French Jewish Leader Says ZOA Pro-Israel Efforts Needed in France
ZOA in the news
January 16, 2017

French Jews decried Sunday’s Mideast peace summit in Paris, attended by diplomats from more than 70 countries, on the grounds that it encouraged Palestinian intransigence at Israel’s expense.

Yonathan Arfi, vice president of France’s umbrella Jewish organization Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) – which, along with other groups, held a rally in front of the Israeli Embassy in Paris to express support for the Jewish state while it was being “singled out and marginalized by world powers” — called the conference “counterproductive for the peace process.”

Arfi told The Algemeiner that the summit “rewarded the continuous refusal of the Palestinian Authority to reach any final agreement with Israel. And by focusing on the settlements, the conference did not take into account the key role of Palestinian terrorism in the failure to achieve peace.”

He continued: “At a time when the Syrian crisis has killed more than 350,000 people, it is surprising that these countries and organizations from across the globe decided to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remains, thankfully, a very low-intensity conflict compared to other current disasters.”

French Jews are very upset, but the organized French-Jewish community does not know how to fight back. Unfortunately, we don’t have a group in France like the Zionist Organization of America.

He said that the CRIF “is calling on French leaders to remember that only direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians can bring peace,” and is “angry that world democracies do not feel solidarity with Israel, when they, like the Jewish state, are all targeted by the same jihadist terror.”

Arfi said that part of the reason that the CRIF took part in the demonstration was to assert the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem – “which were rejected by two recent UNESCO votes.”

Jonathan-Simon Sellem, the elected representative of the 150,000-strong French-Israeli community, called Sunday’s conference “useless and meaningless.” He said it “showed France to be acting like an Arab-Muslim dictatorship, attacking Israel in the hope of uniting the people.”

Indeed, he added, “The Socialist Party of President François Hollande is desperate to garner as much of the Arab vote as possible — something that is evident in the party’s candidates in the primaries, who are mainly pro-Arab. Only [former Prime Minister] Manuel Valls is a friend of the Jews; but even he is not acting favorably towards Israel.”

This, he said, is no surprise to French Jews, who “have known — since the famous antisemite Roland Dumas was foreign minister [twice in the 1980s] — that the Quai d’Orsay is Europe’s main anti-Israel body.”

“No matter who leads France — and no matter who heads its foreign ministry — the pro-Palestinian approach is the same,” Sellem concluded.

US-based French-Jewish artist and activist Ron Agam said of the summit, “Let’s call it by its name – a fraud.”

Agam told The Algemeiner that French diplomacy in the Middle East “has been a travesty, aimed in general at showing support for the Arab world, and internally, for Hollande, ahead of the next election in which he had originally intended to run.”

Agam said that “10 million Muslims in the country are crushing Jewish influence there. It’s a new France — one that is aggressively pursuing its own interests above justice.”

Finally, Agam said, that the response on the part of French Jewry to the peace summit has been negative, as “everyone understands it in the context of the despicable anti-Israel vote at the UN Security Council last month,” resulting in Resolution 2334, which deemed all settlement beyond the 1949 armistice lines illegal.

Philippe Karsenty, the deputy mayor of Neuilly, who is running for parliament in June, was critical of the French-Jewish community for what he considers its tepid response to the conference.

He told The Algemeiner that though it demonstrated support for Israel ahead of and during the Paris summit, “What is should at least have done was to disinvite all members of the French government to the annual CRIF dinner.”

“But they will never do this,” Karsenty argued. “Because they traded their mission statement for access. So, yes, French Jews are very upset, but the organized French-Jewish community does not know how to fight back. Unfortunately, we don’t have a group in France like the Zionist Organization of America.

This article was published by Algemeiner and may be found here.

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