On Saturday, journalist Zvika Klein released a video of himself walking through Paris for 10 hours, wearing a yarmulke (also called a "kippa") and tzitzit (traditional knotted fringes worn by some observant jews). Inspired by Shoshana Roberts and Rob Bliss' viral catcalling video, Klein set out to reveal what it's like to be openly Jewish in contemporary France.
"Jew," one man barks at him. "Viva Palestine!" a woman shouts, turning toward him. A few people spit in Klein's direction as he passes. It's an ugly, alarming scene. Writing of the experience on Israeli news site NRG, Klein claims he was assigned a bodyguard by the publication in light of January's terror attacks. After they were threatened by two young men in a Muslim neighborhood, the guard insisted they leave, claiming, "A few more minutes and this would have been a lynching."
France has struggled with anti-Semitism for centuries, though it has the largest Jewish population of any European nation. In recent years, anti-Jewish sentiments and attacks have become even more visible, and the Anti-Defamation League estimates that 37% of French citizens harbor anti-Semitic views.
While many of these violent attacks make international headlines, Klein's video exposes a kind of casual prejudice endemic to the city. "Hey, you, with the kippa," one man demanded. "What are you doing here?"
Klein notes that he didn't get openly harassed in the city's major tourist areas, nor in its predominantly Jewish neighborhoods. But, when he ventured to the outskirts and largely Muslim neighborhoods, passersby began to shout and threaten him. That's not to say that only French Muslims are anti-Semitic, but reveals how how divided a city can be.
Because, of course, the prejudice there isn't slung solely at its Jewish citizens. With this piece, Klein has unintentionally exposed another serious prejudice. The comments beneath his story on NRG are flooded with anti-Muslim hate speech. One says, "Muslims have ruined Paris. How can the native French stomach them?"
Five teenagers were arrested in northern France yesterday, after desecrating more than 200 graves in a Jewish cemetery, knocking over headstones and vandalizing others with swastikas. President Hollande addressed the country this morning after visiting the site. Reflecting on the January terror attacks, he noted that anti-Semitic crimes doubled in 2014, and there have been more attacks on Muslims in the last month than there were in the entire previous year.
"How do we understand the unnamable, the unjustifiable, the unbearable?" he asked. "This is the expression of the evils eating away at the Republic."