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The title for this commentary on the French psyche may seem overly familiar, but as Gilbert Gottfried recently suggested in a television “roast,” if something works once it will work every time. It takes a lot for me to sit down and pour out my emotions, but the recent juxtaposition of France calling for an immediate recognition of a Palestinian state, and the performance of the French judge at the Olympics brought home what an incredibly evil, morally deficient, and opportunistic role that France has thrust upon it’s representatives in almost every field.

France is the country that showed us during the Dryfuss trial that no matter how assimilated and acculturated a Jew was in Europe he could never be accepted. It was Theodore Herzl’s participation in the events surrounding the trial that led to the birth of the Zionist Movement. Herzl, an assimilated Jew from Austria, was shown the true emotions and prejudices of a populace that was considered one of the most liberal in Europe. The people who gave us “egalitarianism!” All of these “window trimmings” did not stop the French from proudly exhibiting their anti-Semitism. Those of us that thought this may have ended with France’s wartime behavior are, once again, sadly disappointed. The pro-Nazi Vichy Era and the collaborationist movement in France did not have any affect on French attitudes at the end of the war.

I once spent a summer traveling to various Jewish communities in Europe. What was true then (the summer of 1971) is true today. When I was in France, and using Yiddish as the “lingua franca” with older members of the Jewish Community, I was repeatedly told to stop using “mamaloshen” if a non-Jew entered the room. It isn’t as though a people can’t shake itself from prejudice. A Jew in Vienna tried to explain the difference between Germans and Austrians. They were both Nazis during the war, but at least the Germans were ashamed of it and realized it was an evil era. The Austrians on the other hand had no such misgivings. You may remember that when Kurt Waldheim ran for office in Austria, and his Nazi activities during the war surfaced, his ratings went up and ensured his victory.

The behavior of the French judge at the Olympics may have reminded me once again of the moral fiber, and sense of fair-play that is so lacking in French society today, but it is it’s singular concern that Palestinian statehood should occur now that really upsets me. I am not against Palestinian statehood. It is a right that any people should aspire to. It is the timing that so upsets me.

Unfortunately, it took “9-11” to bring home to so many people around the world what Israel has been experiencing for years. Since that horrific event, it has become clear that the terrorists that committed this heinous crime are totally intertwined with the terror groups that are the major players in the Palestinian camp. There is no “Shalom Now” movement in the Palestinian community. What we have is a varied collection of military-political groups that represent different sectors of the population, and have radically different approaches to the “Middle East Conflict.” Some, like Arafat, have learned that by sending Hanah Ashwari to Nightline you can really influence a lot of influential people (e.g. Ted Koppel, Bill Clinton). You approach your public relations campaign from two levels. One is geared towards incredibly naïve people in the West, while the other is saved for the local population. The latter is exclusively in Arabic, and calls for Jihad, Jewish blood in the streets, and many virgins in heaven. Most amazing is the fact that Arafat represents the liberal wing of Palestinian political ideology. But, like Gilbert says, “if it works, stick with it.” The others arrogantly demand Israel’s destruction, and will accept no political solution beyond the needs of temporary necessity.

That the French government has taken upon itself the role of political advocate for Palestinian statehood at this time shocks me, although it doesn’t surprise me. I accuse the French government of being morally reprehensible and shameful in its behavior towards Israel and the Jewish people. With all our suffering, we seem to survive our enemies throughout history. With God’s help I say “Amen!”

Ira Gelnik

Feb. 17, 2002


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