Saturday, August 19, 2006

A FRENCH MEL GIBSON. MEET AMBASSADOR DANIEL BERNARD

UP FRONT News August 12, 2006
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”
A FRENCH MEL GIBSON. MEET AMBASSADOR DANIEL BERNARD

I’ve been to France several times and am among the many millions who think Paris is a beautiful city. I know some very nice French people. Some of those, however, purporting to speak for the French people, such as Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador to Eng- land, need to watch their language, just as Mel Gibson does. At a recent fancy reception in London, Monsieur Bernard reportedly blamed all the world’s current troubles on “That shitty little country, Israel.”

Speaking as the Jewish non-Zionist that I am, his comment, aside from playing major revisionist games with the facts, is particularly tacky coming from the representative of a nation whose governments’ history of screwing the Jews and of putting money before human rights, let alone a military history which perhaps makes some French politicians envious of Israeli successes on the battlefield is distinctive

Although, except when it comes to ethnic humor, I avoid negative ethnic generalizations, Bernard’s revealing blunder (and presumably he had less to drink than Gibson), brings into focus again how the French, from the top levels down, cooperated with the Nazis in getting rid of the Jews. For me it’s quite personal, although it occurred seven years be-
fore I was born. In 1936, Hitler annexed Austria. My very Jewish parents were trapped in Vienna, perhaps the world’s most Nazi-sympathetic city. Within a few days, the Nazis came to their door and threw my father in jail. But, since the Nazis had not yet developed their death camp machinery, it was still possible, with the right papers, for Jews to emi-
grate. Because my mother’s older brother had already emigrated to the U.S., it became somewhat easier. It was still necessary, however, to get several documents, aside from visas and passports. One of the documents had to come from a country other than Ger-
many (Austria no longer existed) or the U.S. My mother described for me her desperate runs through the Nazi patrolled streets of Vienna, visiting embassies and consulates. The French turned her down. And this was well before Hitler’s conquest of France. Very, very fortunately, the Dutch provided the document. My father was released and, after the Nazis stole all their belongings, my parents were allowed to board a train for Oslo, Nor- way, from which city they sailed to Ellis Island and America.

It is a historical fact that, under the German occupation, many French people helped the Germans round up the Jews for deportation and death. Petain and Laval, the compliant French “rulers” helped transform the word “Vichy” into a symbol of collaboration and treason. It is also a historical, if under-reported, fact that France’s opposition to the Cheney/Bush/Clinton invasion of Iraq was motivated by factors other than the love of peace and human rights, and had everything to do with their oil-related deals with Sad- dam Hussein. It is also a historical fact, stretching over centuries, that, like a number of other imperial-minded countries (U.S., China, Germany, Russia, Japan, Spain, et. al.), France has had illusions of world supremacy. Napoleon made a try at it by sometimes invading militarily depleted lands (e.g. 19th century Spain) but got thrashed in Russia.
For some reason the French have for centuries nourished their delusions of military prowess. The Germans treated their “Maginot Line” like soufflé.

While I have major differences with the governments of Israel over many matters as regards Palestine and Lebanon, there is no question in my mind that Israel has the same right to defend itself as any other country, especially against those (Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah) who are pledged to destroy the country. Apparently Daniel Bernard, perhaps considering some French military history, thinks the Israelis should throw in the towel.
Bernard should just be glad that the French are not fighting the Israelis. It could wind up like the World Cup.

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