The annual dinner hosted by French Jewish leaders is generally a friendly affair.
That was the way it went this year — at least at the start of the Jan. 25 dinner sponsored by CRIF, the umbrella organization for secular Jewish institutions in France.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Rafarrin and leaders from across the political spectrum were enjoying last week what has traditionally been one of the more agreeable consensual events of the calendar.
But then CRIF President Roger Cukierman spoke about a new alliance threatening France’s 500,000 Jews, linking neo-Nazis, environmentalists and left-wing groups.
Speaking of a “brown-green-red alliance,” Cukierman warned of the danger faced by Jews from the alliance, which he described as “anti-globalization, anti-capitalist, anti-American and anti-Zionist.”
Moreover, when he referred to — though did not mention by name — the spokesperson for France’s peasant farmers and international anti-globalization activist Jos Bov as being a leading light in such an alliance, the national secretary of the Green Party, Gilles Lemaire, promptly stood up from his table and left the dinner.
Bov , together with other pro-Palestinian activists, broke through Israeli army barricades last year to stand alongside Yasser Arafat during the army’s siege of the Palestinian leader’s headquarters in Ramallah.
The anti-globalization campaigner also regularly used terms that equated Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the Nazi persecution of European Jews. Last year, moreover, he accused the Mossad of being behind the wave of anti-Semitic attacks in France.
“There is a nouvelle cuisine which is cooking up old fantasies with a fashionable sauce, anti-Zionism,” Cukierman said at the CRIF dinner.
“This brown-green-red alliance gives us the shivers,” Cukierman added.
This comment particularly enraged the Greens.
The atmosphere was not helped the following day by a report in the daily Liberation newspaper which capitalized the word “Verts” — French for Greens — thereby implying that Cukierman was referring specifically to the political party.
The CRIF president went some way to tone down his remarks later this week, saying in a statement that the organization wished to work with all democratic political parties in France, “including the Greens.”
The Green Party candidate in last year’s presidential election, Noel Mam re, criticized Cukierman’s remarks, saying that “just because one attacks Ariel Sharon’s settlement and humiliation policies does not mean that one is anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli.”
The Greens, though, were not alone in condemning Cukierman’s remarks — which France’s Socialist Party described as “excessive.”
The Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist League, which Cukierman specifically named in his speech and which received around 5 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election, called the remarks “intellectual terrorism that hides state terrorism.”
However, Cukierman’s views are widely held in the Jewish community, which believes that the left has not done enough to deal with anti-Semitism.
Leading Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut wrote recently that anti-Semitic discourse was taking root in the anti-globalization movement and within left-wing intellectual circles.
“It needs to be very clear; either Jos Bov is disavowed by the anti-globalization and peasant farmers movements or we will hold these movements accountable for his speeches and say clearly that tomorrow’s anti-Semitism is coming from this camp,” he wrote.
Such a view is rejected by the Greens, who fervently deny they are anti-Semitic.
Green spokesperson Marie-Hel ne Aubert told JTA that the movement is aware that “the situation in the Middle East was sensitive” and that “Greens and others should be extremely careful about how they express themselves.”
Aubert, a former vice president of the National Assembly, said the possibility of war in Iraq as well as the left’s defeat in recent elections had led to a greater radicalization in the movement but that “we have to be very strict about remarks by some people.”
“It is difficult to have total discipline in a movement such as the Greens, but there should be no doubt about the good faith of the Greens in condemning attacks against Israelis and against Jews in France,” Aubert said.
As for Bov , Aubert said she personally disliked the style of the anti-globalization campaigner and regretted that some Greens had a tendency to “over-romanticize” his actions.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.