The Jew of Malta and the New Face of Antisemitism in France

By Zasloff, Tela C. | Midstream, May-June 2003 | Go to article overview

The Jew of Malta and the New Face of Antisemitism in France


Zasloff, Tela C., Midstream


Nicole Cohn is a physician living outside Paris and president of the French- and English-speaking Liberal Jewish Congregation of Paris-Yvelines. In early November 2002, some parents of the Lycee International in Saint-Germain-en-Laye--a school her three daughters had attended--came to her with a problem that stirred her profoundly. The British section of the lycee had decided to stage The Jew of Malta, a play written in 1590 by Christopher Marlowe. The play presents, as its central character, a rich Jewish merchant named Barabas, who avenges himself against the authorities who have taken his money by committing mass murder, including killing his own daughter because she became a Christian convert. At the end of the play, he is boiled in oil.

This play has been considered blatantly antisemitic since its first production over 400 years ago in Elizabethan England, whether it has been presented since then as a farcical satire on prejudice or presented, as Hitler did, as a realistic picture of all Jews. The lycee parents who approached Dr. Cohn were alarmed at the idea of performing such an inflammatory play before an audience of high school students in the present political climate in France: a growing number of violent physical attacks against Jews in the last two years by militant Arab groups (1) has occurred simultaneously with the emergence of a new kind of antisemitism based in anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian sentiment, particularly among certain leftist groups.

Dr. Cohn felt impelled to take action. In the role of president of a Jewish congregation, she led the Jewish community in voicing its objections, with such vehemence, persistence, and strategic skill that the lycee officials finally withdrew the play, in early December 2002.

There is a new journal in France, Observatoire du monde juif, written by academic researchers in political science and sociology, that explains the political context within which this Jewish community was protesting the staging of the play. These articles characterize a new kind of antisemitism that has emerged in France, with several basic elements: (2)

1) It exists worldwide and is pervading national politics on a broader scale than represented by the parties that give it voice.

2) It blurs the distinction worldwide between Jewry and the State of Israel and demonizes Jews as "Zionists" guilty of "fascism," "imperialism," "apartheid," and "genocide."

3) This ideology encourages verbal accusations and acts of violence against Jews, and, particularly in France, forges a link between Islamic radicals and the New Left ("Neo-Gauchistes"). (3)

4) This is not the traditional antisemitism of the past that was based in the individual history of each nation and in centuries of hostility by the Church. Rather, it crosses national boundaries and is fed by certain fundamentalist interpretations of Islam, disguised under the general banner of "anti-racism." (4)

5) The germ of this New Left ideology lies in French post-World War II history; it now transforms the Jews and the State of Israel from oppressed victims to totalitarian oppressors--thus putting into question the right of the State of Israel to exist, since it is labeled the equivalent of Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa. (5)

6) This New Left view also includes the accusation that both Israel and the Jewish community at large exaggerate the importance of the Shoah to maintain their own positions of power--a view that the extreme Left and the extreme Right in France have in common, partly explaining why both extremes are presently attacking the Jewish community.

7) The French media are biased against Israel. (6)

Apart from this hostile political context in which The Jew of Malta was to be performed at the lycee, there was also the classic issue of artistic and academic freedom (on the part of the lycee), versus censorship (on the part of the Jewish community.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Jew of Malta and the New Face of Antisemitism in France
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.