Begin Denounces French Government for Encouraging Neo-nazi Attacks
Menu JTA Search

Begin Denounces French Government for Encouraging Neo-nazi Attacks

Download PDF for this date

Premier Menachem Begin lashed out at the French government, the Soviet Union and Syria in an address on the state of world Jewry at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session here yesterday. He assailed the French for encouraging neo-Nazi attacks on Jews by their anti-Israel policies and denounced the Soviets and Syrians for "sadism" toward their Jewish subjects.

Alluding to the escalation of neo-Nazi violence in Europe, Begin declared that it is the "right and duty" of Jews everywhere to defend themselves, their lives and their national honor. "The years of the thirties and forties must never be allowed to return," he said. He insisted that no distinction can be made between anti-Israelism, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Begin’s attack on the French regime was the sharpest yet by an Israeli leader. While his Cabinet issued a statement on the Jewish right of self-defense in the aftermath of the October 3 terrorist bombing of a Paris synagogue, it stopped short of direct criticism of the French government for the act.

Yesterday, however, Begin declared: "The French President and people certainly do not want anti-Semitic outbursts to occur. But they must know that their own anti-Israel propaganda inevitably creates the groundwork upon which such occurrences take place."


He spoke of "two Frances," one which Israelis and Jews will always admire and cherish –the France of the French Revolution, equality Jewish emancipation, culture and literature and Emile Zola — and the "other France" which persecuted Captain Alfred Dreyfus and which taunted Simone Veil as a child.

Veil, a former Minister of Culture and currently President of the Parliament of Europe, is a concentration camp survivor. "No Jewish child ever need be spoken to the way Simone Veil recalls being insulted at the age of four — ‘dirty Jew’," Begin said.

Begin also assailed French Interior Minister Christian Bonnet, who said immediately after the bombing that although the attack was on Jews, many non-Jews were injured. A "despicable slip of the tongue, " Begin said. He quoted" Bonnet as saying that "three innocent gentiles" had been killed, "as though the Jewish Israeli woman killed was not also an ‘innocent victim’. " He said he hoped Bonnet would "beg forgiveness of the Jewish people" for his remark.


Begin opened his speech with references to Ida Nudel, Yosif Mendelevitch, Anatoly Shcharansky, Vladimir Slepak, Dov Begun and other "Prisoners of Zion" in the Soviet Union. "We cannot understand the source at the sadism motivating a great power like Soviet Russia to persecute a few dozen Jews in this way, " he said.

Addressing himself to the prisoners, he said, "Be strong and keep up your courage." He pledged that Israel would continue to arouse world opinion on their, behalf. He said the fall off of Jewish emigration from the USSR this year was "very worrying." He noted that in January, 1980, over 2800 exit permits were granted although more than 10,000 applications were made but by July the figure was down to 680 out of 4000 applicants.

Syrian "sadism" toward the 1000 Jewish families confined to ghettos there was also incomprehensible, Begin said. He referred to the reported rape of four Jewish girls in Syria and said the Jewish community there lived in "constant fear."


After a lengthy debate, the Knesset, by an overwhelming majority; passed a resolution decrying the current wave of neo-Nazism and stressing the aliya option for diaspora Jews. The Labor Party and most other opposition factions joined the government coalition in voting for the resolution.

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres stressed aliya in his speech. He recalled that the late Premier David Ben Gurion told Charles deGaulle in 1960 that Israel intended to bring millions of Jews to its shores. But Peres expressed outrage over the hostile atmosphere toward immigrants that he said was often encountered in Israel. Did we ever dream there would be such a thing as on immigrants’ sink here in Israel?" he asked, referring to a recent incident.

Peres said the Soviet government deserved "a word of thanks" for at least partially opening the gates to Jewish emigration. "The real answer to anti-Semitism abroad," he said, "is the Zionist answer, aliya." It is time that American Jewry gave Israel "its sons and not only its money," Peres said. He warned that scaring intermarriage in America meant that "a sense of gradual fading away besets American Jewry."

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund