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August 2, 2009

Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews

Just finished this excellent book by National Review's own David Pryce-Jones. I'm not going to be doing a full review for Curled Up or anything, so I thought I'd post a few thoughts here.

Basically, Betrayal is about the history of French government anti-Semitism, its attempt to be a power broker in the Middle East throughout the 20th century, and the effect that it's had on the world. It mainly targets the French Foreign Ministry, the Quai d'Orsay, and details how this has been a home to anti-Semites and anti-Zionists since before the Dreyfuss Affair in the late 1890s, going all the way back to Napoleon's time. France has had an unofficial policy of insisting that its Jewish population become "French first" while its Muslim population has not been encouraged to assimilate, with often disastrous results, such as the multiple nights of violence in 2005 when thousands of cars were burnt and assaults on the police and innocent bystanders skyrocketed during nightly riots.

Pryce-Jones begins with 2005 and then goes backward, examining the history of the Quai d'Orsay and France's attempts to actually be the "Muslim Nation" that it so-often professed itself to be. French official policy was hostile to Israel since before its inception and continued throughout the late 20th century, despite the occasional arms deal.

Pryce-Jones uses official memos and other primary sources to detail the anti-Semitism involved in the French foreign office even when the official heads of state avoided using such terms. One example, from J.-B. Barbier, a man who rose to the rank of ambassador:

"Jews, he held, belonged to an 'often parasitical ethnic element' and the way some did manage to penetrate senior levels was "disastrous".

All in all, this is an excellent history of French official anti-Semitism and how it has led to unfortunate policies in the Middle East, trying to be a power broker while aiding terroris thugs like Yasser Arafat and the PLO. If you have any interest in the history of the region or want to see the source of some of today's problems, then this is the book for you. Admittedly, there is much more to the situation than just France, but sometimes people gloss over this part in blaming everybody else for the situation. France has certainly not helped matters any.

Pryce-Jones shows you how.


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