On Wednesday the French author Michel Gurfinkiel published an essay, “Le sens des proportions”, about Nicolas Sarkozy and his change of attitude towards Israel. I took a look at the French version — I’m on his mailing list — but it was beyond my ability to translate. Fortunately, M. Gurfinkiel translated it himself yesterday for Pajamas Media.
Mr. Sarkozy’s coolness towards Israel runs counter to the latest trends among his countrymen. France hasn’t suddenly become a nation of philo-Semites, but in the current crisis there seems to be distinctly less French hostility towards Israel than one would expect. As the Jerusalem Post pointed out last Monday,
…a survey published by French newspaper Le Figaro on Sunday showed that 55 percent of French respondents were understanding toward the Israeli operation, while 45% were critical of it.
“When you have a 10% lead in France, that’s better than we could have expected,” notes [the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for media and public affairs, Aviv] Shir-On.
So President Sarkozy is out of step with the times, even in France. The current French attitude towards Israel’s Gaza operation is a sign of how the global political winds are shifting. The Palestinians have not been able to rally the usual level of support from the international media. Perhaps the excesses of Hamas are too much to swallow, even for the knee-jerk Left. Or perhaps Israel learned from the Lebanese debacle and has refined its media game.
In any case, the climate has changed.
Here are some excerpts from M. Gurfinkiel’s essay:
Gaza: A Matter of Proportion
By Michel Gurfinkiel
A “disproportionate reaction.” This is how Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, characterized — on the very first day of the war — Israel’s operations against Hamas, the terrorist brotherhood that rules Gaza. Many French citizens will return the compliment. What may be truly “disproportionate” is to pass judgment on the Hebrew state for fulfilling its primary duty as a state: to protect the safety of its land and its people.
Is Gaza under Israeli occupation? No. The Israelis withdrew from the enclave to a man in 2005. Is Hamas a legitimate ruler in Gaza? No way. It seized power there in 2007, as the result of a civil war against the Palestinian Authority. Has Hamas engaged in systematic aggression against Israel ever since then? Yes. Is it conducting repeated, blind shelling against civilians in southwest Israel? Yes. Has Hamas abducted an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on Israeli soil, and does it keep him as a hostage, which is under international law a crime against humanity? Yes. Has Hamas one-sidedly announced it was canceling a several-month lull with Israel? Yes. Does it publicly list the destruction of the Israeli republic and of the Israeli society as political aims? Yes. Under such conditions, Israel’s right to make war on Hamas and to destroy it is absolute.
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Why is Sarkozy, a man known for his pro-Israel sympathies, taking such a negative line? Why is he suddenly eager to distance himself from the United States, which correctly assessed Hamas’ responsibility in the crisis and made clear that Israel was right to act in self-defense?
One explanation is that presidents don’t work alone. They rely on the usual “inner circle” of close friends or cronies, on advisors with agendas of their own, and finally on the government machine…
A second explanation, closely related to the previous one, is that the French president must take into account a growing Islamic community or is advised by his inner circle to take it into account. As a presidential candidate, Sarkozy ran in 2007 on a staunchly anti-immigration platform, which stressed the need for “national identity.” The moment he was elected, he turned to the very opposite: a policy of multiculturalism and multiethnicity that entails affirmative action programs (once seen as anathema by French Republican standards) as well as the grand opening to Arab and African countries known as the Union for the Mediterranean. Support for the Palestinians, including Hamas-run Gaza, hastily dressed up as a humanitarian issue, is just a further step in that direction.
A third explanation is that Sarkozy, like almost everybody in the French political establishment, is getting mired in delusions of “grandeur,” and claims a “global role” for France in every crisis or conflict in the world, even if he actually lacks the requisite means…
Read the rest at Pajamas Media.