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This coming Sunday's presidential election in France is likely to bring very bad news for Israelis and Americans: From then on, they're going to have a much harder time hating the French, which is probably the most pleasurable political hatred Israelis and Americans know.
All the polls say the winner of Sunday's first round of voting is going to be Nicolas Sarkozy, who is himself hated by France's Arabs and leftists. This alone makes him Israel's and America's kind of guy.
What will it say about the French if they elect such a man as president? (The runoff election comes two weeks from Sunday, and if Sarkozy faces off against the socialist Segolene Royal, as is likely, he is expected to win easily; if he faces the centrist Francois Bayrou, the race could be close.)
More than any French leader since at least before the Six Day War, Sarkozy is pro-Israel, pro-American, and anti-nanny state. But what made him an international figure, and what makes this French election so important for Europe, the US, Israel and the rest of the world was his stand against the mobs of young, poor, mainly Muslim immigrant rioters who burned their way across the suburbs of France in late 2005.
While the French political establishment and Western media blamed France for failing to integrate these "alienated" hip-hop rioters, Sarkozy called them racaille (scum) - and he was right.
The first time the world heard of the "disaffected" Muslim youth of the Parisian suburbs was during the intifada, when they showed their solidarity with the Palestinians by burning French synagogues and assaulting French Jews on the street. They were not merely pro-Palestinian, they were in thrall to local, radical Islamic imams. They were inspired by the exploits of al-Qaida.
The next the world heard of these characters was when they were burning 15,000 or so cars in a rampage that went on for three weeks. Enlightened leaders and opinion-makers in France and elsewhere in the West decided it wasn't the rioters' fault, it was France's. Sarkozy thought different, and evidently common-sense Frenchmen, those who weren't conscience-stricken over these mobs but frightened and enraged by them, agreed.
AND EVIDENTLY, there are a lot more frightened, enraged, common-sense Frenchmen than Israelis and Americans imagined. On Sunday, they will very likely turn out to be a plurality of France's voters; and two weeks after that, the odds are that they will prove to be their country's majority.
The Orthodox and other Zionist Jews of France, many of whom know what it is to be called sale Juif (dirty Jew) by the racaille, will be cheering. "If Sarkozy doesn't win, the Jews have no hope," Sabrina Levy, an Ashdod shopkeeper who left the Parisian suburb of Orly, told me last year.
If Sarkozy is elected, it will be the most dramatic turn in something that's been building in Europe since 9/11, the al-Qaida attacks in London and Madrid, and the continuing radicalization of the continent's younger generation of Muslim immigrants. What's been building is a backlash. A badly-needed one.
I'M ALL for immigration and diversity, but no democratic society can live with a large, growing subculture that brainwashes young people with the most violent, fanatical doctrines of religious supremacism and intolerance.
Islamic extremism is the greatest political threat in the world, and Western Europe has been feeling it firsthand. Now Western Europe's survival instincts have begun to take over.
I have an Israeli cousin in Los Angeles, a Republican businessman who hates the French so bad he canceled his office's supply of Perrier after the Iraq war started. For years he's been telling me, with the deepest satisfaction, how Muslim immigrants are doing a hostile takeover of Europe. I keep telling him I don't believe Europe is prepared to commit suicide.
And Sarkozy is the proof.
I know he has a lot of out-and-out Islamophobes voting for him, and it's said that he's been pandering to them in the campaign to draw them away from his out-and-out racist rival, Jean Marie le Pen.
But it's also said that Sarkozy, as interior minister, made a strong effort to help the jobless youth of the suburbs with affirmative action programs. That's not the sort of thing a racist or "nativist" does. I don't think it's giving him too much benefit of the doubt to say he isn't against Muslim immigrants, just against Muslim immigrants who are themselves against France.
I ALSO THINK a large number of Muslim immigrants, those who oppose the fanatics both on principle and out of self-interest, will be secretly encouraged if Sarkozy gets elected. They're the ones who've been hurt the worst by the Islamic radicalization in their neighborhoods - they worry that their children will become brainwashed, or turn to violence, and they themselves suffer from Europe's rising Islamophobia. But they're afraid to speak out, and it's no wonder.
I asked a left-leaning friend of mine in Paris if there were any Muslim leaders taking a public stand against the militants in their community, and he said he knew of one such local imam. "He goes around with a bodyguard," my friend added.
If Sarkozy wins, as expected, it's going to send a very bracing message to the Muslim world about the West. It's also going to send a long-awaited, encouraging message to common-sense Europeans. But among red-blooded Americans and Israelis, it's going to cause mainly shock and amazement. They'll be blinking their eyes and saying: Maybe those people aren't such surrender monkeys after all.