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Many French Jews Choose To Leave France Because Of Anti-Semitism


Last week's attacks began with a massacre at the editorial offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The killing ended in a kosher supermarket where the targets were members of France's large Jewish community. As we've just heard, 70 years after the Holocaust, French Jews are again feeling at risk. New Yorker Editor-in-Chief David Remnick has a new post online today, called "The Shadow Of Anti-Semitism In France." We reached him in New York to find out his thoughts on the terrible and also touching events of these last few days.

DAVID REMNICK: A couple of my identities are as a journalist and as an American-born Jew. And to watch this horror and think about the implications for free expression, what it says about the anxious state for French Jews in France is really shattering on the one hand. And then to watch the demonstration on Sunday in which not just a a million-plus people were on the streets of Paris, but millions of people all over France, including many Muslims carrying signs saying, Je suis juif - I am a Jew...


REMNICK: ...In solidarity and in absolute defiance of the so-called principles of the murderers was something thrilling. I don't want to draw any false comparisons. But look at what has happened in the United States in terms of demonstrations of people insisting that black lives matter, two generations after the civil rights movement as a necessity. And to see in France, generations after the Vichy government, after the Drancy internment camp, after all the history of anti-Semitism there - to see this resurgence on all sides - and historically, it speaks of a real crisis.

MONTAGNE: How do you think Jews in France will process this?

REMNICK: Now most of the anti-Semitic sentiment, violence and incidents tend to be coming from the suburbs of cities like Paris, from immigrants and the - generally the sons of immigrants from - some from North Africa, some from the Arabic countries - but the fact of matter is it is a problem. The French prime minister spoke very eloquently about this - in fact, said to my colleague Jeff Goldberg at The Atlantic that if the French Jews leave the country, that's the end of France. And what he means is that's the end of the principles of an open society that seems unable to protect its Jewish minority.

MONTAGNE: The New Yorker's cover this week drew a lot of attention, as it often does in situations like this. And I'll just briefly describe it. It's the Eiffel tower resting on what looks like a swirling fog of blood. And the tower is emerging from that as a pencil - a red-tipped pencil. It's quite stunning, actually. But I'm wondering - how did you arrive at this - the magazine - or was it just quick?

REMNICK: Well, it had to be quick because the event had happened when it did. We saw dozens and dozens of sketches. As you can imagine, this subject was of a particular interest to the artists out there who could readily relate to their brothers and sisters at Charlie Hebdo, whether they agreed with their particular politics or images or not. Just the issue of freedom of expression hit very, very deeply with them. But, you know, I should say that we've published any number of covers over the years that have been controversial, including, famously, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in the Oval Office with all the kind of trappings that right-wing fantasists had attributed to them, including, you know, a portrait of Osama bin Laden on the wall and them dressed as radicals or as Islamists or whatever it might be. And while I got thousands and thousands of critical emails or notes of complaint or all kinds of debate, I never felt threatened at any point. There was never an iota of that. I've never gotten anything that would've hinted at something that came the way of the staff of Charlie Hebdo.

MONTAGNE: Do you have thoughts that there ever would be after what we saw last week?

REMNICK: Well, I live day-to-day.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. David Remnick, thank you very much for joining us.

REMNICK: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: David Remnick is editor-in-chief of the New Yorker. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.