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2 mars 2009 1 02 /03 /mars /2009 11:24
Speech by François Fillon, Prime Minister Annual Dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France Pavillon d’Armenonville – Monday, 2 March 2009

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, What makes the annual CRIF dinner such an exceptional event is the indissociable link that exists between the French Republic and the Jewish community of France. I am always moved by one fact. Our fellow citizens all know about Colonel Alfred Dreyfus, victim of anti-Semitic fanaticism. Yet very few know of his son Pierre and his nephews Emile, Maurice and Charles. Less than ten years after Dreyfus’ name was cleared, these young men were enlisted in the French army – the same army that had condemned and ostracized their father and uncle. These four patriotic young men joined the front, where three of them were killed. To my mind, these brave young men cut down in their prime highlight the strength of the pact that unites us. Last year, the President of the French Republic saluted the importance of the commitment and concerted thinking seen here in an ambitious speech, whose strength you applauded. You will understand how honoured I am to in turn be speaking to you today. Especially since the global crisis has increased diplomatic concern, magnified the aggressiveness of extremist groups, and made exclusion and sectarianism look dangerously appealing. History shows that all economic crises spark violent emotions against which the Republic should protect us. This crisis should not engender violence, selfishness or populism. I stand here before you with a simple question: what should the values of a country in recession be? What are the virtues that, in the eye of the storm, are still able to unite us against fear, against hatred, against division? I heard Richard Prasquier give some answers in his speech. Allow me to add mine. First of all, I am convinced that, alongside the measures taken to support jobs, safeguard our businesses, stimulate investment and make our banking system secure, we need to be driven by a true sense of public spirit! Public spirit is the courage to give your country as much as it gives you. Public spirit is the ability to refrain from blowing our legitimate political and intellectual differences out of all proportion. It is, in short, the capacity to rally round fundamental priorities. If we all vie with each other, if we all search for a scapegoat, if we all just look out for sectional interests, if we all keep demanding more when the coffers are stretched to the limit, if we all run scared of making changes rather than grasping the opportunity, then France will be in great danger. When times are hard, we are all accountable for the national interest. In this spirit, I call on the ruling party and the opposition to talk constructively. I call on central and local government to work together. I call on unions and management to find ways of reaching consensus wherever possible, because, now more than ever, we need to find a balance between economic performance and social solidarity. Naturally, I am well aware of the French people’s doubts and worries. I know that the crisis has made their everyday lives harder, and so it is not without gravity and humility that I call for courage and calm from everyone. I am secondly convinced of the supreme need to see clearly through the fog of ideas and principles. The crisis is too serious to pander to radical stances. I am referring here to the unrealistic demands that seem to totally disregard the crisis; to those inappropriate calls for a scapegoat; the totally anachronistic cries for protectionism; but also to the manoeuvring of a blithely demagogic extreme left. The government’s duty to a society racked with doubt is to hold to firm principles. It is also to deter the extreme positions that could blight the conditions for our country’s recovery. We have a duty to convey a message of good sense and truth. We have a duty to demonstrate the courage of intelligence, with which I know the Jewish community is familiar. The action by the CRIF – born of and marked by the war – is one of the best arguments to prove that the lessons of history are vital in times of adversity. I am talking about the lessons of history because I saw the effort it took to prevent the 2009 crisis from becoming a repeat of the 1929 depression and to prevent the same financial drifts from causing the same political and moral disasters. Yet it is also because I have taken in the CRIF President’s words of warning and your growing concerns over the international situation. First of all, there are the events in Gaza that have abruptly shattered the hopes of peace between Israel and Palestine. For weeks, innocent people were victims of Hamas rocket attacks and the bombing in response to them. Yesterday and the day before yesterday, eleven rockets fell again on Israel and it is a miracle that no one was killed. Those who delight in lecturing Israel on its behaviour should not forget the hate-motivated violence that drives the extremists! Israel, a free and democratic State, saw half of its territory paralysed, its schools closed, its transport ground to a halt and its businesses closed by the immediacy of the threat. We could not stand by and do nothing. And we cannot stand by and do nothing as instability fuels the extremists’ propaganda, destabilises the moderate Arab countries, undermines the talks in progress and sets back the prospect of a peace agreement founded on two states living side by side in peace. Right from the start of the Gaza crisis, we have condemned