Suzanne Fields

Anti-Semitism is an ancient virus, ebbing with time but never going away. Napoleon liberated the ghettoes in the countries he conquered, but the monarchs of Europe put them back as soon as the little corporal was sent into exile.

Jews were tormented in the Middle Ages as "Christ killers," but in the 21st century Christians and Jews in the West have for the most part made peace with each other. Jews thrived in the Ottoman Empire as diplomats, doctors and writers; today the Islamists are virulently anti-Semitic. They not only want to erase Israel and the Jews from the map, but they want to revive anti-Semitism throughout the world as the means to do that.

They're making progress.

This is most dramatically perceived in France. The French suffer chronic anti-Semitism, but it's often camouflaged in mixed motives and hidden in changing circumstances. The ugly roots of the Alfred Dreyfus affair in the 1890s were seen in the murder last month of Ilan Halimi, 23, the son of Moroccan-born Jews, who was tortured and killed in Paris. Such anti-Semitism can be linked to French behavior during World War II when the Vichy government enthusiastically rounded up their Jews, including children, and turned them over to the murderous Nazis. Alfred Dreyfus died in 1935, but had he lived a few more years he would have witnessed several members of his family deported to the death camps under the command of Marshal Petain, his old comrade in arms. In 2002, vandals spray-painted the Dreyfus statue in Paris with the yellow star the Jews were forced to wear.

The French at first treated the Ilan Halimi affair as a crime, rising from a gang culture, but such obfuscation was soon exposed. "Plenty of people did know, both that Mr. Halimi was being tortured and that he was Jewish," The New York Times reported from Bagneux, the suburb of Paris where Halimi was held for three weeks. Everyone knew; no one called the police, and some neighbors even came to watch the young man suffer torment. Twenty persons participated in the abduction and subsequent e-mail and telephone negotiations with the young man's family. They read from the Koran to his parents while their son screamed in the background. His captors targeted him only because he was a Jew, so the silent bystanders were complicit in the crime. 

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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