- LONDON - The diplomatic career
of French ambassador to Britain Daniel Bernard was said to be in jeopardy
yesterday, after he was quoted as having referred to Israel as "that
shitty little country" which threatens world peace.
- The undiplomatic remarks were made at a private gathering
at the London home of Lord Black of Crossharbour, chairman of The Jerusalem
Post's parent company Hollinger Inc. They were referred to - anonymously
- in a column published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday by Black's wife,
- In her column, which laments that anti-Semitism has become
a respectable sentiment at London dinner tables, Amiel noted the ambassador
of a major European Union country "politely told a gathering at my
home that the current troubles in the world were all because of 'that shitty
little country Israel.' "
- "Why," she quoted him as saying, "should
the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?"
- Amiel did not name Bernard, a former French government
spokesman said to be a close confidant of French President Jacques Chirac,
but he was quickly unmasked by the media as the unnamed "ambassador
of a major European country" and his career was said to be "under
- Bernard's spokesman Yves Charpentier said Bernard cannot
remember the reference.
- Charpentier said Bernard was shocked to see media reports
of a private dinner conversation he had with Black that attributed the
remark to him and depicted him as anti-Semitic.
- "He doesn't remember saying that," Charpentier
- Asked if Bernard would apologize, Charpentier said: "He
has no intention of apologizing. He doesn't feel there is any need for
him to do so."
- Charpentier said Bernard had discussed a number of issues
with Black at the party, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- "In the course of that discussion, the ambassador
referred to 'little Israel,' in the sense that it is geographically small,"
- "He was saying that the problem was incredibly limited
geographically but that nevertheless the scale of the consequences is huge
and the repercussions around the world are tremendous."
- Bernard, who became ambassador to Britain in 1998, was
"extremely upset at being considered as anti-Israel or even worse
anti-Semitic," he said.
- Charpentier added it is "sheer nonsense" that
"a frank and open discussion in private" had been reported in
the press. "It's a private dinner . . . and then all of a sudden you
find it in the media."
- An official at the Board of Deputies of British Jews
expressed "grave concern" at Bernard's comments, "particularly
as the country he is talking about is one his government claims is our
- A senior diplomatic source here declined to speculate
on the effect these remarks could have on Bernard's career, but told The
Jerusalem Post "an ambassador who speaks in such terms is not diplomatic
and there are implications to be drawn from that."
- He also noted the plethora of negative images of Israel
in the media "has made it more acceptable to be hostile to Israel"
and such images might be serving as the catalyst "for allowing people
to be more open now about anti-Semitism."
- In her column, Amiel described how the unnamed doyenne
of London's political salon scene "made a remark to the effect that
she couldn't stand Jews and everything happening to them was their own
fault." When this comment was greeted with shocked silence, wrote
Amiel, the hostess chided her guests for their presumed hypocrisy: "Oh
come on," she was quoted as saying. "You all feel like that."
- "Once," noted Amiel, "that remark would
have cost her license as a serious political hostess, but clearly she believes
the zeitgeist is blowing her way."