Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Happy Bastille Day!

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I’ve always had a love for things French, from Rabelais to my favorite movie director, Eric Rohmer. I have a few blogging friends in Paris, and I love to read about their beautiful city. But sometimes I wonder — has there ever been a positive thing said about Israel by a French leader? And why not?

I support Israel’s current bombardment of Lebanon, although I’m sad that civilians are being injured and killed. But why is Jacques Chirac always the first out of the gate to call Israel’s offensive as “totally disproportionate”?

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Bachar El Assad and Jacques Chirac

“One could ask if today there is not a sort of will to destroy Lebanon, its equipment, its roads, its communication,” Chirac said during an interview.

What would he do if Spain went into France tonight and kidnapped some French soliders? Wouldn’t the French people want to take action? Was the storming of Normandy by the Allies a “totally disproportionate” action? Or was the Nazi presence acceptable? Was the storming of the Bastille disproportionate?

France has a long history in the Middle East, including past colonies in Morocco, Lebanon, Algeria and Tunisia. Millions of Arabs murdered by French soldiers in the past. Maybe that explains French guilt over the Arab world. Does it also explain why Chirac was the only western head of state at Syrian despot Hafez el Assad`s funeral?

These two men had a long relationship. After being pressed by Jewish groups, Chirac finally questioned Assad about former Nazi Alois Brunner, who was living in Syria. Brunner, a top Nazi operative, is believed responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Jews deported to death camps between 1942 and 1945. He once was commandant of the squalid French transit camp at Drancy. Assad’s simple answer to Chirac’s question: he would “examine the issue.” I guess that was good enough.

President Giscard d’Estaing provided asylum to Ayatollah Khomeini who resided in Neauphle le Chateau near Paris and, on 1 February 1979, arrived in Teheran on a special Air France flight. Two generations earlier, France extended similar hospitality to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a close friend of Heinrich Himmler and enthusiastic advocate of the “Final Solution.” Although the French government was obligated to detain this war criminal and bring him to law, they lodged him in a villa in the fashionable Paris suburb of Rambouillet.

General de Gaulle was well-known for using the phrase: “le peuple juif, sûr de lui meme et dominateur” (the Jewish people, self-confident and domineering). De Gaulle was an admirer of Charles Maurras, a monarchist-nationalist-Catholic thinker and politician with strong anti-Semitic feelings.

According to the Canadian historian Henry Weinberg, “De Gaulle implicitly characterized the Israelis as arrogant, expansionist war hawks who seek every opportunity to achieve their imperialistic aims, as militarists spoiling for a fight. He also ‘invited’ the Jews to keep a low profile, implying that Israel’s right to live in security was linked to the ‘humility’ of its political behavior.

Which basically meant that Jews were OK, as long as they remained wimpy. You know, like the nice non-aggressive ones who agreed to go onto the friendly trains to Germany.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Life is a Cabaret

50 Comments

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some of the rockets that hit Hajfa were French.

    Thank you, Neil.
    Amid news about Armenians, reading insane LJ posts (one by antisemitic Russian-Jewish physics professor in Bejrut…can’t give Sophia the link, sorry – he wet his pants and put it under lock),etc – that was a welcome change.

    If I only believed in prayer.

  2. Non-Highlighted Heather

    July 15, 2006 at 7:00 am

    It isn’t my belief in prayer that is so fragile, it’s my belief in people.

    Still, in defense of Msr. Chirac, I think that near death experience he had with a falafal as a child has continued to haunt him to this day and colors his judgment.

  3. What also might color his judgement is the relative collective power of the French Muslim community, and the fact that to get elected in France one needs its vote.

  4. Very thought-provoking post!

    I still feel bad for Zenedine Zidane.

  5. Oh I do believe in people; or rather what different people are capable of doing in extreme situations.
    Like IDF swiftly destroying the Lebanese radars that aided the Iranian-made missile onto the Israeli ship (and, accidentally, an Egyptian one…why don’t we hear even one protestation from Mr.Mubarak?) Or what Israeli Left is capable of, even now, under the Hiz’ bombs, screaming “Olmert is destroying young Lebanese democracy…why don’t we send them more money instead?”

