning on anti Islam platforms. All we have to do is get rid of those others who campaign on messages of hate, now. Remember how everybody was outraged when Pat Robertson equated Sept.11 with divine punishment? That is a good sign. Maybe having this issue be in the public eye in France will ultimately be good there also.
    -Tom

  4. Hmm, alright, as long as we are going to slam France and all Frenchmen for anti-semitism, let’s set the record straight.

    (1) Anti-semtic violence has dropped by 2/3rds in the past year; partly due to the robust efforts of our interior minister’s to crack down on such hate crimes (~600 incidents up to this point in 2002 – most of them property damage; and ~200 incidents up to this year, again, mostly property damage – keep in mind, that France has sixty-million people in it).

    (2) Several Jewish leaders in France have called the media attention given to anti-semtism in France overblown.

  5. Merv:

    I understand that, as a French citizen, you would find this to be unpleasant. However, France not only has a large Jewish population, it also has a large Muslin population, and, according to this article, that is where the violence is coming from.

  6. Merv, Jews may be tolerant but they’re not stupid. It’s not just the on-the-street hatred of Jews that’s much more obvious in France than America, but also the willingness of its government to look the other way with some pretty ugly Jew-haters (Hezbollah comes to mind).

  7. A muslin population? Ha! Sheet-wearing vigilantes.. hrm.

  8. The next step will be demands that French taxpayers start sending Israel a billion or two every year, to atone for all that anti-semitism.

  9. Joe,

    Actually, I’ve no issues with criticism of France, or of a discussion of anti-semitism in France. I do have a problem with this notion that France has some sort of “special” problem with anti-semitism.

    Anonymous,

    *yawn*

    First of all, the comment about French streets is a lie; my wife is Jewish, and somehow she survives the Paris metro. And when violence does occur, the French authorities do not look the other way. BTW, given America’s support of such nations as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both of which support groups which are avowed enemies of Israel, I wouldn’t be throwing stones at France.

    It should be noted that the Rabbi’s comments were set off by the burning of a synagogue in Paris, not an attack on a person in a Metro station, etc. As far as I know, the only person attacked was some months ago, and it was in Lyon, not Paris. The beur youths who attacked the man were arrested; I don’t know if they’ve been to trial as of yet.

    This from a Jewish community leader in France:

    http://www.forward.com/issues/2003/03.08.01/news9.html

    Increase in hate crimes in US against Jews:

    http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=8638

  10. And BTW, it wasn’t in France that a bomb killed a number of Jewish people, it was Turkey.

    In Denmark, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, etc., as well as the US, there has been a significant rise in anti-semitism; trying to paint France as some rogue state on this matter is untruthful and not very helpful either.

    David Tomlin,

    If you are trying to make light of Swiss efforts to compensate Jewish famalies, then I would say what you have said is in poor taste.

  11. BTW, France has a population of around ~600,000 people of the Jewish faith or of Jewish heritage. There are no accurate figures on the actual number of people of a religious faith, “race,” etc. in France because the government does not keep such statistics and hasn’t since the end of the Vichy regime.

  12. Looks like “overblown”, (“overreported”, “hyped”, whatever) is merely a matter of perspective.

    Even the Russian pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th Century pale beside the Holocaust; to say nothing of some 200 or 600 incidents of mostly property damage and occasional violence.

    But when you get beaten up in the Metro, or when somebody is tagging your window with a swastika, you probably might find little comfort in this historical comparison, and you will raise hell as loud as you can, overblown or not overblown.

  13. Merovingian

    I don’t care what you think about my taste.

    I said nothing about payments to families.

    Israel has for years been the number one recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Israelis have argued that the Spanish government should pay reparations to the government of Israel for anti-Jewish acts by the Spanish monarchy in the sixteenth century. This the sort of thing I had in mind.

  14. I hope this was a translation problem. It seems to me that Jews in France would be better served if they went out in public with baseball bats, not baseball caps.

    Touched a nerve, eh, Mero? Understandable, given that whole Vichy thing, and hundreds of thousands of French Jews willingly handed over to your buddies the Germans for extermination?

  15. As Shakespeare put it, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Only in this case, it’s a Frenchman not a lady (no further comment).

