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France: Sharon unwelcome after call on Jews to immigrate

July 19, 2004

By HERB KEINON

France informed Israel Monday that Prime Minister Sharon, whose office has been planning a visit to France, is not welcome in light of his call to French Jews to immigrate to Israel.

Israeli diplomatic officials said that Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, French President Jacques Chirac’s personal diplomatic advisor, spoke to Israeli diplomat Jacques Revah and informed him that as a result of Sharon’s call to French Jewry to leave France, “there is no reason to see Sharon.” Revah is filling in for vacationing ambassador Nissim Zvili.

Israeli diplomatic officials said although no date had yet been set for a visit, such a visit was in the planning stage.

Gourdault-Montagne, according to Israeli officials, detailed for Revah all the steps that France had made to fight anti-Semitism, as well as the recent overtures it had made to Israel – including rolling out the red carpet for President Moshe Katsav during his visit earlier in the year.

Attempts by Revah to put Sharon’s comments in the context of an overall call Sharon always makes to Diaspora Jewry to immigrate, and that his comments came in response to a question and were not part of his prepared speech, fell on deaf ears. Efforts by Revah to stress that Sharon, during his comments, praised the French government for fighting anti-Semitism also did nothing to mollify Paris’ anger.

Sharon, during a speech to the leadership of the United Jewish Communities on Sunday, called on France’s 600,000 Jews to immigrate to Israel “immediately.”

“If I have to advocate to our brothers in France, I would tell them one thing: move to Israel, as early as possible,” Sharon said, in response to a question about anti-Semitism in France and in Europe.

Sharon’s comments came a week after a 23-year-old woman shocked France by first claiming she was the victim of an anti-Semitic incident on a train, and then admitting that she made the whole thing up.

Although this particular woman was not attacked, in the first six months of 2004 there were – according to French Foreign Ministry statistics – 135 physical attacks against Jews. By comparison, in all of 2003 there were 127 such attacks.

While praising the French government for taking steps to fight anti-Semitism, Sharon said, “We see the spread of the wildest anti-Semitism there.”

Sharon said that he calls on Jews from around the world to immigrate to Israel, but that this is especially critical now for French Jews. “That’s what I say to Jews all around the world, but there I think it’s a must, and they have to move immediately.”

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