Friday, 28 December 2007

New year resolutions

The French have never been more ambitious on the eve of a new year than they are on this holiday season – the first of the Sarkozy era. A dynamic push from our tireless president led us to an unprecedented number of new year resolutions. The French will smoke less in 2008 and work more, as the government is moving forward with a plan that could put an end to the renowned ‘35-hour week’. But more than anything, France is aiming for world peace.

Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, once referred to as “the black hole of all conflicts” by former FM Michel Barnier, is France’s secret resolution for 2008, as it tries to maintain its international stature, and French diplomacy evaluates that pressing for a quick creation of a Palestinian State could be an efficient way to reach its goal.

FM Bernard Kouchner placed the creation of a Palestinian State at the center of the Paris Donor Conference organized on December 17 and went as far as to joke around and declare: “And the winner is: The Palestinian State!” in his final press conference with Mahmoud Abbas.

My friend the Israeli journalist Shmuel Tal told Kouchner that one of the main actors, Hamas, was absent from the Paris conference, and therefore no decisive progress was possible. However, Sari Nusseibeh, former PLO representative in Jerusalem, told me he thought that, on the contrary, no positive evolution would ever be possible with Hamas.
“Hamas ideology, its nature, cannot change,” said Nusseibeh. “The only solution is to move forward and attract gradually Hamas supporters.”

Aside from peace, the quest of love and good business are two of the main new year resolutions for 2008. For the first time in history, French newspapers have started a ‘shiduchim’ campaign to find new love for the recently divorced president.

All of the country’s dailies, radios and most TV stations have treated Sarkozy as the new ‘bachelor’, first trying to match him with various local stars and then widely reporting on his 3-week dating affair with former top model Carla Bruni, with whom he has apparently spent Christmas in Egypt. The love story took center stage in the media and some have accused President Sarkozy of using his liaison to take attention away from the recent Gaddafi fiasco – the Libyan leader’s exuberant visit in France - which left many French speechless. No analyst can seriously support such a maneuver, yet one must stress that the president’s red carpet invitation to the Libyan leader, in exchange for multi-billion dollar business deals, was highly criticized, even within his own party and government.

“Colonel Gaddafi must understand that France is not a doormat on which a leader, terrorist or other, may wipe his bloody shoes” declared young secretary of state to Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Rama Yade.

“Gaddafi has turned us into fools” – wrote France Soir editor Gérard Carreyrou. “God created the world in six days and Gadaffi used his 6-day visit to mock everyone: the French Republic, our elected president and millions of citizens.”

“We’ve given Gaddafi a red carpet treatment to the eyes of the world,” said opposition member François Bayrou. “We sold away our values for a bunch of uncertain trade deals with Libya [..] signing defense agreements that turn us into Tripoli’s ally. [..] As a result, France will be marginalized and weakened.”

“France has been dishonored!” wrote Pascal Brukner, an author who is generally among Sarkozy’s supporters. “We’ve already humiliated ourselves with a presidential visit to the Anti-Semitic Algerian regime, with enthusiastic phone calls to Putin and with a visit from Hugo Chavez. When will we unroll a red carpet for M. Ahmadinejad?”
(Some critics added President Bush to the list of Sarkozy’s questionable contacts.)

The critics recalled Gaddafi’s recent renewed support for terror, when stating at the Lisbon EU-Africa summit that terror was the weapon of the weak. They also stressed his lack respect for human rights in Libya, and more specifically the affair of the Bulgarian nurses, imprisoned for years although they were innocent.

“Gaddafi has 6 million hostages – Libya’s inhabitants,” wrote Charly Hebdo Weekly.
However loud and unanimous throughout Paris, critics were silenced, almost forgotten and unsuspected in various events organized for the Libyan guest.

I had the rare opportunity to attend a gathering of women in favor of Gaddafi which seamed as anything from surreal to hallucinating. The mere topic of the conference: ‘women’s rights’ was yet another attempt by Gaddafi to embarrass the French. In preceding days he accused them of neglecting human rights and failing to respect their immigrants - turning Western criticism of Libya against Europe.

Hundreds of women from African countries such as Senegal, Mali, Libya and Northern African countries dressed in traditional and glamorous dresses, many of them veiled, cheered Gaddafi in his three-hour appearance as if he were a rock star, waiving veils with his picture and applauding everyone of his extraordinary statements.
The atmosphere was so unusual that an elected representative of the Jewish community found herself greeting Gaddafi in the name of the community. – I was later asked not to report on this in the local media to avoid unnecessary embarrassment, as this was anything but planned.
“I’m here to save Europe,” said Gaddafi. “Europeans abandon their children on the streets, and when these children grow up they can reach powerful positions and then their psychological trauma can lead them to launch wars and genocides.”
Gaddafi persuaded the assembly that working is not always in women’s best interest.
“Men and women have equal rights, but not equal duties,” he said “Women shouldn’t lower themselves to certain jobs which may be decent for men, but not for them.” “Women have so much to do at home – They start a second job once they come home from their official working place.”
A veiled woman turned to me, laughing, and said “Well, the men are the ones who should start changing”.

A delegate from UNESCO turned to Gaddafi and asked him to contribute to the education of African girls. Gaddafi answered that the European women are the ones who should be saved, getting cheers from the crowd.

One can wonder how women living in Europe can cheer and hail such words and bow to such a dictator. While talking and observing several women and their address to Gaddafi I noted there were different crowds. Some women chairing various African associations were trying to get Gaddafi’s attention on various problems they were facing, lobbying the leader for women’s interests. Others were simply overwhelmed, trying desperately to get a picture of the “guide of the revolution” on their cell phones, cheering every word.

Will Gaddafi’s criticism against France’s immigration policies have an effect on France’s troubled suburbs? Some experts fear that it may. And the effect can be revealed when one speaks with some immigrants.

One of my Moroccan journalist colleagues, Fatima, told me today that France had some nerve accusing Libya of failing to respect human rights.

“It is in France that human rights are not respected,” she told me in the way Gaddafi stated it a week ago, “You French have a limited notion of human rights. Human rights are not about freedom of speech, they are also, and mainly about giving everyone the chance to earn a living.”
“Whenever I get to a job interview, even in state offices, my resume is suddenly not good enough,” she added. “Human rights are about dignity and I don’t feel that I have that here in France.”

Political scientists such as Zaki Laidi evaluate that inviting dictators like Gaddafi only reinforces them and weakens those who oppose them, and Laidi questions the results of Sarkozy’s will to respect such guests he is forced to invite for strategic and economic reasons, selling them nuclear plants and various weapons.

Sarkozy argues that Libya has abandoned terror. He adds that he is not alone and that time has come to reintegrate Libya in the ‘International community’.

The French may be asking themselves other questions: whether their country has invited such guests in order to regain its past international stature, whether France will succeed in its attempt to reintegrate, or cling to, the ‘powerful nations community’ or whether the very resolved Sarkozy is experiencing his first presidential setback.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Sarkozy faces antisemitic jibes in Algeria

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s first official visit to Algeria this week was overshadowed after he became the target of antisemitic insults.

Only a few days prior to the visit, Algerian minister Mohamed Cherif Abbés claimed in the El–Khabar newspaper that Mr Sarkozy had been elected through the manoeuvres of “the Jewish lobby” and made reference to the president’s Jewish origins.

The Algerian authorities refused to apologise for the assault, and Socialist leaders Jean-Christophe Cambadélis and Pierre Moscovici pleaded for a rescheduling of the trip, stating the attack was “intolerable”.

However, Mr Sarkozy decided to push forward with the meeting, attempting to consolidate tense bilateral ties and to sign $5 billion (£2.5bn) of energy deals.

Mr Abbés’s comments were not the first antisemitic attacks launched against Mr Sarkozy. Extremist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has pointed at Mr Sarkozy’s ancestors, saying “he is Jewish through his mother”, and several weeks ago Mr Sarkozy was even accused of spying for Israel’s Mossad intelligence service. But Mr Abbés’s assault was the first public antisemitic attack made by an Algerian official and was followed by the Algerian authorities’ refusal to allow entrance to one of Mr Sarkozy’s guests on the visit, a French-Jewish singer of Algerian descent, Enrico Macias. The French Jewish umbrella group CRIF said it was “disgusted” by these decisions.

The attacks may have been intentional, coming at a time when Algeria is trying to make its mark in the region. Mr Sarkozy, who has strengthened relations with Morocco, Algeria’s rival, wants to develop a Mediterranean Union that would include Israel, but Algeria prefers to keep Israel out.

However, the most obvious issues of discord were France’s past colonial rule in North Africa and Mr Sarkozy’s refusal to issue an official apology, as well as his immigration policy, which has been strongly criticised in Algeria.

The French president chose to remain focused on his mission, condemning colonisation but refusing to issue an excuse. He replied to the minister’s antisemitic attacks in his speech, calling for a fight against racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“Nothing resembles antisemitism more than the hatred of Islam,” Mr Sarkozy told the Algerian Parliament. “Antisemitism and Islamophobia have the same face, the face of foolishness and hatred. We can’t explain them, we simply have to fight against them.”

Letter from Paris courthouse

Something unusual happened in the small 11th Appeals courtroom of Paris on Nov. 14. The footage used for a September 2000 report by French TV on the death of Mohammad al Dura in the Gaza Strip was screened and examined by a judge in a slander trial against an Internet site that had claimed the Al Dura report was forged.

Charles Enderlin, the veteran correspondent of French public television in the Middle East and author of the report, described to the judge every segment of the footage filmed by his cameraman at the Netzarim junction, while Enderlin was in Ramallah. The journalist maintained that his report was genuine and accused the Internet site, Media-Ratings, of slander, but, for the first time since the events of September 2000, the French news agency, AFP, concluded that something was wrong with Enderlin's report.