    Anyway, in case you don’t know yet (I don’t believe you read this source): latest developements re: our French allies.

    Btw, Neil, why do you think your French-dependent readers are so quiet today? Where’s the always outspoken fan base? Jules? Fatima? others?

  6. Maybe French poeple do not want to participate in a debate so illogically laid out. Did you equate the kidnapping of a couple soldiers in Israel to the years of Nazi occupation in France? Did you? Did you just do that? And then, just to clarify a thought, who is occupying who in Palestine anyways? I am just not so clear here….
    I agree with you though that general blablering on the “jewish people” is this or that is racist and comdamnable but same holds true for any other group, right?

  7. Sissi (oh the Lord the Just one; there never was a name so fitting): there is no land called Palestine.
    There is a country called Israel, always was and always will be. I’m glad you admit being not so clear on the subject- it’s a first step in education.
    So go, read a href=”some on the topic before smashing arguments by others as “illogical”.

    Kidnapping of “couple of soldiers” is considered an act of War by international standards. Of course, that would be a legitimate reason for anybody but the Jews…natural logic, for the French national.

  8. The link got eaten by the Blogger Monster; apologies.

  9. The anchor used by that link will make your browser skip the top of the page, which read, “The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view.” According to the article provided by that link, it’s pretty much always been a region that has existed by the leave of the most powerful empire in the neighborhood, whatever the name of the land itself.
    I think it’s interesting to speak to American fundamentalist Christians who support the cause of the nation of Israel, as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Their foreign policy is based on a more or less literal interpretation of the Book of Revelations, which predicts a rebuilding of the Temple and a cataclysm involving a massive world war between the powers of Good and Evil. Israel and other nations of the world are destroyed, evil rules until the Second Coming of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven.
    Which is ironic, that both these Christian fundamentalists and Muslim groups are both working towards the eventual destruction of Israel.

    In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.
    – Carl Sagan

    Discuss.

  10. Discuss what? American Christians? Bible prophecies? Irrelevant to the subject at hand.

    Of course the “world” has different opinions on the name of Israel. It includes billions of Arabs and more billions, of various nationalities, of their Lefty friends.

    If someone distorts the truth that doesn’t mean there is no truth, or there are multiple truths, equal in their legitimacy.

    Still, am I the only one noticing lack of comments on the subject? Or visitors come here only for penis jokes and references to blowjobs?

  11. I don’t really think there are billions of Arabs. From Mauritania to the Persian Gulf, the entire population is less than 350 million people, according to my World Book. Wikipedia puts it at 323 millions. Of course, you may mean Muslims, of which there still are not quite 2 billion people who describe themselves that way. Most Muslims are not Arabs; many Arabs are not Muslim.
    American fundamentalist Christians are not irrelevant to the independence or military power of the State of Israel as they are a main source of their support. Not the main source, of course; there are many factors.
    I do notice the low number of comments on this thread, which is likely due to the sentiment that is succinctly expressed by an observation by Carl Sagan, quoted above. What’s to discuss? You agree, you don’t agree. Your opinion is not likely to be changed by discussion; it’s not likely to be changed by force. I think this blog is read primarily for entertainment rather than news analysis.
    An American Quaker I heard speak said that he was a pacifist simply because it is quite impossible to change someone’s opinion by a force.
    Two ROTC cadets disagreed, and the Quaker offered a demonstration. He was a pretty large, muscular fellow, and he asked one of the cadets to step forward. He picked up the cadet, lifted him over his head, and threw him across the stage like a sack of apples.
    “Now do you think that the use of force to settle arguments is wrong?” he asked.
    “No, of course not,” said the cadet, shaking himself and dusting himself off.
    “Thank you,” said the Quaker, “you’ve proved my point.”

