Israelis see own woes in French unrest

During more than two weeks of unrest in France, the Israeli media has drawn comparisons to its own country’s troubles, with some commentators warning of a “global jihad” and others looking at the problems of social inequality.

Riots have shone a harsh light on class divisions in French society
Riots have shone a harsh light on class divisions in French society

An opinion article published in the English-language newspaper The Jerusalem Post quoted several Islamophobic figures who referred to French Muslims as “barbarians”.

The 7 November article, written by Caroline Glick, characterised the riots as part of a worldwide anti-Western crusade by Muslim fundamentalists.

Glick highlighted the Islamic faith of many of the rioters and suggested that the French government should learn from Israel how to “deal” with the people she calls “terrorists and the militants”.

“Israel has two reasons to care about the future of France. First, five years into this global jihad we see that while Muslim terrorists or militants in Ram Allah, Paris, Jakarta, Amsterdam, London, Tehran, Umm al-Fahm and Beslan may not speak to each other directly, they are certainly aware of one another’s actions and successes.

“And were France to fall, all of us would feel the aftershocks.”

Two major Hebrew newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv, published stories linking the riots with a supposed worldwide jihad network.

‘Israeli wisdom’

An exception to the spin was a Haaretz article titled Solidarity with Murad and Munir, by Dror Mishani, published on 7 November.

Israeli officials have declined tocomment on the French unrest

Israeli officials have declined to
comment on the French unrest

Mishani said Israeli gloaters, who were trying to lump the French riots with Israel’s ongoing confrontation with the Palestinians, would be disappointed to discover that in France there were not many buyers for “this Israeli wisdom”.

He said the French press had rejected attempts by the Israeli media to call the riots an “intifada”.

“France is dealing with the harsh events it has been experiencing in the past week with entirely different intellectual tools, and by means of a political culture that has very little in common with Israel’s,” said Mishani.

Mishani said: “This struggle is not about Muslim occupation of Europe, but about economic and social equal rights.”

Evolving coverage

The coverage of the riots in France by the three main Hebrew newspapers – Haaretz, Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth – is improving, Maariv writer Jacky Khugi told

“I think the Israeli media coverage of events in France was rhetorical and dominated by sloganeering. Now, it seems, the main newspapers are less excited and more objective.”

Khugi said the print media has begun to offer readers more informed opinions about the events in France, including articles by French Jews who presented more objective assessments of the riots and their background.

Comparison with Israeli Arabs

Another Haaretz article by senior correspondent Akiva Eldar, published on 12 November, compared France’s treatment of its Arabs with Israel’s discrimination against its own Arab minority.

Israeli-Arab women hold portraits of relatives slain in clashes in 2000

Israeli-Arab women hold portraits
of relatives slain in clashes in 2000

He said French police officers have dealt with the nights of violence and vandalism for more than two weeks without killing anyone and noted that Israeli police snipers killed 13 Israeli Arab citizens in two days of lesser violence in October 2000.

One Middle East scholar, Shimon Shamir, underscored the “marked similarity” between the youngsters who started the riots in France in October and those involved in the riots in October 2000 in Arab villages in Northern Israel, Eldar wrote.

“What characterises the behaviour of these youngsters is that unlike their parents, whose main efforts have been devoted to supporting their families, this generation is raising their heads up in anger against society that is pushing them to the margins.

“They are exempt from the inhibitions of their parents, who accepted their fate and kept their heads down,” Eldar quotes Shamir as saying.

Eldar’s story warns that sooner or later discrimination and oppression will push Israeli Arab youths to the streets to voice their grievances.

The rate of unemployment among Israeli Arabs is twice the national average.

Israeli government spokesmen have declined to comment on the riots in France.

One spokesman told “This is an internal French affair, and we don’t wish to comment on it.”

Source : Al Jazeera

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