Addressing the annual gala dinner of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF in Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said the wave of protest in the Arab world was not oriented against Israel, the West or the Jews, but “encouraging because it is positive and authentic.” Sarkozy said the demonstrators in Tunisia or Egypt did not cry “Down with the West!”, “Down with America!” or “Down with Israel!”, nor were they Islamist fundamentalists. At the same time, Sarkozy said that the French government was proceeding with caution and he would continue to monitor the political developments in the region.
CRIF President Richard Prasquier (pictured on the left with Sarkozy) called the protests in Tunisia and Egypt “admirable,” but warned against the possibility of Islamic groups hijacking the political agenda of the demonstrations. “Under the banner of democracy and freedom are hiding people who seek to destroy freedom and democracy. This is the case of the Muslim Brotherhood […]. We are appreciative, but we are also vigilant,” Prasquier told the 1,000 dinner guests, among them leading French politicians from all mainstream parties, representatives of other faiths, and members of the diplomatic corps. Prasquier denounced attempts to undermine the Jewish state, in particular commercial boycott campaigns.
In his speech, Sarkozy also highlighted the Jewish roots of France and Judaism’s contribution to “French identity”, which preceded the foundation of the republic and even the Christianization of the country.