PARIS (Jan. 9)
Foreign Minister Michel Debre will appear before the foreign affairs committee of the French Senate and National Assembly later this month to answer questions on the Government’s arms embargo against Israel which has aroused widespread protests in political circles and in the French press. His appearance was demanded today by many Senators and Deputies. He will appear before the Senate committee on Jan. 15 and before the National Assembly committee Jan. 23. M.Debre said yesterday that Western countries should stop making money on the Middle East arms race and start taking steps to promote peace in the region. He said France continued to champion Israel’s right to exist. Newspapers of all political persuasions and the French radio were infuriated by a Government allegation yesterday that opposition to the embargo on arms and spare parts shipments to Israel stemmed from Israeli influences. Some sources saw anti-Semitic overtones in a statement by Information Minister Joel Le Theule, which they believe, echoed remarks made by President Charles de Gaulle at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
M. Le Theule, asked at a press conference to comment on the barrage of criticism leveled against the embargo, said, “It has been noted that the Israeli lobby has been active and has tried to influence circles close to the information media.” Newspapers here have demanded to know what “circles” and what “information media” were allegedly being influenced. Observers noted that anti-Semites have often tried to exploit a vague feeling that persists among the French public that Jewish influences are especially strong in the newspaper and radio world.
One of the sharpest attacks on the embargo was levelled by the newspaper Le Monde, never pro-Israel. Its editor, Hubert Beuve-Mery, called the Government’s decision “unacceptable” and referred to Gen. de Gaulle’s action as “fraudulent.” He said further that it was “cynical” for France to keep the money for the planes and equipment that it refused to send to Israel.
Roger Massif, foreign editor of the conservative newspaper, Le Figaro, said in an editorial today, “Apparently taking a position hostile to the official policy cannot be from pure motives.” He said the Government’s insinuations were “unacceptable” and “gave rise to defamation where no details are furnished nor proofs offered.” Joseph Van Den Ech, one of the chief editors of the conservative newspaper L’Aurore, said Gen. de Gaulle’s personal decision to slap an embargo on Israel “wiped out everything that was opposed to absolutism” in the French Constitution. He said it was astonishing that Gen. de Gaulle made the decision without consulting his Government and that not one member of his Cabinet seemed surprised.
The Israel Embassy reported today that it was flooded with thousands of letters and phone calls from various political personalities who wanted to express sympathy and support for Israel.