Last Summer Annette Levy-Willard, senior correspondent and op-ed page editor for the French daily Liberation was attending the Jerusalem film festival when the war against Hezbollah broke out. Her reporter instincts kicked in and she immediately traveled north and spent the rest of the war reporting the human side of the war. As reported by Haaretz (Thirty-three days in pursuit of the truth)
She described the mood of Israelis following the bombings in the North; she wrote about life in the bomb shelters, about Arcadi Gaydamak’s tent city, about the soldiers who fought without food, about the failures of the Israel Defense Forces and about the poor psychological state of an entire nation.
Upon her return to Paris, a friend’s boyfriend confronted her in the street.
He shouted, “I hate your articles and I hate you. I’m sure you wrote them from the bar of your hotel or from the beach.”
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That spurred her to write a book and tell the entire truth about the war:
Within four months, she finished “Trente-trois Jour en Ete: Chroniques d’une Guerre Surprise” (“Summer Rain: A Reporter’s Diary of the 2006 War between Israel and Hezbollah”), which was published a few months ago by Robert Laffont Editions.
“”It was important for me to narrate this in an eye-witness style,” she says. “I understood that the French, who had been fascinated by the war in Lebanon, understood nothing about it. On the one hand, they saw the strong Israeli army and on the other, the poor Lebanese victims. But what was in between, what came between the two sides – Hezbollah – they did not see
Levy-Willard, who to a large extent balances this picture in her book, stresses that French radio and TV, not press, tilted the balance in favor of the Lebanese and against Israel.
“There is some logic to this,” she says. “The footage from Lebanon looked better than that of an empty Haifa. Especially since there were numerous pictures of bodies in Lebanon – something Israelis do not permit. And a body will always be more photogenic than a pool of blood on the ground.
Levy-Willard says the State of Israel will always lose in the French media, and not merely because of the refusal to photograph bodies.
She recalls an interview with a soldier who had just left the battle in Bint Jbail and was shaking all over, clearly in a state of trauma. Next to her stood a reporter for French radio, who completely ignored the soldier’s plight and asked him: “Don’t you feel arrogant?”
“He in no way wanted to hear what the soldier had to say,” Levy-Willard says.
“To a large extent, to this day, De Gaulle’s well-known saying about the Israelis, that they are ‘a domineering nation that is full of itself,’ is still emblazoned on the minds of Frenchmen.”
Actually Ms Levy-Willard, DeGaulle wasn’t talking about Israel he was talking about the Jews…in fact that quote was a significant event in Israeli/European relations. As described by retired Israeli diplomat Avi Pazner “Europe’s attitude toward Israel is not structurally problematic. When the EU, however, has to choose between its ‘Arab interests’ and Israeli ones, they clearly favor the Arab side. De Gaulle’s behavior was a paradigm of that. Until the Six Day War in 1967 he maintained close relations with Israel while simultaneously – after the end of the Algerian War – warming up France’s relations with the Arab world.” “De Gaulle said more or less that he was forced to choose between the two sides and the Arabs were more important to France than Israel. In this he was a precursor of Europe’s current attitudes.” Around the same time, De Gaulle also called the Jews “a domineering and arrogant people.” In his office Pazner keeps a caricature from Tim, a well-known French cartoonist. It shows a Jew in concentration-camp clothes in a Napoleon pose, with one foot on barbed wire. The weekly L’Express refused to print it but the daily Le Monde did. Pazner comments: “De Gaulle, by choosing the Arabs over Israel, and with his remark containing anti-Semitic elements of which he may or may not have been aware, laid the groundwork for Europe’s changing attitude toward Israel and the Jews.”