- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 6, 2007

France in denial

The French ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, was quoted in Suzanne Fields’ Monday Op-Ed column, “Back on the menu,” as citing a poll showing that many Frenchmen have a favorable opinion of Jews.

That certainly is good news, but it does not really offset the fact that, as Mrs. Fields notes, “anti-Semitic incidents continue to disturb the peace in France.”

In recent months, arsonists damaged Merkaz HaTorah, a Jewish school in the Paris suburb of Gagny; the European Jewish Congress reported that during July and August of 2006, there were 61 anti-Semitic incidents, “an increase of 79 percent over the same period last year”; a mob of French soccer fans shouting “Filthy Jew!” assaulted an Israeli man in a Paris restaurant; and speakers at a conference held in November by Conseil representatif des institutions juives de France (CRIF), the umbrella group of French Jewish organizations, reported that “in many suburbs of Paris, few Jewish young people still attend public school because of violence or threats of violence, mainly from African and North African Arab students. Jewish parents have placed their children in private Jewish schools, many of which were established in the past few years.”

Last October Mr. Levitte claimed in a speech in New York City that there had been a “48 percent decrease in reported anti-Semitic incidents [in France] over the past year.” However, when we questioned the ambassador about his source for that figure, it turned out that the 48 percent decrease was for 2005, not 2006.

For 2006, the government claims just a 3 percent decrease. Though any reduction is, of course, welcome, 3 percent is a far cry from 48 percent. Moreover, the aforementioned reports by the European Jewish Congress and CRIF make one wonder if that 3 percent claim provides a complete picture of the level of anti-Semitism in France.

One year has passed since an anti-Semitic Muslim gang in a suburb of Paris kidnapped, tortured and murdered a young Jewish man named Ilan Halimi. Has the French government undertaken sufficiently energetic measures and committed the necessary resources to effectively combat anti-Semitism in the wake of the Halimi murder? We await the publication of reliable and detailed statistics that will help answer that question.

EDWARD I. KOCH

Member

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council

New York City

RAFAEL MEDOFF

Director

David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

Washington

By way of a roadmap

There is a doomsday sobriety about the need for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. The hostility is considered the root of all conflict in the Middle East, and it’s time to put Jimmy Carter’s and the Muslim world’s money where their mouths are.

In their perceptions, the root is not, of course, the Sunnis and Shi’ites “fighting it out” in Iraq, although that conflict began between the two groups in the seventh century.

Nor is it Iranian nuclear brinkmanship. It is not the rise of Iranian-(Syrian)-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, nor is it Hamas vs. Fatah in Palestinian Gaza. It is not longstanding terrorism even presaging al Qaeda. And it isn’t in any way tempered by the rise of an Israeli Arab Muslim to cabinet-level minister in Israel.

However, as encapsulated by Ziad Asali in Monday’s Op-Ed column “Towards Israeli-Palestinian peace”: “Palestine is the ultimate symbol.”

Is it? Or is Palestine an “organized diversion” to buy time for states with restive Muslim populations? Of course, for the “symbol” to resonate positively, it needs an “anti-symbol” which, of course, would be Israel and therefore the long-term, patient campaign for its destruction. Peace, the Israeli haters believe, can only be achieved in the fires of the destruction of Israel.

Diana West in Friday’s Op-Ed column, “Running from reality,” cites Palestinian Authority/Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas “exhorting Palestinians to put ‘our internal fight aside and raise our rifles against Israeli occupation’ ” and other anti-Israel abuses, as a sign that Mr. Abbas is not serious about negotiations with Israel.

Moreover, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the “Quartet” mediators in Washington to gain fresh impetus for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Miss Rice is trying to recruit “mainstream” Arab nations and Israel — predicated possibly on the perception that “the glass may indeed be half full.”

Russia, the recalcitrant member of the group, is at odds with Miss Rice’s goal of enlisting “mainstream” Arabs to pressure “extremist” forces. Hypocritically, Russia is invoking the Palestinian elections as a reason for supporting Hamas, the victors, as though democracy really matters to Russia.

Israel’s neighbors seem to want to be proactive in view of the turn for the worse in the Middle East in general, as mentioned above, and Iraq in particular. Suddenly, through the bleak prism of Iraq and the vacuum in the wake of a potential U.S. “drawdown” of forces, interested players are alarmed.

Mr. Abbas is the best hope for a Palestinian-Israeli rapprochement. So let’s go ahead; let’s try for a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians with help from moderate members of the Arab/Muslim “community,” the United States and sincere members of the Quartet.

Then let the rest of the world, including Jimmy Carter, Diana West and Russia, be surprised ironically for these least auspicious of times to lead to a breakthrough in extremism.

ONA BUNCE

Bethesda

Constitutional expectations

Nat Hentoff’s critique of Alberto Gonzales’ comments before the Senate Judiciary Committee seems to have missed the point (“Wrong on habeas corpus,” Op-Ed, Monday). Mr. Hentoff criticizes the attorney general’s statement that “There is no express grant of habeas [corpus] in the Constitution” by giving us a history lesson on how this right has always existed; i.e., it is a common-law right, not a constitutional one (which is exactly what Mr. Gonzales appears to have been arguing). If it is not a constitutional right, it can be taken away subject only to any limitations in the Constitution, such as Article I’s mandate that “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

In recent decades, with constitutional rights emanating from penumbras and elsewhere, we seem to have forgotten what an “express [constitutional] grant” looks like.

HIRBOD RASHIDI

Los Angeles

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Nat Hentoff takes Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to task for saying that there is no explicit guarantee in the Constitution of habeas corpus to every person, only a prohibition against Congress taking it away by statute. His point is that the Magna Carta and other historical documents guarantee it, and that is all that matters.

However, some things antedate law of any sort and remain after all the lawyering is said and done, and they are matters of survival and self-defense. That is why habeas corpus is always hedged about with exceptions, and necessarily so, despite all of Mr. Hentoff’s law-talk fulminations.

This little matter of survival and self-defense is exactly why the Constitution provides for clear exceptions to habeas corpus in the cases of insurrections and invasions. There are grounds for other exceptions as well, and besides, no one has yet demonstrated that habeas corpus is some sort of cure-all for tyranny. In fact, it isn’t hard to get compliant judges to allow just about any detention or to convict and imprison people, for that matter. Adolf Hitler did quite well at orchestrating his judiciary to do anything he wanted, as did the Soviet Union.

Mr. Hentoff should understand that we are faced with both invasion and insurrection in the war on terror, not to speak of our nonstop, endless crime-wave war, and our runaway drug-dealing and drug-consumption war.

ROBERT SHARP

Washington

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