'I Can No Longer Show My Face': Jewish Philosopher Alain Finkielkraut Laments Harassment by French Protesters

The prominent French thinker was attacked by Yellow Vest protesters in Paris last February, and says far-left critics continue to target him

French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut in his apartment in Paris, on October 12, 2007.
AFP

Alain Finkielkraut, a Jewish philosopher and one of France’s foremost thinkers, said far-left protests against him mean he “can no longer show my face” on the street.

Finkielkraut made the remark in an interview Wednesday with the Marianne newspaper about protests against him the previous day at the Sciences Po university in Paris, where he spoke at a symposium on Europe’s future. Far-left students demonstrated against his appearance there.

Amid threats of protests, organizers had announced the event’s cancellation, and then its relocation to a nearby business school.

Ultimately, however, the conference was held as planned under heavy security following what the Valeurs Actuelles website described as a confusing cat-and-mouse game between the university and protesters.

In their statement, the authors of the call to demonstrate outside Sciences Po wrote: “We cannot accept Finkielkraut’s ‘modern Europe’ and his islamophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic rhetoric.” A Sciences Po spokesperson called the group “far left.”

The organizers of the Sciences Po conference wrote that it had been canceled because “Security is our top priority and it’s preferable to take no risks.” Protesters tried to block access to IPAG and Sciences Po but were held at bay by police.

The event included other speakers, but they were not named in the letter threatening protests. Finkielkraut was verbally attacked by yellow vest protestors who called him a "Zionist” as an insult at a Paris rally last February. In 2016, he was violently ejected from another protest in Paris over labor laws.

“We may be witnessing the beginning of a phenomenon,” Finkielkraut said at the event about these incidents. Commenting on the protesters, he said “You are the fascists. You are the 1930s. You are the anti-Semites.”

A best-selling author, Finkielkraut entered the pantheon of French academia in 2016 when he was admitted into the Academie Francaise, a council of 40 greats elected for life.

A Zionist supporter of Israel, he is a member of the dovish J Call group styled after the J Street lobby in the United States.