Analysis: Nothing new from the Left (JERUSALEM POST) By JOSEPH STRICH 04/22/12)
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PARIS – The “Israeli/Jewish question,” generally a favorite subject
in public debate in France, had stayed in the background during the
campaign for the presidency of the French Republic.
This is because the major theme of the election, “the Crisis,”
although it concerns foreign affairs, is entirely tied up with the
economic and social imperatives of the Hexagon, as the French often
refer to their country: globalization, Europe, the national debt, the
uncertain future of the euro zone... One could say “internal foreign
Admittedly, there was the Toulouse affair which brought into the
campaign words such as security, terrorism, immigration, identity.
Nevertheless, only Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate,
referred to the attack during her final rally, at the Zenith concert
arena in Paris. She proclaimed herself against “the practice by all
presidents since [Valéry] Giscard d’Estaing [1974-1981] of permitting
massive immigration over a period of 35 years, which allowed the
settlement on our territory of 15 million foreigners, including 12
Facing an ocean of blue- white- red flags, Le Pen harangued a crowd
of ecstatic followers: “You have a right to not want any more Franco-
Algerians like Mohamed Merah,” the Islamist who murdered seven in
Toulouse last month. The crowd roared: “This is our home.”
Speaking before her, Gilbert Collard, the president of her support
committee, said: “It is when unfortunate Muslim and Jewish people are
killed that we realize there are terrorists in France.”
During her campaign, Le Pen, has said: “If we give support to the
creation of a Palestinian state, Israel must be assured about its
unquestioned existence and guaranteed security.”
Regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict, the candidates generally stayed
in line with their parties’ positions. On March 6, during a radio
broadcast with France 2 television, Nicolas Sarkozy, the incumbent
president and UMP candidate, promised, should he be reelected, to set
up a French peace initiative together with the whole of Europe, and
declared his first visit would be to our region.
In September 2011 at the UN, he called for “the mutual recognition of
two countries for two nations, based on the lines established in
1967, with exchanges of agreed and equal territories.”
To achieve this, today Sarkozy asks for a “change of method,” a quick
revival of credible negotiations, with a precise timetable and a
follow- up mechanism.
It is understood that the president is a friend and supporter of
Israel; however, he surprisingly supported the membership of
Palestine in UNESCO.
François Hollande, the candidate of the Socialist Party and the front-
runner in the polls, committed himself “to take the initiative to
favor peace and security between Israel and Palestine with new
He promised, “I will support the international recognition of the
state of Palestine.” The Socialist Party’s head office reiterated its
position in favor of mutual recognition of two states.
Centrist candidate François Bayrou’s commitment to peace in the
Middle East is well known. The problem is with the extreme Left,
which is totally committed to the Palestinians.
To quote former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, “The sea is the same
sea.” To paraphrase him, “The Left is the same Left” and the parties
stay mainly concerned with the Palestinians and their understanding
of what peace means.
Candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a longtime member of the Socialist
Party and unconditional supporter of president François Mitterrand,
is representing the Left Front in this election. On Thursday night
during his final campaign rally in the Parc des Expositions
convention center, he never said a word on the subject.
He faced several thousand militants waving the most red flags I have
ever seen in my life. You could say it was normal for a political
rally of communists from the old PCF (French Communist Party), which
was always anti-Israel.
The Left Front with Mélenchon, the Green Europe Ecology party of Eva
Joly and the new anti-capitalist party lead by Philippe Poutou all
advocate “the acknowledgement of the State of Palestine by France and
Poutou is the successor to Olivier Besancenot, a very strongly anti-
Israel politician. Besancenot had inherited the ideas of Alain
Krivine, the French Jewish Trotskyite who inspired the anti-Zionist
and anti-capitalist Matzpen organization that was founded in Israel
in 1962 and which was active until the 1980s.
There is permanence in the positions: the Left persists in its
identification against the Hebrew state.
A phrase comparing the Palestinians territories, particularly Gaza,
to “open air concentration camps” uttered on television by Nathalie
Arhaud, candidate for La Lutte Ouvrière (a movement influenced by the
Third (Communist) International) was identified by Joly as reflecting
the typical “signature” of the Left.
“Concentration camps are not a Nazi German specialty... concentration
camps and open air prisons, are synonyms. Gaza is a catastrophe,” she
In an endeavour to avoid all controversy, Joly has tried to tone down
her words by saying: “At no time have I thought to compare an actual
situation in the world with the horror of the Shoah and the
extermination camps of the Second World War... To fight for the right
of the Palestinian does not mean falling into extremes.”
The UEJF, the Union of Jewish Students in France, denounced the
insinuations of the two female candidates. Jonathan Hayoun, president
of the Union, expressed outrage: “Lutte Ouvrière and the Greens have
made numerous abusive comparisons and turned away from an effective
promotion of the rights of the Palestinians and of peace,” he said.
This week, the last week of campaigning before the first round on
Sunday, France celebrated two high profile official ceremonies, both
related to the painful past between France and the Jewish people.
The first was at the Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. Sarkozy and
Hollande were present at the nation’s farewell to Raymond Aubrac, who
was a follower of Gen. Charles de Gaulle and a leader in the
Resistance against the Nazi occupation. Aubrac died earlier this
month aged 97; his wife, Lucie, who died in 2007, was also a famous
member of the Resistance. The Jewish couple were among the most
respected figures of their generation.
The second ceremony took place at the Shoah Memorial, where for 24
hours the names of 74,000 Jews deported from France during the
Holocaust were read out. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/22/12)
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