  12. Neil is worried that if he expresses his opinions, people won’t flirt with him again.

  13. the skip of logic is: how is kidnapping equated to occupation.
    It is not because for some reason Israel missed the boat of decolonization in the 60s — a detail in 20th century history, I presume — that Palestine does not exist.
    Does Poland ring a bell, on the same topic of historico-geographic adventures?
    Oh, and that thing you didn’t get, that’s called sarcasm…

  14. So, TYH, your arithmetical proficiency somehow disproves my point? 300 mln of Arabs against 7 mln of Jews in Israel (why did you omit THAT number?) – wouldn’t they change the “worldview” on the name of the land by sheer quantity?

    So, discussions are useless, right? Why there is any debate then, on any issue? Some believe it, some don’t, and nothing will change anybody’s opinion. Except if the subject of the debate is “the most successful pick-up line”, f.ex. Then you’ll have a million [yeah, I’m at it again – 1000 times was told not to exhagerrate(c)] comments.

    American Christians and their relations to State of Israel, or their reading of the Bible, or their views on pacifism are irrelevant to the subject of this post. We’re talking about the French here. Ethnic ones, who are Catholics only on Easter and Xmas, and than only for presents. And the naturalized ones, who are Muslim in their majority.

    What exactly is your opinion, TYH? What is your heart yearning for?

  15. My boyfriend, who is French and American, and who served in Africa and the Pacific, pretty much condemns France for its entire policy in the Middle East. He spent a great deal of time in Lebanon, as well as Morocco.
    He disagrees with American policy as well, illustrating that there are way more than two sides to every argument. Media outlets do not typically have time nor inclination to present more than two. Many don’t even bother to present that many.
    He also thinks it’s more likely that the rockets that hit Haifa were Russian or Chinese in origin. He calls China the “WalMart of weapons systems.”
    “I doubt that they were actually French,” he said.
    “Why not?” I asked.
    “Obviously,” he replied, “because they were accurate enough to hit their targets.”

  16. You want to talk about Poland, Sissy? Let’s.
    No matter how many times Poland was divided, by Austrians or Russians, or parts of it were renamed in German during WWII, it was always Poland to its natural inhabitants – and they reclaimed the name after independence.

    Looks like you skipped the link I provided for your education, or you wouldn’t bring decolonization or Palestine again – and then hide your ignorance under “sarcasm” disclaimer.
    Gaza was never an Israeli’s colony; what decolonization you’re blabbering about?

    Neil, are all your fans so stupid or you like them this way?

  17. My opinion, Tatyana, is that my opinion is irrelevant to the situation at hand, and I believe that my opinion will not matter to you. I disagree with both sides, and I think that this war will go on in many forms for quite some time. It is the Forever War of classic literature.
    I believe that when Ronald Reagan said, “This is likely the generation that will face Armageddon,” he shaped his foreign policy accordingly. We are still seeing that policy’s effects.
    I believe that there is a fine line between a chosen people and a master race, whether it’s the Jews, the
    Arabs, the Orangemen, or the Tutus. I believe that once you decide you’re one of the elect, the rest of us better keep one hand for the ship, and one hand for ourselves.
    In this particular situation, in my opinion, neither side will win. But when they have devoured each other, perhaps, just maybe, the meek shall inherit the earth.
    My money’s not on it, though, since I won’t be around to collect.
    I believe that the Jews and Arabs should finally once and for all realize that they have one very important thing in common – the hots for anything blonde in a short skirt.

  18. That’s a nice quip (bon mot?), but the rockets weren’t exactly accurate – or they wouldn’t hit the Egyptian civilian ship.

    And 700 rockets sent to Israeli civilian targets by now I wouldn’t call precise: or you should admit the tactic of hitting civilians instead of military targets isn’t accidental. I don’t think it is.

    In any case, rockets are falling this very minute, the military analyses the data, so I won’t discount the possibility of finding a piece of shell labelled “made in France”. No doubts Russians send their weapons all over the 3rd world – what else could they sell?

    If you see many sides to the story, shouldn’t it be easier for you to select one that suits you better? I mean – more choices, better shoe shopping?

    I still don’t see anybody disproove anything the original post says, or present their own theories.

