Sep 23, 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, may I say to the Mayor of New York that we are in September. Seven years ago, when the Twin Towers of New York collapsed, every French person without exception was aghast. You are a city that won the admiration of the world. With thousands of New Yorkers dead, all the French felt close to you because what happened to you a few years ago might have happened to us in the same circumstances. It was not only New York that was targeted, it was democracy and freedom which were targeted by barbarians who are common enemies.
New York had the world’s admiration because New York remained united, because you continued to live and you refused to give up your ideas. France will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in this fight against terrorism and barbarism.
When we needed you, you answered “here.” I wanted to tell you today, in New York, that no one has forgotten your suffering, your dignity and your courage.
I would like, Rabbi, to say a few words about France. There has been a lot of talk about anti-Semitism in France. I want you to know that when a Jew is insulted in France, when a Jew is ill-treated because he is Jewish, it is not the affair of French Jews, it is the affair of all France, without exception. Because anti-Semitism is a stain on the French flag, on the Tricolor.
Rabbi, as you know, I have embarked on a merciless fight against anti-Semites and against racists. Anti-Semitism is not explained, it is fought and punished. When anyone tries to explain the inexplicable, he’s getting ready to excuse the inexcusable. This is France’s fight. I shall wage it relentlessly.
I would also like to tell you something else, Rabbi. I am greatly interested in religions. It is a personal area even if each time at the end of a speech I like to be told, “May God protect you.” Honestly, I believe I need it.
But I want to be clearly understood. In France, there are compatriots who are Jewish, others who are Christian and others Muslim. In France, I want everyone to have the same rights. In France, there is no one religion which is superior to the other. Everyone has the right to pray and believe, or not believe and not pray. We want everyone to be on an equal footing.
If you come to my beautiful country, not necessarily to spend money there, to go to the theater, listen to music, or take in exhibitions, you will see that there are churches, temples and synagogues and that there are also mosques. We are proud that everyone can live his faith with respect for all the others.
I wanted a different government with men and women from all walks of life. I wanted to tell you in the United States, the country of liberty, that a humiliated identity is a radicalized identity. We must respect everyone.
In France, the country of liberty, the country of human rights, we do not fight the terrorists with terrorist methods, we fight the terrorists with our method: respect for the rule of law, respect for human rights, respect for procedure.
I tell Rabbi Arthur Schneier that when he invites the Pope to pray in his synagogue, he sets a magnificent example. Just as when the King of Saudi Arabia, guardian of the holy places of Islam, goes to see the Holy Father to talk with him, he sets the right example.
Killing in the name of the religions of the Book is absurd, it is scandalous.
We do not want a war of religions. We do not want a war of civilizations. We respect Islam. Islam is not the enemy, it is the fanatics who are our enemies. Muslims are not to blame, it is those who make use of them in the name of a cause--the cause of war and hate. It is important not to lump all men together. But I want to say to them equally, forcefully that we let each person on our territory live his religion but we ask for reciprocity for Christians of the Orient. Diversity can not be good only in our country and banned in theirs.
I want to conclude with that. People have often tried to mount a crusade in the service of democracy. It is a good intention. But at times, people who have another tradition tell us: “Democracy is your system which you want to impose on us.”
We must fight for diversity because people have always known diversity in the Orient. And the Orient is rich if it remains diverse. That is why France is fighting for Lebanon’s independence and the reason why France is fighting for Israel’s security because they are both countries where diversity is still found in the Middle East.
My dear friends, contrary to appearances, I have to return to France because I do not just have matters to attend to in New York. But I want to say one thing: it is that I am trying with the prime minister and the government ministers around me to modernize my country. I am trying in the present crisis we are all familiar with, to take my inspiration from what has made the United States of America strong: work, freedom, upward mobility. Everything is possible in your country. And I would like everything to become possible in our ours, too.
Before leaving, I would like to say two last things. You live in the most powerful country on earth. You have achieved an extraordinary success here. But the world is looking at you; take a look yourself at the world too, and the world will help you more.
And the second thing I would like to say. When things are going well, it is normal for a lot of people to earn a lot of money, but when things go badly, it is normal for those who were so seriously mistaken to assume the consequences and responsibilities. It is perhaps a weakness, but in my case, Carla, I have never been on the left. But I love justice, and it is not just that those who led us where they did should fail to assume their responsibilities. Freedom is not the law of charity. Freedom goes only with responsibility, and believe me, I realize it myself every day.
When things do not go well in my country, my country knows whom to criticize. And that’s normal, if I do not want responsibility, I do not have to bid to be president of my country. And when one is the president of a company or a bank or an association, or the representative of a faith, you cannot say: “Things aren’t going well, it’s not my fault.” It is necessarily the fault of the person at the helm when failure happens because he who refuses to pay would have been the first to ask for the reward for success had there been success.
My dear friends, there is a country called France which has 64 million people and which likes you, likes Americans, very much. When our children consider where they want to go, they often say first, the United States, and especially, New York. When you have such power of attraction, it is absolutely essential you contribute to being, through your reality, equal to the dream we have projected on the United States.