The “Yellow Vest” protesters first appeared on French streets on November 17. They were reacting in fury to the hike in fuel taxes announced by President Macron, but even when Macron quickly backed down on that tax hike, the movement metamorphosed into a generalized protest against economic and social inequality. The “Gilets Jaunes” continued to show up on weekends, though in diminishing numbers, but with continued widespread public support — 72% of those polled said they agreed with the “Gilets Jaunes” protests, even if they did not themselves take part. Eventually the “Gilets Jaunes” movement made public in Le Journal du Dimanche a list of 40 long-term demands they were planning on presenting to the government, including changes on housing, taxes, health, education, and public finances. They wanted better pensions, lower housing costs, no more increases in taxes on gas and electricity, higher taxes on the rich, a jobs program, and transparency — no more surprises like the fuel tax hike — as to tax policy.
Like many people, I wondered if there was a Muslim component to the “Yellow Vest” protests. Were Muslims showing up to demand changes in French foreign policy, or to vent their anger at Israel or “the Jews,” or simply to engage, with impunity, in vandalism and theft from the luxury stores the “Gilets Jaunes” singled out for damage in their protests? For the first month of the “Gilets Jaunes” protests, it seemed that Muslims were sitting this protest out. But then, prominent among the protesters, there appeared, in person and online, a number of well-known antisemites. The most famous one is the “comedian” and antisemite M’bala M’bala Dieudonne, who started to appear at rallies, giving his famous “quenelle” — a straight-arm salute, deliberately evoking the Nazi salute, but sideways. And Dieudonne, like other antisemites (the musician Stephane Blet, the writer Alain Soral) called Macron “a puppet manipulated by those who control him,” especially “the bankers” — a clear reference to Jews, for Macron had worked for the Rothschild bank before entering politics. In one video linked to the “Gilets Jaunes” protests, “Crysalide,” seen by hundreds of thousands of people, there is mention of a “Zionist conspiracy”; in another, the musician Stephane Blet says he “f**ks the Bnei Brit and all of the sectarian and tribal mafia [the Jews] who constantly try to insult the French people.” By now it is clear that many of those protesting against Macron have attributed France’s economic ills not to him, but to those supposedly behind him — that is, the Jews, the Jewish bankers, as always in these dark fables, rich and all-powerful.
Words are followed by deeds, and the French police have opened an investigation into allegations that an elderly Jewish woman was subjected to antisemitic invective while traveling on the Paris Metro after she approached three supporters of the “yellow vests” social protest movement with a request to stop their abusive antisemitic chants and gestures.
Three men, wearing the yellow vests, were loudly calling for Macron’s resignation, and making the “quenelle,” an inverted Nazi clue which signifies support for antisemitism, when the 74-year-old lady, Agnes, stood up from her seat, went over to them, told them that she was Jewish, that her father had been in Auschwitz, and that they had to stop making the antisemitic “quenelle” salute. They yelled at her. No one in the subway stood up to support her. She went back to her seat, uncowed, but without having managed to change their behavior.
France’s interior minister, Christophe Castaner, described the incident as “vile and unbearable,” and promised that “everything will be done to identify these individuals.”
“They must answer for their abject acts,” Castaner wrote on Twitter as reports of the incident emerged.
A small incident, but a telling one: these particular “Gilets Jaunes” have been influenced by the free-floating antisemitism that seems to have taken over a significant part of the movement, spewing out their casual hatred in a subway car. And a single elderly Jewish lady objects to them, all by herself (an act of bravery), but no one comes to her defense (many acts of pusillanimity).
By now it is clear that antisemites in France, who unsurprisingly are so often defenders of Islam, if not Muslims themselves, have taken the “Gilets Jaunes” movement in a different direction from what it was at the beginning. What began as fury over a fuel tax hike became a more general protest at economic and social conditions, and then, very quickly, antisemites saw their chance to blame the Jewish “puppet-masters” of Macron for his supposed favoring of the rich. The “Gilets Jaunes” who now show up with antisemitic and anti-Zionist signs at demonstrations, along with similar posts of such signs by the “yellow vests” on social media, and the YouTube appearances by the antisemitic likes of Dieudonne, Blet, and Soral, are frightening. The ease with which antisemitic elements managed to infiltrate the movement and turn it into a vehicle for Jew-hatred should surely give one pause. And hasn’t the ground for this antisemitism exhibited by the “progressive” left (not only in France — cf. the antisemitic and anti-Zionist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K.) been prepared by the most influential current carriers of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in France, and in Europe, that is, the Muslim population? The Muslims don’t themselves have to show up to protest against the supposed Jewish puppet-masters of Macron; they can let the real puppets, their puppets, such creatures as Dieudonne, Blet, Soral, do it for them.
“These fanatics are messing up this popular movement,” Cauchy said. “We reject all racial discrimination, xenophobia, antisemitism.”
Apparently not everyone wearing those “gilets jaunes” agrees.
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