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November 25, 2015 4:19 pm

French Ambassador to US Outrages Jewish Expats Over Post-Paris-Attack Message

avatar by Ruthie Blum

French Ambassador to the US Gérard Araud. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

French Ambassador to the US Gérard Araud. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, French citizens residing in America received a letter from Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the US, responding to the tragic event in Paris on November 13.

The letter expressed horror in the face of the coordinated ISIS attacks on innocent people, without mentioning the name of the terrorist organization, and an appeal for unity and solidarity during these trying times.

A debate on social media among French Jews ensued, due to a particular passage in the missive.

After expressing solidarity with the people of France and praising the United States and President Obama for “being on our side in the fight against extremism and terrorism,” Araud wrote: “These are the foundations of our model of society that the terrorists seek to destroy: Yesterday journalists and Jews; now ordinary citizens whose only crime was to enjoy life on a Friday night in Paris.”

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One Jewish ex-pat, Ron Agam, a French-born Israeli artist and activist living in New York, posted his outrage on Facebook.

“Tonight French people in the US received a letter from the French Ambassador about the events in Paris. To my surprise I learned that I — the Jew that I am — was not a regular French citizen, I was a Jew.”

Another French Jew, Schlomoh Brodowicz, an academic who immigrated to Israel, explained to The Algemeiner this week why the ambassador’s statement was so vexing.

“This man [Araud], is supposed to represent France in a major country which hosts the third-largest Jewish community in the world,” he said. “And his message clearly sets the Jews apart from other French citizens. When one recalls the slaughter committed by Islamists on January 9, 2015 in the HyperCasher kosher grocery store — where four Jews doing their shopping for Shabbat were killed – this message sounds like: ‘Those who were killed while they enjoyed entertainment on Friday night were ordinary citizens, while those who were shopping for Shabbat on Friday afternoon were not ordinary citizens; they were merely Jews.’”

This, said Brodowicz, “is reminiscent of a similar remark made by then-Prime Minister Raymond Barre after the bombing of a Paris synagogue in 1980: ‘This heinous attack was aimed at Israelites who go to synagogue, but struck innocent French people crossing the street.’”

Brodowicz continued, “Sadly enough, such a reaction from the French ambassador is in line with the attitude of the French Quai d’Orsay [Foreign Ministry] with regard to Israel. The French government should openly denounce a diplomatic statement conveying such content. But I doubt [French Foreign Minister] Mr. Laurent Fabius will ever care to do that.”

Above Magazine Editor-in-Chief Nicolas Rachline, a US-based French Jew, agreed. The grandson of Lazar Rachline, a hero of the French Resistance in WWII and co-founder of the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), told The Algemeiner that “once again, Jews are stigmatized as being different, ‘not really’ French, as they have been throughout the ages.”

He said the recent responses to the Paris attacks remind him of a joke his grandfather used to tell: “Hitler escapes the bunker and flees Germany. Later, in the company of a Nazi sympathizer, he says, ‘Next time I’ll finish off all the Jews and also the hairdressers.’ The other man asks, ‘Why the hairdressers?'”

Brodowicz acknowledged that Araud may not have intended to make a distinction between Jews and other French citizens – as he also mentioned “journalists” in the same breath, when raising the issue of previous terrorist attacks.

Still, Brodowicz said, “I venture to think that a person of such high diplomatic rank should be able to word a message the way it should be read.”

Contacted by The Algemeiner for a clarification, Ambassador Araud was unavailable for comment.

“As you must be aware, he is very busy these days,” his assistant explained.

On Sunday, as Belgium continued to be on virtual lock-down due to concrete terrorist threats, Justice Minister Koen Geens made a statement similar to that which Brodowicz and Rachline strongly objected to.

“It’s no longer synagogues or the Jewish museums or police stations,” Geens said about the Paris attacks. “It’s mass gatherings and public places.”

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