Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Paris Burning

Riots in Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris, July 20, 2014. Photo from Haaretz.
Paris "inside the walls" is a peaceful and beautiful place, full of incredible historic buildings, restaurants of notable quality, museums and churches, boutiques and open-air markets, and picturesque street scenes. Central Paris is home to around 2 million people. The other 9 million or so Parisians live outside this magnificent and museum-like marvel. The Paris suburbs include many beautiful, tree-lined neighborhoods and delightful parks such as the Bois de Boulogne. But there's another part of Paris that no tourist need ever experience: the impoverished suburbs where immigrant communities live in a different world.

Many of the immigrants are Muslims, who are alienated from  the French mainstream. They suffer from high unemployment and predictable social problems. For the last two weekends, these Muslims and others have demonstrated against Israel -- and against all Jews -- engaging in antisemitic violence of a type that's all too recognizable. Demonstrators have attacked a synagogue while chanting "Jews to the ovens," looted Jewish-owned shops, and beaten individuals who were walking on the streets.

After violence the previous weekend, demonstrations were prohibited for July 20, but took place anyway. An editorial in the New York Times writes of the demonstrations: "While many protesters stayed home, some defied the ban to assert what they said was their right to demonstrate peacefully. Others came bent on violence, including some spewing virulent anti-Semitic views. In the largely immigrant neighborhood of Barbès on Saturday and on Sunday in the northern suburb of Sarcelles, demonstrations degenerated into street battles between protesters hurling stones and police firing tear gas. In Barbès, an Israeli flag was burned. In Sarcelles, a kosher market was looted, cars set on fire, shop windows smashed, a funeral home attacked."

From Haaretz:
"It is unacceptable to target synagogues or shops simply because they are managed by Jews," Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters during a visit to Sarcelles, which is also home to large non-Jewish immigrant populations. 
"Nothing can justify anti-Semitism, noting can justify that kind of violence. This will be fought and sanctioned," he said. 
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has denounced a "new form of anti-Semitism" on the Internet that he said was spreading among youth in working-class neighborhoods. Speaking as France honored some 13,000 Jews rounded up 72 years ago, most kept in a cycling stadium before being sent to Auschwitz, Valls said, "France will not allow provocations to feed ... conflicts between communities."
I've been participating in the blog event "Paris in July." It's nostalgic, artistic, literary, and beautiful -- all about Paris inside the walls, where all is peaceful. A paradise on earth. I'm posting this as a kind of balancing view of the not-so-paradisical Paris.


Tamara said...

Mae, how sobering. Thank you. It's so true that Paris in July is all about the things we love about Paris, but I do think that what makes us love Paris and all things French, is something about the Passion the French have for all aspect of culture and society. Just last night at our french class we were discussing this violence and politics occuring in Paris now. It's timely for you to post this. I appreciate your insights.

Tamara said...

Hi Mae, I may have been the only one to leave a comment here - but I have been quite moved by this Paris in July post - so much so that I have awarded you a Random Prize. Check out my Monday Menu week 5 for details...

Heidi’sbooks said...

Yes, the news is very disturbing. The slogans quite scary. Thank you for posting.

Vagabonde said...

Yes Paris is a beautiful city but it has its dark sides, just like any large cities. I am always fearful when I read posts on Paris in the US, because they speak mostly about the tourist Paris. Barbes Rochechouart is in Paris you know, I could walk there from our apartment. It is the metro stop after ours, Anvers, with the street going straight to the Sacré Coeur. It has changed a lot since I lived there, as Barbes is now where poor immigrants live. The French people are prejudiced against these North Africans, and they in turn are prejudiced against the Jewish population. I do not how long it will take for people to be free of prejudice – not in my lifetime.