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Mitterrand Picks Three Jews, Including Communist, to Cabinet

June 26, 1981
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Three Jews, including a senior member of the Communist Party, were appointed to the new French government led by Socialist Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy. The 73 year-old Minister of Industry Pierre Dreyfus and 53 year-old Minister of Justice Robert Badinter belong to the main stream of the Socialist Party and are active in Jewish affairs.

The third, 47-year-old Charles Fitterman, appointed Minister of State in charge of transport, is the second highest ranking member of the Communist Party. He is one of the four Communists who joined the government coalition, turning France into the first major Western country to have Communist ministers and to be governed by a Socialist-Communist regime.

The Communists signed a coalition agreement Tuesday night “recognizing the situation created by the Camp David agreements and reaffirming the right of all states in the region (the Middle East) including Israel, to an independent existence and their security.” At the same time the agreement reaffirmed “the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland.” Communist Party Secretary Georges Marchais declared after the agreement was signed, “We are in favor of Israel’s existence within safe and recognized borders. We are also in favor, however, of a homeland for the Palestinians.”


Socialist sources stressed that the four Communist ministers will be in charge of semi-technical ministries such as health, administrative reform and professional training. Fitterman is however, not only Minister of Transport but also the third highest ranking member of the government and as one of the five “Ministers of State,” a member of the Inner Cabinet.

None of the Communists is expected to play any role in shaping of France’s foreign or defense policy. The sources recalled that Communists served in France’s post-war government headed by Gen. Charles De Gaulle and have also participated in Socialist coalitions in NATO-member states such as Iceland and Portugal.

Fitterman was born to an immigrant Polish Jewish couple which settled in the northern mining city of Saint Etienne. Initially trained as an electrician, he joined the Communist Party when he was 18 and soon became a full time party worker. He was elected to the Politburo in 1976, after having headed the party’s ideological training center, and has served as member of Parliament for the last eight years. Although he is known to speak fluent Yiddish, which his parents, Moses and Lezla (born Rosenblum) still use, he has never shown the slightest interest in Jewish or Israel affairs. He is described as a hard-liner who invariably obeys Party discipline.


The two other newly appointed Jewish ministers, Dreyfus and Badinter, play important roles within the Jewish community. Dreyfus is president of the French branch of ORT and Badinter a member of the FSJU Board.

Born into a traditional Jewish Alsatian family, Dreyfus first went into business with his father. After

obtaining a doctorate in law he joined the Ministry of Finance where he remained until his retirement five years ago.

After serving in various senior posts, he was appointed president of the state-owned Renault automobile company which he directed for 20 years and turned into one of the world’s largest and most prosperous corporations. After his retirement from Renault he agreed to head the French ORT. He is a close personal friend of President Francois Mitterrand. His appointment as Minister of Industry seems to indicate that the government intends to accelerate its plans for the nationalization of several large industrial corporations.

Badinter is a member of the Board of France’s Central Jewish Welfare Fund, (FSJU) and has also been active on behalf of Soviet Jewry. A prominent attorney who has specialized in criminal affairs he also runs a large office for corporate law. He has led a public campaign against capital punishment and his appointment as Minister of Justice indicates that the government intends to outlaw the death penalty.

Badinter was born into a family of East European immigrants. He teaches law at the Sorbonne and is married to the daughter of advertising tycoon Marcel Blaustein-Blanchet. Both he and his wife, Elizabeth, support Israel’s “doveish” organizations such as Peace Now and New Outlook.

The other Jewish Minister, Jack Lang appointed in the first Mauroy government as Minister of Culture, also favors the “doveish” line and is often highly critical of many Israeli policies in the occupied territories and in its relations with the Arab states.

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