PARIS (Apr. 27)
Over 100,000 people massed here today in a symbol of solidarity with Israel and protest against the French government’s pro-Arab policy. Opposition leader Socialist Party Secretary General Francois Mitterand and dozens of other prominent political figures tried to woo the crowd with pledges of friendship, understanding and support for Israel and its policies.
Among those attending were the representatives of all of France’s political parties with the exception of an official representative of the Communist Party although dozens of prominent Communists, or former party members, attended in a “personal capacity.”
The gathering, half political meeting, half popular fair, complete with entertainers, food stands, orchestras and even a puppet show was organized by a new French Zionist movement, Jewish Renewal, which openly criticizes the community’s traditional establishment. Renewal’s president, Henri Hodjenberg, told a wildly cheering crowd that “we are unhappy with the timorous stand taken by our leaders in the past. We are Jews and French and we openly and energetically support Israel’s cause.”
In spite of this stand, all French Jewish organizations participated and most prominent Jewish personalities, from Baron Alain de Rothschild, president of the Representative Council of Jews in France (CRIF), to Michel Topiot, chairman of the Jewish Agency, were present.
Israel’s Ambassador in Cairo, Eliahu Ben-Elissar, was the meeting’s guest of honor. In his speech, as well as in interviews with French media, he stressed the “smooth Israeli-Egyptian cooperation” and said that he was given “facilities which practically no other foreign Ambassador in Cairo enjoys.”
The fair was held both in order to help unify the 700,000 member Jewish community and as a warning to France’s political parties and leaders that French Jews will most probably take into consideration Israel’s interests at forthcoming elections. France’s next major election is that for President scheduled to take place before April 1981.
According to the fair’s organizers, the community’s unanimity, as shown in its massive participation, with entry queues stretching at time for over a mile, is a clear proof that Jews are sufficiently motivated where Israel is concerned to show, at the right time, their approval or disapproval for a party and its Middle East policy.