Apparently, the French government (Chirac having been reelected after Jospin, the socialist prime minister was defeated in the first election by LePen) is now acknowledging and taking appropriate, albeit belated action to protect its Jewish citizens and their synagogues from assault and arson. Apparently, most of the incidents are perpetrated by the French Muslim population.

Last year, Roger Cukierman, president of CRIF, the Representative Council of the Jewish Organizations of France, asked his French countrymen and the French government to recognize the seriousness of the anti-Semitic acts targeting Jews in France. He wrote in Le Monde in February 2001, "The leaders of the country like to play down anti-Jewish acts. They prefer to see these as ordinary violence. We are deluged with statistics designed to show that an attack against a synagogue is an act of violence and not anti-Semitism. Some Jews who have lost touch with reality like to buttress their personal status by turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to danger, in order to curry favor with the public consensus. "The media like to give the widest exposure to voices critical of Israel and Jews, all the more so when these voices are Jewish. This way, media can't be charged with anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism. Judicial authorities don't like to mete out strong punishment for acts of anti-Jewish violence, even when the perpetrators are caught red-handed: a three-month suspended sentence or nothing for an attack on a Jewish place of worship, compared to a year in jail for burning a straw cottage in Corsica."

It is true that Mr. Cukierman, with whom I have had correspondence, is currently opposed to a boycott, writing to me on April 8, 2002, "Things have changed in two ways. First, we have more and more anti-Semitic acts, clearly connected with the Middle East situation. We are fortunate that we have no death casualty. Secondly, the Prime Minister and the President have changed, at last, their attitude. They stopped minimizing and are now taking the situation seriously." I responded on April 15th, "Silence never works. I understand your needs living in France, and I can appreciate your frustration and inability to respond the way people like me, living in a free, democratic country where anti-Semitism is at an all-time low, will respond."

 

There are those equally concerned with the protection of French Jews who join Mr. Cukierman in opposing a boycott at this time, e.g., the national director of the ADL, Abraham Foxman. So, in opposing a boycott, you are not alone. But your explanation and reasoning are badly flawed. What do you mean when you compare a call by Jews for a boycott against the French with the Nazi boycott against the Jews? Do you really believe that all boycotts are the same? Did you oppose the boycott of South Africa in order to end apartheid? Did you oppose Martin Luther King's support of a boycott of segregated buses in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as a boycott of the white commercial establishments in that city?

I believe a boycott directed at the French government, until it apologizes for its ambassador's scurrilous comments, is in order. Those comments, still not repudiated by the government, when viewed in the context of the physical assaults on French Jews, convey gross hostility and indifference on the part of the French toward Jews in general.

I am convinced that your comments have given the French people and their government undeserved cover for their tolerance of anti-Semitic behavior and shamefully inadequate response to it.

I do hope that you will reconsider your defense of France, and if you do, convey it to the American and French public, as only you can.

All the best.

Sincerely,

Edward I. Koch

To: Ed Koch
From: Woody Allen
Date: May 28, 2002

Dear Ed Koch:

Thank you for the well reasoned and intelligent fax. I remember our working together just as fondly. Try to understand that when I speak at interviews, I'm there to plug my movie and give fast, impromptu answers to suddenly interjected, complicated questions. Without getting into it too deeply let me just say that I do not believe the French are anti-Semitic because I know a number of French Jews who strongly believe they are not anti-Semitic. More knowledgeable people on the subject than myself like Edgar Bronfman and Shimon Peres also feel strongly that the French are not anti-Semitic. The fact that anti-Semitic remarks can be attributed to certain ones there, even in high places, is no different than the sentiments of many world leaders including (in our country) Richard Nixon, Billy Graham, Jesse Jackson, etc...

The truth is much of the world is anti-Semitic and to single France out with a boycott seems wrong to me. Your point about boycotts however is a good one and while I don't generally like the idea of boycotting people I disagree politically with, I do think you are quite correct that in certain extreme cases like the ones you point out it can be a justified tactic. My response was perhaps too general and based on its clear unfairness to the French. I have been called a self hating Jew any number of times over the years, sometimes based on jokes I've made in my cabaret act or films and particularly when I wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times suggesting that it was not only indecent but not great public relations for Israel to have their soldiers go door to door and preemptively break the hands of Palestinians. Following that piece I was named Pig of the Month by the Jewish Defense League and they descended upon the venue I play jazz at with a live pig to present to me.

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