Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Former PM Rocard: Israel 'a Mistake'

Late former president François Mitterrand was once a noted supporter of Israel but his prime minister Michel Rocard has reportedly announced to an audience in Egypt that Israel was an "historical mistake."
Michel Rocard

Citing a complete repoduction of Rocard's remarks by London-based Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat and claiming to have obtained a copy themselves, of which they provide a facsimile (which could be anything, for all I know), Proche-Orient.info quotes the former PM as having told a June 17 gathering at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina that "the origin of the Palestinian problem is in the promise given by the British to the Jews to establish a nationalist state on the basis of the religious conviction that the Jews have a right to this land, though it has accepted all religions. It is very dangerous to involve religions in politics. It was an historic error on the part of the British to make such a promise, but this now belongs to history."

Reached by telephone in Luxor Saturday morning, Rocard denied ever making such remarks: "My views on this matter have been well known for forty years and I have never wavered. All you have to do is review all my statements and all I have written. Israel is obviously not an historic error. What I said at the address I was invited to deliver at the Grand Francophone library in Alexandria was that the historic error of the British after the Balfour declaration was in not understanding all the consequences that this would have and therfore in having badly handled the consequences in dealing with the Muslim authorities. This explains why Israel was born into circumstances of conflict and the fundamental reasons why the conflict persists.

"As for having said that Israel is a racial or racist state," added Rocard, "I could never have said that. I deny it absolutely, formally and I'll say that the journalist who wrote that harbors ill will toward me."

But to-day UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed the opposing view. Speaking at a UN seminar on anti-Seminism, which was attended by Edgar Bronfman, Anne Bayefski and Elie Wiesel, among others, Annan acknowleged UN failures in combating anti-Semitism and said that "the General Assembly resolution of 1975, equating Zionism with racism, was an especially unfortunate decision. I am glad that it has since been rescinded." He also said, "the fight against anti-Semitism must be our fight. And Jews everywhere must feel that the United Nations is their home too."

Annan noted that UNHCR had asked Doudou Diène, Special Rapporteur on contemporary racism, to examine Muslim and Arab societies. "Are not Jews entitled to the same degree of concern and protection?" Annan asked.

UPDATE: The Asharq al-Awsat article is now unavailble. I confess that earlier I simply pasted the link into my post without viewing it, presuming it would be unreadable to me. So it may even have been unavailable then, too. Perhaps they are no longer standing by the story?
Meanwhile, proche-orient.info also published the following account of an incidence of anti-Semitic violence that occured the very same day as Rocard's denial:
Versailles, in a public park near the château de Versailles, Saturday June 19, 9:30 pm:

Eric Fitoussi, 37 years old, who has no home and who lives in the street, is assaulted by three Maghrebans while riding his bicycle: they hit him, throw beer in his face and force him to undress before all present.

Eric Fitoussi is naked. One of his assailants calls him a "dirty Jew."

Close by, roughly thirty frightened young people run away.

Several meters away, ten thugs known in the neighborhood for consuming large quantities of alcohol watch the scene. According to E. Fitoussi, they often wreck havoc in this area.

A hour later, in the Versailles police station, Eric Fitoussi lodges a complaint for gang violence and hate speech. One of his assailants, arrested while among a crowd, admits to the charges. The other two, including the one who called him a "dirty Jew," have been identified but remain at large.

While Eric Fitoussi is still at the police station, a youngman, who is a student, has the courage to step forward and recount what he has seen: Fitoussi's assailants later attacked two 17 year-old men whom they struck violently. Kicks and bottles to the head. The young man also claims to have witnessed Eric Fitoussi's assault.

No comments: