I may be the only one obsessed with this issue. But the facts are facts and they are not debatable. The number of anti-Semitic incidents in France in the past six months equal those in the entire last year. The liberal Israeli paper Haaretz which likes Sharon as much as the Nation likes Bush writes:"It should be noted that the prime minister's emotional remarks were not a slip of the tongue. They reflect his worldview, which requires Israel to intervene in the fate of any Jew, wherever he or she is, and to defend him or her in case of need...
Indeed, some French commentators drew parallels with other periods in Jewish history, particularly since Sharon’s remarks were uttered close to the July 18 commemorations across France marking the infamous 1942 Vel d’Hiver roundup of French Jews by the Nazis. I doubt Sharon was aware of that but the coincidence is eerie and should cause reflection not anti-Jewish vitriol. (Yes, I know, Sharon, like Dreifus, does not represent all Jews).
But as you can see bellow, the central issue for French analysts is not anti-Semitism. It is France's image in the US and its ability to play a leading role in the Middle East. This kind of"mirror imaging" is a common analytical failure. It ignores the fact that the comment was not included in Sharon's speech but was made in response to a question posed to him by an American Jew.
Interestingly, Chirac, who told Bush to mind his own business when he came out in support of Turkey joining the European Union, has yesterday asserted that it is desirable to have Turkey join the EU at some point. At least, we am not anti-Muslim, he is trying to say. To be honest, Muslims feel no more"at home" in France than Jews do and that may be part of the problem facing not only France but all of us.
"What," asks France's Le Monde,"is Ariel Sharon trying to obtain?"
Yes, the paper concedes, France"was slow to recognise the gravity of the problem of increasing anti-Semitic acts".
"But it has taken measures to combat this scourge, measures which Mr Sharon himself acknowledges," the paper argues.
Despite this, the Israeli prime minister's remarks will be difficult for the French to dismiss.
"The image has been set, in the United States as in Israel, of an anti-Semitic country at the heart of Europe."
What really lies behind Mr Sharon's comments, the paper maintains, is his desire to exclude Europe from the Middle East peace process.
In Israel's eyes, France is"at the forefront of Europe's pro-Arab policy".
And what Mr Sharon is hoping for, it concludes, is a Europe"stained by its pro-Arab position, and relegated to the role of banker".
Le Figaro headlined its Monday edition “Sharon’s affront to France,” and also suggested that Sharon’s comments were not motivated only by concern over anti-Semitism.
Sharon wants “to neutralize the influence of France, the country regarded by Israel as the most pro-Palestinian in the European Union,” the paper said.