If anyone wants to have an idea of the workings of the French Fifth “Republic,” and the inordinate impact that the Quai D’Orsay (equivalent of the US State Department) has on policy, and the ways in which their Eurabian policy essentially destroys the very France whose “grandeur” they work so hard to advance, David Pryce-Jones’ new book, Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews is the book for you. (It also helps explain how the Al Durah affair could be immune to correction.)
Mr. Gurfinkiel is the president of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute in Paris.
The World as Seen Along the Seine
By MICHEL GURFINKIEL
November 15, 2006; Page D14
How is it that France, the first country in Europe to grant Jews equal rights as individuals, has come to be seen as a place less and less hospitable to Jews and, more particularly, a place hostile to Zionism, the project to emancipate Jews as a people? Why has France, which voted for the creation of Israel at the United Nations in 1947, shown such marked unfriendliness ever since, except for a brief period in the late 1950s and early 1960s? According to “Betrayal,” by the British writer David Pryce-Jones, the main villain is the Quai d’Orsay, the French ministry of foreign affairs.
I would be even more blunt, especially about the situation today. The French government pursues policies — foreign and domestic — that essentially encourage the Jews — 1% of their population that provides 20% of their cultural elites — to leave, and encourages the Muslim immigrant population — 10% of their population that provides a hefty majority of their prison population and their school dropouts — to act out and make themselves at home in their own peculiar way. And, informed exactly wrong by their media, the French people neither know about it, nor realize that in their ignorance, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, (and cowardice) they contribute mightily to this disastrous trend.
Mr. Pryce-Jones’s primary sources are the archives of the Quai itself. Although he thanks French friends for having “showed him the way through” this material, he deserves immense credit for unearthing incisive quotations and vignettes and then reconstructing the intricate network of affiliations within the Quai itself and within the French political establishment at large. The portrait he draws of French officialdom makes for vivid and devastating reading.
The origins of the French foreign ministry’s hostility to Israel — and its repercussions.
What first emerges out of Mr. Pryce-Jones’s investigation is the Quai’s enormous influence in modern France. Under the Third and Fourth Republics — from 1870 to 1940 and then from 1945 to 1958 — the foreign ministry took advantage of a succession of weak cabinets to impose its own idea of France’s role in the world. Under the Fifth Republic — i.e., the current, presidential regime founded by Charles de Gaulle — the Quai d’Orsay virtually seized the executive’s diplomatic powers. A near monarch, the French president has to be a larger-than-life protagonist in world affairs, which turns him into a hostage of the Quai’s professionals. The Quai also exercises a strong influence over public opinion, as Mr. Pryce-Jones shows, through France’s semi-official newspaper, Le Monde, and through the theoretically independent news service Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Note carefully that this impact on AFP extends well beyond that, and includes France2. When one considers the ways in which Chirac used the al Durah incident to humiliate the Israelis, scuttle Clinton’s initiatives, and encourage an Intifada which he thought would put Europe — France at the lead — back in the Middle East equation, one begins to understand why he would give Charles Enderlin awards and write letters in his praise.
To what purpose is all this power directed? Ever since Waterloo, the French foreign service’s self-imposed mission has been to restore French grandeur and to resist Anglo-Saxon “hegemony,” whether British or American. This goal has repeatedly pushed aside more mundane concerns, such as preparing to meet the threats of German expansion and Russian imperialism. In the 1890s, as Germany embarked on the policies that would lead to World War I, Gabriel Hanotaux, France’s foreign minister, devoted his energy obsessively to creating a French-German-Russian “continental Alliance” against the British Empire and the U.S.
This will be France’s downfall. In her rivalry with natural allies who outstrip her in the pacific arts (economic development, cultural influence, global leadership), she makes “allies” with belligerent regressive forces that do not share her democratic commitments. Indeed what France and her “allies” have in common is a politics of resentment and envy on the one hand, and a readiness to betray allies whenever it suits their purposes, on the other.
