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the occupied territories... france's, that is

  1. Snooker

    5,748 Posts.

    The occupied territories... France's, that is

    Feb. 11, 2003

    French President Jacques Chirac has, at last, outdone his predecessors. Not since June 1940, when Marshal Henri Petain signed an armistice agreement with Hitler's Germany shamelessly agreeing to collaborate with the Nazis, has a French leader demonstrated such moral cowardice and political opportunism.

    Driven perhaps by faded memories of his country's once-glorious past, the French president has sought to make a name for himself by standing in the way of America's just, and necessary, war against Iraq.

    But rather than burnishing France's image, Chirac has only succeeded in doing the opposite, reminding the world that while his nation may once have been a great power, it will never again bear that title.

    For, rather than standing by the US as it stands up to Saddam Hussein, France has chosen to sit back and engage in diplomatic obstructionism, feigning concern over the morality and wisdom of such a move. Consequently, its primary objective has been to sow doubt about the righteousness of America's cause, in effect serving as Saddam Hussein's chief defender in the West.

    But for anyone who has followed Chirac's policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, this latest bout of French hypocrisy hardly comes as much of a surprise.

    Chirac, after all, has long been one of Yasser Arafat's most ardent cheerleaders, frequently coming to the PLO leader's defense despite the ongoing wave of terror he has been directing against Israel.

    In September 2002, after Israeli troops surrounded Arafat's compound in Ramallah, Chirac was among the first European heads of state to speak with him by telephone, offering support to the Palestinian leader. Chirac's office then issued a statement blasting Israel for having the nerve to defend itself, saying that the French president was "appalled" at the way Arafat was being treated.

    Similarly, in December 2001, after Palestinian suicide bombings in Haifa and Jerusalem killed 26 Israelis and wounded 220 others, leading Israel to launch military strikes in Gaza, the bulk of Chirac's wrath was directed not against the perpetrators of terror but against its victims.

    Incredibly, he accused Israel of "destroying what is left of the Palestinian Authority and the Oslo Accords," as though the wanton murder of innocent Jews was somehow not deserving of a response.

    In that sense, then, one can at least say that Chirac is an equal-opportunity appeaser. He doesn't quite care if the casualties of terror are Israeli or American. Either way, you can be certain he will always come out on the side of the despots.

    But if there is one issue where French hypocrisy been even more glaring, it is that of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. France has long been among the more vocal European supporters of rewarding Palestinian terror with national sovereignty, frequently hectoring Israel to yield control over what Paris refers to as the "occupied territories."

    YET, ODDLY enough, when it comes to France's own "occupied territories," Chirac and his government are decidedly unwilling to make concessions.

    What "French-occupied territories?" you might be asking. Well, how about Corsica, where separatist violence has been going on for three decades? Just last month, a group seeking Corsican independence from France detonated two bombs on the Mediterranean island.

    While Chirac's government has agreed to grant the Corsicans some limited elements of autonomy, France has stubbornly refused to yield control over the territory.

    Then there are the Basques, who long to establish their own state in the area of the Pyrenees, covering parts of northeastern Spain and southwestern France. But rather than greet the Basque cause with cries of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, Paris has instead sought to repress it, intensifying cooperation with Spanish police in an effort to thwart Basque aims of achieving independence.

    And on at least three other continents, far away from mainland Europe, France is involved in territorial disputes thanks to its own intractability.

    Tromelin Island, located in the Indian Ocean off southern Africa, is an uninhabited sea-turtle sanctuary under French control; but both Madagascar and Mauritius assert it belongs to them. Paris, however, remains unmoved by their claims.

    In South America, the state of French Guiana, which lies north of Brazil, is an overseas department of France. The neighboring country of Suriname lays claim to a strip of land in the western portion of the French territory but there is no indication that France will agree to hand it over any time soon.

    Even in cold and forbidding Antarctica, France has demonstrated an insatiable desire for territory.

    Though they signed the December 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which bars nations from making claims to the region, the French insist that a 500,000 sq. km. area known as "Adelie Land" belongs to them.

    There are several other examples of French territorial obstinacy, all of which raise the obvious question: If France is so concerned about the morality of Israel's "occupation," why doesn't it step forward and practice what it preaches?

    Why does it continue to press its claims to far-off sea-turtle sanctuaries and frozen Antarctic wastelands rather than relinquish them forthwith?

    The answer, it appears, lies in a remark made by author Mark Twain over a century ago. "France," he noted, "has neither winter nor summer, nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks, it is a fine country."

    Thanks to Chirac's pro-Iraqi and pro-Palestinian stance, even that observation, once made in jest, now seems right on target.

    The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999.

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