Manfred Gerstenfeld interviews Shmuel Trigano:
“France embraces a pro-Arab policy for several reasons. History plays a substantial role. In the 19th century France was a protector of Christian and holy sites in Palestine. Also, via its ‘Mediterranean Policy’ France tries to increase its relative weight in the European Union through good relations with the North African countries, where large numbers of French citizens originate. France has a closer relationship with those countries than Germany and other Northern European states.
“A third reason which motivates France’s pro-Arab policy is the fact that several populations that are hostile toward Israel live in the country. These include many Muslims. In addition, a large part of the public harbors left-wing resentment against the former colonial role of France. This expresses itself in pro-Arab positions.“
Shmuel Trigano is a retired Professor of Sociology at Paris University. He has founded various institutes for Jewish learning. He is the author of numerous books focusing on Jewish philosophy and Jewish political thought.
“In view of its Vichy past and remorse regarding the Shoah, France sees itself as a self-appointed moral guardian of Israel. This role is however conditional upon Israel showing restraint in exercising its sovereignty. Under this condition France has imagined a scenario in which it will save Israel in case of danger. This is a French pipedream.
“The existence of Israel as a democracy hampers France’s aims in trying to mobilize the Mediterranean Arab countries as allies. By taking unsympathetic positions toward Israel, France shows its support for Arab countries, and is their de facto spokesperson in the West. This is further accentuated by France’s complete support for the Palestinian cause.
“According to French law, foreign policy is the competence of the country’s president. In practice foreign policy is determined by the Foreign Office, commonly known as the Quai d’Orsay. As a result, there has hardly been any difference in the country’s policy toward Israel during the terms of the last three presidents. Nicolas Sarkozy was perhaps a little bit more friendly in his words than socialist president François Hollande. As far as Sarkozy’s acts were concerned, it didn’t make much difference. France always votes in an unfriendly or hostile way toward Israel in international forums.
“Under Hollande a majority of the parliament claimed – with a standing ovation -- recognition of ‘the State of Palestine.’ President Emmanuel Macron will not deviate from his predecessors’ policies toward Israel. Nor can one expect much from him as far as the fight against antisemitism is concerned.”
Trigano remarks: “There is a huge contrast between the morality that France requires from Israel and its own behavior. One can best see this in regard to Iran. France politically supports a country which wants to destroy Israel and exterminate its population. In addition, Iran is a major supplier of weapons to countries with extreme violent intentions.
“France’s international policy is at the same time an internal one. The Palestinian cause is the banner of a large part of their Muslim population who demonstrate in the streets carrying Palestinian flags and Hamas emblems. Such actions are supported by the French public due to the systematically distorted media reports about developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“The semi-government press agency, Agence France Presse, is a major producer of distorted news about Israel. The hostility toward Israel is ambient in society, in particular in the media and among intellectuals.
“France’s political elite has lacked the courage to confront the variety of political and national problems that the immigrant population poses. The Islam practiced by parts of the recent Muslim immigrant community in France is not modern. In addition its adherents are still emotionally attached to their countries of origin.
“The French government is unwilling to confront this reality. Instead It promotes a dialogue of religions. Thus, Christians and Jews are supposed to help the social integration of Muslims. This attitude is radically different from the conditions that Napoleon demanded of Catholics and Jews in order to become equal citizens.
“The now decimated socialist party has played a particularly negative role toward Jews in this century. At the beginning of 2000 major violence against the Jews broke out while the socialist Jospin government was in power. More than 500 antisemitic attacks by immigrants occurred over two years. Yet publicity about the violence was censored. Years later, the then Minister of the Interior said this was done in order not to throw ‘oil on the fire’ meaning, the security of the Jews had to be sacrificed to serve a non-existent ‘social peace.’
“Not surprisingly tens of thousands of Jews have left the country in recent years. One must conclude that there is little light in the future for the Jewish community in France, by far the biggest in Europe.”