    Sophia, I think Neil is too hurt this post didn’t generate his habitual 300 comments; yeah, the subject can’t compete with the Penis Dialogues.

  19. Whoa, whoa, whoa… calm down Tatyana and Yearning. You both have something strongly in common — your love for me. If you want to see me without my shirt on, there’s a photo a few posts back. That should calm you down.

    I know it’s a little unusual for me to write about politics. And I realize I have a few readers in France or of French heritage. Maybe that’s why I even thought about this subject. I hope I don’t come off as a France-basher.  But I don’t mind a little disagreement either. I just was wondering why the French government is always at the forefront of getting on Israel’s case, while Chirac is always happy to be seen shaking hands with Syria’s president.

  20. And you think Reagan’s foreign policy failed how, exactly?

    Of what “master race” you’re talking about? Why don’t you spell it out? And bring some proofs of your accusations, just for the fun of it.

    Israel is a legitimate state of 7 million-populace, fighting for its’ survival against 300 millions of of Arab agressors who don’t hide their intention to wipe Israel from the map. That’s how it is, and there is no 3rd, or 4th, or 100th side of the story.

    And I’m afraid seating on the sidelines and waiting for Arabs and Jews to resolve their problems among themselves will not work for you anymore. Not if Syria and Iran will be allowed to fund and command Hizbollah any longer. Pretty soon the world will go PUFF, thanks to ones who find watching the spectacle from the orchestra seats mildly amusing. Iranian nuclear bombs will not discriminate between Jews or French-Americans, Liberals or Neocons. But that concept is apparently too complicated to grasp.

  21. Oh, Neil, I’m calm. I’m calm as can be – since we’re not discussing Northern Ireland or funding levels for arts in public universities. I mean really – apart from my tax dollars (which this year will come to exactly $zero as I currently am a “kept woman”) the whole thing doesn’t even affect me. I’ve got a few distant relatives in the gulf, but to be honest I’m closer to Neil than I am to them. I like to push buttons. It’s my theatrical training.

    Speaking of pushing buttons – and I think in the interest of fair play – I will need to send Neil a picture of me with my shirt off, too. When Sophia is not around, Neil, please check your Yahoo mail.
    The answer, Neil, to why Chirac comes down so hard on Israel is the same reason any world leader comes down on anyone. It has little to do with justice and much to do policy.
    Israel and France were on the same side against Libya in the 1980s, on opposite sides regarding this conflict. That’s their policy. Why come down on this nation and not that one? Why does the US support Israel and not Palestine? Policy, strategy, a cool eye towards the numbers involved, You disagree with France, like my boyfriend does; that’s your privilege.

    Tatyana, I don’t have experience in military strategy, so again, I asked my boyfriend if he thought that civilians were intentionally targeted on either side.
    “To be sure, I think that they were,” was his reply. “These weapons are typically accurate when operated correctly. When you have that high a number of missiles and that level of heat of battle, you may occasionally get a bad one or they are less likely to be operated correctly – you’re going to hit some friendly or neutral targets such as that Egyptian vessel.”
    At 19 comments, this post is already almost halfway to the level of comments generated by the most recent of The Penis Dialogues, “The Devil Wears Converse.” I’m still looking for a post that has generated 300 comments. I mean here, not on Dooce.

  22. I didn’t say that Reagan’s policies failed. I said that we are still seeing the results of that.
    I think that they succeeded, and will continue to succeed, right up to and including Armageddon.
    I think I spelled out my opinions pretty well – the notion of a “chosen people” makes me uncomfortable, the idea that one ethnic group has more right to be somewhere than another makes me uncomfortable, whether it’s Jews in Jerusalem, Orangemen in Ulster, or white Protestants in Vidor, Texas.
    I think we’re all in for it, including Iran – they’re not the only developers of nuclear weapons in the neighborhood, remember.
    Nor did I say that Israel was not a legitimate nation – if you’ve got an army and a treasury, you’re a legitimate nation.
    Israel is as legitimate as the Cherokee Nation ever was, and quite a bit stronger militarily, so I’m certain that it will be around as long as that is true.
    And, if you are right and there aren’t two sides to this, then I’ll stop now, concede your point, and make dinner.
    Enjoy yours.

