Alain Gresh, French journalist specialised in the Middle East and deputy director of Le Monde diplomatique, reflects on the attacks which have shaken France and puts the country's foreign policy into perspective.
Middle East Eye (MEE): Many participants in the Paris demonstration mentioned that the atmosphere in France has been tense for years. How do you explain this impression?
Alain Gresh: There is indeed a harmful atmosphere in France, and this is not new. There is, first, an Islamophobia which has gained in intensity for several years now, and which clearly targets the Muslim communities. I think this is some form of racism, all the more worrying that it is echoed by political forces and the media. We can even qualify it as state racism, even if, of course, it is not declared as such. For the French Jewish community, it is a bit different: there is no anti-Semitism in the political, institutional, meaning of the term. No political force, even the National Front, carries an anti-Semitic discourse as it was the case in the 1930s. All the opinion polls show a clear drop of anti-Semitism in France, below 10 percent, whereas in the aftermath of the Second World War, anti-Semitism was still mainstream. That said, it is true that French Jews are afraid and are the targets of terrorist acts, as illustrated by the attack against the kosher supermarket and that against a Jewish school by Mohamed Merah in March 2012 in Toulouse.