Charles De Gaulle, Anti-Semite
After the War, De Gaulle led his country's government through turbulent years, especially during and after the Algerian War, initiated by the Arab Moslems of North Africa. De Gaulle was, at first, an ardent friend and supporter of Israel. In a recently published block-buster biography by Jean Lacouture, "De Gaulle the Ruler, 1945-1970," that friendship is traced in detail. De Gaulle was a strong supporter of the Suez invasion of 1956. The military and scientific cooperation between the two countries could not have been closer, especially in atomic research. The Dimona atomic station practically became an extension of France's own atomic installations. French military supplies, including many Mirage III planes (manufactured by a firm headed by Dessault, a Jew), flowed in a growing stream to Israel.
In his autobiography, De Gaulle had this to say: "David Ben Gurion came to me more than once. I had developed an immediate liking and respect for this doughty warrior and champion. He was the personification of Israel. I could not fail to be attracted by the grandeur of an enterprise which consisted of re-establishing an autonomous Jewish nation in a land which bore the traces of its fabulous history, and which it had owned nineteen centuries earlier. Humanly, I was gratified that the Jewish people had found a national home, and I saw it as some compensation for all the sufferings that they had endured during the ages, and which had reached a hideous climax in the massacres perpetrated by Hitler's Germany."
Mind you, he used the pivotal term "reestablishing an autonomous nation." Those two letters, "re," were aspired to by the Zionists when the Balfour Declaration was written in November 1917, because they would have acknowledged the Jew's right to the same borders in Eretz Yisrael occupied 200 year ago. But it was to no avail, because Balfour refused to use them. But De Gaulle did!
Things changed fundamentally in 1967. The Algerian War was over. De Gaulle did not need Israeli military assistance there anymore. France was busy wooing the rich Arab oil states for sale of military and other hardware. So when the crisis created by Nasser's closing the Aqaba Straights and dismissing the UN troops arose, De Gaulle did not give Israel the diplomatic support she needed. As Abba Eban later wrote, De Gaulle met him with ice-cold indifference when Eban came for and emergency meeting, harping again and again on the theme: "Don't start a war!" De Gaulle merely offered to call an international conference to restore the calm which Egypt had interrupted.
It is important for our assessment of the events which followed to note that while Washington and Paris were in agreement in favor of such a conference, it never took place because Moscow (which had provoked the crisis to begin with, through deliberate misinformation to Syria and Egypt about Israel's alleged warlike intentions) declared that "there was no crisis." One June 2, 1967, De Gaulle released a statement directed to Israel, threatening to discontinue arms sales and any other support if Israel would commence military action. The entire French press gave a howl of disapproval: it was Egypt, after all, not Israel, which had created a "casus belli" by closing the Aqaba Straights. But characteristic of De Gaulle's arrogance, this opposition only stiffened his hostility to Israel. His personal pride was hurt. He was piqued because his advice had been ignored. He was sulking.
His total metamorphosis into a full-fledged anti-Semite came a few months later: At a sadly remembered press conference he attacked Israel for having ignored his pleas for restraint. He questioned the Jews about "dual loyalty," and called the Jews "an élite people, self-confident and dominating" -- words which haunted him until the day died. He tried, as all enemies of Israel do, to explain that what he wanted was "for Israel's own good." He did not hide the fact that he was primarily afraid of the effect an Israeli victory would have on French-Arab relations. In that he anticipated the Bush-Baker attitude of today. He conveniently forgot about the help Jews had given him during and after the War. He also forgot his own assessment that the creation of Israel was justified compensation for the sufferings the Jewish people had endured in Christian lands during the Holocaust.
De Gaulle's anti-Semitism was not unique in France. Many Frenchmen -- and I have met some of them -- to this day still believe that Dreyfus was guilty, and that only a "Jewish conspiracy" had freed him. I myself had an experience with French anti-Semitism. Some years ago, high French diplomats nominated me to the Foreign Ministry in Paris for the coveted "Legion of Honor" decoration, awarded by the President of France, for outstanding services I had rendered to the country. At the last minute my award was cancelled, when a leading French company, for purely anti-Semitic reasons, protested!
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