Ariel Sharon vs. France

Tuesday, July 20th, 2004

“Did the Israeli prime minister expect such a barrage [of criticism]? Did he even desire it?” Those were the questions posed by reporter Eric Favereau leading off coverage in the French left-of-center newspaper Libération yesterday of remarks by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday, in which he called upon French Jews to move “immediately” to Israel to escape “unfettered anti-semitism” which is allegedly spreading in that country. (The lead article is [French foreign minister Michel] Barnier Harshly Criticizes Sharon’s Invitation to the Jews of France, although the verb that article-title actually uses translates to fustigate, perhaps an interesting addition to the vocabulary of us all.) But by making such remarks (in English, and in front of a delegation of American Jewish leaders visiting Israel, as it turned out), Sharon only managed to offend not only the French state, but Jewish organizations there. From the French foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman: “We have immediately made contact with Israeli authorities to ask for an explanation on the subject of these unacceptable remarks.” And from Richard Prasquier, executive board member of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (French acronym: CRIF): “We can’t accept this type of discourse. We all know that the situation of Jews in France is difficult. . . . [The Jewish community] knows that the [French] political class is doing everything to fight against this anti-semitism. But pouring oil on the fire this way is not acceptable.” (more…)

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