Israel at loggerhead over Palestine
13 July 2002
Tensions between France and Israel have escalated into mutual antagonism
after a series of incidents related to the conflict with the Palestinians
that have resulted in claims of media bias, boycott threats and
One of the most recent to rile the Israelis was a provocative announcement
by an Air France pilot as he brought a plane into land at Tel Avivs
Ben Gurion airport on July 5.
He welcomed the passengers to Israel-Palestine, angering
many Jews on board who complained to Israeli authorities.
Air France apologised for the row Friday, saying it deplored what
was purely a personal announcement by the captain and in no
way a statement recommended by the company.
Israelis telecom company Bezek has called for its thousands
of employees to boycott the airline until the French pilot is sacked.
Many Jews in Israel and the United States are already furious over
what they see as a pro-Palestinian bias in French media and a rise
in anti-Jewish attacks in France over the past year that they are
quick to liken to the Nazi persecution of their people in the lead
up to World War II.
Israels government called on French Jews to emigrate to Israel
after Jean-Marie Le Pen, a far-right politician who once dismissed
the Nazi gas chambers as a detail of history, made a
brief but surprisingly strong run for the French presidency.
And US Jewish groups have urged their members to put off travel
to France to admonish the country for not doing enough to protect
They even made an appeal for Jewish movie executives to skip the
Cannes Film Festival in May.
That appeal was ignored, with director Woody Allen giving a rare
media conference in the French Riviera town to say Ive
never felt that the French people in any way were anti-Semitic.
France, which has the biggest Jewish community in western Europe,
around 700,000-strong, has fought back against the accusations.
President Jacques Chirac in May strongly protested to US President
Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon about the claims of
French anti-Semitism, saying they were unacceptable.
And the French ambassador to Washington, Francois Bujon de lEstang
last month wrote a public letter published in several newspapers
saying that such allegations amounted to slander and
were blatantly malicious.
He blamed the anti-Jewish attacks in France on youths from his
countrys five-million-strong Muslim community who were outraged
with Israels hardline crackdown and occupation of Palestinian
Bujon de lEstang also suggested that the Jewish onslaught
might be motivated by an attempt to drown out Frances voice
in the search for Middle East peace.
Meanwhile, an association of 30 French groups launched a call Thursday
for consumers to boycott Israeli goods in protest against the occupation
of the Palestinian West Bank.
Israel is practising a virtual apartheid on the Palestinian
population, the president of the Coordination for Calls for
a Fair Peace in the Middle East (CAPJPO), Olivia Zemor, told a media
conference in Paris.
The international media rights organisation Reporters Sans Frontiers
(Reporters Without Borders) also said more than 25,000 signatures
had been put a petition denouncing attacks by Jewish groups on French
The Jewish groups, both in France and abroad, have started a coordinated
campaign claiming French newspapers, television and news agencies
including Paris-based AFP have vastly overplayed the
Palestinian side of events and underplayed the Israeli side.
Threats have also been made to journalists and newsrooms in France.
Signatures on the petition include several respected figures, including
a lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,
William Bourdon, radical farm leader and anti-globalisation militant
Jose Bove, musician Manu Chao, and the head of the French Jewish
Union for Peace,Richard Wagman.