    It’s obvious that anti-Semitism is more of a problem in France than in other European countries, not to mention the US. The sort of routine arson, etc., reported from Frankland is enough to trouble anyone but the French.

    But of course, M. Bart’s wife is Jewish, and she’s fine, so there’s no problem. All of these Jews complaining are just grumblers. What’s a few schools or temples here and there? (*sarcasm*)

  16. Funny how someone always has to bring up anti-semitism in these comments! The evil neocons have taken over Welchies brain 😉

    Anyhoo…
    Typical “logic” from Jean Bart the Stereotypical Frenchman:

    The ADL says the US has some anti-semititism, so therefor France doesn’t have problems with anti-semitism.

  17. New and improved France, now with 67% less anti-semitism!

  18. I’ve been to France, and to me the only people it seemed the French really wanted to smack around were the British.

  19. who let the ny post out?
    whoot whoot!

  20. happy friday, all!

    Jean Bart is absolutely correct about the rising trend of anti-semitism in denmark. yesterday’s berlingske tidende had an article about it stating that there’s been an increase in attacks, threats, harassments, etc. (original link: berlingske.dk/indland/artikel:aid=379042)

    what makes it all the more troubling in denmark is 1) their WWII history where they made a difference 2) their holier-than-thou attitude about “tolerance” and “open-mindedness” etc. instead of turning the schadenfreude towards france, the danes need a dose of sweeping in front of their own front door first!!

    And Jean Bart – regardless of what you find about antisemitism in america, the fact that this kinda stuff happens in the western world sucks, wherever it happens (howz that for the “duh” statement?). when people are warned against wearing a burqua or a yarmulka (didn’t know it was spelled that way) or, hell, a packers hat (booo), it’s troubling. When it’s systematic to the point that there’s official warnings, you know there’s a serious problem.

    We can think of other examples in other countries and other cities, but that doesn’t take away the local responsibility for fixing the mess. (my favorite chicago example is cabrini green – look at the governmental, social, and other mechanisms that created and perpetuated that hell-on-earth)

    cheers,
    drf

  21. Kind of like wandering around Atlanta wearing a shirt with a confederate flag on it. Likely to get stabbed by someone with gold teef doing that.

  22. not to mention applauded by nitwits!

  23. Ah, lay off on Merv. He’s finally got a subject he actually knows something about.

  24. Merov,

    You wrote:

    “as long as we are going to slam France and all Frenchmen for anti-semitism, let’s set the record straight.”

    You might note that the extent of my post’s judgmental commentary was “Troubling news from France.”

  25. anti-semitism

    This word is fast becoming like “homophobia” and “racist”.

  26. Except, rst, that we have whole societies that are proud to openly hate Jews and even get offended when their crackpot theories are criticized. Let’s never forget that while “homophobia” and “racist” were words created to describe something negative, “anti-Semitism” was created by someone who thought it was a good thing.

  27. My father-in-law wears a beret over his yarmulke when he goes out. He lives in north Atlanta, though.

    I have no idea what I meant by that second sentence.

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  30. David Duke is a malignant narcissist.

    He invents and then projects a false, fictitious, self for the world to fear, or to admire. He maintains a tenuous grasp on reality to start with and the trappings of power further exacerbate this. Real life authority and David Duke’s predilection to surround him with obsequious sycophants support David Duke’s grandiose self-delusions and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience.

    David Duke’s personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism and disagreement. Most narcissists are paranoid and suffer from ideas of reference (the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not). Thus, narcissists often regard themselves as “victims of persecution”.

    Duke fosters and encourages a personality cult with all the hallmarks of an institutional religion: priesthood, rites, rituals, temples, worship, catechism, and mythology. The leader is this religion’s ascetic saint. He monastically denies himself earthly pleasures (or so he claims) in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling.
    Duke is a monstrously inverted Jesus, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that his people – or humanity at large – should benefit. By surpassing and suppressing his humanity, Duke became a distorted version of Nietzsche’s “superman”.

    But being a-human or super-human also means being a-sexual and a-moral.

    In this restricted sense, narcissistic leaders are post-modernist and moral relativists. They project to the masses an androgynous figure and enhance it by engendering the adoration of nudity and all things “natural” – or by strongly repressing these feelings. But what they refer to, as “nature” is not natural at all.