the rocket attacks and condemned Hamas’ responsibility – I would even go so far as to say its guilt! – in breaking the truce. We have repeated that the international community will not talk with Hamas until Hamas itself embarks on the road to peace, talks and recognition of Israel. Yet we have also used our friendship with the Hebrew State to express where we doubt and disagree with Israel. This friendship, strengthened by the President of the French Republic’s visit to Israel and his historic speech to the Knesset, means that we are able to speak frankly to the Israeli authorities. France cannot and will never accept threats to the existence of Israel! Yet it cannot approve of the intensity of a military operation that caused a catastrophic humanitarian situation, without necessarily guaranteeing the country’s security. On the first day of the crisis, the President of the French Republic undertook to seek an end to the conflict in a spirit of balance and justice. He took the decision, and the risk – judging from the remarks made following his trip –, to go to the region. He worked to secure an end to the violence under the French-Egyptian initiative first of all, and then to consolidate the current ceasefire. The parameters of this consolidation are well known: humanitarian action, a total end to the arms smuggling, the permanent reopening of Gaza, reconstruction and inter-Palestinian reconciliation. Today, Nicolas Sarkozy co-chaired with President Mubarak the International Conference on Gaza Reconstruction. He has worked from the very first day to secure the release of our compatriot, Gilad Shalit. To quote him this morning in Sharm El-Sheikh, we will not accept his life being endangered; his release in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners is a priority for France. I spoke earlier of the need to see clearly. The Gaza conflict, and its tragic toll, shows once again that there can be no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli people have the right to live in security within recognised and guaranteed borders. This unreservedly legitimate right is non-negotiable! The Palestinian people have the right to an independent State, a viable State, a sovereign State and a democratic State. Only the establishment of a moderate Palestinian state can extinguish the fire of extremism. This is the condition for the security of Israel. And it is the condition for the prosperity of the Palestinian people. Today, Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, new circumstances could contribute to a solid settlement and these opportunities must be seized. There is President Obama’s commitment. There is the drive by all the European countries, and you know that France itself has said it is prepared if an agreement takes shape, to put its all, including its forces, into guaranteeing the agreement’s implementation and success. There is the imminent arrival of a new Prime Minister in Israel who has the duty to find a way forward to a fair compromise with the Palestinian Authority. And then, there is the Union for the Mediterranean, which offers a medium-term prospect for shared development, which we have the duty to firmly support. To promote the case for peace, the President of the French Republic has proposed holding a stimulus summit as early as this spring. He aims to get the Israeli-Arab peace process going again and to reassure the parties as to the international guarantees that will underpin their efforts where concessions are made. Obviously, all of this entails treading carefully. You are well aware that 2009 could also be the year of peace between Israel, Syria and Lebanon. We have taken the considered risk of holding talks with Damas, whose contribution to stability in the region could prove decisive. Indirect negotiations are underway between Israel and Syria. And Lebanon has provided the first tokens of a positive development, by opening the way for a solution to the crisis as mapped out by the Doha Agreement. Then there is the issue of Iran. The international community has been negotiating for the last six years in an attempt to solve the serious proliferation problem posed by Iran. Six years of tough negotiating. Because the notion of Iran acquiring a military nuclear capacity remains purely and simply unacceptable. Because the Iranian missiles, whose range is steadily growing, would be a direct threat to Israel, the Middle East, but also to Europe. Because we cannot conceive of letting a country acquire nuclear weapons when its president calls for the destruction of Israel and denies the existence of the Holocaust! Today, Iran continues to step up its enriched uranium production without the slightest civil justification. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council have in turn asked Iran to suspend these activities, to co-operate unreservedly with the inspectors and to lay their cards on the table in order to rebuild confidence in its nuclear programme. Constructive proposals have been made. The Iranians have not taken them up. They have left us no other choice than to ratchet up our pressure on Teheran. Last year, the UN Security Council passed a third resolution on sanctions. France is doing its utmost to preserve cohesion both within the European Union and between the countries determined to reject a fait accompli policy. Meanwhile, businesses do not need sanctions to understand that it is not in their interest to work in Iran, i.e. to see their names associated with nuclear proliferation and threats against Israel. Yet a window has opened with the arrival of a new administration in Washington that has said it