When Melissa Harris-Perry’s producers invited J.J. Goldberg on to speak about the Jewish community in France, they were probably expecting textbook politically correct responses from the editor at large of America’s largest left-wing Jewish newspaper, the Forward. Which is why it’s so funny to watch Harris-Perry attempt not to balk at Goldberg’s frank candor on the radical Islamist roots of anti-Semitism in France. “The anti-Semitism problem in France is not primarily a problem of anti-Semitism from French Muslims,” she rushes to clarify at 2:32. “There is a problem of anti-Semitism there, but it is not primarily a problem of Muslim versus Jewish populations there, but rather a question of — sort of — French citizens in the broadest sense.”
“Um, I don’t think so,” Goldberg begins before detailing in brief France’s dance with anti-Semitism over the past century, noting that the incidents happening now are “happening from the Muslim community.” He then rattles off a series of French leaders who are Jewish and have established bonds with the Israeli Jewish community. “The integration of Jews into France and the acceptance of Jews in France is very, very thorough,” he explains. He ends his segment by noting that 70% of Jews in France today have come from Sephardic countries of origin where they have experienced “tension with their Arab neighbors”.
Harris-Perry attempts to interrupt his scholarly explanation twice before giving in and going to the commercial break.
In a blog entry at the Forward‘s website, Goldberg explains that his was “…5-minute segment in the course of a two-hour panel discussion (which I was not part of) on the attacks, terrorism in France, free expression and the place of the French Muslim community.” One has to wonder why he was not invited to attend the entire discussion. Commenting on Harris-Perry’s attempt to universalize anti-Semitism as a French problem at large, he writes, “I’m afraid I let her down. I cited Ilan Halimi, the school in Toulouse, the Jewish Museum in Brussels (attackd by a French Muslim), the mob attack on the synagogue in Paris last summer — all perpetrated by Muslims.” He goes on to explain:
My explanation of the anti-Jewish outbursts by French Muslims focused on radicals wanting to participate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and picking on their French Jewish neighbors as surrogate Israelis. Even though that’s the general operating assumption of Israeli intelligence agencies, I think it was incomplete as an overall explanation. I was intending to expand on it and talk about the increasing presence of pure, old-fashioned Jew-hatred in various strains of radical Islamism, especially since the 1998 merger of Al Qaeda with Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad. But the segment ended sort of abruptly and I was told I was done, so I never had the chance finish the answer.
Promising more thorough commentary that he could not include in his segment, Goldberg ends by referring readers to progressive George Packer’s assessment of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in the New Yorker. “He makes the case for looking squarely at the ideology of radical Islamism and ‘the astonishing surge in Islamist killing around the world’ rather than trying to ‘tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith.’ …It’s well worth reading in full.”