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 million non-Europeans.”
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
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.”
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
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.
understood that the president is a friend and supporter of Israel; however, he
surprisingly supported the membership of Palestine in UNESCO.
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 negotiations.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 EU.”
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.
camps are not a Nazi German specialty... concentration camps and open
air prisons, are synonyms. Gaza is a catastrophe,” she said.
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
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
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.