"The [edited] TV report ends with an image of the boy laying still, leading the viewer to believe that the boy was killed in the shooting, but in the unreleased footage screened in court, we could see in the following seconds the boy moving his arm," read the AFP story, adding that this did not exclude the possibility that the boy died later.

AFP added that Enderlin refused to answer its questions after the hearing.The trial, attended by no major French media except for the AFP correspondent, might shed new light on the Al Dura affair and on media coverage in general.

During the first few years, French television succeeded in avoiding major criticism regarding the Al Dura report and Enderlin's firm statement accusing Israeli soldiers of killing the young boy, but in 2004 the course of events changed when two renowned journalists began investigating the case.

Senior French editors Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte were alerted by former Le Monde journalist Luc Rosenzweig on possible misreporting by Enderlin, and they requested to view the footage. Jeambar and Leconte published a story criticizing Enderlin's work in January 2005. It pointed out some troubling details, such as the staged battle scenes filmed by Talal Abu Rahma in the first part of the footage, the lack of evidence proving Enderlin's claim that the bullets were shot from the Israeli position and other major details, such as the lack of blood on the victims, although Enderlin said the Al Duras had been hit by bullets.

Enderlin declared that he had edited the images to avoid showing the boy's last minutes of agony. But in the footage, there was no trace of these images. However, Enderlin's theory stood as unquestionable reality, and Abu Rahma's images weren't questioned or analyzed.

Jeambar and Leconte called on French TV to launch its own internal inquiry, citing a lack of journalistic standards, but did not share the theory of a possible staging of Al Dura's death.

Five years after the incident, Arlette Chabot, French public TV's new head news editor, told Jewish radio and the Paris Herald Tribune that "no one knew who shot at Muhammad al Dura," but she maintained that accusing Enderlin of forgery was pure slander and confirmed the case against Media-Ratings' owner Philippe Karsenty.

Was public French TV trying to shake off growing criticism from senior journalists by suing a small Internet site for defamation?

The hearing was probably not the result it was aiming for.

The trial against Karsenty, which French TV expected to win easily, turned unexpectedly into a first public re-examination of the TV report, when the judge demanded to view the footage before ruling whether the accused was guilty of slander.

This strategy might pull Enderlin even farther down. Jeambar and Leconte criticized a possible lack of journalist deontology, but Karsenty's charges denouncing an alleged forged report pushes Enderlin to a rougher spot.

Furthermore, only 18 minutes were provided by Enderlin, when Abu Rahma claimed originally to have filmed 27.

For Karsenty and others, this has become a far-reaching battle.

"The Al Dura report has had terrible consequences, causing hatred against Israel, Jews and the West," Karsenty told me. "It generated violence and terror when it became a symbol throughout the world and was invoked in the killing of Daniel Pearl, among other tragedies. This fabricated symbol, represented on stamps, graffiti and even monuments, could sink in and generate profound hatred for several generations. We have to repair the damage now, before it's too late."

The trial will resume on Feb. 27.

Soldiers in the Park

The mayor of Paris surprised me today.

Let's face it, like every other resident of our capital, I've gotten used to complaining over just about every little detail that could annoy our beautiful and privileged life. A Parisian cannot visualize life without his five-week yearly vacation, without his regular three-day weekends, etc., and the more he gets used to his privileges, the more he gets annoyed by anything that could disturb his quiet life.

In the very same way, we all desire that our city hall would understand and endorse our political views, even when they don't concern the city or even our country.

It seems that our mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, has become a true gymnast in the diplomatic sport of pleasing various lobbies based in our district.

Delanoe is a communications pro who knows how to address crowds and who would love to become the next resident of the Elysee presidential palace.

Although I have no intention of campaigning for the mayor, I cannot reasonably ignore the way he managed the campaign for the liberation of the three abducted Israeli soldiers these past few months.

The mayor launched in the summer of 2006 a solidarity campaign in favor of civilians in Lebanon and in Israel. When he received the families of the three abducted soldiers, Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, he promised to hang their pictures in the city and call for their quick liberation, just as he did for French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt and for various journalists detained in Iraq.

All of those who heard Delanoe smiled and thought that the pictures would never see the light of day, and that if they were hung, it would be in some dark corner of an abandoned neighborhood in the outskirts of Paris. However, Delanoe instructed that the poster be placed in the beautiful Bercy Park, more specifically in the Yitzhak Rabin Garden, which is a leisure area for thousands of Parisians.

A few days after the poster was placed in the park, and just after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert found a few minutes to stroll through the garden when visiting his friend French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, an anti-Zionist group, the CAPJPO, tagged the poster with the inscription, "Occupation army," turning the tribute into an anti-Israeli message.

It was quite disturbing to see the soldiers' portraits covered with graffiti, although the move was expected, but my greatest surprise came when I visited Rabin Garden to see if the pictures have been further damaged. To my astonishment, new pictures of the soldiers had been put up, but this time even higher, so that vandals could not reach them easily.

The fact is that CAPJPO's operation, filmed and posted on the Web, led to even stronger support for the liberation. The pictures stand high, where passersby can see them, and the city stood by its controversial campaign.

As would any self-respecting Parisian, I would end the story with a slightly bitter note. MEP and Deputy Mayor Pierre Schapira is the official who managed the operation, which was somewhat surprising, since Schapira is one of those who remain reluctant to add Hezbollah to the EU list of terror groups.

When I asked him three years ago in a Jewish commemoration event if he thought Hezbollah should be added to the list, he simply answered that it already was on the list. When I insisted that I was asking about Hezbollah, Schapira answered, "I heard you. It's on the list." For a minute there, I almost believed that it was.

Olmert Sees Conference as Step

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visited Paris in October, meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy mainly to discuss Iran and this month's Annapolis conference. When meeting with a small group of Jewish community leaders later the same day, Olmert gave little hope regarding the conference:

"Annapolis will not be a negotiation but an umbrella of support in order to move toward negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," he said.

Olmert described Sarkzoy as a "genuine friend of Israel and the Jewish people" who, unlike others, "did not change his ways after his election to the presidency."

"If I could tell you what he told me ... you would feel much better, less preoccupied about our future" Olmert repeated, while smiling. "Unfortunately, I can't tell you."

Olmert concluded by telling the elderly community leaders, professors and businessmen that he was moved when he saw "their shiny eyes looking at him."

Monday, 26 November 2007

The Annapolis paradox

(Edited by France 24)

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are meeting – along with representatives of more than 40 countries and organisations – in Annapolis, Maryland, to try and resume the Mideast peace process, seven years after the Camp David summit ground to a halt.

It’s a meeting of moderate leaders on either side of a fractious conflict that has dragged for more than half-a-century.

According to Nissim Zvili, former Israeli MP and ex-Israeli ambassador to France, never before in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have leaders from both sides held closer standpoints as Abbas and Olmert.

And yet, like most Middle East experts, Zvili believes their chances for reaching an official agreement are slim.

“The paradox is that Annapolis gathers leaders who are moderate, they both share the vision of a two-state solution and agree on the need to negotiate the question of (Palestinian) refugees and (the status of) Jerusalem, yet they cannot reach an agreement because they are both too weak,” said Zvili.

Domestically, both Abbas and Olmert are politically weak leaders. After the 2006 war with Hezbollah, Olmert’s approval ratings have dipped and few Israelis trust Olmert to make a deal with the Palestinians.

On the Palestinian side, Abbas has effectively lost control of a segment of the Palestinian nation since his Fatah party was routed out of the Gaza Strip by the Islamic Hamas movement in June. The legitimacy of Abbas, as the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the interim administrative organisation that governs the West Bank and the Gaza Strip territories –will be questioned by a segment of the Palestinian population.

As Bilal Hassan, noted journalist and former member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), puts it, Abbas is in an unenviable position. “If Abbas accepts the Israeli conditions, the crisis within the Palestinian nation will increase – I believe that’s exactly where we’re heading,” he said. “On the other hand, if Abbas refuses the Israeli conditions, tensions will rise between the PA and Israel.”

Don’t expect a deal

No official document is expected to come out of Annapolis and even the final common statement US President George Bush was counting on seems further than ever as disagreements have emerged over most of the issues plaguing past peace summits.

However, analysts say Annapolis could have positive results and that its mere existence could lead to future talks and give new a dynamic to the Israeli-Palestinian process.

“The main goal of Annapolis is to strengthen Abbas and to show Palestinians that the moderate way leads to compensations, contrary to the violent methods of Hamas,” Frederic Encel, from the Paris-based Institut français de géopolitique, told FRANCE 24. “Obviously the Bush administration and Ehud Olmert are also hoping to gain some benefits for themselves out of the conference, as they’re both in a weak position.”

Days before the conference, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US would try to close the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal before Bush leaves office in January 2009.

Israeli President Shimon Peres also appeared pessimistic regarding the American administration’s hope for a quick breakthrough in negotiations: “A Mideast deal would be impossible to settle during the term of President Bush,” he admitted to reporters.

Hopes on the ‘moderate axis’

Much of the hopes for Annapolis rest on what President Bush refers to as the “moderate axis,” that promoted the 2002 Beirut peace plan.

“The goal of Annapolis is also to try and strengthen this ‘moderate axis’, of which Saudi Arabia is a major actor,” said Zvili. “The goal is also to encourage Syria to join the moderate circle.”

In some respects, Annapolis has succeeded in pushing parties closer to that goal. For the first time in history, Saudi Arabia – which has never recognised the state of Israel - will be sitting at the table with Israel to discuss Middle East peacemaking.

Rice has expressed the hope that Annapolis could be a “launching pad” for the two-state solution.

