Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds The yellow vests movement, started in November 2018 in France. It started, first, as a revolt against the price of fuel going up, against speed limitation on secondary streets, roads, it started like that, when the yellow vest is what car drivers wear when there is a problem with their car. But it’s fluorescent so it was something that showed clearly. And they started occupying the roundabouts and discussing and contesting the policies of Emmanuel Macron, and suddenly the movement became a proliferating, huge movement very heterogeneous. But from fuel price and speed limitation it went to wages, salaries, social injustice, economic insecurity, and it turned into an anti-elite and anti-Macron movement,
Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds the main claim being: “out with Macron!”, the president, and asking for direct democracy against the elites, feeling not represented; asking for citizen initiative referenda. It was not organized according to the traditional divide between left and right. In those demos that I attended, I saw many people with no political affiliation, and many people who did not even vote.
Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds What they wanted to say is: “We are not happy, because we cannot make ends meet at the end of the month. We are working “people and our income is diminishing, and we want to have more social policies.”
Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds But very soon, as tens of thousands of citizens demonstrated every Saturday,
Skip to 2 minutes and 3 seconds the extremes, both the extreme left and the extreme right said: “wow, so many “people on the streets each and every Saturday, we should try to go to them, speak to them, and spread our propaganda.” So very quickly the extreme right became interested, because some people in the demos were
Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds basically of the kind: “we are betrayed by the elite.” So what we small
Skip to 2 minutes and 39 seconds extreme right fringe movement told them is: “Okay you are betrayed by the elites, but “we will explain to you why and how.” And they try to sell this kind of conspiracy theories about “the Rothschild”, because president Macron has worked, in fact, for I think, three years for the Rothschild bank. So he is a tool of “the Rothschild”, he’s a puppet of big money, big international money, and this is the explanation for everything that goes wrong in your everyday lives. And it was quite successful. It was only a fringe segment of the of those demonstrating, but they made much noise, and much harm.
Skip to 3 minutes and 22 seconds And then came the extreme left, and basically what they told the demonstrators was of the same kind - big money versus the small people. There were posters and cartoons, showing Macron like in the thirties, the cartoons of the thirties - the capitalist banker with the cigar and and the top hat, so it very insidiously can move to antisemitic cartoons. There were very unpalatable things said in the demonstrations and also there is that humorist, antisemitic humorist, Dieudonné, and he has created a gesture, which is a gesture opposing elites, but more specifically antisemitic. which is called “the Quenelle”, and which looks like a Nazi salute, but in reverse.
Skip to 4 minutes and 17 seconds That gesture of “the Quenelle” was done in some of their demonstrations, that means that the yellow vests, they are such a large, heterogeneous movement, you cannot say they are an antisemitic movement, but these demonstrations let the possibility for antisemitic comments to surge, and they are, not manipulated, but they are used, these demonstrations, by ultra-right and ultra-left groups, but the ultra-left groups would be more critical of Israel, and anti-Zionist, and the extreme right groups clearly using the “good old” anti-Jewish stereotypes associating Jews to money, power and influence.
The Yellow Vests Movement
Prof. Nonna Mayer, Mr. Jean-Yves Camus
This week’s lesson examined the way antisemitism is expressed in both the Far-right and Far-left. In this video we will explore a movement in the fringes of which both of these spheres can be found – the Yellow Vests Movement in France.
How and why is antisemitism expressed in the fringes of the Yellow Vests Movement and what can it teach us about the phenomenon of antisemitism?
Camus, Jean-Yves, “Quelle place pour l’extrême droite chez les gilets jaunes?” (8 January 2019), Liberation.
Camus, Jean-Yves and Nicolas Lebourg, Far-Right Politics in Europe (Cambridge MA: Harvard Universtiy Press, 2017)
Fessard, Louise, “Nonna Mayer: «Le mouvement des gilets jaunes n’est pas antisémite en soi, mais facilement instrumentalisé par des extrémistes»” (19 February 2019), Mediapart.
Gilets jaunes: des clés pour comprendre (Paris: Éditions Syllepse, 2018-2019)
“Gilets jaunes”: hypothèses sur un mouvement (Paris: La Découverte, 2019).
Le fond de l’air est jaune: comprendre une révolte inédite, textes réunis et présentés par Joseph Confavreux (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2019)
Mayer, Nonna, Sociologie des comportements politiques (Paris: Armand Colin, 2010)
Williamson, Lucy, “Gilets jaunes: How much anti-Semitism is beneath the yellow vests?” (19 February 2019), BBC News.
© Yad Vashem