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by
Michel Gurfinkiel

Bio

June 12, 2012 - 12:00 am
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The French diplomatic establishment opposed Zionism at the 1919 Peace Conference in Paris and throughout the inter-wars period. It steadily supported Amin el-Husseini, the infamous mufti of Jerusalem who fled to Nazi Germany in 1941 to become a chaplain for Muslim Waffen-SS divisions, and helped him to flee again, this time to Egypt, in 1945, and thus to escape being indicted as a war criminal and an accomplice in genocide against Jews and Christians in Yugoslavia and the USSR.

The French diplomatic establishment never agreed with the pro-Israel line taken by the French Fourth Republic in the late 1940s and 1950s, and was instrumental in convincing Charles de Gaulle, the Fifth Republic’s founder and first president, to engage in a radically anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli “Arab policy” from 1966 on (one year before the Six Days War). It saw to it to iron out the doubts that succeeding presidents might have entertained in that respect — including Nicolas Sarkozy, who was briefed away from supporting Israel the very day he took up office in 2007.

Things are not likely to change under François Hollande, the new socialist president. His prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has evolved over the years — like most socialists and social-democrats in Europe — from being mildly pro-Israel to being actively pro-Palestinian and pro-Islamic. While he still perfunctorily characterizes Israel’s security” as an important issue, he twice faulted Israel for resorting to self-defense operations against aggressions: in December 2008 and January 2009, when the Israel Defense Forces retaliated in Gaza against Hamas’ incessant rocket bombings; and in May 2010, when the Israeli Navy hailed the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship during the so called “flotilla incident.” In March 2010, two months ahead of the Mavi Marmara operation, Ayrault — then the mayor of Nantes in western France — suspended a pro-Israel conference that was to be held in that city by Charles Mayer, an international lawyer and the vice-chairman of the France-Israel Alliance, and Muriel Touaty, the director of the Technion University in Haifa.

Laurent Fabius, a former prime minister under François Mitterrand in the 1980s and Hollande’s choice for a foreign minister, has Jewish family roots but was baptized and raised as a Catholic. He seems to have undergone the same pro-Palestinian transition as Ayrault. He made clear that France, under Hollande, was “going to play a more active role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” code for pressuring Israel. It is noteworthy in this respect that he appointed Denis Pietton as his chief of staff. Pietton, who more recently served as the French ambassador to Lebanon, was in the early 2000s the French consul general in Jerusalem. In other terms: he was the man whose job was to wrest Jerusalem, or any part of it, from the Jewish state.

True enough, anti-Israel biases and nonsenses are common staple in most diplomatic services in the world, including the State Department. But in many countries and especially in America, diplomats are still accountable to elected governments, who may take a more sober view of the Near East. In France, governments just do what they are told to do by the diplomats.

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Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum.
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