French Antisemitism Can No Longer Be Hidden
For decades, France has attempted to conceal its antisemitism behind a heroic posture as the champion of universal human rights. Recently, it has coupled this effort with a policy of allocating special favors to its Jewish citizens, even declaring publicly that “France would not be France without its Jewish community.”
Nevertheless, the narrative of French history is deformed by a recurrence of state antisemitism, from Crusaders’ blood libels to financial extortion by kings, from the military plot against Dreyfus to the collaboration of Petain’s police with the Nazis.
In 1967, the Jewish condition in France took a sharp turn for the worse. President De Gaulle, the populist anti-American political icon of the Fifth Republic, designed – wittingly or otherwise – a new kind of antisemitism in re-orienting French foreign policy away from Israel toward the Arab world.
In parallel, the French public media, recruited to this cause, has been feeding the French people with a 50-year diet of anti-Israel visual footage. French governments also made available to the media tainted political analysts, each motivated by his own reasons but all hawking the same hideous anti-Israel line.
Some wish to remake Jerusalem Christian and francophone; others dream of submitting to a rich Arabian Sheikh; many imagine that by demonizing Israel, France would be rewarded with cheap energy and signed industrial contracts; sometimes they are driven by a desire to appease France’s growing suburban minorities. Whatever the cause, this endless media diet of virulent anti-Zionism had its effect: today, the majority of the French imagine Israelis as landthieves driven by a rapacious lust targeted against poor and powerless Palestinians. Worse, they project these same characteristics onto all Jews, including the Jews of France. After all, De Gaulle himself had publicly described Jews – all Jews, not just Israeli Jews – as a “proud and dominating race.”
The treacherous behavior of the French media since the times of De Gaulle hasn’t only harmed the Jews of France. It abused the entire nation by compromising every Western standard of fair reporting.
The attacks on Israel, evolving into a steady stream of antisemitism, essentially introduced to France a kind of thought police usually found only in totalitarian regimes.
Sadly, the biased French media coverage of the Middle East constitutes nothing less than the intellectual rape of the French nation.
Then, there is the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Ministry. In many ways, it was the Quai officers who did the lion’s share of the work in defining the French national interest in opposition to Zionism and in calibrating French foreign policy with global antisemitism – right up to the present day.
Whether it is a UNESCO vote declaring Judaism has no historical connection to the Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, or a UN Security Council Resolution demanding that Israel withdraw to indefensible armistice lines, or an international conference in Paris for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without Israel’s involvement, the Quai d’Orsay is in the lead role when it comes to delegitimizing Israel in favor of the Arabs, coordinating with the EU and more recently the US State Department.
Unfortunately, it has evolved into the “French Antisemitism Export Department.” Its rare words of support toward Israel barely hide the antisemitic flames that it itself maliciously lit.
Consider Justin Vaisse, for example, the head of CAPS, the French analogue of the US policy planning staff. Although its study of French Islam has been criticized for omitting important criteria, such as the responsibility of the Muslim community to integrate itself, Vaisse won the esteem of the Quai d’Orsay and was put in charge of designing a UN Security Council resolution calling for a two-state solution to the Palestine conflict preconditioned on a complete Israeli withdrawal to the armistice lines of June 4, 1967. Dishonest? Biased? Nobody can care less.
And then there is Pierre Vimont, interchanging top-level positions at the Quai d’Orsay with the highest EU missions to design Brussel’s foreign policy. Recently, he organized the infamous Paris International Conference on the Middle East. A highly decorated French diplomat, Vimont is also a board member of the Swiss-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a privately funded think tank which helped design the Oslo Accords.
Not surprisingly, the Quai d’Orsay is utterly unconcerned with the inherent conflict of interest between Vimont’s public responsibilities and the political interests of his private sources of support.
Finally, take Jérôme Bonnafont, currently the head of the Middle East and North Africa Desk at the Quai – who had a major influence in the French UNESCO representative vote for the declaration rejecting any link between the Temple Mount and Judaism. Curiously, a few weeks before, he confirmed the Légion d’Honneur, the highest medal of honor in France, on Mohammad ben Nayef, a prince of the Saudi royal family and the head of the kingdom’s Interior Ministry.
Only a few protested.
Incredibly, France’s anti-Israel foreign policy actually comes with a user manual – the curriculum taught at France’s most prestigious graduate schools, such as the École Nationale d’Administration or the Paris Institute of Political Studies. These state-sponsored schools, famous for their “mimetic competition,” imbue the nation’s future public servants with “single thought” concepts. And while the lack of critical judgment in these schools is sometimes challenged, no investigation has ever been undertaken to explore the anti-Israeli bias imparted to the graduates representing a significant percentage of new hires at the Quai d’Orsay or in high-profile positions at the public media.
The active anti-Israeli policies of the French Foreign Ministry and the antagonistic presentation of Israel in French public media are bad for Israel. They’re even worse for the French citizens, saddled with an elite cadre of public servants educated not to exhibit critical judgement and who are immune from popular scrutiny, and a media class that is neither independent nor objective.
Until the French government breaks with the anti-Israel agenda initiated by the anti-American populist Charles de Gaulle, the people of France will remain plunged in darkness.
Dan Vitenberg is an international political analyst and business adviser. Born in France, he lives in Jerusalem, Israel. This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post.