French embassy cancels N.Y. book launch over author's Israel views
French embassy says could not endorse author Carmen Callil's views, as written in postscript, that Israel has oppressed Palestinians.
NEW YORK - The French Embassy on Monday canceled a New York party for a book about Vichy France's collaboration with Nazi Germany because of the author's postscript that says Israel has oppressed Palestinians.
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy's office in New York had planned to hold a party on Tuesday to fete the September publication of author Carmen Callil's "Bad Faith" about Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, the Vichy government official who organized the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz.
Callil told Reuters on Monday that the party was canceled after complaints from "fundamentalist Jews."
In an e-mail obtained by Reuters, the embassy wrote to Random House publishing imprint Alfred A. Knopf, "The Cultural Services of the French Embassy has decided to cancel its participation in a reception for 'Bad Faith,' by Carmen Callil.
"Although the French Embassy was looking forward to the presentation of a work exploring the darkest hours of French history, it could not endorse a personal opinion of the author expressed in the postscript of the book."
A source at the French Embassy's New York office said the embassy objected to the author's "opinion ... equating what was done to the Jews of France (under the Nazi regime) with what has been done to the Palestinian people."
In the book's postscript Callil writes: "What caused me anguish as I tracked down Louis Darquier was to live so closely to the helpless terror of the Jews of France, and to see what the Jews of Israel were passing on to the Palestinian people."
"Like the rest of humanity, the Jews of Israel 'forget' the Palestinians. Everyone forgets; every nation forgets."
In an e-mail obtained by Reuters from the French Embassy to Random House, one French Embassy official on August 22 said of Callil's book: "It is a masterpiece."
"The French Cultural Attache read it and he was incredibly complimentary," said Callil, who was born in Australia and moved to London where she founded feminist publisher Virago Press and ran publisher Chatto i Windus.
But Callil said Tuesday's party was canceled after "a series of letters from various Jewish fundamentalists complaining. They take a view that that no one can say anything about Jews that is not 100 percent complimentary." She did not identify the letter writers by name.
Callil defended the postscript to her book.
"I think the people in Gaza live in poverty huddled up in a very small territory ... because people don't like their government," she said. "But if you persecute people, they will rise up against you."
Asked if she feels the current Israeli government oppresses Palestinians, she replied, "Yes."
"I want people to learn from the past so the same terrible things do not happen again. If you oppress people, they will hate you and I do not want Israel to be hated," she said.
Random House spokesman Paul Bogaards called Callil's book "a significant work of history," adding, "we stand by the work in its entirety." A spokesman for the French Embassy confirmed the e-mail canceling the party but declined further comment.