National Review Senior Editor (and National Review Online blogger ) David Pryce-Jones is author of a new book called Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews, published by Encounter . In it he takes us to a France that is a very far cry from liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Based in large part on research he did digging through the archives of the French foreign ministry (the Quai d’Orsay), Pryce-Jones paints a dismal picture of modern-day France and how it got to where it is today. He recently discussed the book and the problem that is France with NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez.
#ad#Kathryn Jean Lopez: Would the participants of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust conference in Tehran this week feel at home in France?
David Pryce-Jones: Some of the French participants in Ahmadinejad’s efforts to twist the murder of Jews into Islamist propaganda are already notorious Holocaust deniers — for instance Robert Faurisson, for instance Georges Thiel. Holocaust denial is a crime in France, and men like these have had to pay fines. They persist, and manage to create what we might call social body odour.
Lopez: Are all French diplomats anti-Semitic? Is it almost a job requirement to work in the foreign ministry?
Pryce-Jones: There is a striking uniformity of outlook among French diplomats. They repeat the pro-Arab and anti-Israel line with an apparent indifference to reality, and any diplomat who dares question it is evidently punished. However, I know of one French ambassador taking the usual position against Israel in public but under a pseudonym publishing a pro-Israel article.
Lopez: What is the single-most disturbing fact you found while rummaging through the archives of the Quai d’Orsay?
Pryce-Jones: In December 1945, the ministry official in charge of Jewish affairs, thought fit to warn his colleagues not to recognize a Jewish youth association because “it is of interest to international Jewry [and] Freemasonry.” In spite of the horror of the war just over, Nazi and Vichy thinking still possessed the man, and apparently nobody objected.
Lopez: The case of Haj Amin al-Husseini (the Nazi-collaborating grand mufti of Jerusalem whom the French sheltered and helped escape punishment for his war crimes) is a particularly shameful moment in French history. Has anyone in the French government ever acknowledged that, shown remorse?
Pryce-Jones: No, like so much else, it has been swept out of sight.
Lopez: Which is worse off: Londonistan or France? We’ve seen riots, but is it just a matter of time before France has its own version of the July 2005 London Underground attack?
Pryce-Jones: Terrorists have killed more people in Paris than in London. There have been murderous subway attacks in Paris. The terrorists have been Algerians, Iranians, Palestinians, and Syrians, and also the Venezuelan known as the Jackal, a gunman hired by Arab governments. Actually the French are tougher than the British when it comes to dealing with terror internally, though again in contrast submitting to it abroad.
Lopez: Back to Ahmadinejad — to what extent can he rely on France these days as an ally?
Pryce-Jones: France backs Iran unconditionally on the understanding that it is Iran’s second-most-important trading partner. That’s what counts. Like Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad no doubts supposes that France will obstruct international efforts to contain Iran, and so rescue him from the consequences of his actions.
Lopez: How bad a president has Chirac been?
Pryce-Jones: Unspeakable. A calamity for France.
Lopez: How much trouble does France cause in the Middle East?
Pryce-Jones: Instead of standing with the West, France betrays our common history and culture, by fostering this illusion that it can make cause instead with the Muslim world. So in a time of crisis, instead of unity, we have division. This is a spoiler’s role, and makes the war on radical Islam and terror far more muddled and difficult than it need be. Nor does it do any favours to the Muslim masses who have to pay for the radicals and terrorists who pretend to be acting in their name.
Lopez: Can the U.S. do anything to gently and affectively guide France toward the light? Are there any up-and-coming French politicians who know the problems you outline and would present a real challenge to the establishment there?
Pryce-Jones: Immigration, radical Islam, economic stagnation, and unemployment, the European Union with its disastrous one-size-fits-all monetary and social policies — France urgently needs a great man to explain to the nation these different components making for an ever-uglier mess, and it has to be someone strong enough to carry through the necessary reforms. But no such person is on the horizon.
Lopez: A few years back you wrote the fascinatingly quirky book You Can’t Be Too Careful: Cautionary Tales for the Impetuous, the Curious and the Blithely Obvious about bizarre ways people have died. Fans of the book wonder if there is any chance you’ll write a sequel focusing on Frenchmen?
Pryce-Jones: “You Can’t Be Too Careful” is advice I apply to myself.