Analysts believe that most Palestinians support a two-state solution. But a contentious issue is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian position is that a recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would forfeit the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Israel opposes the right of return since it would jeopardise its Jewish majority. And that, says Encel, lies at the heart of the problem.

“The crucial issue Palestinians and Israelis have to address today is the fundamental need to genuinely recognise one another. The other issues, such as the Israeli settlements and the Palestinian right of return, are not fundamental and can be resolved,” he said. “Palestinians see Israelis as Jews and Israelis see Palestinians as Arabs and as long as they keep their distorted vision, negotiations will fail. The Oslo agreement was a first step to mutual recognition as Israel accepted the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinians recognised the state of Israel. But both parties have to go further. Peace cannot be reached otherwise.”

Thursday, 15 November 2007

French court examines Al Dura footage


PARIS - A French appeals court screened footage Wednesday of the September 2000 television report on the death of Mohammad al-Dura, in a case of defamation brought against French television and its correspondent in the Middle East, Charles Enderlin.

The veteran journalist was accused in 2004 by Philippe Karsenty, the owner of an internet site, of broadcasting a staged report on the al-Dura killing, and of instigating hate against Israel and Jews throughout the world.

Karsenty was convicted in the original defamation trial, but a second trial ended with the judge demanding to examine the full footage of the al-Dura report before deciding whether Karsenty was guilty of defamation or not.

Enderlin explained in court each segment of the 18-minute footage- filmed on September 30, 2000 by his cameraman Talal Abu Rahma at Netzarim junction while Enderlin was in Ramallah- the street battles with dozens of people throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at an IDF outpost, an interview with a Fatah official, and the incident involving Mohammed al-Dura and his father in the last minute of the video.

Karsenty challenged Enderlin's explanations. "The boy moved his head after we heard the cameraman say he was dead. How do you explain this?" asked Karsenty. "Why is there no blood on their shirts although they had bullet wounds?"

Enderlin said that Talal Abu Rahma did not say that the boy had died, but that he was dying. The journalist maintained that only the Israelis shot at the al-Duras, explaining that he could hear the difference between the shooting of the Israeli rubber bullets and Palestinian regular ones.

Karsenty repeated several troubling details already pointed out in an article by senior journalists Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte in 2004, noting some staged scenes filmed by Abu Rahma in the first part of the footage, which they had examined at French TV studios with former le Monde journalist Luc Rosenzweig. Jeambar and Leconte called on French TV to launch its own internal inquiry, citing a possible lack of journalistic standards, but did not not share the theory of a possible staging of al-Dura's death.

"The al-Dura report has had terrible consequences, causing hate against Israel and Jews," Karsenty told Haaretz. "We have to repair the damage now, before it's too late."

Tension was high in the courtroom Wednesday, and some pro and anti-Enderlin militants were arguing loudly, causing some commotion. Dozens of Jewish bloggers were present at the courthouse.

Serge Kovacs, a friend and co-worker of Enderlin, said Enderlin was falsely accused and has become a "new Dreyfuss." Enderlin told journalists that there was no new "affair," and suggested they come to the next hearing on February 28.

Karsenty said that he intends to counter-attack French TV by pointing out that they only presented 18 minutes out of the 27 minutes Abu Rahma originally claimed to have shot.

"Bhutto isn't part of the opposition"

Maryam Abou-Zahab, researcher, Pakistan expert at the Paris Institute of Political Studies reacts to Musharraf’s call for fresh elections.

Monday, November 12, 2007

FRANCE 24: Pervez Musharraf has announced that elections could be scheduled for January, but then he added that the state of emergency will continue. Can free elections be held in these conditions?

Abou-Zahab: The situation evolves from day to day in Pakistan. Today, no one can say if elections will take place and under what conditions. One thing that’s for certain is that it would be difficult to organise elections during a state of emergency.

If the elections are to be free and credible, it’s imperative that all the parties and candidates are free to campaign and travel within the country. This isn’t the case right now. Most notably, Nawaz Sharif must be allowed to return to Pakistan. Finally, security needs to be guaranteed throughout the country.

FR24: What forces are at play?

AZ: There’s no easy answer to this question. The situation is changing constantly. Alliances have not yet been struck. Keep in mind that there aren’t homogenous political blocs in Pakistan, and negotiations are underway between most political parties, often in secret.

The religious parties, nationalist Pashtun parties, Bhutto’s party and Musharraf’s followers are all engaged in different negotiations for eventual alliances.

Contrary to appearances, Bhutto isn’t part of the opposition. She’s simply a figure who wants to govern. She has, unlike others, complete freedom to move around as she wishes. As a result, this spectacle that we’ve been watching for the last three days is a show because she, like Musharraf, needs to save face.

You have to understand that Bhutto cannot obtain an absolute majority, and that she will have to find partners to form a coalition. At the same time, the democratic religious parties are divided. Some are in negotiations with Bhutto and don’t support a revolt against Musharraf.

F24: What are Musharraf’s reasons for first declaring a state of emergency then calling for elections to remain on schedule in January?

AZ: Musharraf is already unpopular due to the situation in the country and economic problems facing the population. But he was further weakened after the state of emergency was declared. Musharraf is a strategist and he played the election card in order to get back into the game. However, other twists and turns are possible. We are in a period of absolute uncertainty.

Musharraf knows that his survival is assured thanks to American support. The United States has certainly criticised the state of emergency, but their position remains ambiguous. All the different American political players have been hot and cold during this crisis: President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, the State Department and former officials have staked out contradictory positions.

Musharraf knows that their biggest concern is the establishment of security and that their stated worries about the maintenance of democratic values is nothing other than a façade to seal the leaks in Musharraf’s system, which they count on.

FR24: How can the Pakistani people survive during this troubled period with both a state of emergency and political confrontation?

AZ: The population isn’t really affected by the state of emergency because their problems are deeper and more immediate: the difficulties of finding food, rising prices, inflation, unemployment and insecurity, etc.

Pakistanis are not mobilised to protest in the streets. They are, however, tired of the political leadership on all sides that cannot solve their problems.

But, contrary to many commonly held beliefs, the Pakistanis are not ready to sign up with religious extremists either.

The democratic religious parties have very weak electoral support, and the militant Islamists cannot attract much of a following. They aren’t a major risk today, and the large majority of Pakistanis aren’t responding to their message.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Musharraf le joueur sort ses carte

« Bhutto ne fait pas partie de l'opposition »

Mariam ABOU-ZAHAB, chercheur au CERI, Sciences-Po Paris, nous donne sa lecture des événements au Pakistan.

lundi 12 novembre 2007
Par Shirli Sitbon

Pervez Musharraf vient d’annoncer que des élections pourraient avoir lieu dès janvier, mais il a ajouté que l’état d’urgence sera maintenu. Des élections peuvent-elles être libres dans ces conditions ?

La situation évolue de jour en jour au Pakistan, personne ne peut dire aujourd’hui si les élections auront lieu ni dans quelles conditions. Ce qui est certain c’est qu’il est difficile d’organiser des élections sous l’état d’urgence.

Pour que des élections soient libres et crédibles, il est indispensable que tous les partis et candidats puissent faire campagne librement et se déplacer dans le pays. Ce n’est pas le cas actuellement. Il faut notamment que Nawaz Sharif puisse rentrer au Pakistan. Et par ailleurs, garantir la sécurité sur l’ensemble du territoire.

Quelles sont les forces en jeu?

Cette question n’a pas de réponse simple. La situation change continuellement. Les alliances ne sont pas encore faites.

Il faut savoir que contrairement aux idées reçues il n’y a pas de blocs politiques homogènes au Pakistan et les négociations sont en cours entre la plupart des partis, parfois dans la discrétion. Les partis religieux, les partis nationalistes pachtouns, le parti de Bhutto, les partisans de Musharraf notamment sont tous engagés dans différentes négociations pour d’éventuelles alliances.

Bhutto ne fait pas partie de l'opposition contrairement aux apparences. C’est une figure politique qui veut gouverner. Elle a, contrairement à d’autres, une liberté de mouvement complète.

Le spectacle que l’on voit depuis trois jours, est pour ainsi dire du cinéma car elle doit, tout comme Musharraf, sauver la face. Il faut comprendre que Bhutto ne peut obtenir une majorité absolue et qu’elle doit trouver des partenaires pour former une coalition.

De leurs côtés, les partis religieux démocratiques sont divisés. Certains sont engagés dans des négociations avec Bhutto et ne sont pas favorables à une révolte contre Musharraf.

Pour quelles raisons Musharraf a-t-il successivement décrété l’état d’urgence puis appelé à la tenue d’élections en janvier ?

Musharraf est un leader déjà impopulaire à cause de la situation dans le pays et des problèmes économiques auxquels font face les habitants.
Mais on peut dire qu’il s’est davantage affaibli depuis qu’il a décrété l’état d’urgence. Puisque Musharraf est joueur, il a sorti la carte des élections pour relancer l’échiquier. Mais d’autres rebondissements sont possibles. Nous sommes dans une période d’incertitude totale.

Musharraf sait que sa survie est assurée grâce au soutien américain. Les Etats-Unis ont certes critiqué l’état d’urgence mais leur position est ambigüe. Les différents responsables politiques ont soufflé le chaud et le froid dans cette affaire, le président Bush, le Congrès, Condoleezza Rice, le département d’Etat et d’anciens responsables ont émis des positions contradictoires. Musharraf sait que leur grande préoccupation est l’instauration de la sécurité et que leur souci du maintien des valeurs démocratiques n’est qu’une préoccupation de façade pour calfeutrer les failles du système Musharaf sur lequel ils comptent.

