A good time to get out (National Post, March 1, 2006)

A tragic irony in the story of Ilan Halimi, the French Jew kidnapped and tortured to death two weeks ago, is that he wanted to emigrate to Israel but, according to his mother, was working to "save up money for the trip."

I needn't recap the prolonged and unspeakable torments lavished on this boy by a gang appropriately enough called the "Barbarians." The harrowing details evoking anguish in Jews everywhere are readily available in the media, including a full account by Tom Gross on these pages yesterday.

In the United States, this heinous crime would be understood as pure wickedness. If not committed to an insane asylum, the Barbarians' gang leader, Youssouf Fofana, would certainly receive the death penalty he so richly deserves. Such is the often sneered-at simplisme of a country that still honours the distinction between good and evil.

In "sophisticated" France, on the other hand, Fofana might easily have been "deconstructed" as a ramped-up version of, say, the "French youth" in Aix-en-Provence whose brooding dissatisfaction with the direction of Middle Eastern politics obliged him to carve a Star of David into a Jewish girl's arm.

However, the widely publicized Halimi torture-murder was so particularly revolting and the facts so unequivocally damning, even the French media couldn't muster the hypocrisy to spin it as a random case of "violence between two communities" or "intergroup friction," the usual mendacious tropes of moral equivalence for France's hate-inspired Muslim-on-Jew brutality (there is no Jew-on-Muslim equivalent).

On occasion, and here is one, the elephant in the room of French-enabled anti-Semitism is publicly acknowledged. So the Halimi affair will for a time make the rounds of public affairs shows, because that is something the French excel at -- talking -- perhaps involving some honest soul-searching.

France was the first European country to offer Jews full citizenship. Delighted and grateful, her Jews unfortunately mistook a consequence of rigorous post-revolution Republican logic for a symbol of genuine acceptance. And so the Jews chose France, but despite their model citizenship, France has never chosen the Jews.

During the 1895 Dreyfus Affair, it was the Right that rejected them outright, with mobs shouting "Death to the Jews." In the Nazi-era Vichy regime, it was again the Right that shipped 76,000 Jews off to the death camps. Today it is the Left, socialists, who stand shoulder to shoulder with those ranting "Death to the Jews" in Arabic. Few, then or now, have been the ethnic French to stand shoulder to shoulder with their beleaguered Jewish compatriots.

And so enough. It is time for French Jews themselves to act.

I'm not advocating a revenge murder of an innocent Muslim boy. That's not the mark of a civilized people. I am advocating what polls indicate half of France's 600,000 Jews claim to have considered doing. Go. Because there is no viable future for you there.

Ariel Sharon got it right in 2004 when he told you to leave France. From de Gaulle to Chirac, France has for too long been politically invested in pleasing the Arab world -- which means neglect of Jewish interests at home -- to disengage now.

If not for your own, leave for your children's sake. As Bruce Bawer reveals in his recent book, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, a leaked internal audit from the French Ministry of Education concludes that Muslim domination of public education in the country is widespread. In 61 monitored schools, the report indicates, anti-Semitism was "ubiquitous" and justifications of Hitler, Nazism and the Holocaust routine. A ministry official flatly declared that "Jewish children can no longer be given an education anywhere [in France]."

So go. If you stay, you'll end on a rock or a hard place. You will endure either the virtual dhimmitude of de-facto Sharia law, or the countervailing ethnic nationalism of increasingly popular xenophobes like Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Longtime Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld said, "One of the lessons of the Holocaust is that even if you want to fight against a wave of anti-Semitism, the best [thing] is to leave if you can." Don't tarry like Ilan to "save up money for the trip." Paris is burning. Sauve qui peut.

© National Post 2006