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romney ron paul roosevelt roquette rosenfeld rouhani royal royaume-uni russia russie rwanda sadate sahara salafistes salem al-fayed sanctuaire du rocher sandler santorum sarah halimi sarkozy saudi arabia savir sĂ©golĂ¨ne royal sĂ©nat sĂ©pharades scandale SCO SDN seconde guerre mondiale security council selden senate shafik shalit shalom akhshav shamir sharon shas shoah sionisme sionistes socialist socialists sociĂ©tĂ© society sondages soral soviet union spcj ss staline state nobility state of emergency statism stratĂ©gie strauss-kahn strikes subworlds succession sunnites sweden sykes-picot synagogue syria syrie tahrir tardieu tariq ramadan taubira tel-aviv terre d'israĂ«l terror terrorism terrorisme thatcher the west time tocqueville torah totalitarisme toulouse tourisme travaillistes trevidic tribus trilatĂ©rale truman trump tsahal tsipras tunisie turkey turquie tv ue uk ukraine UMP un unesco union europĂ©enne union pour la mĂ©diterranĂ©e united nations united states unrwa URSS US usa 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Monday, August 5 2013
European Jewry/ You Only Live Twice (Part Four)
How the leader of the French Resistance revived antisemitism.
4. Seeds of a New Anti-Semitism
According to rabbinic tradition, anti-Semitism starts when Jews beguile themselves into thinking they can fulfill their destiny in exile. Indeed, the anti-Semitic threat that so many European Jews worry about today materialized around the year 2000, precisely at the moment when Barnavi and Burg fell in love with the dream of Europe.
This, too, was not a sudden or even a completely unforeseen development: many previous phenomena that in themselves had appeared insignificant or negligible, or could be taken as lingering vestiges of a bygone past, turned out to be portents of things to come. Just as some physical or chemical substances may enjoy half-lives for eons, prewar and wartime anti-Semitism did not vanish overnight on VE Day but for a long twilight period continued to exist under one guise or another right alongside the new, emerging philo-Semitism. Conversely, the cycle of postwar philo-Semitism was still in flower when the latest, full-blown anti-Semitic cycle was getting under way.
For the record, it should be noted that in Eastern Europe and the USSR—the same countries that had hosted the killing fields of the Holocaust—anti-Semitism never really abated after 1945, and at times became even more open and strident than before. This accounts not only for the waves of Jewish emigration whenever the Communists permitted it—and continuing even after the fall of Communism—but also for the recent reemergence of explicitly anti-Semitic parties in Poland, Hungary, Rumania, and Ukraine.
Nor had the transition from anti- to philo-Semitism in Western Europe itself been all smooth sailing. An ostensibly repentant West Germany entertained for two decades a fictitious distinction between hard-core Nazis and ordinary Germans, with the latter category including Wehrmacht personnel and less hard-core Nazis who allegedly had been ignorant of or uninvolved in the Holocaust. This subterfuge allowed West German courts to issue light or no sentences to Nazi criminals who came before them, and to postulate a twenty-year statute of limitations on war crimes. In one highly symbolic gesture in 1955, the West German embassy in France attempted to halt the release at Cannes of Night and Fog, Alain Resnais’ documentary film about the Nazi extermination camps.
During the war itself, Britain, the nation that had heroically carried the full weight of battle from the collapse of France in June 1940 to the German assault on the USSR a year later, simultaneously indulged its own form of benign or not so benign anti-Semitism, especially in the form of governmental hostility directed at Zionism and the beleaguered Jewish populace in Mandate Palestine. In France, after the war, Holocaust survivors sometimes had to go to court to retrieve their home or business, or to win back orphaned Jewish children who had been sheltered—and baptized—by Church-supported networks. The postwar French government routinely upheld most non-political Vichy-era legislation and even kept Vichy coins in circulation while insisting that the Vichy state never really existed in the first place—and that the French state and its bureaucrats had taken no part and bore no responsibility whatsoever in the Holocaust. Jews who had been sent to Auschwitz or other death camps were deemed to be only “political deportees” and, as such, inferior in status to deported French Resistance fighters, despite the fact that the latter were not systematically murdered by the Germans and in general enjoyed a much higher rate of survival.
None of this is to gainsay the benign transformation in Western Europe that was to come. It is rather to reflect on an irony of history: that the seeds of the new anti-Semitism were being planted at about the same time the old anti-Semitism was giving way. In France, moreover, they were being planted by a most unlikely individual.
In May 1940, as France was reeling under the German onslaught, Charles de Gaulle was a junior member of the French cabinet who supported a merger of the French and British empires: a single army, a single government. A month later, he had become the leader of the Free French, a small group of soldiers, civil servants, and colonial administrators who, in cooperation with the British, were intent on resisting the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime.