Comment la nation pakistanaise vit-elle cette période mouvementée, l’état d’urgence et la confrontation politique ?

La population n’est pas touchée par l’état d’urgence car ses problèmes sont plus profonds et immédiats : les difficultés de se nourrir, la hausse des prix, l’inflation, le chômage, l’insécurité, etc.

Les Pakistanais ne sont pas mobilisés pour descendre dans la rue et manifester. Ils sont en revanche lassés par les leaders politiques de tous bords qui n’apportent pas de solutions à leurs problèmes.

Mais contrairement à certaines idées reçues, les Pakistanais ne sont pas non plus prêts à s’engager sur le terrain de l’extrémisme religieux.

Les partis religieux démocratiques disposent d’une base électorale extrêmement faible et les islamistes militants de leur côté ne parviennent pas à attirer le soutien du peuple. Ils ne représentent pas de risque majeur aujourd’hui et la grande majorité des Pakistanais n’adhère pas à leur discours.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Defence lawyer in Selam case: 'anti-Semitic insults but not anti-Semitic murder'

Lawyer Ambroise Colombani, who represents Adel Amastaibou, answered our questions regarding the murder of Sebastien Selam:

He admitted that his client said to police that he was happy the 'dirty Jew was dead' but evaluated that his anti-Semitic insults were part of a delirious state.
"Do you realise how these policemen get confessions?" the lawyer asked me. "They nearly torture the suspects."
Mr. Colombani added that Adel Amastaibou wasn't even aware at the time that he had killed Sebastien Selam.

He also declared that the two men were friends until several months before the killing.

Article published in the JC on November 9:

French court re-opens case of stabbed DJ

French authorities have re-opened an investigation into the 2003 murder of a 23-year-old disc-jockey.

On the night of November 19, as Sebastien Selam was about to drive to the Paris night club where he worked, his neighbour Adel Amastaibou stabbed him to death in their building’s parking area.

After his arrest later that night, Amastaibou admitted to police that he had killed Mr Selam, claiming that he had heard voices that told him to stab his neighbour. According to the deposition, which the JC has seen, the killer said he was happy that “the dirty Jew was dead”.

Police considered that Amastaibou was mentally unstable and could not be held responsible for his actions.

“This is not a racial or a religious hate crime,” Ambroise Colombani, Amastaibou’s lawyer, said. “My client is much worst than unstable, he is very sick. His antisemitic insults were a part of his delirious state.”

In court, Mr Colombani presented psychiatric experts who diagnosed his client as unstable, and in 2006 the court sent Amastaibou to the Maison Blanche psychiatric hospital in Paris.

He has since been transferred from the hospital to another institution, but his lawyer confirmed that Amastaibou is still in a closed psychiatric institution.

At the time, Jewish leaders considered that since Amastaibou was diagnosed as insane there was no use in mobilising the community to have the murder recognised as a hate crime.

However, Mr Selam’s mother Juliette and her lawyer Alex Metzker do not believe the insanity theory.

“Obviously, a man who kills so savagely is deranged, but not irresponsible for his actions,” said Mr Metzker. According to Mr Metzker, Amastaibou was convicted of antisemitic violence several months before the Selam killing, after attacking a rabbi.

“He was considered sane at the time,” said the lawyer.

Amastaibou’s lawyer said he was not aware of this prior conviction.

Mrs Selam has managed to obtain a re-examination of the case over a technicality, and recently met with Jewish leaders and Christophe Ingrain, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s adviser on justice affairs, Sammy Ghozlan, the head of the vigilance bureau against anti-Semitism has told the JC.

“I believe things are changing. I believe the truth can be discovered,” Mrs Selam said.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Tribute turns to anti-Israel tribune

The Paris support poster for the liberation of the three abducted Israeli soldiers, installed less than a month ago in Rabin garden (12th arrondissement), was destroyed by the CAPJPO organisation a few days ago.
Its members organised a 'destruction ceremony', during which they read a speech which they filmed and posted on the web.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

French court examines whether murder of DJ is anti-Semitic

The family of Sebastien Selam, who was murdered in November 2003, was received at the presidential palace on October 19.
The meeting was set a month after French justice decided to reopen its investigation on the killing of the 23-year-old DJ, in what might be considered as the first recent anti-Semitic murder in France, over two years before the killing of young phone salesman Ilan Halimi.

On the night of November 19, as Selam was about to drive to one of Paris’s most notorious night clubs, the Queen, where he had been working for several months, his neighbour Adel Amastaibou, a man known as unstable and violent, murdered the DJ in their building’s parking lot.

During his questioning in police head quarters later that night, Adel Amastaibou admitted to the police that he had killed Selam. According to the deposition typed by the police, the killer said he was happy that ‘the dirty Jew was dead’.

Investigators questioned several of Amastaibou’s friends and they have yet to determine whether some of them were his accomplices in the killing.

“We believe that the murder was premeditated,” Selam family lawyer Alex Metzker told me. “One of Adel Amastaibou’s friends lent him the knife he used, a second one guarded the entrance of the building and a third hid the murderer’s cell phone and gave it to the police only a month later, all deleted.”

The neighbourhood Jewish community was deeply affected by the murder and 3000 people attended the funeral,
I was working at the Jewish radio the night of the murder and talked to some of Selam’s friends, who were in shock.

However, Police considered that since Amastaibou had been treated in the past in a psychiatric institution he could not be held responsible for his actions.
When the case was examined in court, defence lawyer Ambroise Colombani gathered 3 Psychiatric expertises diagnosing his client as unstable and in 2006 the court discharged the case and Amastaibou was sent to the Maison Blanche hospital centre in Paris, where he had been treated in the past. He has since been transferred from the hospital to another institution, which remains under medical confidence.

“The Selam affair is a lost case,” former CRIF president Cukierman has told the Jewish press in 2004. He considered that since Amastaibou was diagnosed as insane there was no use for mobilising the Jewish community. Mr Cukierman wanted to avoid labelling a crime as anti-Semitic before police investigators confirmed that it was indeed a hate crime.

However, Selam’s mother Juliette and her lawyer do not believe the insanity theory.
“Obviously, a man who kills so savagely is deranged, but not irresponsible for his actions,” added Metzker. “He is a borderline case and he must be judged.”
Metzger stressed that Amastaibou had already been convicted by a court of anti-Semitic violence in an earlier case, several months before the Selam killing, after he had attacked a rabbi.
“He was considered sane at the time,” said the lawyer.

On September 17 2007, the victim’s mother Juliette Selam obtained a re-examination of the case after her new lawyer proved that the first court decision was never delivered to her by the post. The envelop was sitting on a shelf of the court’s archive room.

Cukierman’s successor at the head of the CRIF, Richard Prasquier, received Juliette Selam after his election and on October 19 Sebastien Selam’s mother was received at the Elysée presidential palace by Christophe Ingrain, President Sarkozy’s adviser on justice affaires.

“I believe things are changing. I believe the truth can be discovered,” Juliet Selam told me.
But Selam worries about the whereabouts of Amastaibou.
After her call for an appeal was accepted, Mrs Selam received letters from her son’s murderer, asking that she dropped the charges. Amastaibou announced in his letter that he would come to pay her a visit.
“This situation is insane,” Juliet Selam told the JC. “I am still living in the same building where my son was killed and I have nowhere to go.”

“Where do I find hope and courage to continue? He is looking at me from above and he wants me to get to the bottom of this,” Juliet Selam told the JC. “I simply have to know the truth about what exactly happened to my son.”

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Letter from France: French first lady vanishes

Cherchez la femme!

Where is Cecilia? French newspapers have been investigating the whereabouts of French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy because she has vanished from TV screens and media events. The spouse of President Nicolas Sarkozy has apparently disappeared from public life -- or at least from her husband's public life -- days before the launch of a special commission to investigate the "Libyan deal" signed between France and Libya for the liberation of Bulgarian nurses, in which Cecilia Sarkozy supposedly played a major role.

Cecilia Sarkozy was not expected to testify in front of the committee, although she spoke with Libyan President Muammar Kadhafi before the nurses where released. The French presidential palace ruled out any kind of questioning, but the media are nevertheless investigating the reasons for her silence.

"Has the presidential couple broken up again after its previous separation in 2005?" wondered The Express magazine. These questions have never been asked before in France, where public opinion didn't grant much importance to its leaders' private lives, even though some of them, such as François Mitterrand, led double lives with two separate families.

However, the Sarkozy family is somewhat different. Journalists explain that since Nicolas Sarkozy invited the press, on his own initiative, into his private life, they felt they had the right to follow up on the matter. The media, however, opted for extreme caution after the head editor of a major magazine (Paris Match) was fired after publishing a photo of Cecilia Sarkozy with her former lover, Jewish publicist Richard Attias. Nicolas Sarkozy befriends journalists but reacts strongly when they reveal certain details his PR team didn't send out to them.

Surveys show that the French admire Sarkozy for his energy and genuine will to change things in their country, but that they also have a hard time keeping up with him.

The Libyan affair is one example. Sarkozy surprised Europe when he sent his wife to Libya to wrap up the case and take the credit for the liberation of the nurses the next day. But the French are furthermore intrigued by the content of the deal that was settled with Kadhafi and the possible concessions made by Paris. A mysterious nuclear energy and weapons deal was concluded, according to the Libyans, and the French wonder what its exact implications are.

"We won't force Cecilia Sarkozy to testify if she doesn't wish to do so, but she and her husband are accountable," declared the head of the committee, Pierre Moscovici, on the Jewish radio station.

"We won't send the police to the presidential palace to get Cecilia," said another Socialist official, Elisabeth Guigou.

