Deputy minister, French envoy spar over Macron’s comment on Pittsburgh attack
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Deputy minister, French envoy spar over Macron’s comment on Pittsburgh attack

Michael Oren charges that French president failed to acknowledge anti-Semitism in synagogue shooting — 12 hours after Macron denounced exactly that

Kulanu MK Michael Oren, June 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Kulanu MK Michael Oren, June 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Deputy Minister Michael Oren on Sunday butted heads with France’s Ambassador to Israel Hélène Le Gal after he accused French President Emmanuel Macron of “refus[ing] to mention either anti-Semitism or Jews” in condemning the deadly Saturday shooting at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, synagogue.

Oren’s tweet condemning Macron came at 11:07 a.m. Israel time on Sunday, almost exactly 12 hours after Macron tweeted, “I strongly condemn this horrific act of anti-Semitism in Pittsburgh.”

The erroneous accusation sparked a strong reaction from France’s ambassador Le Gal, who found Oren’s comments callous. “Even on a day like today when we are mourning, you find time to attack President Macron for the Pittsburgh tragedy,” she wrote.

The French president drew the deputy minister’s ire with an initial tweet at 9:07 p.m. on Saturday that read, in French, “Tristesse et pensées pour celles et ceux qui sont tombés à Pittsburgh lors de la fusillade. Nous sommes avec le peuple américain, une nouvelle fois endeuillé.”

In translation: “Sadness and thoughts for those who died in Pittsburgh during the shooting. We are with the American people, who are once again mourning.”

The next morning, Oren slammed Macron, tweeting, “France’s President Macron, leader of a country rife with anti-Semitic violence that has taken the lives of many Jews, condemns Pittsburgh massacre but refuses to mention either anti-Semitism or Jews. He sends yet another message emboldening French anti-Semites.”

At 11:23 a.m. on Sunday, 16 minutes after Oren aired his complaint, Le Gal responded by pointing to a second tweet sent by Macron on Saturday night that explicitly referenced anti-Semitism in the synagogue shooting.

Macron’s second tweet, posted at 11:11 p.m. Saturday, just over two hours after the first, said, in English, “I strongly condemn this horrific act of antisemitism in Pittsburgh. All my thoughts to the victims and my sympathy for their beloved ones.”

Macron linked to a post by US President Donald Trump that reported a “horrific shooting targeting and killing Jewish Americans at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”

The exchange wasn’t the first time Oren and Le Gal have been at loggerheads.

On June 2, Oren slammed France for supporting a UN Security Council resolution on the border violence in Gaza, saying Paris was hypocritical for supporting an “anti-Semitic resolution.”

Oren’s comments, also in a tweet, prompted outrage from Le Gal, who accused Oren of not reading the resolution and “insulting France.”

On June 1, the United States vetoed the Arab-backed Kuwait-drafted resolution, which called for protective measures for the Palestinians and won backing from 10 countries at the Security Council. An American resolution that condemned Hamas for the violence also failed.

After the votes, Oren tweeted, “Praise for the US for vetoing Security Council resolution on Gaza that didn’t mention Hamas and condemned the IDF for defending Israel.”

He added: “Shame on France for supporting it. French government cannot say it’s against anti-Semitism and vote for this anti-Semitic resolution.”

His critique was not welcomed by Le Gal.

“Shame on you M. Oren for insulting France on the eve of the visit of your Prime Minister to Paris,” she wrote, adding, “You didn’t read the resolution. It was not perfect but condemned all the violence against Israel. France is adamantly supporting Israel’s security.”

At the UN vote, France, China, and Russia were among the countries that voted in favor of the draft put forward by Kuwait on behalf of Arab countries. Four countries, Ethiopia, the UK, the Netherlands, and Poland abstained.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council the measure was “wildly inaccurate in its characterization of recent events in Gaza” by condemning Israel for the violence. The Kuwait-drafted text had called for “measures to guarantee the safety and protection” of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, and requested a UN report to propose an “international protection mechanism.”

The US, meanwhile, brought its own text to the council: A proposal that would condemn Hamas for its role in the escalation of violence in Gaza. The United States was the only country that voted in favor of the draft resolution in the Security Council. Eleven countries abstained while Bolivia, Kuwait, and Russia opposed it.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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