Robert Zaretsky: Hollande Faces Challenge of Winning Over Jews
Robert Zaretsky is a professor of history at the Honors College at the University of Houston. The author of “Albert Camus: Elements of a Life” (Cornell University Press, 2010), he most recently contributed to “The Occupy Handbook” (Little, Brown & Company).
“I’m not criticizing, but simply making an observation” — “Je ne critique pas, je constate” — is a favorite rhetorical dagger of the French. It was unsheathed on Monday when CRIF, the Council of Representative Jewish Institutions in France, acknowledged Francois Hollande’s victory over Nicolas Sarkozy in a press release. Under the (awkward) title, “In congratulating Francois Hollande, CRIF Takes Note of His ‘Horror of Anti-Semitism and Racism,’” Richard Prasquier, the organization’s president, assured the Socialist president-elect of his organization’s determination “to combat all forms of extremism and populism.”
The message seems matter-of-fact, as “normal” as Hollande famously portrayed himself during the campaign. After all, there is nothing more natural than to be horrified by anti-Semitism, nothing more normal than being devoted to challenging all forms of extremism and populism....
...We do not know the distribution of Jewish votes in France. Most observers nevertheless believe that a majority voted for Sarkozy, just as they did in 2007. This is hardly surprising: Ever since 1981, when French Jews voted overwhelmingly for François Mitterrand, they have moved steadily to the right. With the impact of the second intifada on French politics, a rash of anti-Semitic crimes and the growing prominence of the culturally conservative Sephardic community, this shift has simply grown more pronounced. Just as the Republican Party holds greater credibility among American voters when it comes to issues of security, Sarkozy had persuaded many French Jewish voters that his party alone would guarantee their safety and well-being....
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