Thursday, May 26, 2005

Another article on French Jews

This would have been useful to see before turning in the BA. David Pryce-Jones goes through the whole history of French-Jewish emancipation, the Dreyfus Affair, and the initial French attitude towards Zionism (all subjects I discuss in my BA--Pryce-Jones even mentions Bernard Lazare!) and then fits it together with the contemporary French-Arab-Jewish situation and, in particular, with French diplomacy. His conclusion?

France today lacks the resources and the influence either to supplant the United States or to enlist the Arab world in its camp, to create a Palestinian state, or to dismantle Israel. Moreover, its nuisance value has rebounded on itself. Its chosen instruments, Saddam Hussein and Arafat, both proved untrustworthy: support for the former was evidently related to French profiteering from the UN oil-for-food scam, which dwarfed the corruption even of the Mitterrand era, and support for the latter had roots in obscure deals, protection rackets, and emotional anti-Americanism.

In the Middle East, France has forfeited whatever leverage it might once have enjoyed. At home, meanwhile, it has had to come to terms with a growing Arab underclass, one whose resentments and tendencies to violence have been whipped up in no small part by the inflexible hostility displayed by the French state to Jewish self-determination. The pursuit of une puissance musulmane, fitting Arabs and Jews into a grand design on French terms, has evidently been an intellectual illusion all along, and highly dangerous to the interests of everyone concerned.

The word "hostility" has negative connotations, as does the word "inflexible." But is France's stance on Israel wrong, or are French Jews' responses to that stance the problem? Is it a problem if the French Jewish attitude towards Zionism differs greatly from the French nation's political position on the subject, or are such differences of opinion acceptable and even healthy in a liberal state? Because it's not right for France--a country with 600,000 Jews--to declare that all Jews would be better off in Israel. But rational French Jews might look at French history and see the appeal of an escape route, without feeling the need for France in particular to support the state of Israel. In fact, the more France considers its Jews to be French and the less it confuses them with Israelis, the better, from the French Jews' point of view. Yes? No? Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ. That is one loathsome article.

Don't you know reading Commentary will rot your brain?

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Agree or disagree with the argument, the history is all summed up quite nicely.

Anonymous said...

"the history is all summed up quite nicely."

The post '67 history is a soufflé of misrepresentations and outright lies, with a few half-truths thrown in to add spice.

I'm out of my depth in discussing the pre '67 history, but I'd be astounded if the characterizations are much more reliable.