France has been awakened to a nightmare years in the making

With the attacks last week in Paris, France has awakened to an undeniable nightmare that has been years in the making.

The French security police performed admirably in finding and then eliminating the attackers. However, this immediate victory is hollow in the face of the great challenge facing French society that can no longer be obscured.

Apparently there are 5,000 jihadists within France or on French watch lists. Simply, there are too many of them and not enough of the security personnel and budget for adequate continual surveillance.

In addition, French laws have hindered broadly applied electronic tracking that may be necessary to monitor Internet and mobile phone interaction. The French mainstream media have been acquiescent in whitewashing the threat from Islamic jihadists within France, obsessively castigating Israeli measures against Hamas while ignoring the real threat from within the Islamic neighborhoods that have been “no go” areas for French non-Muslims for a very long time.

Anti-racist laws that have stifled dissent in France have also contributed to this atmosphere of political correctness that has fostered Islamic thugs into believing that anything goes in France as they trash cars, attack Jews, and scare non-Muslim French citizens from standing together and naming, acting, and responding clearly and courageously to the threats to freedom and civil society.

So where does this leave the French Jews?

Unfortunately, when Islamic terror strikes French Jewry, they have protested and demanded protection mostly alone, abandoned by their co-citizens due to apathy and cowardice.

Now we see the French arise in solidarity after the attack on Charlie Hebdo as an attack on France and French ethos. However, will that solidarity spirit, outrage and action extend to the continuing harassment of French Jews? We can only hope the French political, media and societal response to the existential challenge they now all face will also include all attacks and intimidation on theirJewish co-citizens.

What can we do?

Show solidarity with those in France who are ready to act against Islamic jihadism within their country and globally, while maintaining the rights of all its citizens and resisting the alluring temptress of xenophobia during times of civil crisis.

Give encouragement to those Muslim voices who not only condemn this wanton violence but are ready to go public and say this does not speak for their Islam (for example, Hisham Melhem, the Washington bureau chief of Al-Arabiya).

Do everything we can to reach out, communicate and show concern for the French Jews who are caught in a tragic maelstrom. For those of us who love the France we know, this is the hour to be heard and support the best angels of their conscience in the defense of liberty and security for all its citizens and the right of free speech, thought, and personal freedom that we share that is not given but most be vigilantly fought for.

Jeff Saperstein of Mill Valley is chair of the Bridges to Israel committee at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon. He wrote an op-ed in 2014 pointing out the crisis in France and declaring he would no longer travel to Paris (www.jweekly.com/article/full/72352).