In time, de Gaulle would grow suspicious of his Anglo-Saxon hosts and benefactors. Neither Churchill nor FDR, he decided (with some justice), really believed that France would rise again from its abysmal defeat or regain its role as a world power. Nor did they see him and his movement as the legitimate heirs of French sovereignty, even when the entire resistance movement pledged allegiance to him. The Roosevelt administration, in particular, was prepared to bypass him entirely and, after the 1944 landing in Normandy, to subject metropolitan France to Allied military rule.
After the war, de Gaulle’s foreign policy—he was prime minister and then president from 1944 to 1946 and from 1958 to 1969—grew fiercely nationalistic, based on a complete rejection of the West and of Anglo-American hegemony. He withdrew from NATO in 1964, sided with the Communists in Indochina in 1966, and supported Quebec separatism in 1967. Tellingly for our purposes, he also terminated an extremely fruitful cooperative relationship with Israel in science, technology, nuclear research, and armaments. As explained dryly by de Gaulle’s foreign minister, Couve de Murville, this was just a matter of national interest: as long as France maintained its special relationship with the “Zionist state,” it would be unable to enter into a much sought-after grand alliance with the “non-aligned” world and the oil-rich Arab kingdoms.
All of this came as a shock to much of de Gaulle’s constituency at home, which had been quite supportive of Israel. The France-Israel alliance had in fact been engineered in 1955 by Pierre Koenig, a Gaullist defense minister, and later expanded by Pierre Messmer, a Gaullist minister of the armed forces. The president himself had once referred to Israel as “a friend and an ally”—and it had therefore been widely assumed that he would stand by its side during and after the Six-Day War of June 1967.
Instead, a few days after Israel’s victory in that war, he struck a “neutral” pose by placing an embargo on weapons deliveries to Middle Eastern belligerents; since Israel was then France’s only customer in the region, “neutrality” amounted to a switch to the Arab side. Then, at a press conference in November, not only did de Gaulle question Israel’s legitimacy as a nation-state but he also denounced Jews in general as an “elite, self-assured, and domineering people,” equipped with “vast resources in terms of money, influence, and propaganda.” I was nineteen at the time and, like most young people in France who were not on the Left, a fervent Gaullist; I remember listening to the radio broadcast and feeling my blood run cold.
Had de Gaulle been a covert anti-Semite all along? Anti-Jewish remarks are to be found in letters that he wrote as a young officer to his relatives after World War I. But in the 1930’s, shunned by the French army’s upper echelon and his former mentor Marshall Philippe Pétain, he had been befriended and supported by Colonel Emile Mayer, a retired Jewish officer and, like de Gaulle himself, a strategic contrarian. During the war, as the charismatic leader of the Free French and head of the French Liberation Government, de Gaulle abrogated the Vichy racial laws in the territories that fell, one by one, under his authority.
In sum, it would be fair to say that de Gaulle had been raised in an anti-Semitic culture, had become relatively unprejudiced in his middle years, and relapsed toward the end of his life. But de Gaulle’s personal feelings are less important than his legacy. In 1967, he was widely criticized for his betrayal of Israel and his anti-Jewish remarks. Still, he was and he remained de Gaulle, a larger than life character and France’s greatest national hero since Napoleon. Thanks to his enormous stature and his major domestic achievement—a new, modernized, and all-powerful state bureaucracy fully committed to his doctrine of “national independence”—the decisions he made and the stands he took would exercise a growing influence not just on France but on all of Western Europe.
The anti-American, pro-Arab, and objectively anti-Israel policies initiated by de Gaulle in the 1960s have remained to this day an essential tenet of French foreign affairs and French political culture, whether under conservative or socialist governments. If they have also spread like a virus into the European Community and the European Union as a whole—and they have—the reason is that the EU’s decision-making process, at French insistence but with British acquiescence, is based on the principle of unanimity or near-unanimity rather than on majority opinion. France may at one point have been the lone country in Europe with an explicitly anti-Israel agenda, but when it came time to formulate an all-European position on the Middle East, the choice was between no position at all or a compromise between, on the one hand, the French line and, on the other hand, the more pro-Israel approach advocated by other countries. Since Europe very much wanted to have, or appear to have, a say in Middle Eastern affairs, it chose the second option, thus turning a tiny minority view into, in effect, half the European view. And since every European country was supposed to abide by the EU’s “common foreign policy,” a modicum of hostility to Israel was now routinely endorsed.
Over the years, the entire European political class has been reeducated into a culture of Israel-bashing. Think of William Hague and David Cameron: as young Conservative activists or backbenchers, these British politicians were as pro-Israel as Stephen Harper of Canada; today, as mature politicians, they have joined Europe’s anti-Israel choir.
End of Part Four
© Michel Gurfinkiel & MosaicMagazine, 2013
Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum.
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