In This Review

Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews
Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews
By David Pryce-Jones
Encounter, 2007, 185 pp.

Pryce-Jones, a British author and journalist, argues that France's past imperialism, support for dictators, openness to immigration, and pro-Arab bias have destabilized the Middle East and led to interethnic violence within France. These are serious issues that deserve serious treatment, but Pryce-Jones has instead written a polemic -- disguised as an archive-based historical study -- that consistently assumes only the worst about French motives. He portrays France as having a unique bias toward dictators in the Middle East -- as if other Western powers have dealt only with the region's democrats. Arab immigrants in France are said to have benefited from special treatment and privileges -- when, if anything, they have suffered from prejudice and lack of opportunity. President François Mitterrand's criticism of the 1981 Israeli military strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor is seen as proof of an anti-Israel bias -- even though Ronald Reagan also criticized the strike and Mitterrand a few months later made a highly pro-Israel speech at the Knesset. The November 2005 riots near Paris are depicted as a sort of jihad -- when almost all observers agree they were far more socioeconomic than religious in nature. And France's opposition to the Iraq war is held up as proof of its perfidy -- as if recent developments do not suggest at least the possibility that France might have had a point about the war. The results of French policy in the Middle East and toward Arabs and Jews deserve real scrutiny but in a more evenhanded way than this blanket indictment provides.