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September 27, 2002 - Image 29

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-27

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Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:



A Tale Of Two Countries

ess than 40 years ago, France was Israel's
great friend and Germany was still subdu-
ing the legacy of Adolf Hitler. My, how
times have changed.
Now it is France that can allow its ambassador to
the U.S. to go unpunished for referring to Israel as
"that shitty little country". and can let a notorious
Nazi collaborator, Maurice Papon, a man who sent
thousands of Jews_ to their deaths in Auschwitz, walk
out of prison because he is "too ill" to finish the
seven years remaining on his 10-year sentence. And
Germany, now Israel's second-largest trading part-
ner, has seen a national election campaign affected
by charges that an incumbent minister had likened
President George W. Bush to Hitler.
Papon, now 92, was an official of the
Vichy government who enthusiastically
presided over the deportation of the Jews
of Bordeaux. After the war, far from being pun-
ished, he rose in the political ranks, serving as police
chief of Paris between 1958 and 1967 and as budget
minister in the French cabinet during the 1970s. He
never expressed any regret for helping the Nazis
slaughter Jews, and he tried to flee France before his
As the Jerusalem Post noted recently, other than
Paul Touvier, the former Vichy intelligence chief
who was sent to prison in 1994, Papon is the only
top Vichy official to be jailed on Holocaust-related
charges. And prominent French politicians —
including two former prime ministers, Pierre
Messiner and Raymond Barre — and intellectuals
signed a petition urging French President Jacques
Chirac to pardon Papon.
In the last two years, coinciding with the
Palestinian terrorist campaign against Israel, anti-
Semitic incidents have become increasingly corn-
mon in France. Jews are taunted and physically
assaulted on the streets and synagogues, cemeteries


ry Bones Cazt,,EYASN

and schools have been defaced.
Most of the attacks are the work of
Muslim immigrants from former
French colonies in North Africa,
but the worrisome fact has been the
government's failure to act vigor-
ously to stop the assaults.
In the 1960s, France helped
Israel, most notably with the sale of
arms and with the building of its
nuclear reactor at DimonarNow
France is more likely to be leading
the charge in the European Union
or the United Nations to discredit
Israel and to advance the
Palestinian demands.
That posture, coupled
with the silence about the
internal violence toward Jews, sim-
ply fosters the country's latent anti-
Contrast that with present-day
Germany, where political candi-
dates actively woo the 100,000-
member Jewish community and ,
where the national discourse
remains constantly sensitive to the
memory of the Holocaust. Chan-
cellor Gerhard Schroeder, who nar-
rowly won re-election Sept. 22,
may oppose a unilateral American
action against Saddam Hussein's
Iraq, but he is not a foe of either
the Jewish nation or the Jewish state. He correctly
and promptly refused to reappoint to his cabinet a
minister who was reportedly insensitive to the
meaning of Hitler and the Nazis.
France should take a lesson from Germany. It
must recognize that it cannot allow official actions


or speech that appear to encourage or condone anti-
The government is not responsible for what is
written in people's hearts. But it is responsible for
setting an example of zero-tolerance that can help
stem hate-filled words or acts that all too often
choose Jews as their targets.

A Name With Stature

t 94, Max Fisher is a pillar of North
American Jewry, arguably the most dedicat-
ed, influential and respected Jew in this
great land. He's the beloved patriarch of
Detroit Jewry.
Max Fisher: industrialist, philanthropist, consensus
builder, diplomat, Zionist. A power broker
and world figure, yet humble, the Franklin
resident continues to influence important
decisions locally, nationally and internation-
ally. From Jewish affairs to government policy, his
wisdom is sought and his imprint is lasting.
In a ceremony attended by family, friends and col-
leagues last week, Fisher again drew the spotlight as
the North American Jewish federated world's main
offices were named the Max M. Fisher Headquarters
of United Jewish Communities. What a fitting name
to be added to New York City's marquee-rich skyline.
The son of Eastern European immigrants, Fisher
made a fortune in oil refining. But instead of becom-


ing a recluse, he became active politically, communal-
ly and charitably. Over the years, he has advised U.S. .
presidents and Israeli prime ministers on Middle East
matters, helped shape the rebuilding of Detroit and
its cultural jewels following the 1967 riots and helped
revive the Jewish Agency for Israel. He has never con-
fused Israeli political or religious squabbles
with the need for a vibrant, secure Jewish
Fisher has come to know and become a
valued adviser to many of Isiael's major political and
military giants, who see him as the diaspora Jewish
community's unofficial envoy. But he has not forgot-
ten his unassuming roots; he grew up with a meager
Jewish education in a small, conservative Midwest
He earns headlines not because he's enamored with
himself, but for what he does for others — the reason
why, in 1964, he received Detroit Jewry's top com-
munal honor for humanitarianism and leadership,


the Fred. M. Butzel Memorial Award. In the nearly
four decades since he received that honor, he has only
added to his list of deeds.
Fisher's fund-raising prowess is the stuff of legends
— he raised $200 million in private gifts for Israel
within weeks of the final shot in the Yom Kippur
War of 1973. His support gives instant credibility to
causes ranging from Jewish education, Jewish health
services and Jewish care for the aged to Soviet and
Ethiopean Jewry. The sweep of his goodwill extends
deep into the general community, too, from United
Way Community Services to the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra Hall.
The Max M. Fisher Headquarters of United
Jewish Communities stands as an invigorating
reminder that, like its namesake says, "We are all
trustees of our Jewish heritage . . . with an obligation
to cherish it, improve it and guard its future." ❑

Related story: page 35




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