  23. Yearning — I appreciate your passion, but the one point I really disagree with you is, “I believe that there is a fine line between a chosen people and a master race, whether it’s the Jews, the Arabs, the Orangemen, or the Tutus.”

    The Jewish concept of the chosen people means they were stuck to do all this crazy moralistic stuff that God wanted them to do — like not eat lobster and not sleep with your neighbor’s wife. This is a far cry from the idea of a “master race” that wants to dominate the world and sees everyone else as inferior.

    No Jewish person who has ever seen an Adam Sandler movie would ever think that Jews are a “master race.”

  24. Re the “France bashing” worries–

    Criticizing a country’s dominant political policy is NOT the same thing as “bashing” that country as a whole. If someone in France pointed out the stupidities of certain Bush administration policies, I wouldn’t think they were bashing all Americans. I’d agree with them.

    Though I’m sure there are some knee-jerk, defensive, unenlightened people on both side of the pond who wouldn’t be able to make the distinction between those two things.

    It’s also frustrating how everyone continually equates “Israel” with “the Jewish people.” One does not represent the other and never has. Though obviously, this widespread misconception (held by many non-Jews and Jews alike) is at the root of most of the violence that that country experiences, so perhaps the truth is irrelevant at this point. And really, most wars are only able to be initiated and most conflicts only able to be interminably strung out by targeting ignorance with twisted propoganda, so I suppose it’s really no surprise it continues to be the case in this situation.

    FInally, no, kidnapping a handful of soldiers is not the same scale as widespread occupation over many years. But this is missing the point. The point is not scale, but action. If one person/group/country performs an illegal, harmful, or violent act against another person/group/country, the acted-upon party has a right to defend itself and demand what has been taken or harmed be returned or repaired.

  25. Neil, I don’t think the Israelis – or the Jews, and I make the distinction clear – think of themselves as a “master race” in any way.
    Nor do I think that the Lebanese are inherently evil. Anyone who has ever seen an old rerun of The Danny Thomas Show might disagree, however.

  26. What distinction? Israel is a state where majority of population are Jews. It’s their ethnicity as well as religious affiliation. Just as Germany is a state with ethnic German majority, or Syria – a state with ethnic Arab majority.

    There is nothing shameful in being a Jew, Miss Syl. Sorry you don’t want to be associated with your people, but it’s your problem and I feel sorry for you; it must be terrible to live a traitor’s life. Not good for your spirit and worldview.

    Israel had always represented Jewish people, if only by reason of having Jewish people as its citizens. Whatever opinions of the Jews from diaspora are on situation in ME, they are secondary to the opinions of Israelis.

    TYH, Armageddon is not Reagan’s invention. It’s amazing how everything is turned upside-down in your brains. Instead of being greatful to the only man who ended the Cold War (ask your boyfriend about it) you blame him. Listen, if not for him, you might not exist now at all – and me too. If he would listen to the “doves” who were scared shitless and thought Russia undestructible, the Wall will still be standing – or rather nothing would be standing alltogether. I lived thru the 70’s and 80’s in the Soviet Union and I know what I’m talking about.

    As to the civilian targets: Hizbollah doesn’t aim at military. Or to be more precise, they don’t aim. They just throw across the border, wherever it will fall, fine with them. Their concept is every Jew is a legitimate military target – google it if you don’t believe me.
    As Perry said on Samizdata thread:

    “If legitimate targets are surrounded by civilians, that is regretable but it is also war. Hezbollah on the other hand attack civlian target in preference to much harder military targets. If you cannot see the difference then you are a fool”.

    [I should put 400 instead of 300 there; then you would pin me down, once and for all!]

    My dinner was excellent, thank you: I opened a bottle of Lillet before enjoying my Belgian califlower and fenhel soup. Hope yours was good as well.

