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May 02, 1986 - Image 92

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-02

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92 Friday, May 2, 1986


The Jewish News is . . .


The Khomeini Influence
In Western Elections

Special to The Jewish News


/ '/ /

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Few Americans are aware of
the extent to which the recent
elections in France was domi-
nated by Ayatollah Khomeini of
Iran. The media managed to pre-
sent Mitterand and Fagius ver-
sus Chirac in traditional ideolog-
ical terms: the socialization of the
economy versus nationalization,
the politics of negotiation and ac-
comodation vs. Gaullism, with
marginal if colorful antics of
right and left extremists.
No one wanted to admit, either
inside the country or out, that the
one overriding factor was the
humiliation of France by the dic-
tator of a foreign nation. Yet
Khomeini dominated this elec-
tion the way Hitler dominated
French politics in the months fol-
lowing the election of Leon Blum
and the Front Populaire in 1936.
The image of the hostages, ac-
cented night after night on TV,
was working on the psyche of the
electorate. French hostages were
being held in Beirut by the Hez-
bollah, Khomeini's fanatical
Army of God, and French na-
tional pride was being rubbed
raw. Khomeini, who had been
granted many years of safe haven
in Paris away from the Shah's
power, was repaying his bene-
factors. Publicly he denounced
the French leadership as count-
ing among "the corrupt of the
earth." Privately he was seeing to
it that his religious zealots pro-
vided the day-by-day flagellation
of French national pride.
Lebanon, which was a French
sphere of influence from 1918 to
1946, had long had a substantial
Shiite Muslim minority. But it
was the sending of 600 Hezbollah
fanatics to Beirut and 900 to the
Bakaa region that de-stabilized
the already volatile situation.
The Syrian invasion of 1975-76,
which turned the skirmishing of
a small civil war into an interna-
tional conflict of expanding mar-
gins in which over 100,000 lost
their lives, had been the fatal
blow to Lebanese sovereignty.
Lebanon, never recognized as
independent, by Syria, became a
jungle of competing _warlords and
fiefdoms. The addition of the
Hezbollah fanatics turned an al-
ready explosive situation into
another major conflagration. The
incursion of the Iranian fanatics
in the late spring of 1982, which
the media did not report at the
time, did not excape the notice of
Israel's military watchdogs. The
IDF police action in Lebanon
began shortly thereafter.
The French presence remained
substantial after the mandate
was surrendered in 1946. At the
present time there are still 6,000
persons with French passports —
80 percent of them with double
nationality — in Lebanon. Of
these, 300 live in the greatest
jeopardy in the Muslim (western)
sector of Beirut. The •errorist
pressure, orchestrated to. influ-
ence the French election, was cal-
culated by Khomeini and his
entourage to afford maximum
embarrassment to the govern-
ment of another Western power.
• -, per

In 1981, Mitterand's Socialits
took over the French govern-
ment, following 23 years of con-
servative regimes. Editorial
writers and other intellectuals
and pseudo-intellectuals have
been discussing the "big issues."
The voters, in the meantime,
were hanging on the TV reports
from Lebanon, discussing the
latest attempts to rescue the hos-
tages from Khomeini's "Army of
The influence of Khomeini, the
most important personality in
the French elections, is probably
not to be measured within the
major party alignments. All of
those candidates have desper-
ately tried to hedge their bets by
calling for "national unity" and
"closing ranks" on the hostage is-
sue. None wants to be caught as
soft on terrorism, given the
French public's strong patriotic
feelings and the universal moral
revulsion against the kidnap-
pings, abuses and killings of hos-
tages held by the Arab ex-
But the major parties have
long been tainted by moral cow-
ardice and vacillation on the ter-
rorist issue: they have given aid
and comfort to the PLO and
thwarted actions initiated by
America and West Germany to
limit terrorist effectiveness. And
the result has been to strengthen
the National Front, a rightwing
extremist party that reached
close to ten' percent of the vote,
and to further reduce the Com-
munists — whom the voters
know to be linked to the terrorist
network — in number in the As-
The leader of SOS-Racism, an
organization formed to combat
the chauvinism and racism of Le
Pen's National Front, has warned
that that the stunning upsurge of
rightwing extremism "puts a
permanent . cyst in French
society, a cander threatening the
healthy tissue." He is quite right.
But what he might also have
noted is that it was the weakness
of the leadership of the center
parties that accredited terrorism
until that terrorism affected the
lives of Frenchmen. Then the
voters turned in significant
number away from the leaders , in
The Fiench commentators
have not failed to note the paral-
lels in their situation to those be-
fore the American -elections of


1980. In that season, Khomeini
chose another Western country to
humiliate: the U.S. And although
the pundits talked about "conser-
vatism" and "liberalism," about
Democratic "social welfare" phi-
losophy and Republican "private
enterprise," for 444 days the fate
of the hostages in Teheran domi-
nated the American, political
Jimmy Carter's re-election
chances weredamaged more than
anything el$ by . the ineptitude of
the attempted rescue, which
seemed ; somehoW. to synibolize
the uncertainties and indecisive
nesp of
foreigq po4y overall.



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