    Duke invariably proffers an aesthetic of decadence and evil carefully orchestrated and artificial – though it is not perceived this way by him or by his followers. Narcissistic leadership is about reproduced copies, not about originals. It is about the manipulation of symbols – not about veritable atavism or true conservatism.

    In short: narcissistic leadership is about theatre, not about life. To enjoy the spectacle (and be subsumed by it), the leader demands the suspension of judgment, depersonalization, and de-realization. Catharsis is tantamount, in this narcissistic dramaturgy, to self-annulment.

    Narcissism is nihilistic not only operationally, or ideologically. Its very language and narratives are nihilistic. Narcissism is conspicuous nihilism – and the cult’s leader serves as a role model, annihilating the Man, only to re-appear as a pre-ordained and irresistible force of nature.

    Narcissistic leadership often poses as a rebellion against the “old ways” – against the hegemonic culture, the upper classes, the established religions, the superpowers, the corrupt order. Narcissistic movements are puerile, a reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon David Duke like (and rather psychopathic) toddler nation-state, or group, or upon the leader.

    Minorities or “others” – often arbitrarily selected – constitute a perfect, easily identifiable, embodiment of all that is “wrong”. They are accused of being old, they are eerily disembodied, they are cosmopolitan, they are part of the establishment, they are “decadent”, they are hated on religious and socio-economic grounds, or because of their race, sexual orientation, origin … They are different, they are narcissistic (feel and act as morally superior), they are everywhere, they are defenseless, they are credulous, they are adaptable (and thus can be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They are the perfect hate figure. Narcissists thrive on hatred and pathological envy.

    This is precisely the source of the fascination with Hitler, diagnosed by Erich Fromm – together with Stalin – as a malignant narcissist. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his conscious. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies, and wishes. He provides us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates, and what it was like before we invented civilization. Hitler forced us all through a time warp and many did not emerge. He was not the devil. He was one of us. He was what Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. Just an ordinary, mentally disturbed, failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation, who lived through disturbed and failing times. He was the perfect mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of our souls.

    Duke prefers the sparkle and glamour of well-orchestrated illusions to the tedium and method of real accomplishments. His reign is all smoke and mirrors, devoid of substances, consisting of mere appearances and mass delusions. In the aftermath of his regime – Duke having died, been deposed, or voted out of office – it all unravels. The tireless and constant prestidigitation ceases and the entire edifice crumbles. What looked like an economic miracle turns out to have been a fraud-laced bubble. Loosely held empires disintegrate. Laboriously assembled business conglomerates go to pieces. “Earth shattering” and “revolutionary” scientific discoveries and theories are discredited. Social experiments end in mayhem.

    It is important to understand that the use of violence must be ego-syntonic. It must accord with the self-image of David Duke. It must abet and sustain his grandiose fantasies and feed his sense of entitlement. It must conform David Duke like narrative. Thus, David Duke who regards himself as the benefactor of the poor, a member of the common folk, the representative of the disenfranchised, the champion of the dispossessed against the corrupt elite – is highly unlikely to use violence at first. The pacific mask crumbles when David Duke has become convinced that the very people he purported to speak for, his constituency, his grassroots fans, and the prime sources of his narcissistic supply – have turned against him. At first, in a desperate effort to maintain the fiction underlying his chaotic personality, David Duke strives to explain away the sudden reversal of sentiment. “The people are being duped by (the media, big industry, the military, the elite, etc.)”, “they don’t really know what they are doing”, “following a rude awakening, they will revert to form”, etc. When these flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail, David Duke becomes injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression. The pent-up frustration and hurt translate into devaluation. That which was previously idealized – is now discarded with contempt and hatred. This primitive defense mechanism is called “splitting”.

    To David Duke, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object. Duke is likely to justify the butchering of his own people by claiming that they intended to kill him, undo the revolution, devastate the economy, or the country, etc. The “small people”, the “rank and file”, and the “loyal soldiers” of David Duke – his flock, his nation, and his employees – they pay the price. The disillusionment and disenchantment are agonizing. The process of reconstruction, of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the trauma of having been deceived, exploited and manipulated – is drawn-out. It is difficult to trust again, to have faith, to love, to be led, to collaborate.

    Feelings of shame and guilt engulf the erstwhile followers of David Duke. This is his sole legacy: a massive post-traumatic stress disorder.

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