(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS – For one evening only, the beautiful Invalides esplanade at the heart of Paris was transformed into “little Jerusalem,” with songs in Hebrew resonating between leafless trees and Israeli flags raised all around, just meters away the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Ministry.
Cold autumn winds didn’t deter several thousand French Jews and activists of all ages from rallying at the esplanade.
Some 30 Jewish and pro-Israel associations joined forces, demonstrating against France’s position on recent UNESCO Paris-based resolutions.
Representatives of the Armenian community and several Christian leaders also took part.
The organizers condemned the fact that France did not oppose the UNESCO World Heritage committee’s decision on Wednesday denying the links between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, nor the UNESCO vote at committee stage level last week on a similar proposal. The French representative instead elected to abstain from the vote.
Shortly after the Wednesday UNESCO decision, groups including KKL, Europe-Israel, Alliance France-Israel, French Friends of Israel, the French Jewish Students’ Association and others had posted on their Internet sites a call to demonstrate – a call which spread quickly on social networks.
The announcement called for all Jews, Christians and Atheists “scandalized by the negation of the Judeo-Christian history’’ to participate at the rally in-front of the French Foreign Ministry.
The French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF chose to post on its site its own announcement – encouraging members of the community make their voice heard by taking part at the rally “for Jerusalem and for the historic truth.”
The French activists preferred to focus their battle on their objection to France’s stance on the issue, thus demonstrating near the ministry’s Invalides site, rather than generally condemning UNESCO members’ approach by rallying in-front of UNESCO headquarters.
Jean-Marc Moskowicz, a former member of the European Jewish Parliament and one of the rally’s organizers, told The Jerusalem Post that “this is the first time that so many Jewish organizations are getting together to demonstrate here, at the heart of the French diplomacy-making. We cannot accept such a French position vis-à-vis the Jewish people and vis-à-vis Israel.’’ Several people present at the rally expressed bitterness over what they described as the “neutral” or even “hostile” positions adopted by France.
Elie Chemould told the Post that “France should be ashamed of these UNESCO decisions. We are here to show our support for Israel and for Jerusalem. Many community members have already left France because of the situation here, and immigrated to Israel.
Those who stayed in France are here tonight. We want to make it clear that this policy of France is unacceptable.’’ Another participant, Claude, 32, told the Post that “Prime Minister Manuel Valls said clearly that he was against the first UNESCO vote denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem.
He said that it was a mistake France made – not opposing clearly. Yet this decision was repeated again yesterday, here, in Paris. What does it mean? What does his objection mean in terms of French diplomacy? We want answers from the French authorities to these questions.’’ Sacha Reingewirtz, president of the French Jewish Students Association, called upon the French government to adopt “a truthful position.” He said that “a truthful position means not to abstain on a vote against Israel and against the Jewish people. If France wants to advance the peace process, if France wants to mediate between the sides, it must allow both sides to be recognized and for both of them to have a common language.’’ He added that he and his colleagues are concerned that the current French official position on the UNESCO decisions threatens France’s aspirations to re-launch the Middle East peace process.