The expression “the more things change, the more they stay the same” was coined by a Frenchman in 1849 (“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”). When it comes to France and its attitude towards Israel and the Jews, it can truly be said that nothing has changed.
Take, for instance, the vote last Friday at the U.N. Human Rights Council. The council voted 47 to 1 with five abstentions to call on Israel and the Palestinians to prosecute alleged war crimes committed in last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. The only country that voted against, the United States, protested that the resolution focused exclusively on alleged Israeli violations “without any express reference to Palestinian violations.”
Wasn’t France (and Germany and Britain for that matter) bothered by the absence of express reference to Palestinian violations? Do they have such short memories in Paris that they can’t remember the thousands of missiles that were fired at Israeli civilians before Israel was finally forced to launch a military operation?
It’s an embarrassment to the French and to the free world that the only countries that had the courage to abstain were Ethiopia, India, Paraguay, the Republic of Macedonia and Kenya.
When it comes to Iran, the French, who actually started out taking a tough stand in the nuclear talks, have once again shown their true colors. Even before a deal was signed, they were jostling for position in a bid to get their share of Iranian contracts.
France views Iran as a lucrative market, with its population of 77 million and the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves and second-largest gas reserves. Bilateral trade fell from four billion euros in 2004 to 500 million in 2013, and big business wants to make sure it gets its piece of the pie when the sanctions are lifted.
“Unfortunately, we are heavily criticized by Iranian society, which sees us as having abandoned them during a difficult time,” Carlos Tavares, the chairman of French automotive giant PSA Peugeot Citroen, said recently.
But France is wasting no time or effort in correcting that unfortunate misimpression. Some 100 French companies are planning to participate in a delegation to Tehran in September to review business opportunities in the Islamic republic. A French diplomat told Reuters that Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius plans to visit the Iranian capital soon after an agreement is signed in a bid to normalize relations.
But what about Iran’s nuclear program, its sponsorship of world terror, its openly declared intention to “wipe Israel off the map”? Those are moral issues, and the French don’t mix morals with business.
As one senior French official put it: “Everyone is looking at Iran with greed.”
Finally, there is France’s laughable attempt at dealing with the growth of radical Islam in its midst. Despite the national outrage at the brutal murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket in January — coming less than three years after the massacre at the Otzar Hatorah Talmud Torah in Toulouse — the government has been stunningly ineffective in working with the six-million strong Muslim community to contain terrorism.
Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden, reports on a dialogue held last month in Paris between senior government officials, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls and some 150 Muslim dignitaries. The meetings dealt with a variety of Muslim demands, like beefing up protection for their mosques, stronger government action against Islamophobia and building another 5,000 mosques for the community.
“Sensitive topics such as the problems of Islam in France, Islamic terrorism, the radicalization of Islamic youth and the fact that hundreds of them have joined the ranks of Islamic State were not discussed,” Mazel, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, writes in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post. “In the words of the organizers, ‘in order not to insult the Muslim community.’”
(It goes without saying that anti-Semitism wasn’t discussed.)
Mazel notes that a few days after the conclusion of the meetings, Yassi Salhi, a 35-year-old father of three, beheaded his boss in a gas factory in Lyons, France and brandished two flags bearing the Shahada — the Muslim profession of faith. In his response to the gruesome attack, President Francois Hollande refrained from using the words “Islam” or “Islamic terrorism” and did not mention that there was an inscription in Arabic on the flags.
France is fooling itself if it thinks it can “buy” quiet at Israel’s expense or at the expense of its Jewish population. Whatever concessions it makes to Iran and its extremists at home in a bid to win contracts or (relative) quiet at home will produce, at best, short-term benefits.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Making deals with those who represent evil has not worked in the past and will not work in the future.