Sunday’s solidarity event in Paris was, for this viewer, a day full of anomalies and disappointments.
First there was the march of world leaders itself. There, in the front row was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with, to his left, the President of Mali, French President Hollande, German Chancellor Merkel, the head of the European Union, Palestinian Authority President (seemingly for life) Mahmoud Abbas and, next to him, the King of Jordan.
Firstly, one wonders how Mahmoud Abbas got there and why? Is he really among the ranks of world leaders? Or is this sponsor of terrorism and former Holocaust denier now ready to admit that perhaps terror is not the answer to gaining independence for his people? And, if that is the case, given that he and Netanyahu (who was obviously wearing a bullet-proof vest under that bulked up coat) were not more than 4 meters apart, why not make the grand gesture at the end of the march, step out of line and go over to the Israeli Prime Minister and say: “Perhaps it’s time to find another way.” A missed opportunity to be sure.
Then in the early evening Hollande, Netanyahu and the rest of the Israeli retinue, along with high ranking clergy from both the Catholic and Muslim communities gathered at the Grand Synagogue of Paris for a memorial service honoring those killed there in the past week. Did you watch it? While the idea was nice, the execution of the event was, to say the least, embarrassing. The venue was badly organized, decorum (given the level of people in the room) was abysmal, the program was too long and too many people who need not have spoken were given the rostrum and rambled on and on.
There you had Hollande and Netanyahu in the front row sitting next to each other, with Ministers Bennett and Lieberman in the row behind and Jewish Agency Chairman Sharansky in the third row with an array of French political and religious leadership scattered throughout the sanctuary. Poor planning of the program put Netanyahu on the podium at the end of the event, well after French President Hollande and many others including former President Sarkozy had left, even though it was important that they hear the message of the Israeli Prime Minster/ But, sadly, that was not to be.
What should have happened, of course, is that the “service” should have lasted just one hour; both the President of France and the Israeli Prime Minister should have spoken early in the program when everyone was still somewhat awake after a long day of pomp and circumstance. But the organizers of the event seemingly could not figure that out and, instead, developed a program in a venue more akin to the shtieblach of Eastern Europe, in spite of the grandiose nature of the building. Yet another missed opportunity for the good and welfare of the French Jewish community.
What, of course, was most disturbing to this writer, was that the events at the Grand Synagogue as well as the speech of Prime Minister Netanyahu were not carried on any of the Israeli television channels. For them it was more important to broadcast the scheduled soccer game or the pre-election political discussions, rather than the speech of the country’s Prime Minister. To see that speech one had to turn to CNN, Fox News or Al Jazeera, all of whom carried it live. Interestingly enough it was Al Jazeera that was able to provide a simultaneous English translation of Netanyahu’s Hebrew speech, while Fox News could not do so and CNN tried limping along with someone who was translating into English the words of the French translator in the synagogue.
A day of anomalies to be sure and, as well, of missed opportunities all around. We mourn with the families of all of the victims of last week’s atrocities in France and hope that the world will have learned something from the experience. But we are also saddened by the raft of missed opportunities on a Sunday in Paris.
Sherwin Pomerantz is a 31-year resident of Israel, President of Atid EDI Ltd., an economic development consulting firm and a past national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.