  27. Judaism is a religion, not a nationality. The majority of Spain is Catholic, but Spain does not represent all Catholics. Nor do all Catholics represent or align themselves with Spain’s political agenda.

    I don’t believe there was any evidence in my previous comment to support any assertion that I don’t want to be associated with “my people” or even that I don’t want to be associated with Israel.

    One is naturally tempted when baited with personally directed commentary and unsupported assumptions about one’s nature to respond in kind, but I won’t rise to that kind of thing.

    You have a lovely evening, Tatyana. Shalom.

  28. “One is naturally tempted when baited with personally directed commentary and unsupported assumptions about one’s nature to respond in kind, but I won’t rise to that kind of thing.”

    Miss Syl. you just did.

    BTW, you’re wrong – traditionally, Judaism is both a religion and a nationality.

    Besides, this is a place for comments, not dissertations, people.

  29. The fact that your view on a “technical definition” who is a Jew is widely taken in US doesn’t make it god given truth.

    Generations of my predecessors were slautered NOT because of their religion but their racial/ethnic affiliation; Germans killed Jews in Germany, France and Hungary, etc who were converted Catholics.

    Half of Israel’s population are secular. I know American Jews who are ateists; that doesn’t make us lesser Jews. My nose is a Jewish nose, and nothing will make it Irish.

    And my evening can not be lovely, on a day when 700 rockets were downed on my people in Israel.

  30. Sorry, Neil, for taking up so much of your comments’ space.

  31. Wow, Neil enters the political fray and his readers start their own blogs inside of his comments section. I love it! France’s atttitudes about the Middle East have almost always been appalling, in my opinion, and while I still consider myself an avid francophile in certain areas, I can understand the recent disenchantment here of our allies, les Français. My daughter is half-French but her French mom is Jewish and thus not “really” French in the eyes of the growing anti-Semitic contingent in that country. Despite some notable exceptions, let’s not forget France’s willingness and zeal in offering up its Jewish citizens to the Nazis.

  32. You’re absolutely right, T, about the taking up space. Not going to respond to the rest of this, though not due to lack of ability or desire to. Would be going way off the post’s topic.

  33. Tat — You don’t have to apologize.  Mi casa es su casa.

     Danny — Help!

  34. From http://tinyurl.com/jmrt4

    Whatever pie-in-the-sky declarations were made at the time – and there were many – nothing good has resulted from Israel’s departure from the area, at least not to the Gazan Arabs. Their political leadership was and is far too busy investing in armaments and personal aggrandizement – in the finest tradition of Palestinian Arab corruption – to have wasted much effort on the needs of their own people.

    So who is worrying about their welfare? Judge for yourself from this press release issued tonight.

    Transfer of food and fuel into the Gaza Strip today
    Despite ongoing terror attacks from Gaza aimed at the civilian population in Israel, and as part of the IDF’s commitment to minimize the damage to the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, the following supplies were transferred today through the Karni and Nahal Oz crossings. Over 30 containers and 140 trucks containing:

    – 1,080 tons of various grains
    – 800 tons of sugar
    – 140 tons of dairy products
    – 520 tons of flour
    – 420 tons of fruit
    – 169 tons of oil
    – 120 tons of salt
    – 160 tons of rice
    – 40 tons of eggs
    – 100 tons of meat and fish products
    – 7 trucks containing medicines and medical equipment
    – several heavy duty generators
    – 25,000 liters of chloride
    – 350,000 liters of diesel
    – 50,000 liters of petrol
    – 100 tons of cooking gas

    It is important to note that the water and electricity supply from Israel to the Gaza Strip remains uninterrupted.

    The last line is a stunner. They’re kidnapping our young men, they’re bombing our towns and cities (but rarely our military bases) and we’re ensuring they have uninterrupted access to “When Harry met Sally”, and providing them with flushing toilets in the ad breaks.

