Truth About France

I have been reading for quite some time now the articles published in various papers (such as the Russian weekly, Panorama) by Richard Chesnoff about France and Europe.

The recent presentation of his new book about French-American relations in The Jewish Journal confirms once again that Chesnoff unfortunately enjoys using the same clich├ęs that have been used to discredit our longstanding relation with the United States (“Q&A With Richard Z. Chesnoff,” Sept 9).

I would like to highlight three points:

1) France and the United States have been friends for more than 230 years. France still is and remains among America’s best friends and allies as illustrated today by our exemplary cooperation in intelligence sharing to fight terrorism, by the strength of our economic relations ($1 billion each day, according to a recent study by Congress), by our common involvement in the resolution of important regional crisis (Afghanistan, Lebanon, Haiti, just to name a few recent examples) and by the solidarity shown by the French people and the French government after the Hurricane Katrina disaster;

2) France, home of the third-largest Jewish community in the world, after Israel and the United States, is not an anti-Semitic country. During his visit to Paris last July, Prime Minister Sharon thanked President Chirac “for his staunch fight against anti-Semitism” and expressed “his full and entire faith in the strengthening of the deep friendship between Israel and France.” France is indeed firmly committed to eradicate all forms of anti-Semitism and racism, wherever they arise, beginning on its own soil. This fight translates into repression and education. Israeli authorities as well as all major American Jewish organizations have praised our strong resolve. Locally, this consulate has developed very constructive relations with the Jewish community and its leaders;

3) And last, France does not intend to be a counterbalance to the United States. President Bush during his trip to Europe in February expressed his support for a strong European Union because such a strong partner is not only in the interest of Europe itself but also in the American interest. Along with the United States, France aims at solving the pressing issues of this world that no country can face alone. For this reason, it is an active and responsible member of the United Nations, of NATO and of the G8.

Philippe Larrieu
Consul General of France
Los Angeles

L.A.’s Katrina Help

Thank you for Marc Ballon’s article on the communal response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (“Groups Pitch In With Housing, Tuition,” Sept. 16). The most impressive feature of the collection program referenced by Ballon is the fact that it transcends boundaries of synagogues, movements, agencies and institutions. The project, known as Jacobs’ Ladder, is a collaborative effort initiated by the Union for Reform Judaism and its Camp Henry S. Jacobs in Utica, Miss., with local endorsement and assistance from the Board of Rabbis, The Jewish Federation and area congregations. We are especially appreciative of the leadership of Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Judea and Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple, who have opened their synagogues as central collection sites for this relief effort.

Rabbi Mark S. Diamond
Executive Vice President
Board of Rabbis of Southern California

Evacuees All Around

How sad to see the images on TV of the havoc wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast leaving hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. People being forced to leave their homes losing all their possessions (“Going in After Katrina,” Sept 16). People having to relocate in distant cities, communities broken up, livelihoods gone, synagogues and churches destroyed, friends and relatives scattered — 9,000 of our fellow Jews amongst them — all homeless refugees. How our hearts go out to these poor souls.

Our Jewish federations immediately responded by calling emergency meetings to organize much needed relief programs for all the victims of the New Orleans disaster.

How good it is to see that the refugees of an American tragedy draw such an outpouring of concern and action from our Jewish “leadership” — but how sad it is that another 9,000 refugees, our Jewish brothers and sisters from Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron, draw only a deafening silence. No matter where one stood on the disengagement issue — note that the current state of the New Orleans refugees is the same as that of the Israeli refugees. They are all homeless. Our fellow Jews in Israel desperately need our help, too.

Leibel Estrin
Donna Katz
Rochel Shlomo
Helene Wishnev
Pittsburgh, Pa

Rav Ovadiah

In my column last week on Rav Ovadiah Yosef, The Journal dropped his honorific “Rav” and he was referred to merely as “Ovadiah,” which is a discourtesy I would never commit (“We Must Condemn Heartless Bilge,” Sept. 16). Please let your readers know that in the original article I referred to him throughout as “Rav Ovadiah.”

Rabbi David Wolpe
Sinai Temple

Ed Note: The Journal regrets the error. A correct version is online at www.jewishjournal.com/archive.

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Nation & World Briefs

Abdullah Takes Saudi Throne

The successor to the late Saudi King Fahd has previously proposed a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Crown Prince Abdullah, who was pronounced monarch within hours of Fahd’s death of a long illness Monday, authored a Middle East peace plan endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 and again this year. Under the proposal, Israel would relinquish all territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War in return for full normalization with the Arab world. Israel was cool on Abdullah’s overtures, which first were made at the height of the intifada.

Deal Close on Corridor

Israel reportedly agreed that Egypt will post 750 troops along its border with the Gaza Strip. The new deployment, which effectively would overturn a clause in the 1979 Camp David peace accord demilitarizing the Sinai, will begin Sept. 1 along the Philadelphia Corridor, Israel Radio said Monday. Under the reported deal, Egypt will be responsible for preventing arms smuggling from Sinai to Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.

Israel: Not So Calm After All

Israel’s internal security service said the cease-fire declared by Palestinian terrorists has been flouted regularly. According to a Shin Bet report published Monday, 33 Israelis have died in Palestinian attacks in the first half of the year, most after the accord was declared Jan. 22. Another 286 Israelis were wounded in the period. The Shin Bet said it had foiled several Palestinian plots to carry out suicide bombings and kidnap Israeli soldiers. Islamic Jihad, which was not part of the agreement, has carried out most attacks in recent months, prompting Israel to resume its policy of “targeted killings” of the group’s leaders.

Sand Beats Rubber

The Israeli army is replacing its rubber bullets with sand bullets for controlling riots. The sand bullets are considered less dangerous than rubber bullets, because the sand bullets don’t penetrate the skin. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem praised the move, but questioned why it has taken the army so long to make the change, Ha’aretz reported.

Welcome to Nitzan

Israel unveiled a mobile-home park for housing settlers evacuated from the Gaza Strip. Only 130 of 350 trailers planned for the Nitzan park have been fully installed, but it was opened Sunday for orientation tours by Gaza settlers slated for evacuation next month. Officials said the community, which is intended to provide temporary housing while evacuees decide on their final destinations, would soon be filled.

“Three-hundred or more families have registered for this project, so it more or less meets our needs,” Interior Minister Ofir Pines-Paz told Israel Radio.

French Tourism to Israel up

French tourism to Israel is at an all-time high. Israeli officials announced Monday that 134,200 people entered the country from French airports between January and June 2005, an increase of 28 percent over the same time last year. Seventy percent of French tourists head for Tel Aviv, officials said, with Netanya and Eilat in second and third place.

But the French Jewish community has not felt fairly treated by the Israeli tourism industry. In June, the French Jewish newsweekly Actualite Juive claimed French tourists were treated like “milk cows,” to be drained of all their money.

“They don’t speak French to us until it’s time to pay the bills,” the editor of Actualite Juive, Serge Benattar, told JTA. The Israeli minister of tourism, Avraham Herschson, responded by ordering a boycott of the newsweekly.

However, Herschson said last week that “We are aware of the problem and we are studying several solutions.”

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency