A lapse of French etiquette

Emmanuel Macron and his sudden flare-up against Israeli security personnel, at the entrance to Saint Anne’s church in Jerusalem, was out of place - or was it not? 

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Macron at memorial
Macron at memorial
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

No small thing when so many world leaders visit Israel in friendship. Proof that the Jewish State does not dwell alone among the nations, after all. 

The luminaries came to express their respects. In return, the Israelis welcomed them wholeheartedly. 

If only it had gone on without a hitch…and the culmination doesn’t happen until Monday.

Of all the people you’d least expect a faux pas, it would be the French, who invented courtly manners and protocol.

But then came Emmanuel Macron and his flare-up against Israeli security personnel, at the entrance to Saint Anne’s church in Jerusalem. 

Perhaps jetlag? Seems, though, from the pictures and the accounts, that the French president was being not quite spontaneous, but rehearsed, and rather true to French tradition.  

That’s more than a guess, because something quite like it, if less obtuse, happened before, as when, back in 1996, French president Jacques Chirac shooed off Israeli officers at the same entrance to the same church, which, we are told, resides on French territory, and dates back to the 12th century.

Israeli officers were on the job, to protect visitors, dignitaries especially at this time of heightened awareness, but Macron preferred no Jews, only French “security forces.”

Like the security forces who surrendered to the Germans after six weeks? No wonder the Israelis were worried.

Macron, among the world leaders in Israel for Holocaust Remembrance, was only doing what comes naturally, and historically…pushing Jews around.

Sorry for being so blunt. But that’s the image. 

To understand, maybe you had to be there. French novelist Andre Schwartz-Bart was there, and in “The Last of the Just,” he wrote surely among the finest, truest, most gut-wrenching fact-based novels about the Holocaust, tracing it all back, through the sainted Levy family, from the time of the Crusades.

Must read…to fully understand the Jewish dilemma within the European state of mind. 

Of Toulouse, Middle Ages, Schwartz-Bart writes that once a year the chief rabbi had to present himself at the cathedral for a ceremonial slap across the face.  

Sometimes it feels like the Middle Ages just won’t quit.

The French can’t seem to break the habit.

Even when they are in the Jewish State of Israel, and still feel as though they own the place, and the Jews.

Are we taking this too far? Being impolite? Maybe. But the moment at the church felt so elaborately staged. Even felt like a slap across the face.

Good that Macron expresses his regrets over the Holocaust and France’s unconscionable role in the Shoah. Better if he shed one less tear at Yad Vashem, and one more vote in Israel’s favor at the UN. Then it would mean something. Good is his concern over the rise of anti-Semitism in his country. Better would be to stop bringing in so many of them. 

Planned? Back in 1996, French president Jacques Chirac shooed off Israeli officers at the same entrance to the same church.
While in Israel, Macron failed to muster legendary French Etiquette and, as we are suggesting, quite intentionally so.

Shoving Israelis aside, and making a scene of it, gives the appearance of a man who intends to show who’s boss.  

The cameras were clicking. The world was watching. He took the moment to make a point.

Like it was Once Upon a Time in Europe, and there was no Israel to rescue the remnants whose fate was left to the tender mercies of, say, the gendarmes, who normally rounded up, for deportation, twice the number of Jews, including children, roused from their sleep, that the Gestapo had requested.

Fortunately, times have changed. When it’s all over, he goes. Israel stays.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He wrote the worldwide book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal,” and the authoritative newsroom epic, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” followed by his coming-of-age classics, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” and, the Holocaust-to-Montreal memoir, “Escape from Mount Moriah,” for which contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: www.jackengelhard.com