  35. Wait – Tatyana’s Jewish?

  36. Did you think I’m French?

  37. People are pretty upset over what is going on, so let’s keep stuff on the subject and not make things personal.

  38. I’m conservative, actually. The old-school kind. I grew up about 25 miles from Bob Dole’s home, so even though I was born in 1981 I know quite a bit about Ronald Reagan and his legacy. His foreign policy ended the Russian theatre of the Cold War without firing a shot, unless you count a few Soviet and American submarines here and there. (The Korean and Cuban theatres still go on.) It was a little pricey, as wars go, but it enables us to do many things today such as buy cheap goods from China without too much guilt.

    Russia also took to capitalism with a vengeance.

    (French policy in the Middle East:
    38 comments and counting
    Neil’s Penis interviews at Vogue:
    34 comments
    I KNEW we could do it. I just KNEW it.)

  39. This is more exciting than a penis post.
    And, I must object to the comment regarding the Danny Thomas show…Make Room for Daddy was one of the greatest T.V. shows ever. Neil, you have caused quite a raucous here. I’m proud of you.

  40. Whew, I got lost somewhere in the middle of all this, and I’m ashamed to say I don’t know enough about the situation to have anything to add.

    What I do know is this: I’m horrified by violence the world over, and as a Christian I struggle endlessly with the question of when and if it’s right to take a human life. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? Who decides?

    Modern weapons make it easy to reduce slaughter to “targets,” to coordinates, to a spot on a satellite picture. When we see photos from war zones, we discover blood is red the world over, anguish looks like anguish on every colored face, and grief is a universal language…

  41. And here I thought it was just us Sicilians who lived by the vendetta.

  42. So, what are you writing about next, Neil?

  43. Oh, this is a political post. I try not to comment on them. Just a simple rule of mine.

  44. I just wrote about Israel on my most recent post too and I agree with most of what you said. Anyway, the partition in 47 by the UN was supposed to include two states, but the Palestinians and their Arab “brothers” didn’t want that so they attacked Israel on the day after it was begun. They rolled the dice and they lost, and since, how many times have they attacked Israel? Israel wouldn’t have the Golan Heights and much of their country if ALL FIVE of their neighbors hadn’t attacked Israel in 67, on Yom Kippur no less. Its not about land, and they refuse to take out of their charter that their stated purpose is to destroy Israel period. I’ve always supported a Palestinian state, but when they voted in huge majorities for Hamas this past election, they voted in mass for terrorism. Heres another sweet development that demonstrates the mentality of the people who Israel is being asked to “negotiate” with.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/739900.html

    Would you negotiate the safety of your own families with people who have written, explicit mission statements to destroy you, to totally wipe you off the face of the Earth? Oh I’m so mad all over again so I will stop!

  45. I just wanted to add that I’ll have a lot more respect for the Palestinians again when they stop blaming and hating everyone else for their lives, when they vote for Abbas’s vision of the future over Hamas’s.

  46. Getting back to your original question-
    I think Chirac is probably avoiding looking pro-Isreal so the Muslims of France don’t go nuts. Weren’t there some nasty riots near Paris not too long ago in Muslim suburbs?

    And yes, I’m reading this days later. Blog posts, like pizza, are sometimes better a few days later, especially when comments get crazy like this.

  47. Wow. Quite the comments you’ve started here Neil.

    I would agree with Nelumbo, in part. Certainly, France’s influx of Muslims, especially Arab Muslims, would be one reason why Chirac’s position is what it is. However, I would disagree that it is the only reason. In his outstanding book, Constantine’s Sword: A History of the Church and the Jews, former Catholic priest and Harvard Divinity School fellow, James Carroll, explains the intolerable history of the church and the European Jewish community. A history, which he contends, culminated in the ability of the Nazi regime to arise and engage in the ultimate pogrom, the Holocaust. While many people have moved beyond the blood libels and anti-Jewish slanders of the past, I think it would be short-sighted to assume that they are eliminated from the European consciousness and don’t, at times, affect European policy, particularly towards Israel, the Jewish state. Indeed, France has a very recent history of a rise in anti-Semitism (and by that, I mean the historically understood use of that term as anti-Jewish), so much so that it led Ariel Sharon to take the extraordinary step of encouraging French Jews to make aliah. So, while Chirac may be pandering in part, I doubt that it is his only motive.

