Ten years ago, on the one and only occasion I met Bat Ye’or, I told her that my wife’s cousin and her family of six, living in a Paris suburb with a large, increasingly hostile Muslim population, should seriously consider leaving France. Bat Ye’or strongly disagreed with me, arguing that French Jews should stay and fight.
The family did stay and it did fight — literally in the case of the teenage boys who were periodically attacked by young Muslims. As far as I can tell, they don’t regret the decision. Living in Paris has advantages, nor is it ever easy to pull up stakes.
But the question remains: do Jews have a future in France?
James Kirchick argues that they probably don’t. He quotes Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based Director of International Relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center:
The Jewish community feels itself on the edge of a seething volcano. A culture of excuse exonerates the perpetrators as ‘disaffected, alienated, frustrated, unemployed.’ No other group of frustrated unemployed has resorted to such behavior. Until politicians and media define the problem as jidahism remote-controlled from mosques in France and not only the Middle-East, the cancer will not be isolated and destroyed.
Will the events of last week provide a wake-up call to French politicians and media? Perhaps. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has declared that France is now at war with radical Islam. He has also said that if Jews flee France in large numbers, “France will no longer be France” and “the French Republic will be judged a failure.”
But even assuming that the French political class has awakened, it may have done so too late. Demographics are often destiny. Muslims are now estimated to be around 10 percent of the population of France. In many neighborhoods, they are the majority, making their integration into French culture almost impossible, quite apart from the elite’s multiculturalist doubts about the desirability of integration.
The French government can step up protection of Jewish institutions. But this won’t much help ordinary French Jews like my wife’s cousin and her family. There may simply be too many radicalized Muslims in France for Jews to be safe in their day-to-day lives.
If so, then the wake-up call comes too late, and Jews may not have a future in France.