I’d already blogged today, so I wasn’t planning to spend much time on my Thursday ritual of heaping ridicule on Seattle Times editorial columnist Collin Levey, and her latest political polemic. [By scolding Israel's Sharon, France wallows in disdain]
It certainly didn’t seem worth my effort to refute Collin’s assertions of French antisemitism… hell, the French virtually invented antisemitism in the modern sense of the word with the whole Dreyfus Affair. (Although the word itself was coined in 1873 by a German writer to replace the less politically correct “Judenhass,” meaning “Jew-hating.” History lesson over.)
And to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what Collin was trying to say.
But I’m always a little suspicious when I see a writer excerpt comments by quoting individual words… you know, like when a movie ad quotes a reviewer as saying “entertaining” and “moving” when the original quote might be “I find it more entertaining moving my bowels.” So, apart from her Frenchified Vassar vocabulary and use of the the royal “we,” note Collin’s adoption of this selective quoting technique:
The contretemps began on Sunday, when Sharon, speaking to visiting American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, commented on the spreading rash of anti-Semitic incidents in France and encouraged French Jews to return to Israel “immediately.” Despite Sharon’s praise for France’s efforts to calm its roiling tensions, Chirac and his foreign minister, Michel Barnier, took the opportunity to castigate the Jewish leader on the world stage, calling the remarks “unacceptable” and disinviting Sharon from a state visit until he had an “explanation.”
We wonder several things here, but first is exactly which part of the remarks they didn’t understand. The calling home of Jews to Israel has been around practically longer than Israel itself, and has been a frequent mantra for Sharon long before this week.
Of course, very few of her readers are likely to whip out a copy of Le Monde and check out the story for themselves. But it’s amazing what you can find with a couple Google searches.
Scott MacMillan writing in Slate (“Sharon to France: Send Me Your Jews“) puts Sharon’s remarks in a bit more context:
“Move to Israel, as early as possible. I say that to Jews all around the world, but there (in France) I think it’s a must and they have to move immediately.” The Israeli government often encourages Diaspora Jews to come to Israel, but Sharon’s remarks about France were particularly stinging as he said French Jews should emigrate to escape “the wildest anti-Semitism.”
This was not the usual “mantra” that Collin makes it out to be, and Sharon himself points out the distinction. And as to “disinviting” Sharon from a state visit, according to a French spokesman:
A possible visit by the Israeli prime minister to Paris, for which no date has been set, will be examined only when the explanations called for have been provided.
A possible visit for which no date has been set… it’s not exactly like they called off a wedding. And as to Collin’s shock that France would ask for a (gasp) “explanation”… well, assuming Chirac did misunderstand Sharon’s statement, isn’t that what you’d want him to ask for?
Slate goes on to show that it wasn’t just France who responded with indignation to Sharon’s remarks, pointing out that “papers elsewhere in Europe sounded similar notes.” And the New Zealand Herald (“Sharon’s warning to Jews condemned by all sides“) even quipped that Sharon should consider a career in French politics, as nobody else could unite the nation with so few words:
Left and Right, government and opposition, French Jewish leaders and French Muslim leaders: all agreed yesterday in condemning a weekend statement by the Israeli Prime Minister.
Clearly it wasn’t just Chirac and the “leftist” Le Monde who were offended. The French and other Europeans seemed to understand Sharon’s remarks quite well, and concluded that whether by intention or stupidity, they could only be incendiary in the current political climate. According to the Herald:
He went on to imply that France was dangerous for Jews because it had a “ten per cent” Muslim population. The true figure for the Muslim population in France is six per cent.
France is a dangerous place for Jews? Considering current events I’d feel a helluva lot safer strolling the streets of Paris than Jerusalem. And I’m wondering which country has the larger percentage of Muslims.
Anyway, like I said, apart from the bold GOP election-year strategy of French bashing, I’m not really sure what Collin’s point is. I just wish she’d make it without distorting events through selective quoting.