They have a sordid history of bashing ‘The Jew’…
France keeps Blackening Israel
Relations between France and Israel have been ambivalent and complex for decades. Among the most prominent are those where the French government sets out to blacken Israel. President Emanuel Macron is seemingly a new type of Frenchman. He reached the presidency without having risen through the ranks of an existing political party. He is a suave, intelligent politician with an excellent education, an international outlook, many ideas, and good public relations.
However, analysis has to concentrate on facts and not packaging. A good point of departure is the French reactions to the recent Gaza border violence. When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met Macron in Paris in April, the French President told him that the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, “led to people dying and did not advance peace.”1 With this transparently manipulative statement Macron showed his skills in greatly distorting the truth in a few words. What provoked the violence was the terror organization Hamas’ initiative to send civilians to the border and mix terrorists among them. Among the more than 115 Gazans killed by Israel, more than half were confirmed terrorists. 2 Hamas itself confirmed that many of those killed were terrorists.3
France also supported an UN Security Council resolution which called for protective measures for Palestinians, but didn’t mention Hamas. Deputy Israeli Minister Michael Oren summarized his response in a tweet: “Shame on France for supporting it. French government cannot say it’s against anti-Semitism and vote for this anti-Semitic resolution.” French Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal accused Oren of not even reading the resolution and “insulting France.”4
There are many other examples of truth that French diplomats may find insulting. That doesn’t make them less accurate. For instance, French President François Mitterrand was a part-time antisemite. He once compared Israel to a Nazi state. He had a dubious past and had worked for the collaborating wartime Vichy government but later joined the resistance.5
During the violence in April, France urged Israel “to show restraint” and told Israel that it was “its duty to protect civilians.”6 7 Their spokesmen knew full well that Hamas had sent terrorists to mingle among the civilians and that many civilian demonstrators did not have peaceful intentions. This French behavior was in particular hypocritical because of the many deadly terrorist attacks by Arabs in their country. The most lethal took place in Paris in 2015 which resulted in 130 deaths. In 2016, 86 people were killed in Nice.
When IDF spokesman Brigadier General Ronen Manelis spoke to French parliamentarians this month, he reminded them that along with other countries, French donations have helped Hamas to build terror capabilities.8
French reactions to the Gaza violence have deep roots in history. In 2008, David Pryce-Jones published his book Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews.9 He had access to the archives of the French Foreign Ministry, better known as the Quay d’Orsay. His conclusion can be summarized as: France throughout modern history has done more damage in the Middle East than any other country.
Late in Sarkozy’s Presidency a former member of his immediate staff came to see me and said that it was extremely difficult for them to control the foreign ministry’s officials. This despite the fact that the President is in charge of foreign policy.
France’s reactions to the Gaza violence reminded me of a visit to a conference in Paris in the autumn of 1961, a few weeks after policemen had murdered an estimated 150-200 non-violent Algerian demonstrators in the capital on October 17. Some of their corpses were found in the river Seine. Historians have called it the most violent repression of a demonstration by a Western European state in contemporary history.10 After more than fifty years of government silence, then French President François Hollande finally acknowledged the killings in 2012.11
The man who had ordered the massacre was Paris Police chief, Maurice Papon. He was convicted of crimes against humanity in 1998, but not for this particular massacre. Papon was found guilty of participating in the transfer of more than 1600 Jews to concentration camps during World War II. At that time he was Secretary General of the Bordeaux police of the Vichy collaborationist government. He was given a ten year sentence but only served three years.12
The publicity over the years about this massacre was substantial. Macron and those who issued the condemnations of Israel must have been familiar with many details of these mass murders by the Paris police.
There are other aspects which should be taken into account when judging the French blackening statements of Israel. France is the most dangerous country in Europe for Jews. This is mainly due to the large immigration in the past from Muslim countries where the percentage of antisemites is among the highest in the world. Of the fifteen Jews killed for ideological reasons in Europe — of which the perpetrators, all Muslims, are known — twelve were murdered in France in six different attacks.13 The two mass attacks by violent Muslims at synagogues in the EU were both carried out in France, in Paris and Sarcelles.1415 Many other crimes with antisemitic motives have been committed by members of the Muslim community.16
As a result, Jewish leaders have no master plan for the future of their community. In absolute terms but also percentage wise, France is the European country with the largest number of emigrating Jews in the current century.
Frequently exposing the ongoing French hypocritical blackening of Israel and its double standards is unlikely to stop it, but it may make it less worthwhile for the perpetrators.
5 Pierre Péan, Une Jeunesse Française: François Mitterrand (Paris: Fayard, 1994)
9 David Pryce-Jones: Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews (NY, Encounter Books, 2006)
13 Manfred Gerstenfeld: War of a Million Cuts The Struggle Against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: JCPA, 2015) pg. 163