- "As always," Le Monde wrote at the start of the crisis, Israel had responded "by making disproportionate use of military force, in violation of international law." On Wednesday, the paper applauded French President Jacques Chirac's call for Israel to exercise restraint as "without a doubt the most legitimate policy."
- The French president's plan, Le Monde wrote, was the "only way to preserve a common line with the United States and a kernel of international consensus." It warned Israel that in implementing its "optimistic" plan "to do away with Hizbullah, it must not destroy Lebanon's efforts to reconstruct its country."
- The Paris daily Liberation condemned the world's "relative indifference" to the crisis, which it blamed on US President George W. Bush's "policy of going along" with Israel's decisions. "We can deplore, but we cannot be surprised by the general helplessness," it wrote Wednesday.
- Le Figaro of also found fault with the United States Monday for not responding more quickly to the crisis and criticized Bush's attempts to bring "something positive out of this double war against 'extremists,' out of this wreckage of weapons and blood, at least that of civilians."
These are not surprising responses, within themselves. I would expect this, given their criticisms I have read in the past. In fact, I would have been slightly shocked to read otherwise. But for more clarity about where I am going with this, let's read on.
The History News Network has posted an essay by Edward Olshaker, entitled, Axis of Hypocrisy—Russia, US, UK, Italy, France Urge Israeli Restraint. This is a good essay to read in its entirety, but here are the points I want to outline, for the purposes of this post:
- On October 28, 2004—five months after Yasser Arafat’s Fatah murdered eight-month-pregnant mother Tali Hatuel and her four young children, execution-style—Chirac wrote a note of encouragement to the terrorist mastermind, who was being treated in a French hospital: “I wish that you could resume as soon as possible your work at the service of the Palestinian people…[France] will always stand next to you.” Yet on November 6, 2005, Chirac vowed to punish all who “sow violence or terror” in France.
- In early 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including dangerous terrorists—the kind of concession that the French government, among others, welcomed as a step toward peace. Later that year, French authorities arrested thousands of young rioters, vowing to prosecute, imprison, and in some cases deport them. Releasing them as a goodwill gesture never appeared to be an option under consideration.
- In July 2004, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier visited Arafat in his Ramallah compound, where he was confined after it was found that he had resumed his involvement in serial murder of civilians. Barnier scolded Israel for limiting Arafat’s freedom of movement: “I’ve seen the situation, and it is not suitable for him nor for the Palestinian people.” Yet the state of emergency declared in France in late 2005 empowered the government to limit the freedom of movement of countless innocent citizens by imposing curfews enforced by imprisonment and fines. It also provided for bans on public meetings, and house searches without a warrant—measures that would be widely condemned as “trampling the Bill of Rights” if they occurred in the United States.
- “…as Jacques Chirac explained to Ehud Barak [in 2000], Israel, being the stronger side, must be the first to stop [the use of force, in its attempts to fight terrorism]” (Yaacov Lozowick, Right to Exist). For Chirac himself, however, being the “stronger” side carried no obligation to be the first side to stop the use of force or make concessions; on the contrary, the stronger side—his side—must dominate, period. Chirac proclaimed, “The law must have the last word. The republic is quite determined, by definition, to be stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear.” As reported by Amir Taheri in the New York Post: “The French authorities hit back, sending in Special Forces, known as the CRS, with armored cars and tough rules of engagement.” The CRS is described as having a “brutal reputation.”
- Although instructions to shoot the elderly wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer and dump him off a cruise ship came from Arafat’s headquarters, Chirac’s reaction to Arafat’s death was to visit the hospital and announce, teary-eyed, “I came to bow before President Yasser Arafat and pay him a final homage…with him disappears a man of courage and conviction” and urge Palestinians to “continue to be faithful to Yasser Arafat’s memory.” An Associated Press report during last year’s intifada in French cities described an atrocity that brought back memories of the Klinghoffer tragedy: “Attackers [in a Paris suburb] doused [a] woman, in her 50s and on crutches, with an inflammable liquid and set her afire as she tried to get off a bus…” Chirac never announced any intention to find those responsible, arrange generous funding for them, and engage in peace talks with them, even though Chirac apparently needed his own peace partners in order to negotiate an end to what his police commanders described as “a state of war.”
- After Israel was forced to hunt down terrorists in Jenin following the 2002 Passover massacre, Le Monde—displaying an obscene form of anti-Israel bias that has become more acceptable and commonplace during the Chirac administration—published a deeply dishonest and bigoted cartoon depicting Israelis as Nazis exterminating the population of the Jenin “Warsaw Ghetto,” further fanning the flames of anti-Semitism at a time when French Jews were being assaulted and synagogues and Jewish schools were being firebombed in epidemic numbers. Yet, although distortions and lies intended to demonize Israel are acceptable in the French media, merely reporting the facts about the French Muslim uprising was deemed inflammatory and therefore censored. “[France’s] largest private television network, TF1, refrains from airing footage of burning cars or buildings…The state-owned television channels, France 2 and France 3, have stopped reporting on the number of cars torched by rioting young immigrants every night…Explaining their restraint, TV execs say that they want to avoid inciting further violence.” (Wall Street Journal)
- As reported by Martin Peretz of the New Republic, “France went into a frenzy to mobilize the countries of the EU at the UN to vote ‘yes’ on the General assembly resolution calling on Israel to take down the security barrier it is building against Palestinian terror.” Yet Chirac surrounded himself with a cozy barrier of protection when he went to lay a wreath in honor of fallen soldiers in late 2005. “Exceptional security measures were taken for Armistice Day ceremonies attended by President Chirac…under the watch of some 3,000 police officers…” (Agence France-Press) On November 16, the same day AFP reported that vandalism had declined “almost down to levels seen before the unrest broke out on October 27,” the French senate voted to extend the nation’s extraordinary emergency measures into 2006. Just to be safe.
My friend Super Frenchie regularly points to polls like this one, to support his claim that France is not as anti-semitic, as many Americans believe. Despite my skepticism concerning polls, Pew is one of the better polls. So, without making this about the poll, let's take the poll at face value.
So here we see that by taking Chirac's actions, the French media's highly critical wordings, and SF's polls, we are receiving a very confusing picture here. Why the disconnect in these three pieces of evidence? That's a good question and that's a fair question.
But since I do not live, nor have I ever lived in France, it's much more difficult to ascertain. I cannot go to the cafes and the inns for some refreshments, talk to everyday people, and stir up a conversation about this, on a daily basis. So I will depend on my French readers to help me understand, just why there is such disparity in the poll results, and the image that seems to be portrayed by the French mouthpieces (the government and the media).
(Keep in mind I am aware of the negative image that is being demonstrated by Spain. The stories on this, are here and here. And even Pat Buchanan has weighed in on this. But this is not about them. I want to know about France. And I am aware of the fact that criticism of Israel isn't always indicative of anti-semitism, not any more than criticism of the French government, media, or the system is general is French bashing.)