A corollary to this grand sense of national mission is the Quai’s conception of France as “an Arab power” or “a Muslim power.” During the heyday of European colonialism, such a self-conception meant carving out of Egypt, North Africa and the Levant an equivalent to British India. Today it means nearly the opposite: either serving the interests of radical Arab or Muslim governments or promoting the fusion of Europe and the Muslim world into an Islamic-dominated “Mediterranean” civilization. But perhaps such a reversal is not so striking: Even in the predatory 19th century, French diplomats entertained a romantic idea of Islam. To Hanotaux, France was the only European power “capable of acting without fatal contention but side by side with Muslim monotheism.”
This brings up one of the more salient problems with Edward Saïd’s Orientalism. Although he wants to make Orientalism a form of racism (and hence a reprehensible expression of hatred and contempt for Arab culture), it’s full of examples of the opposite, of an almost love-blind romanticism in which Frenchmen in particular, disgusted with the soulless machine of modernity, seek redemption and salvation from the mysterious world of the Orient, especially from the Islamic Arab world.
Such outreach was accompanied by insular prejudice. In the course of the 19th century, French Jews were gradually accepted into industry, finance, politics and the arts, and even the military. But the Quai was a different matter. In October 1893, Louis Herbette, the Quai’s secretary general, tersely remarked of one applicant (in a note quoted by Mr. Pryce-Jones): “I saw M. Grunebaum who spontaneously withdrew his request. He is indeed someone distinguished and highly to be recommended. He bowed with good grace to the motives dictating the Department’s decision.”
As the Quai grew in size in the early 20th century, it finally admitted some Jews, but anti-Semitism remained rampant, as if ingrained in the bureaucracy’s culture. In the 1890s, most French diplomats had been ardent anti-Dreyfusards, contending (wrongly) that Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish military officer, had committed treason on behalf of Germany. After World War I, French diplomats took a special interest in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” circulating in Europe for the first time, and ascribed both Bolshevism and Zionism to “Talmudic atavism.” In 1938, the Quai sabotaged the Evian conference on European refugees, the only diplomatic effort to alleviate the fate of now “stateless” German and Austrian Jews. Even after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism was all too common in the French foreign service.
Under such circumstances, it was only natural for the Quai to adopt an anti-Zionist stand. De Gaulle famously cast aspersions on Israel in 1967, encouraged by his foreign minister, the former Vichy official Couve de Murville. (The Jews, de Gaulle declared at a press conference, are “an elite people, self-assured and domineering,” a people who show “a burning ambition for conquest.”) Any number of bitter episodes have followed since, right down to the one involving Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador to London who in 2003 called Israel a “shitty little country.”
Note how in both remarks the part of projection far outweighs the part of describing accurately reality (with the exception of “self-assured”, which describes what De Gaulle and the French wished they were).
And it isn’t only rhetoric. Mr. Pryce-Jones describes how, immediately after World War II, senior officers in the French foreign service conspired to rescue Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the former mufti of Jerusalem, who had taken up residence in Nazi Germany during the war and who was answerable, upon Germany’s defeat, for various war crimes, including active support for the extermination of the Jews. The French, having sheltered him in Paris for months, eventually let him escape to Egypt in 1946 carrying a forged passport.
And, as in the case of al Durah, were instrumental in unleashing some really devastating evil upon the world, largely in their eagerness to stick it to the Jews and Israel.
True, the Quai has suffered setbacks. Some political leaders, rejecting its biases, have undertaken more balanced policies. But the Quai’s ill effects persist, especially in the form of what Mr. Pryce-Jones dryly calls “the harvest.” The Quai’s flirtation with Islam over the years resulted in official France turning a blind eye to the mass immigration of Arabs and Muslims. The result, today, is street violence, ethnic rioting and terrorist activity.
Mr. Pryce-Jones is right to call his brilliant book “Betrayal.” It is not just Israel or the Jews who have been betrayed, but France itself.