(JTA) – In a rare rebuke, leaders of Jewish communities in France warned the nation’s foreign minister that France’s policies on Israel were ruining friendly relations between the countries.
The warning was made public last week when CRIF, the umbrella group of Jewish communities in France, published a letter sent to Laurent Fabius on April 21 by its president, Roger Cukierman.
The French “attitude toward Israel counters the friendly atmosphere created during the visit of President Francois Hollande to Israel and Ramallah,” Cukierman wrote. “While the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan oppose or abstain in votes hostile to Israel, France is the only major democratic power voting in favor of these resolutions.”
Last year, France voted in favor of passing six resolutions at UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and education branch, that CRIF deemed anti-Israel. One described the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem as Palestinian and primarily Muslim heritage sites, despite their significance to Jews.
Another motion renewed a call for scheduling a “monitoring mission” on historic places in Jerusalem.
UN Watch has accused France of acting at UNESCO “more anti-Israel than Bashar Assad and Hugo Chavez” – the president of Syria and the late leader of Venezuela well known for his anti-Israel sentiment.
“I regret the zeal of your ministry in supporting anti-Israel attitudes including on religious issues at UNESCO, which are particularly sensitive,” Cukierman wrote. “In addition, positions hostile to Israel nourish anti-Zionism, which leads directly to anti-Semitism.”
Cukierman also noted what CRIF viewed as anti-Israel attitudes at the UN Security Council, where France is advancing a resolution that would set a time limit on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Fabius has linked the draft resolution to the symbolic recognition last year of a Palestinian state by French lawmakers.
Cukierman further complained about the reception in March of Salah Hamouri, a member of a Palestinian terrorist group who confessed to planning to kill an Israeli chief rabbi, at the French Foreign Ministry’s headquarters in Paris. Hamouri, who was released from an Israeli prison in 2011 with 1,026 other prisoners in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, met there with Martin Briens, the deputy director of Fabius’ office.
The ministry has welcomed “additional terrorists like Hamouri,” Cukierman wrote.
Fabius defended the reception in a letter sent to Cukierman on May 28 in which he wrote that Hamouri had a right to speak to government officials about restrictions on his freedom of movement. He also said that France’s actions at UNESCO were to “preserve the technical competence.”
France’s involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to help peacemaking, Fabius said.
“Only a comprehensive peace agreement that established a viable and independent Palestinian state can assure Israelis the security to which they aspire,” he wrote.
Sammy Ghozlan, founder of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, in a written statement on Sunday praised the Cukierman letter to Fabius as “a strong signal.”