The committee will have to settle with hearing Claude Guéant, Sarkozy's chief adviser, who joined Cecilia Sarkozy in her Libyan mission, or vice versa. The committee launched its inquiry last week.

The rules have changed since Nicolas Sarkozy's election five months ago, just as was promised in his campaign. Former rules are no longer valid. Sarkozy wants results.

He recruited Socialist members of Parliament for his own government and various projects, among them American admirer FM Bernard Kouchner and American-hater former FM Hubert Vedrine. Sarkozy pulled one of his most serious rivals, former Socialist presidential candidate Dominique Strauss Kahn, out of the French political scene by pushing him up to the head of the International Monetary Fund.

The French president found appropriate ways to deal with his various opponents, starting with the racist and anti-Semitic far right. Sarkozy attracted Jean-Marie Le Pen's traditional voters with his ideas on immigration and contributed to Le Pen's first setback in decades. Five months after losing massively to Sarkozy in the presidential election, Le Pen's Front National is ruined and has practically collapsed.

This year alone, following its two electoral defeats in the presidential and parliamentary polls, the Front National lost over $11 million, and the party is now considering selling its historical headquarters. At 79, Le Pen is about to retire from a divided party that lost its voters, private donors and public funding.

The extremist threat, however, hasn't completely vanished, because a new and younger Le Pen will apparently follow the old one. Marine Le Pen, currently vice president of the Front National, has announced she would run for the presidency of her father's party once he has retired.

Analysts are divided upon the future of the party under Marine Le Pen's leadership, if she does inherit it from her father, because she has adopted, in appearance, much softer manners than her father's. Would Marine Le Pen's Front National be more moderate or more dangerous than today's far-right party?

She acts in a more subtle way than her father, who is regularly denounced for his extremist reactions. The daughter makes every possible effort to appear moderate and open, jumping on every opportunity to work with minorities, Jews, blacks and Arabs, hiding her irritation. Marine Le Pen is the one who decided that a black woman would appear on her party's campaign posters. She chose a Jewish deputy, Jean-Richard Sulzer, for the Paris Regional Council and asked, unsuccessfully, to meet with Jewish organizations.

When I met with Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen in April, before the presidential election, she tried to joke around with me. But while smiling, she repeated that there was no anti-Semitism in France and therefore no reason to denounce such a phenomenon or fight against it.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism does exist and some victims have to struggle to be considered as such.

The press reported on the Ilan Halimi affair -- the young man who was abducted in 2006 by a gang that hoped to get a ransom and ended up killing him -- but another murder, that of 23-year-old Jewish man, Sebastien Selam, is still silenced.

Selam, also known as DJ Lam-C, was a successful DJ who worked in some of the most prestigious nightclubs in Paris. On the night of Nov. 19, 2003, he was savagely assassinated by his neighbor, Adel, who lived next door to him for years. After the murder, Adel bragged about killing a Jew and said he would go to heaven.

On Aug. 8, 2006, a court decided that the murderer was mentally unstable and therefore could not be held responsible for killing Selam. Moreover, Selam's mother, Juliette, and her lawyer were not informed of the ruling and therefore couldn't appeal the decision. After months of solitary struggle, Juliette Selam finally obtained from the court a reopening of the case, and she now hopes for a new trial.

In the meantime, her son's murderer wrote to her and demanded that she drop the charges.

Selam says that she's not afraid, declaring: "The worst has already happened."

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Dichter on terror: “France shouldn’t pay the price Israel paid”

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie received her Israeli counterpart Avi Dichter at Place Beauvau on Tuesday, and announced an increased collaboration in the war on terror between French and Israeli police and Intelligence.

“We have measured the need to follow-up our two countries’ strong cooperation in counter-terrorism and public security,” said Alliot-Marie. “Both countries are facing the same threats and we need to exchange information, technology, share our skills and develop research.”

“Michele Alliot-Marie announced on Tuesday that France was about to invest 1Billion euros in research. That’s a brave statement,” said Dichter, who added that a new group of high level police officials would meet and launch additional efforts to increase cooperation between the two countries.

“We can still strengthen our collaboration capacity. This is a necessity for our citizens’ security,” declared Alliot Marie.

“[MAM] is a brave minister. She established a strong collaboration between Israel and France when she was defence minister, investing massively in UAVs. Today she is endorsing strengthened collaboration in security,” said Dichter. “I’m looking forward to our common work in fighting terror and crime, giving advice in maintaining public order.”

“France shouldn’t pay the price we paid and we offer all of our experience in battling terror, free of charge. We offer the same to other security services.”
“Today we have discussed the new working group composed of our best police officials and the excellent professional appointed by the French government. They will examine the situation and ways to push forward our collaboration in the upcoming month and we will then sign a new agreement, either when [Michèle Alliot Marie] will be in Israel or when we’ll be back here in Paris, for a strengthened cooperation. We will launch our new common path with many challenges – the ones I’ve just mentioned and others.”

According to the Interior ministry, Michele Alliot-Marie received a dozen ministers this week to discuss cooperation in the war on terror as France was organising the international exhibition of internal state security - Milipol - at the Bourget, near Paris. 44 countries were present with 950 stands. Israel was the 6th country, represented by 42 companies that were, according to the Figaro, “a length ahead” of the others.

France’s main counter terror bureaux, the RG and DST, are in a fusion process that will be completed in 2008. Their leaders, Bernard Squarcini and Joël Bouchité, evaluated on Monday that the terror alert in France was high.

L’homme qui m’a privée de nationalité

J’apprends par Libé le décès du journaliste Serge de Beketch. Homme d’extrême droite, directeur du Libre journal de la France Courtoise, pour moi il fut surtout l’homme qui m’a privée de ma nationalité française... sur le papier bien entendu.

Pour la première fois de ma vie, on m’appela « la journaliste israélienne », alors que nous étions en France et que j’ai toujours porté la nationalité française.

Reproduisant des extraits d’une interview que j’avais faite de Marine Le Pen, qui voulait à l’époque se joindre à une visite de parlementaires en Israël, Beketch tentait de déformer mes propos et trouvait étrange que je m’intéresse à ce qui se passe en France.
Comme de bien nombreuses personnes, j’ai ressenti un petit frisson étrange venu d’un coup des méandres du rejet et du mépris.

Selon Libé, Beketch savait surtout manier l’invective à l’égard de ceux qu’il considérait être ses ennemis. J’ai été épargnée.

Comme disait Richard II, "What more remains?"

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Bush tente de bloquer la reconnaissance du génocide arménien

Trois questions à Yves Ternon, historien et auteur de plusieurs livres sur les génocides dont 'Guerres et génocides au XXème siècle' Editions Odile Jacob, 2007.

Q:La position de Bush, refusant la reconnaissance du génocide arménien par le Congrès est-elle nouvelle ? Est-elle répandue parmi les dirigeants ?

Yves Ternon: Elle n’est pas nouvelle. C’est un débat qui s’enlise aux Etats-Unis depuis des années et George Bush est manipulé par des lobbies, notamment au sein du parti républicain, qui tentent d’empêcher le vote de la loi pour conforter les relations entre les USA et la Turquie. George Bush est ignorant en matière d’histoire des génocides. Sa position est excessive et le Président américain est parmi les rares leaders à la défendre. Les historiens ne se posent plus la question de l’existence du génocide arménien, puisque c’est une évidence. Le génocide arménien, comme la Shoah et le génocide tutsi répondent à des critères très clairs.

Q:Quels sont ses critères ?

Yves Ternon: Un génocide est pratiqué par un Etat qui a sciemment planifié et préparé la destruction d’un groupe de personnes. Dans le cas du génocide arménien la question ne se pose pas. Les historiens ainsi que des parlements, des Etats et organisations internationales ont reconnu le génocide. Mais certains lobbies essayent de ménager l’Etat turc. Georges Bush ne connaît rien à rien.

Q:Plusieurs parlements, notamment en France, ont adopté des lois reconnaissant le génocide.
Yves Ternon: Que représente le débat qui se poursuit aux Etats-Unis ? Le débat aux Etats-Unis est l’une des clés qui permettraient de dénouer ce problème. Plusieurs pays ont promulgué des lois, faisant ainsi avancer le travail de mémoire, mais le débat aux Etats-Unis a une importance particulière. Si le Congrès américain adoptait la loi, l’Etat turc serait acculé, le dos au mur et il serait forcé d’entamer un travail de mémoire. La législation est la seule manière de vaincre les négationnistes au niveau politique.

Propos recueillis par Shirli Sitbon

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Letter from France

Battle against anti-Semitism enters new phase

By Shirli Sitbon

French Jews were relieved to learn of the arrest and conviction of Nizar Ouedrani, a man who assaulted a young Jew wearing a kippah in Paris last July, as the victim was walking toward a synagogue.

The incident is one among dozens, but for the first time, Jewish leaders noted, the court opted for a severe sentence.

On Saturday, July 21, two men and a boy were going to their synagogue on Petit Street when a man driving a truck honked at them and started shouting anti-Semitic slurs. When 24-year-old Yossef Zekri tried to calm the driver down, the latter jumped out of the car and started hitting him while shouting, "Dirty Jew, I'll finish you." Ouedrani hit Zekri on the head with a vacuum cleaner and ran away. He was caught the next day after police traced his license plate number.

In court, Ouedrani testified he didn't realize his victim was a Jew, but failed to convince the judge, who sentenced him to nine months in prison (of which six months are suspended).

"We believe that this ruling, the first to be as severe as we expected, is exemplary and will dissuade thugs from attacking our community," Sammy Ghozlan, the head of the Vigilance Bureau Against Anti-Semitism, said.

With the Ouedrani case, the battle against "new" anti-Semitism has entered a new phase.

