Former French leader Jacques Chirac dies

Chirac, who served twice as president, was the antithesis of what is known today as the new antisemitism – that anti-Zionism or anti-Israel sentiment is antisemitism.

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September 27, 2019 09:26
1 minute read.
A banner to pay tribute to former French President Jacques Chirac is seen in front of the city hall

A banner to pay tribute to former French President Jacques Chirac is seen in front of the city hall in Nice. (photo credit: REUTERS/ERIC GAILLARD)

Jacques Chirac, former president and prime minister of France and long-serving mayor of Paris, has died at age 86.

Chirac, who served twice as president, was the antithesis of what is known today as the new antisemitism – that anti-Zionism or anti-Israel sentiment is antisemitism.

He had a close relationship with the Jews of France and was the first French president to acknowledge the collaboration of the Vichy government with the Nazis and its deportation of Jews. Chirac was also pro-Palestinian and not well-disposed to the policies of Israel’s governments. An obituary headline in a French outlet described him as “Le grand ami des Palestiniens” – the great friend of the Palestinians.

He was also out of step with other countries on various issues. He did not agree with former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s economic policy, and he was opposed to the American bombing of Iraq, but regarded Russian President Vladimir Putin as a personal friend.

However, though critical of Israel’s attack on Lebanon in July 2006, he is believed to have let it be known in the right quarters that if Israel invaded Syria, it could count on French support. This was in line with France’s policy of fighting terrorism.

Chirac nearly caused a diplomatic breakdown in October 1996 when he visited Israel and would not allow Israeli security to accompany him through the Old City of Jerusalem, in line with the UN’s commitment to the status of east Jerusalem.

When surrounded nonetheless by Israeli bodyguards, Chirac shouted at them to leave him alone and instantly became the political poster boy of the Arab world, as he threatened to immediately go back to his plane and return to France if the Israeli security guards persisted in surrounding him.

When the guards forcibly tried to prevent Arabs in the crowded alleyways from approaching the French leader, Chirac roared and demanded that the Palestinians be let go. He accused the security people of provocation, and under the circumstances, they had no choice other than to relax their hold.


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