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France's Dr. Dumb

By Michael Freund
6/16/2006, 12:00 AM

He is a prominent businessman and philanthropist, well-known to his French countrymen and to statesmen alike, and he even received an honorary doctorate this week from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

But don't let all that fool you. Baron Eric de Rothschild is still the purveyor of some of the most inane opinions you are ever likely to hear (outside Israel's present governing coalition, of course).

Baron_rothschild In an interview last week with the Jerusalem Post, he laid bare his outlook on everything ranging from Israeli Beduin to Jacques Chirac. Here is one of Mr. Rothschild's choice pearls of wisdom: "The one thing you can't say is that France is an anti-Semitic country."

Oh, really? Tell that to the thousands of French Jews moving to Israel each year who are fleeing the hatred back home. Or to the family of Ilan Halimi, the 23-year old French Jew who was tortured and murdered several months ago by anti-Semitic thugs.

But perhaps Mr. Rothschild's most ridiculous comment of all had to do with Jewish charitable giving. The Post story reported as follows: "the priority for Jewish giving, he said, should be helping Israeli Arabs."

That's right. Despite Israel's crumbling educational system, underdeveloped development towns, and myriad other social and economic problems, Mr. Rothschild nonetheless thinks that the Jewish people's number one philanthropic priority should be helping the Arabs.

All one can say in the face of such astonishing foolishness is that while Mr. Rothschild may indeed be a "baron", it would seem more appropriate to refer to him as France's own Dr. Dumb.