Sunday, February 22, 2004


There has been a noteworthy escalation of rhetoric used by the Quai d'Orsay with respect to the suicide bombings in Israel. Compare:

--January 22, 1995: "The French government vigorously condemns the odious attack that cost the lives, this morning at Netanya, of at least 18 persons and that injured dozens of others. Violence is never a solution, and the French government hopes that this criminal act will not slow down the peace process."

--October 10, 2002: "We most strongly condemn the suicide attack committed this morning in Tel Aviv. We are very concerned by this new spiral of violence. Nothing will be obtained by violence. The current crisis does not have a military or a security solution..."

--April 24, 2003: "France forcefully condemns the attack perpetrated yesterday in Kfar Saba in Israel and claimed by the Al Aqsa Brigade..."

--Today: "The French government is horrified and concerned to learn that a suicide attack has been committed this morning in West Jerusalem, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. France most strongly condemns this intolerable act of barbarism. Nothing will ever justify terrorism."

Today's declaration isn't the first time that France has called the suicide attacks "terrorism" (the first time seems to be November 2002), but it is the first time that its condemnation has been made in such strong language--referring to "barbarism" and not offering an implicit criticism of Sharon's policies at the same time that it condemns the suicide attacks. Is this a sign that France is adopting a less tolerant approach towards certain Palestinians' targeting of civilians? One can only wonder whether there would still be suicide bombings today (and how many Palestinian and Israeli lives could have been spared) if France and other European countries had adopted this strong rhetoric at the beginning of the second Intifadah so many years ago.

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