19 June 2015 - Mr. François Delattre paid tribute to Abraham Foxman
Abraham Foxman - Tribute by Mr. François Delattre, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - 17 June 2015 - Waldorf Astorial
My dear Abe,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a huge honor to join you here tonight and to pay tribute to somebody I so deeply admire.
Abe and I have known each other for more than 10 years, when I was France’s Consul-general in New York, and our friendship continued to grow after I left to serve as ambassador to Canada, then to Washington, and now to the UN – nobody is perfect.
Thanks to you, Abe, and to a few others, in particular Elie Wiesel, Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Ron Agam, I have had a real love story with New York’s Jewish community. A love story that has only deepened over time, and will always remain a key part of who I am.
Abe, you took me under your wing and shared so much with me: together we celebrated the major Jewish holidays at the French Consulate, where, for the first time ever, we lit the Hanukkah candles. We built so many bridges between France and the American Jewish community, between France and Israel, and what an honor it was for me to welcome then–Israeli President Shimon Peres to the Consulate for the publication of his renowned biography in English. Together we wept at the ceremony you organized with ADL in honor of Ilan Halimi, the French Jew who was so savagely murdered in 2006. I will never forget that moment. Your moving words, and my inability – as I was overcome with emotion - to deliver the speech I had prepared. That had never happened to me before.
Abe, you are a national treasure, but also an international one. Your strong voice is heeded and respected worldwide – if you permit me to speak for the world. Here you recognize the long tradition of French modesty…
Your fight for the values of the ADL is also a fight for Israel’s security. France is part of that fight, and will never compromise on Israel’s security. The current negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue are an excellent illustration of that fact. From the very beginning of these negotiations, France has taken a very firm position because the security of Israel is at stake.
Abe, you are a leader and a fighter but I’ve always been struck by your talent for bringing people and nations together. You have a rare gift for bringing out the best in everyone –the Mensch you so often mention. I witnessed your dialogue with successive French presidents - Presidents Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande – and several foreign ministers, Hubert Védrine, Alain Juppé, and Laurent Fabius. You used the same language with all of them, that of a demanding friend who believes in the deep friendship between France and Israel. And you helped deepen that friendship between the two countries, as well as the one between France and the United States. In recognition of your commitment, President Chirac bestowed upon you in 2006 the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest award and one of the most coveted in the world.
Abe, thanks to you and a few others, I am more convinced than ever that anti-Semitism is an existential threat to all of us. And that France has a special responsibility in this merciless fight against anti-Semitism, which is our common enemy. Because we have the world’s largest Jewish community after Israel and the United States and for 2,000 years, the Jewish tradition has been a vital part of France and France’s identity, a part that my country is particularly proud of. Also because the dark years of Vichy create an eternal obligation for us. And because anti-Semitism is the most absolute negation of the values for which our parents and grandparents fought and often died. In this respect I was very moved by Charles Kaïser’s recent book The Cost of Courage about the French Resistance during World War Two, through the example of the Boulloche family, who happen to be very close relatives of mine and helped save Jews during the war.
Let me conclude on this personal note. The world is in bad shape, and it’s not business as usual. In today’s testing times, the values that we share are more than ever our best guide, our best moral compass to confront together the current and huge challenges we face. And yes, Abe, you truly changed me. Thanks to you, I believe I am a better person. And thanks to you, and to a few others whom I’ve mentioned and who are here this evening, the fight against anti-Semitism that is the fight of your life is also one of the fights of mine.
Thank you, Abe