Until 2002, the left-wing government led by Lionel Jospin refused to even recognize the spectacular increase of anti-Jewish attacks triggered by the second intifada.

Local Jewish organizations, strengthened by American Jewry, demanded President Jacques Chirac present a firm battle against anti-Semitic attacks.

The French president and his new center-right Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy -- now France's president -- launched a plan to fight anti-Semitism, including reinforced surveillance of synagogues and unprecedented efforts on behalf of police to hunt down the attackers. The next phase was to get offenders to court. The French Assembly approved the Lellouche legislation, doubling the sentences for anti-Semitic and racist assaults.

Jewish community leaders fought forcefully for serious sentences following dozens of symbolic rulings that failed to dissuade new aggressors.

The Ouedrani ruling, the first severe court decision after an anti-Semitic attack, opens the door to a new phase of the battle against anti-Semitism. Authorities appear to have taken every possible measure and precaution, yet anti-Jewish attacks continue as if nothing had been done.

"There are no new ideas on how to fight anti-Semitism, no new plan in the horizon," said policeman Michel Thooris, who follows anti-Semitism issues. "French Jews voted massively for Sarkozy hoping that he would put an end to hatred, but he has no new answers. It sometimes seems as though hearing about anti-Semitism is starting to annoy our leaders..." and the French in general, Thooris said.

Simone Veil -- former minister, European Parliament speaker and current president of the Shoah Remembrance Foundation -- told me, as we were visiting the Shoah memorial with President Sarkozy, that certain forms of anti-Semitism denounced by schoolteachers could easily be countered.

Since the beginning of the second intifada, French professors in troubled schools have complained that their Muslim pupils have been refusing to learn about the Shoah, claiming it was Zionist propaganda. The pupils have prevented professors from teaching the Shoah and the trend has extended to other lessons that involve Jews. Anti-Semitic assaults against Jewish pupils and teachers have also increased.

"I actually noticed that Arab pupils failed to appear in class for courses on the Shoah long before the second intifada, but at the time I didn't understand what motivated them," said Irene Saya, the head of the teachers association PEREC (For a Republican and Civil School).

In 2002, a dozen professors gathered their testimonies in a book called, "The Lost Territories of the Republic." Irene Saya said that nothing has changed in five years.

"Jewish professors and pupils are subject to anti-Semitic remarks and it feels like there isn't much to do. Anti-Semitism isn't just going to disappear," Saya said. "The ministry created a special department for these issues but there are no official figures and no real measures to battle anti-Semitism in school."

"The way I see it, the pupils who refuse to study are not at fault," Veil said. "The teachers are the ones who should find solutions to this problem and find ways to teach what happened in WWII. But I think some of these professors don't really want to make that effort."

Every year, the Shoah Memorial sends up to 10,000 adolescents from throughout France to Auschwitz. Troublemakers aren't invited. It also launched several projects commemorating the genocides perpetrated in Rwanda and against the Armenians.

"Today, we have to talk about Rwanda if we want schools to keep on teaching about the Shoah," sarcastically observed the leader of one European Jewish organization.

Obviously, most of those who combat genocide and fight racism do so genuinely, and their efforts often lead to positive results.

"We have to be irreproachable at a time when revisionists are still trying to distort history," Veil said.

Anti-Zionism and the boycott of Israeli products and skills are viewed by French Jews as another form of anti-Semitism. But, unlike other countries, France has successfully countered the phenomenon, launching the France-Israel Foundation in July 2005 to reinforce ties with the Israeli government and encourage collaboration in various fields, from literary exhibits to stem cell research.

The foundation has prevented boycotts that would have isolated Israel in the intellectual and commercial fields. It instigated French investments in the Israeli film industry, for example, leading to the success of the Israeli Film Festival of Paris and to numerous productions and prizes, the latest ones being the awards granted at the Cannes film festival to two Israeli films, "Jellyfish" and "The Band's Visit." Israeli movies, once rare in French theaters, have become common and, at times, even popular.

Those who supported the boycott against Israel, mainly within the pro-Palestinian association CAPJPO (Coordination of the Calls for a Fair Peace in the Middle East), are about to observe a new high in French-Israeli relations since the annual book fair -- the major cultural event of the year -- selected Israel to star the 2008 exhibit.

Sarkozy is apparently looking for global answers, fighting boycotts with reinforced collaboration and battling racist extremists by offering new alternatives. In theory, every issue can fall into place.

Since recent anti-Semitic attacks are perpetrated mainly by young Muslims, Sarkozy's plan to annihilate anti-Semitism consists of putting all his energy into solving the conflicts in the Middle East in order to avoid new tensions between communities.

When inviting Hezbollah representatives to Paris in July, only a few months after he compared them to Nazis, Sarkozy hoped to get things moving, but assured the public he would not invite Hamas.

Sarkozy, a great admirer of George Bush, has multiple initiatives in the Middle East.

The man, who a few months ago was criticized for his Jewish descent by extremist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, has already managed to reduce the National Front Party to nothing, attracting most of its voters and leaving it penniless after two major electoral defeats.

Maybe the French president's plan to annihilate anti-Semitism isn't all that impossible. The Jewish community voted massively for that plan. Now, it is holding its breath.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Secular Crusade

France refuses ID cards unless Jews 'prove' faith

by Shirli Sitbon Paris

An Algerian-born Jewish woman has become a symbol of the French battle to secularise public affairs after refusing to provide authorities with proof of her religion in order to have her national ID renewed.

In June, a clerk in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris, asked Brigitte Abitbol, 57, to provide several documents, including a certificate to prove she was Jewish.

Ms Abitbol’s previous French ID document and her birth certificate were deemed insufficient, and the clerk said that since Jews in Algeria were granted French nationality in 1870 with the Cremieux decree, proving she was Jewish would be helpful.

After Ms Abitbol refused to provide it, court workers told her she would not get her documents.

"We’re in 2007, in a secular state and I am never going to provide a religion certificate,” said Ms Abitbol.

Ms Abitbol’s case has encouraged others to go public. On August 21, dozens of French citizens of Jewish or foreign descent testified in the Libération newspaper of similar treatment.

“My mother was born in 1919 in Poland and became a French citizen in 1921, after her family fled the pogroms,” wrote one reader. “When renewing her ID in 2001, she was asked to provide a nationality certificate. After she explained that she couldn’t get one because her family’s documents were destroyed when her village burnt down, my mother was told she would be ‘deported back to her country’. My mother showed the state worker her French ID from 1943, with the word ‘Jew’ labelled on it and she called me, crying.”

Others brought war medals and photos of family in French military uniforms to court. Even a deputy-mayor of Paris, Nathalie Kaufman, had to provide special documents.

“The case is upsetting, but we cannot consider it as antisemitism,” Sammy Ghozlan, the head of the Vigilance Bureau Against Anti-Semitism, told the JC. “This is a new trend of zeal within French bureaucracy towards all of those who renew their ID documents.”

The mediator of the republic office, handling the Abitbol case and several others, told the JC that it was perfectly legal to require religion certificates.

“We need to be certain of the person’s French identity and a certificate of religion is one way to get that confirmation regarding Jews who immigrated from North African countries,” a spokesman told the JC.

But describing this as “unthinkable”, Irit Spiro, a programme director at French Jewish Radio, told the JC: “We were shocked when Mrs Abitbol informed us of her case, and our station will broadcast a special programme in September with dozens of testimonies to denounce this measure.”

Monday, 3 September 2007

Quand c'est fini, ça recommence...

La Chronique de Jean-Michel Rosenfeld
mercredi 7h05 sur Radio J

« Quand c’est fini ahi nini ça recommence » c’est ce que chantait Léo Ferré.
C’est ce que l’on peut dire du grand rabbin sépharade d’Israël qui voici quelques années avait transformé les 6 millions de victimes de la Shoah en coupables, prétextant que l’assimilation fut la raison de leur extermination, faisant des bourreaux nazis le bras qui frappait, qui punissait.
Samedi dernier, ce même triste personnage déclara, je cite : "qu’au cours des guerres du Liban, les soldats d’Israël qui sont tombés le furent car ils ne mettaient pas de téfilimes tous les jours, ils ne respectaient pas le shabbat et ne priaient pas suffisamment."
De tels propos sont synonymes d’un esprit sectaire et dénués de toute humanité.
Que peuvent penser les familles de ces soldats d’apprendre que leur fils peut être victime par la faute du non respect d’une pratique religieuse, qui est en fait le choix de chacun et non une loi.
De tels propos sont dignes de l’inquisition du moyen âge.
Il n’y a pas que les chevaux qui portent des œillères.
De telles phrases irresponsables et assassines sortent de la bouche d’un soi-disant sage, je dirais même d’un faux sage.
Pour seules réponses aux critiques, pas assez nombreuses selon moi, le fils de ce pseudo rabbin répond qu’il prie tous les jours pour les soldats de Tsahal.
Selon Yossi Beilin, le leader du Meretz, il ferait mieux d’inciter ses groupies à s’enrôler dans l’armée.
Il est vrai, je m’en souviens, qu’au cours d’une journée marquant l’anniversaire de la réunification de Jérusalem, le grand rabbin de France avait dit que alors que dans les rues de la ville les soldats se battaient et tombaient des hommes dans les yeshivot EUX priaient. Comme si on pouvait mettre sur le même plan ceux qui bien à l’abri marmonnaient des phrases et ceux qui exposaient leur vie pour que ce réalise ce que les juifs du monde entier disent à chaque Pessah : « l’an prochain à Jérusalem ».
Ovadia Yossef devrait de temps en temps se remémorer le message d’humanisme du judaïsme universel.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Righteous Diplomacy

Was this King of Morocco righteous?
Shirli Sitbon Paris

A row has broken out over attempts to make the wartime king of Morocco a Righteous Gentile, taking in Moroccan Jewry, Yad Vashem and even Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Moroccan Jews believe Mohammad V was responsible for saving Jewish lives during the second world war, and Mr Peres decided to endorse an initiative led by Moroccan community leader Serge Berdugo after they met at the Israeli President’s inauguration ceremony.

