Why do we love to hate the French?
The anti-French tension that accompanied the opening of the soccer game between the Israel national team and the French "Blues" did not bother the French ambassador to Israel, Gerard Araud.
The anti-French tension that accompanied the opening of the soccer game between the Israel national team and the French "Blues" did not bother the French ambassador to Israel, Gerard Araud. He seems to have become used to Israeli hostility to his country.
"The Barthez affair was unnecessary," he said at the end of the game. "It's a tie, everyone is happy, no?"
According to Araud, "Barthez touched an exposed Israeli nerve. What did he say, after all. Foolishness. But not so terrible. If he had said it about the hooligans in England, no one would have noticed. The Israelis were insulted because finally, after four years of terror, a soccer team has arrived here, and FIFA didn't see it as risky. That's a sign of normalcy, and there is nothing more precious to the Israelis than a return to normalcy."
Raw nerves are the outstanding component in most Franco-Israeli relations. A survey taken six months ago by the Israeli-French Friendship Association revealed that Israelis hate France more than they hate Germany. The findings shocked even the Israelophile French diplomats whom Quay d'Orsay has made efforts to send here in recent years. Most feel that it doesn't matter what the French say or do, Israelis will continue to detest them.
It's hard to find a logical reason for the anti-French foment that has increased in recent years. Its roots are deep in other times and places, especially in the emotional and complex love affair between the two countries in the '50s that ended dramatically at the end of the '60s, with each side's version of its beginning amazingly different from the other's and especially each side's version of the end.
Israel as a symbol of Jewish courage
Israel, which time after time sought to return to the loving bosom of France, encountered the brick wall of its warm relations with the Arab countries. For France, until 1967, Israel symbolized Jewish courage to which it felt connected and obligated. After 1967, its difficulty with Israel's legitimacy as a sovereign country increased because its actions were perceived as colonial by a post-colonial world.
That, of course is only a small part of the complex picture. However there is one factor that it difficult to ignore, and which came to the fore last night in Ramat Gan. It is the French Jews living in France and the Israelis of French origin.
The Jews of France, formerly the elite of the republic, have in recent years made Israel the center of their identity and blurred the boundary between their Israeliness, their Jewishness and their Frenchness.
They have created a new and delicate situation in which anti-Semitic attacks in France are Israel's business, the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the business of the Jewish leadership in France and the Muslim girls and their headscarves are the business of everyone in the world.
Yesterday evening at the Ramat Gan stadium, young people who grew up admiring the French team, French-speakers and avowed Israeli rightists, carried the blue and white flag and prayed fervently for vengeance.
That, in a nutshell, is the absurdity of the love-hate relationship of Israel with France and the French.