If you’ve ever dealt with a French bureaucrat, you may agree that there is something oddly French in the repellent genius of this.
Otherwise, it’s just a vicious perversion of social media, and a surreal riff on the anti-Semitism of decades past, when brutal thugs who set out to attack Jews might not have sought first to verify their victims’ identity against a social-media reference.
The Algemeiner reports that anti-Semitic goon squads in the Paris metro area are using a Facebook page where photos of Jews are posted to verify whom they’re attacking. The group maintaining the page calls itself Jeunes Révolutionnaires Français (JRF; Young French Revolutionaries), and is clearly a Muslim group, posting bloodthirsty and conspiratorial anti-Semitic updates and “pro-Palestinian” links and images along with formulaic theological “commentary.”
According to the Algemeiner, one of the 32 Jews whose images are posted in an album at the JRF page was assaulted at his home on Thursday evening in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris:
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The assailants were armed with iron bars. …
The UEJF said three men went to the victim’s house and asked him, “Are you the guy in the photo on Facebook?”
They then said they were there to “break the Jew” and do to him “the same as Ilan Halimi,” a 23-year-old who was kidnapped and tortured for 24 days by a gang led by Youssouf Fofana, described by The Jewish Chronicle as, “the extraordinarily cruel, Paris-born fifth of seven children of immigrants from the Ivory Coast.” …
In Bobigny, after they confirmed him to be the Jew in the photo, the three men were joined by 15 more, armed with iron bars, who assaulted the victim, the UEJF said. When another resident in the building appeared, the men fled the scene.
The Algemeiner was alerted to this event by members of the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF.
On the ‘Secret Tel Aviv’ Facebook page, Daniel Cohen [of UEJF] called [JRF] anti-Semitic, and exhorted Facebook users to report the JRF page to site administrators for removal.
Cohen wrote, “An anti-Semitic page is publishing names and pictures of French Jews in order to target them physically! A few have already been attacked at their homes, one last night by 15 people on one Jewish guy. We need to remove this page!”
The JRF captioned its page with the photos of the Jews to be targeted, “Smile, you’re caught! JRF watches!” …
The photos appear to be copied from the subjects’ own social-media pages. The magic of Facebook thus saves the busy Jew-hater some shoe-leather. He doesn’t have to cruise neighborhoods looking for victims; he can use Facebook to scope his search down significantly before he even goes out the door.
One striking thing about this is that the method itself can hardly be considered illegal. It is appalling, without doubt. But I don’t think a lawmaker would consider it reasonable to demand that Facebook prohibit photo albums compiled from users’ publicly available images. The Facebook album would seem to be potential evidence, in prosecuting the attack as a crime. Pinning liability on Facebook would be harder to do, however. It’s not clear how Facebook would apply general principles to prohibit the making of such albums. The JRF punks don’t make explicit threats on the page, or otherwise commit violations of Facebook policy.
This is a diabolical conundrum, but it’s also illustrative of a great truth. Mechanistic prohibitions on methods aren’t a means of preventing the damage from man’s age-old hatreds and vices. (After all, if JRF doesn’t post its album at Facebook, it will merely post it somewhere else. Facebook is a convenience for certain types of connection, but by no means the only way to collate photos at a single web page.)
Suppressing anti-Semitism requires policy, attitudes, exhortation, activism; it is much bigger than defensive prohibitions on social media. That reality is thrown into stark relief when the prohibitions that might seem necessary are so hard to define as to be unenforceable. “Don’t collect photos that in retrospect seem to all be Jews – once there has been an instance of the photo collection being used for an evil purpose – on your Facebook page”: this isn’t an actionable rule, for either website policy or law enforcement.
The real question is not one of rule-making for Facebook but of national morality and ideals for France. Will there be a tipping point at which France realizes the necessity of preempting not the method but the perpetrator? Or will the accelerating emigration of France’s Jews simply be the harbinger of a loss of France’s Western identity altogether?