However, the Yad Vashem museum is less convinced. “Mohammad V is not on our agenda,” a spokesman told the JC.

“The king doesn’t fill the necessary conditions to be designated,” added Richard Prasquier, the Yad Vashem representative in France and head of Jewish umbrella group CRIF. “Mohammad V didn’t actually save Jews since there was no official demand to deport them to death camps and he didn’t risk his life. These are two of the basic conditions necessary for the title.”

“Mohammad V did save lives!” declared Mr Berdugo, also a roaming ambassador for King Mohammad VI, grandson of Mohammad V. “Historical documents prove Mohammad V refused to treat Moroccan Jews any different from the Muslims. He received Jewish officials during the war and told them he had sympathy for them.”

Moroccan Jews say that when French officials gave Moroccan authorities yellow stars for Jews to wear, King Mohammad asked for a dozen more, and explained that he and his family would wear them too.

“Mohammad V was very respectful and fond of the Jewish community, but some situations have built-up into legends, turning the king into a saviour,” historian Jean-Pierre Allali told the JC. “An equivalent situation existed in Denmark, where, according to the legend, the king rode on a horse wearing the Star of David.”

Mr Berdugo does not agree that his request is based on a legend. “Historians are working very seriously on this issue and there is no doubt King Mohammad saved lives,” he said.

Some have implied that Mr Berdugo has ulterior motives, and that he might become Morocco’s first ambassador to Israel if relations improved further. “There are those who believe Mohammad V was righteous and others who plead for him for political reasons,” a Jewish community official told the JC.

Mr Berdugo flatly denied this. “This process will probably take a long time, but at the end I’m sure Mohammad V, the king that saved so many Jews, will get the tribute that he deserves.”

Friday, 27 July 2007

French Hizbollah policy under fire

By Shirli Sitbon Paris

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is expected in Beirut tomorrow for two days of talks to follow up his Paris meeting with Hizbollah and other Lebanese factions two weeks ago.

Mr Kouchner said France’s goal was to help defrost relations between Lebanese parties so that they would reach a common position and avoid new violence.

“In Lebanon, dialogue usually comes after the war. We have to prevent this scenario from repeating itself,” Mr Kouchner said. “Everything must be done to avoid war. Inviting all Lebanese parties to France was reasonable.”

However, Mr Kouchner has faced fierce criticism for his policy of engagement.

The Liberation newspaper evaluated that by inviting Hizbollah, France had risked giving the group the beginning of international legitimacy with no concessions in return.
“Hizbollah performed a good operation,” wrote Liberation, accusing Mr Kouchner of overstating the results of the meeting.

Richard Prasquier, the President of Jewish umbrella group CRIF, told the JC that French Jews were “saddened” by the meeting with Hizbollah but that they would not continue lobbying against new talks.

“All we can do at this point is hope that the discussions will lead to some results regarding the Israeli hostages,” Mr Prasquier continued. “We have seen no progress up until now, but President Sarkozy clearly promised to the hostages’ families he would make every effort to push this issue forward.”

American ambassador to France Craig Stapleton told the JC that the US backed the French approach.
“We support any step that reinforces democracy in Lebanon,” declared Mr Stapleton. “We support any step that keeps Syria out of Lebanon.”

“France has always been active in our region so its new initiative in Lebanon seems perfectly normal,” added Israeli embassy spokeswoman Nina Ben-Ami. “However, it isn’t useful to give Hizbollah legitimacy.”

According to geopolitical analyst Raphael Drai, France had no choice but to invite Hizbollah to discussions.

“This is a complex game. The goal is to prevent civil war in Lebanon and to isolate Iran,” Drai told the JC. “Leaving Hizbollah out of the game would only make it more dangerous."
“While encouraging inter-Lebanese dialogue, Paris is also trying to pull Syria away from Iran by launching new contacts with Damascus,” added Mr Drai. “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is obviously aware of that, is trying to prevent the manoeuvre by reinforcing ties with Syria.”

As Mr Kouchner prepares for new talks with Lebanese parties, observers wonder whether France will launch contacts with Hamas next.

“Don’t mix unrelated issues,” warned Mr Kouchner in his press conference after the Paris meeting, denying any plans to invite Hamas officials. “Our only current partner in Palestine is [President] Mahmoud Abbas.”

Friday, 6 July 2007

Livni : « Developments in PA bring new threats but also new opportunities »

Livni finds allies in France


By Shirli Sitbon, Paris

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Paris on Wednesday for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and her Moroccan counterpart Mohamed Benaissa. Her aim was to reinforce support for moderates in the Middle East by marginalising Hamas.

Ms Livni and Mr Benaissa shared a long handshake in front of the cameras, Ms Livni declaring that their nations shared the same concerns and faced similar threats. Mr Sarkozy vowed that France would play a major role in the region.

In a press conference with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the Israeli spoke of “new opportunities” to be seized.

“Israel has no secret agenda. We just want to move forward with the new Palestinian government.”

© 2007 Erez Lichtfeld

Mr Kouchner said it was up to Israel to launch fresh efforts to revive discussions. He pleaded for a fresh release of prisoners.

He excluded any form of dialogue with Hamas for the moment.

“We always say that we have to discuss with our enemies in order to reach peace, but we must choose the right time to do so.”

Agreeing, Ms Livni said that discussions with Hamas at the present time “would annihilate the moderate Palestinian forces. Israelis, moderate Palestinians, the international community and all moderate Arab countries should work together because our goals are the same and we have a common vision of the future.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah was also in Paris on Wednesday for talks with Mr Sarkozy, who has issued supportive statements to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Although there have been divisions within the French Foreign Ministry over whether to open discussions with Hamas, any move has been put on hold since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Hizbollah and anti-Hizbollah UAVs land in Paris

Protests over French invite to Hizbollah


From Shirli Sitbon, Paris
Protests have greeted the French Foreign Ministry’s decision to invite representatives of the Lebanese guerrilla movement Hizbollah to a forthcoming summit in Paris.

“Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner decided when he was visiting Lebanon in May to invite officials from all Lebanese groups to help them renew their internal dialogue,” said a foreign-ministry spokesman.

The French insist that the meetings will be entirely informal, and may begin as soon as next Tuesday, when Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is scheduled to visit the French capital.

“The participants will be designated by the 14 heads of the Lebanese parliamentary groups,” added the spokesman.

The Jewish community has vigorously protested against the invitation to Hizbollah, an organisation that Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had argued before his election was a terrorist group.

“We understand that France wishes to stabilise the political situation in the region,” wrote Richard Prasquier, president of the CRIF, French Jewry’s umbrella body.

“However, we remind you that Hizbollah is a terror group responsible for numerous attacks in Lebanon and in Buenos Aires against the AMIA Jewish community centre.”

Mr Prasquier also told the foreign ministry chief of cabinet Philippe Etienne that Hizbollah was responsible for launching last summer’s war in Lebanon by capturing Israeli soldiers.

Mr Etienne replied that while he understood CRIF’s concerns, France did not intend to legitimise the group through the meeting but merely to launch a constructive dialogue.

IDF UAVs take-off

Hezbollah officials will arrive in Paris just as Israeli UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) take-off from French territory.

As the French diplomats are still preparing the meeting on “strengthening the Lebanese state”, French aircraft industrials have invited their Israeli counterparts to exhibit their latest UAVs and IDF equipment to observe Hezbollah in the Bourget air show, the widest exhibit in the world.

The unveiling of the latest Israeli UAV, Israeli Aircraft Industry’s Heron TP, was a key-moment of the air show.

“The new Heron TP incorporates front end technologies to meet the Israeli Defence Forces needs,” said Itzhak Nissan, IAI’s president & CEO.

“A Max take off weight of 4,650 Kg, a 36 hour flight capacity,” IDF radio correspondent Or Heller read the IAI press release and concluded: “Do the math yourself: It can fly to Iran and back.”

“The Israeli aircraft industry is a leader of the market because the IDF used these UAVs and equipment on the field, it’s battle proven, in Lebanon last summer and in the Palestinian territories. Other countries, like France, only practice on their UAVs on exercises,” Doron Suslik, from the IAI communication department, told the JC.“There is a direct collaboration between the IAI and The IDF. Many of our engineers are IDF officers. This means they know better than anyone how to improve the equipment. That’s why we’re so quick.”

Forth world weapon exporter with sales mounting up to 5 Billion dollars, Israel has pledged to increase furthermore its collaboration with Europe, its third major area of sales after Asia and the US.Israeli Aircraft Industries’ Doron Suslik told the JC new collaboration programs will be launched at the Paris air show and that IAI is examining the purchase of a European company to strengthen its position in Europe.

“Our goal is to lead technologically,” added Suslik.

While some speak of political pressures against European companies that collaborate with Israeli ones and Israeli companies forced to disguise themselves, figures seem to comfort the IAI.

“Believe me, we know what political pressures are, but you can evaluate their final effect by examining the market. The facts are there: dozens of prestigious clients from up to 90 countries are proud to work with us.”

Dan Arkin the media contact at the Israeli pavilion observed that European and American industrials were not the only ones to show interest in the Israeli exhibit.

“We’ve obviously had visitors from countries that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.”“In the aircraft industry as everywhere, the market is global.”