is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran. In Teheran, the international crisis, the oil price slump and the accumulation of sanctions should be able to bring some weight to bear on Iranian policy. A certain proportion of Iranian citizens are tired of the isolation to which the regime condemns them. It is our intention that the Iranian authorities should finally agree to dialogue and to respect the Security Council resolutions. Our offer of co-operation still stands. It is up to Iran to take it up. Turning now to a word about an upcoming event. In 2001, the Durban World Conference against Racism saw some shameful and unacceptable attacks against the State of Israel. The follow-up conference is due to be held in Geneva in April. I know you have legitimate concerns about this event. I can assure you that while France is taking part in the conference preparations, it is doing so in the most rigorous manner. Our determination to combat anti-Semitism in France is coupled with meticulous attention to its manifestations abroad. Although the fight against racism is essential, it cannot be used as a pretext for the same confusion of issues and the same hypocrisy as in 2001. We will not accept the stigmatisation of the State of Israel; we will not accept slander of its policy or the sullying of the Jewish community as a whole. Otherwise we will not hesitate, in association with our European partners, to take appropriate action and, if necessary, withdraw from the exercise. It is out of the question that we should witness in Geneva the very transgressions we so adamantly combat in Paris. Ladies and Gentlemen, The President of the French Republic said, “Those who seek to import sectarian tensions into France will find the Republican State standing in their way.” We will not accept supposedly peaceful demonstrations degenerating into violent altercations, indulged by certain politicians. We will not accept the defacement or attempted destruction of religious sites. We will not accept – and I said it myself in Herrlisheim in 2004, again in Drancy in 2005, and yet again at the site of the Vélodrome d’Hiver in 2008 – the desecration of cemeteries, the destruction of tombs or the sullying of headstones with hate slogans. We will not accept Jewish children and adolescents becoming the targets of indoctrinated factions. Mr President, you are well aware of the government’s determination to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. On 15 January, I convened the interministerial committee tasked with this matter. The prefects and the police have been given instructions to be extremely vigilant to safeguard the integrity of the freedom of worship, the total security of synagogues and their environs, and to take all action against those who would attack French citizens on the intolerable pretext that they are wearing a kippa or have a Jewish sounding name. The first way of combating this anti-Semitism whose resurgence you are so right to stress is to crack down on acts of racism and anti-Semitism and broadly publicise the severity of the sentences pronounced. On 8 January, the public prosecutors were given instructions to tackle this new wave of anti-Semitism. These instructions provide for: Swift, firm penal responses; Cases to be handled by the criminal courts, with aggravating circumstances for racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic motives, wherever the relevant conditions are met; And victims to be more closely involved in the legal process by stepping up exchanges between magistrates in the relevant public prosecutor’s offices and representatives of cultural and religious associations. Today, although the number of racist, anti-Semitic and antireligious cases is indeed on the rise, the penal response rate is also steadily increasing: from 70% in 2006 to 78% in 2008, according to the latest available figures. The three perpetrators of the desecration of the Herrlisheim cemetery were given prison sentences ranging from 6 to 30 months. The anti-Semitic assault in the 19th arrondissement of Paris in July 2007, which prompted a legitimate outcry, received a nine-month prison sentence. In the Vincent Raynouard case for disputing crimes against humanity, the sentence fell in June: a one-year prison sentence and a 20,000 euro fine. The message being, Mr President, that the French Republic is intransigent in these matters. Dozens of the convictions concern incitement to discrimination by electronic means. We need to make sure that the new technologies do not become the new channel for hate. In this regard, I have tasked Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, Delegate General of the Internet Regulation Forum, with a mission on online anti-Semitism and racism to find the ways and means to make the Internet subject to the same legal rules and ethics that prevail in all other media. In addition to the penal response, which can be nothing other than intransigent, we have the responsibility to tirelessly explain and defend our societal rules. On 15 April last year, at the historic ceremonies to celebrate the bicentenary of the Consistory at the Great Synagogue in the rue de la Victoire, I spoke of the valuable role that the Jewish community had played in defining our Republican model since the Revolution. I commended all French Jews for their unreserved, honourable and loyal participation, often to the extent of self-sacrifice. I paid tribute to the high-minded contributions of the noblest of figures – Crémieux, Léon Blum, Bernard Lazare and Grand Rabbi Kaplan. I extolled your community’s unshakable allegiance to our country, our motto and our moral and civic values. This is why, Mr