French soldier guards synagogue (illustration)
French soldier guards synagogue (illustration) Serge Attal/Flash 90

The French Jewish community is in a fury in the wake of a letter sent last week by French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud, which included a shocking statement in response to the Islamic State (ISIS) attacks on Paris earlier in the month.

In the letter written to French citizens residing in the US, Araud did not mention ISIS in relation to its six attacks that left 130 murdered. He went on to draw a comparison with the January attacks in Paris, in which Muslim terrorists murdered 17 people in attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical paper and on a Jewish supermarket.

"These are the foundations of our model of society that the terrorists seek to destroy: Yesterday journalists and Jews; now ordinary citizens whose only crime was to enjoy life on a Friday night in Paris," said Araud, in a shocking distinction between Jews and "ordinary citizens."

One Jewish ex-pat living in New York, Ron Agam, took to Facebook to write, "tonight French people in the US received a letter from the French Ambassador about the events in Paris. To my surprise I learned that I - the Jew that I am - was not a regular French citizen, I was a Jew.”

Schlomoh Brodowicz, a French Jewish academic who immigrated to Israel, told The Algemeiner this week why Araud's statements are particularly damaging.

"This man (Araud) is supposed to represent France in a major country which hosts the third-largest Jewish community in the world," Brodowicz said of the ambassador to the US. "And his message clearly sets the Jews apart from other French citizens."

"When one recalls the slaughter committed by Islamists on January 9, 2015 in the HyperCasher kosher grocery store - where four Jews doing their shopping for Shabbat were killed - this message sounds like: ‘Those who were killed while they enjoyed entertainment on Friday night were ordinary citizens, while those who were shopping for Shabbat on Friday afternoon were not ordinary citizens; they were merely Jews.'"

He noted that the statement "is reminiscent of a similar remark made by then-Prime Minister Raymond Barre after the bombing of a Paris synagogue in 1980: ‘This heinous attack was aimed at Israelites who go to synagogue, but struck innocent French people crossing the street.'"

The academic appraised that Araud may not have intentionally distinguished between French Jews and other French citizens, particularly because he listed "journalists" together with Jews while noting the January attacks.

However, he said, "I venture to think that a person of such high diplomatic rank should be able to word a message the way it should be read."