Israeli ambassador slams France over Arafat

26th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

MONTPELLIER, France, Nov 26 (AFP) - The Israeli ambassador has criticised the French government for issuing a death certificate for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat stating his place of birth as Jerusalem.

MONTPELLIER, France, Nov 26 (AFP) - The Israeli ambassador has criticised the French government for issuing a death certificate for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat stating his place of birth as Jerusalem.

"I cannot understand how the French government agreed to issue a death certificate based on false information," ambassador Nissim Zvili told a press conference in Montpellier.

Municipal officials at Clamart, the suburb of Paris where Arafat died on November 11, said they issued the document on the basis of a family record book itself issued by the French foreign ministry in 1996.

The issue is symbolically important because Israel considers Jerusalem as its eternal capital, while Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem, occupied by the Jewish state since 1967, the capital of their promised state.

Arafat was born Mohammed Abdel-Rawf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Hussaini, on August 4, 1929.

The official version of his life history records he was born in Jerusalem.

However numerous biographers agree that he was, in fact, born in Cairo, where his father, from Gaza, owned a business.

And it was Egypt that hosted Arafat's funeral with full military honours.

The 75-year-old veteran of the Palestinian drive for statehood died after nearly two weeks of treatment in a French military hospital at Clamart.

He was airlifted there from his Ramallah, West Bank base on October 29.

French officials, citing privacy laws, still refuse to reveal the precise cause of death or the nature of his condition, leading to rumours - strongly denied by Palestinian officials - of poisoning.

Zvili said the affair was "very badly perceived in Israel", adding that those responsible for issuing the "false document" could be subject to a legal process.

"I don't understand how when Arafat arrived in France he had been born in Cairo and when he left France he had been born in Jerusalem," he said.

He also dismissed speculation that Arafat had been poisoned.

"There was a poisoning, but it wasn't of Arafat, but of public opinion in France, in Arab countries and among the Palestinian people," he said.

Finally he said that Washington's involvement in the Middle East peace process was "indispensable", while Europe's was "important, welcome but not indispensable".

Zvili was taking part in a round table discussion on Israel in Montpellier.

Earlier this month he said that a growing number of members of the Jewish community in France are questioning their whole future in the country amid a rise in anti-Semitism.

"The phenomenon of anti-Semitism in France has reached worrying proportions. There have been lots of attacks against Jews, against people and their possessions, and fear is becoming deep-rooted in the Jewish community," he said.

Between 2,000-2,500 Jews were now leaving France each year for Israel, the ambassador added.

The Jewish community in France numbers around 700,000, the largest within the European Union.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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