    Another interesting thread that has spawned from this post is whether Jews are a religion, a culture, etc. I’ve always found that issue particularly facsinating. Indeed, the question is one that is even addressed in a museum in Israel, the Diaspora Museum. But, ultimately, the conclusion I’ve taken from history is that Jews are properly recognized as a nation.

    It is only a recent development, in historical terms, that religion spans international boundries. In ancient times, each geographical region or state had its own religion. And ancient Israel was Jews.

    While many of those regional religions were killed off or converted, after the destruction of the First and Second Temples and into the Diaspora, Jews retained their religion. And although Jewish culture has many permutations (such as Ashkenasi, Sephardic, Ethiopian, etc.) it has retained some uniform characteristics (characteristics that many nations have attempted to outlaw or outright destroy).

    So while it is correct to refer to Judaism as a religion, to relegate it solely to a religion doesn’t really express or convey the culture and nationalism the Jewish community has developed from this history. And, for many Jews, including myself, the state of Israel is the realization of the culmination of that nationality, the return to the Jewish homeland after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple and the expulsion of much of the Jewish community.

    Neil, thanks for another fabulous and thought provoking post.

  48. You ask, “What would he do if Spain went into France tonight and kidnapped some French soliders?” You might ask, “What would France do if a Basque militia crossed the border & kidnapped French soldiers.” The answer is definitely not bomb the entire nation of Spain killing hundreds of innocent civilians, decimating their infrastructure & assuming Spain was a fledgling democracy, potentially toppling their government.
    What’s sad to me is that you support a bombardment of any nation. Government sanctioned violence should be a last resort, after all diplomatic channels have been tried & exhasuted. In my opinion, this is Israel taking a que from George Bush’s foreign policy, “come out gunslinging, ask questions later” & Israel seems to be following that philosophy. Israel’s military is so powerful that even the threat of it would have got the Lebanese gov’t to help negotiate the kidnapped soldiers back.
    Another point is that Hezbollah had kidnapped IDF soldiers before & had prisoner exchanges w/Israel, as that’s their strategy for gaining back some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners. As it stands now, Hezbollah is likely getting more support in the Arab world, as radical Islam groups will ultimately gain more support from the bombardment of innocent people.
    You say that France doesn’t stand in Israel’s shoes, but I have to ask, has Israel ever stood in a Palestinian or Arab’s shoes. I would hope that those of you who support this massive bombing of Lebanon would imagine how you would feel if it was your home being bombed. If you saw your country & people, who only in the past year gained great hope for the rebuilding of tehir country, decimated by a nation w/a mighty military, a nation who still occupies part of Lebanon- Shebaa Farms. At this point Israel has killed far more civilians & Lebanese soldiers than actual Hezbollah fighters. With memories of 106 civilians killed in the ’96 shelling of Qana, & Israel’s previous invasion of Lebanon, I don’t think the IDF is making positive strides. If you want a good neighbor, you should be a good neighbor. I hope for peace, but know there will be none until both sides can can stand in eachother’s shoes.

  49. Sarah — Thank you for that passionate response. I think you make some excellent points. And I also wonder if Israel is coming on too strong in this situation. Although Hezbollah’s strong showing with their missiles shows me that they were amassing a pretty hefty arsenal on Israel’s border.  If this fighting didn’t happen now, it would only happen later, with even more destruction, particularly in Israel.

    As for you argument about Basque separatists and Spain, the comparison doesn’t work. Spain is actively trying to stop these separatists from creating violence and havoc.  Hezbollah not only seemingly runs Southern Lebanon, but are part of the government. They are also an agent of foreign governments.  It would have been good if the Lebanese government was strong enough to kick Hezbollah out of the country, but instead they (along with UN observers) let a steady flow of weapons to come in from Iran to attack Israel.

    Why do I not hear one word of blame for Hezbollah or Iran for all the violence?

  50. Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on new year’s eve !

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