Sarkozy's New Foreign Policy

published on 15/06/2007

From Shirli Sitbon, Paris

Politicians are predicting “a new era” in French policy towards the Middle East as newly elected president Nicolas Sarkozy consolidates a US- and Israel-friendly cabinet.

“A new era has begun in French diplomacy with the election of Nicolas Sarkozy,” MP Claude Goasguen (UMP) predicted ahead of this week’s parliamentary elections, likely to deliver Mr Sarkozy a powerful mandate. “Sarkozy will move lines in the Middle East.”

The MP pointed out that although French foreign policy was traditionally controlled by the Quai d’Orsay (Foreign Office), Mr Sarkozy had created a new body, the National Security Council (CNS), headed by former French diplomat Jean-David Levitte. Previously the ambassador to the UN and to the US, Mr Levitte is credited with improving relations between France and the US after the Iraq war.

“The CNS will take over foreign affairs from the uncontrollable and undemocratic Quai d’Orsay,” predicted Mr Goasguen.

The Quai d’Orsay is itself likely to shift focus with the appointment of its new head, former health minister Bernard Kouchner.

A highly popular figure who spent decades in the socialist party, Mr Kouchner, 67, is viewed as one of Mr Sarkozy’s major assets. Born to a Jewish father, he founded the Médecins Sans Frontières charity and was one of the few French leaders to support a UN intervention in Iraq in 2003 in order to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Nonetheless, analysts debated whether Mr Sarkozy’s new Foreign Minister can change France’s traditional pro-Arab position. “France’s ‘Arab policy’ depends on major national interests that are almost impossible to alter,” said UMP politician Pierre Lellouche.

“I would be extremely surprised if Sarkozy manages to implement his promises, such as including Hizbollah on the EU list of terror groups,” added Pascal Boniface, head of the IRIS political research institute.

“Sarkozy will undoubtedly push the American administration and his Israeli allies towards new negotiations, but his ability to implement his promises supportive of Israel is questionable,” Gilles Bonnaud, deputy director of the Quai d’Orsay Africa and Middle East department, told the JC.

“It’s the coordinated European position that counts, and although Sarkozy presents himself as a friend of Israel, he has nevertheless had many meetings and contacts with Arab leaders since his election.”

Uncertainty also remains over France’s attitude towards Hamas.

“If it remains popular, Sarkozy will have no choice at the end but to speak with Hamas,” the UMP’s Claude Pernes told the JC.However, working towards peace in the Middle East, he said, was important for France’s domestic stability.

“There is a parallel between the conflict in the Middle East and the riots in France. Muslims often identify with the Palestinians and if Sarkozy wants to solve the riot issue he will have to do everything he can to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

“Pushing for negotiations as quickly as possible will give an important signal to our troubled suburbs.”

איזו מין מדינה מתעלמת כשאחד מאזרחיה שבוי?

איזו מין מדינה מתעלמת כשאחד מאזרחיה שבוי?
אינגריד בטנקור, מועמדת לנשיאות קולומביה ואזרחית צרפת, נחטפה בידי מורדים ב-2002. אות החיים האחרון התקבל ממנה ב-2003. בני משפחתה כועסים על ממשלת צרפת שלא עשתה די כדי לשכנע את נשיא קולומביה לעסקת שבויים. "נמאס לנו מאמפטיה והבטחות", אמרה בתה מלאני בראיון ל-ynet. " צריך להתחיל כבר להפעיל לחץ אמיתי"
שירלי סיטבון, פריז
25.02.07, 15:24

אינגריד בטנקור, המועמדת לנשיאות קולומביה שנחטפה בידי לוחמי גרילה בדרום מזרח המדינה ב-2001, הפכה לסמלם של חטופים ושבויים ברחבי העולם. ביום שישי ציינו בפריז חמש שנים לחטיפתה, והנושא שב ועלה לכותרות, אבל בני משפחתה לא מוצאים בכך נחמה. יש להם ביקורת חריפה על הממשל הצרפתי, ובעיקר על הנשיא ז'אק שיראק, שלא עשה די בשנות כהונתו על מנת לקדם את שיחרורה של הפוליטיקאית שהחזיקה גם באזרחות צרפתית.

"מאז החטיפה רק פעם אחת הרים שיראק טלפון לנשיא קולומביה אלוורו אוריבה. זה קרה מיד לאחר החטיפה ומאז כלום", סיפרה ל-ynet בתה של בטנקור, מלאני. "כמובן, זה לא נעים לטפל בעניני שבויים ולהפעיל לחץ, אבל איך אפשר לא להתיחס לענין, כשאימא שלי שבויה כבר חמש שנים בתנאים כאלה?".

בטנקור (45) הייתה מועמדת עצמאית לנשיאות קולומביה. ב-23 בפברואר 2002 סיירה יחד עם מי שהיתה מועמדת להיות סגניתה, קלרה רוחס, במחוז מבודד בדרום קולומביה ונחטפה בידי אנשי ארגון FARC.

היא אחת מ-61 חטופים - ביניהם שלושה קבלנים אמריקנים - שב-FARC רוצים להחליפם תמורת שיחרור מפקדיהם הכלואים בקולומביה. עד כה סרב נשיא קולומביה אוריבה לנהל עם המורדים משא ומתן. הקולומביאנים משבחים אותו על עמדותיו הנוקשות, אך במקביל לוחצים אותו להביא לפיתרון המצב.
לאחרונה נדמה כי חלה התגמשות מסויימת בעמדותיו אך שורה של התקפות מצד המורדים סיכלו כל סיכוי למשא ומתן בקרוב. אוריבה, שאביו נהרג בעת ניסיון חטיפה כושל לפני מספר שנים, קרא השבוע לכוחות הביטחון של ארצו להגביר את המרדף אחר המורדים. אמש הודיעו אנשי FARC כי הם מוכנים למשא ומתן על שיחרורה של בטנקור.

אות החיים האחרון שהתקבל מבטנקור היה סרטון וידאו ששיחררו המורדים לפירסום באוגוסט 2003. בסרטון ביקשה בטנקור שיבואו לשחרר אותה. בתגובה שלח דומיניק דה וילפן, שר החוץ הצרפתי בשעתו, מטוס מיוחד לברזיל, אך התוכנית לשיחרורה כשלה. "כל מאמץ אפשרי נעשה למען שחרורה של אינגריד. תדעו שאני לא שוכח", כתב בשעתו שיראק למשפחתה. "נמאס לנו מאמפטיה והבטחות. צריך שמנהיגי המדינה יתחילו להפעיל כבר לחץ אמיתי". אומרת מלאני.

אות חיים אחרון. אינגריד בטנקור בוידאו מ-2003 (צילום: איי.פי)

בעצרת בפריז קראו בני המשפחה - מלאני, אחיה לורנזו ואביהם, בעלה הראשון של בטנקור פרביס דלואה, לקדם עסקת החלפת שבויים במסגרתה ישוחררו 400 אנשי FARC תמורת 57 החטופים, בינהם חיילים, שוטרים ושבויים פוליטים.

"פעולה צבאית לא תביא לשחרור החטופים, אלא תסתיים בים של דם", העריכה מלאני. "מנגד, החלפת שבויים היא צעד ראשון לשלום והיא תיתן תקווה לחיילים, כי הם יראו שהמדינה לא מוותרת עליהם. וחוץ מזה, הלוחמים שישוחררו אינם מהמסוכנים ביותר. רובם נכנסו לכוחות FARC בגיל צעיר רק כדי להימלט מחיי עוני בקולומביה".

גם צרפת תומכת כיום בעסקת החלפת שבויים אבל נשיא קולומביה אוריבה נותר בסירובו. הוא טוען כי כל עסקה רק תעודד את המיליציה בת 17 אלף הלוחמים, שמחזיקה בידיה כ-3,000 שבויים ובני ערובה.

פשע נגד האנושות
"צריך להפעיל לחץ על אוריבה", אמר פבריס דלואה, בעלה הראשון של בטנקור. "פנינו לכל המועמדים לבחירות צרפת - לסרקוזי, רויאל ולמועמד המרכז פרנסואה ביירו, וכולם הבטיחו שאם ייבחרו יעלו את הנושא לראש סדר היום בצרפת. רויאל אף חתמה את ההכרזה שכתבנו בשביל שחרור אינגריד", הוא הוסיף.

מלאני ואביה הסבירו שההכרזה שניסחו היא כוללת, וקוראת להקמת מרכז סיוע ומידע כלל עולמי עבור כל משפחות החטופים ברחבי העולם. "לאף אחד לא אכפת היום מחטופים שאינם עיתונאים. צריכים אסטרטגיה עולמית נגד חטיפות, שהינן פשע נגד האנושות, וצריך להראות לחוטפים שהם ישלמו על מעשיהם. שלא יוכלו להיסתובב עוד בעולם כחפים מפשע", אמרה מלאני.

משפחתה של בטנקור מקווה לשיתוף פעולה גם מצד ארצות הברית, בעלת הברית העיקרית של אוריבה. עד כה הבהירה מזכירת המדינה האמריקנית כי היא אינה תומכת ב"דו-שיח עם טרוריסטים", אך המפלגה הדמוקרטית הראתה נכונות לשנות עמדה זו ולהסכים לתמוך בהחלפת שבויים הומניטרית.

לדעת פבריס דלואה, צרפת היתה צריכה להשתמש בהישג האסטרטגי שלה עם המצב הקשה בעיראק, כדי לקדם מדיניות משותפת עם ארצות הברית. "לצרפת יש מה להציע, אבל איזו מן מדינה לא מרימה אצבע כאשר אחד מאזרחיה שבוי? צרפת צריכה לפעול, לא רק בשביל אינגריד, אלא גם בשביל הכבוד שלה".,7340,L-3369411,00.html