President, I would like Republican secularism to continue to frame our dialogue. This is why I would like the government to continue to work with the Jewish institutions for the pragmatic advancement of our common concerns. This is why I regularly call on our public servants to make sure that such issues as university timetables, ritual animal slaughter and denominational plots in cemeteries are no longer motives for division, but fertile ground for progress and mutual understanding. I recently wrote to President Klarsfeld to inform him that, starting on 1 January 2009, the annuities received by orphans whose parents died as a result of the World War II deportations will be re-evaluated yearly. So Jewish orphans of the deportations will receive the same treatment as orphans of the Resistance. I have also asked for the national education system to teach remembrance, which is vital to the efforts being made today to cement the cohesion of French society. In Aix-en-Provence, work started last year to renovate and open the Camp des Milles to the public. The opening is now set for 2010. Alongside Drancy (where the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah and the Shoah Memorial are building a modern museum and archives centre), the Camp des Milles is the only internment, transit and deportation camp in France preserved in its entirety. It bears the visible scars of its past. It should become a memorial for the whole country, a place of reference to reawaken the individual consciousness, vigilance and responsibility of the visitors, especially the young. At school, we have pursued the thinking on passing on the historical memory and, in particular, ensured that memory is not lost as witnesses of the Holocaust gradually disappear. Last year, at this same dinner, the President of the Republic proposed that our ten-year-old schoolchildren should be entrusted with the memory of the 11,400 Jewish children deported from France. There is no doubt whatsoever that a special educational programme should be developed for young children and that the massacre of Jewish children, that horrifying height of the violence, should have a place within it. Since, the department of national education has been working with prominent figures such as Simone Veil, Claude Lanzman and Serge Klarsfeld on the precise details of this programme. A booklet entitled Memory and History of the Shoah, co-ordinated by Hélène Waysbord, has been distributed in the schools. Xavier Darcos has undertaken to provide teachers with new and more relevant resources. A website has been set up providing teachers with all useful bibliographies, filmographies and digital references. It contains a link to the database of the 11,400 children deported from France, set up by the Shoah Memorial from archives collected by the Association for the Sons and Daughters of the Jewish Deportees of France, to which I would like to pay tribute here. This database contains each child’s name, age, civil registration data and the exact address where he or she was arrested. Everything has been done for our schoolchildren to be able to preserve the memory of children who lived like them, in the same roads, in the same buildings, and of the terrible circumstances that led them to their death. These schoolchildren will also find out that, in France, 60,000 Jewish children were helped to escape deportation by French people, Resistance networks and Jewish organisations out of which the CRIF emerged. In June, Hélène Waysbord presented me with a report recommending that the study of an individual’s life could serve as an introduction to the study of the historical period; and that this education should include the lives of the Jewish children, their hopes, their courage and the glorious action of the Righteous Among the Nations, as much as the suffering and death. You can see that, on these two points, her recommendations have been followed to the letter. Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, A few days ago, Bishop Williamson’s despicable remarks rekindled the essentially eternal struggle of respect versus contempt and historical truth versus lies worldwide. In denying the reality of the Holocaust, Bishop Williamson brought upon himself categorical condemnation from public opinion, churches and democratic states the world over, with a number of countries clearly pointing out that his transgression was an offence under their laws. To this universal outcry, I add the voice, authority and commitment of France. Mr President, France is proud to be home to over 600,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in Europe. This community identifies wholeheartedly with the Republic, which is our common good. The Republic, which without repudiating origins and faiths, rallies us round a shared ideal that is called France. The France we love, the France loyal to the sacred pact of liberty and human dignity, this France makes us duty bound. Duty bound to never sacrifice our ideals. Duty bound to relentlessly fight the enemies of the Republic, those same foes who use our liberty as a cover to exert their intolerance. Duty bound to never choose the path of indulgence, which leads from compromise to dishonourable deed on a slippery slope to moral ruin. Duty bound also to remember. Our country should celebrate its days of greatness and acknowledge its hours of shame since the memory of a great people such as ours cannot be selective. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the basis of my political commitment. And it is the basis of action by the President of the Republic and the government.

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