France sees Mideast agenda in Sharonemigration plea

19th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 19 (AFP) - France reacted with indignation Monday to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's call for Jews to flee to Israel, with politicians, press and religious leaders angrily rejecting his claim that the country is prey to the "wildest anti-Semitism."

PARIS, July 19 (AFP) - France reacted with indignation Monday to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's call for Jews to flee to Israel, with politicians, press and religious leaders angrily rejecting his claim that the country is prey to the "wildest anti-Semitism."  

After the foreign ministry in Paris issued a statement describing Sharon's remarks as "unacceptable," senior figures from the main parties took up the charge with Jean-Louis Debre of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) saying the prime minister had "missed a good opportunity to shut his mouth."  

For the Socialists, spokeswoman Annick Lepetit said that to "explain this anti-Semitism by saying that ten percent of the population is Muslim is like declaring there is a religious war going on in France."  

Sharon told a meeting of American Jewish groups in Jerusalem Sunday that while he regularly called on Jewish communities around the world to immigrate to Israel, in France "it is a must... they have to move immediately" because of the hostility towards them from the country's five million Muslims.  

Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner told a French radio station Monday that Sharon had been "misunderstood" and that he only meant that the place of all Jews was in Israel.   

But French Jewish leaders, who have persistently denounced the growing violence against their 600,000 strong community, rallied against the comments, with Richard Prasquier of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions (CRIF) accusing Sharon of "pouring oil on the fire in an unacceptable fashion."  

"The Jewish community is going through real anxiety about the future of its children. It knows that the political class is doing all it can to fight against this anti-Semitism.  

"Some Jews are indeed asking questions about leaving. That is true. But in order to leave one must be of the opinion that the situation is out of control. And that is not the case," he said.  

According to figures from the Jewish Agency, the body responsible for "aliyah" or immigration to Israel, some 2,300 French Jews made the move in 2003, a slight drop on the previous year. However the figure was less than 1,000 three years ago, before the start of the second Palestinian intifada.  

The press meanwhile accused Sharon of deliberately distorting the truth about the condition of French Jews for political reasons.  

"Ariel Sharon's attack is doubly disgraceful. Not just because France is not anti-Semitic, but because he knows it is not anti-Semitic," said the conservative daily Le Figaro.    

The newspaper said that by slurring France's name with none-too-subtle associations with the wartime Vichy era, the prime minister wanted to remove the country's legitimacy as a partner in the Middle East peace process.  

"His assault is aimed at undermining the credibility of President Jacques Chirac, one of the European Union's most eloquent advocates for a Palestinian state," it said.  

The left-leaning Le Monde agreed, saying that since the September 11 attacks some American Jewish organisations have been bent on portraying France as a country "complicit in the Holocaust, where not a single Jew can feel safe. For two years these accusations have poisoned not just Franco-American relations, but Franco-Israeli relations too."  

The evidence, according to Le Monde, is that Sharon is concerned less about provoking a rush of emigrants from France - which he knows is unlikely - than in "disqualifying France from the political game in the Middle East."  

"The message the Likud leader wants to pass to the American organisations is the following: that a political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a matter between Israel and the US, and that Europe - sullied by its pro-Arab prejudice - must remain confined to its role as banker," it said.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

 

 

 

 

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