French press review 1 February 2018

Racist crime figures in France are, broadly, down for the first time in a decade. Washington and Tel Aviv are annoyed at a law passed yesterday by the Polish senate.What is America doing in Afghanistan?


Le Monde reports that France saw a decline in the number of racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts in the course of 2017, this after an interrupted series of increases in the number of such acts between 2008 and 2016.

Unfortunately the level of violence involved has actually increased. And the number of attacks against Jewish sites has gone up by 22 percent compared to last year.

Poland's Holocaust responsibility denial

The centrist daily also notes last night's vote by the Polish senate to ratify a law which will make it illegal for anyone to imply that the Polish state was in any way responsible for the crimes committed against Jews by the Nazis in occupied Poland.

Washington has warned that, if the law is signed by the Polish president Andrzej Duda, it will have serious repercussions on national interests and strategic relations.

The Polish conservative government says the law is intended to mark the inaccuracy of expressions like "Polish death camps". They accept that the concentration camps were established on Polish soil but claim that they were the sole initiative and responsibility of the occupying German forces.

The authorities in Israel see the law as an attempt to whitewash the enthusiastic participation of many Polish nationals in the German campaign to exterminate Jews, suggesting that survivors of the death camps could risk legal action for testifying to Polish involvement.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the law as "Holocaust denial", an attempt to "deform the truth and rewrite history".

Three million Polish Jews died during World War II.

To date, 6,700 Poles have been recognised at the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem for their efforts to save Jews from the death camps in a country where helping a Jew in any way was a crime punishable by the death penalty.

Taliban challenge US in Afghanistan

Le Figaro gives the top of the front page to "The return in force of the Taliban in Afghanistan".

The conservative paper says that the recent wave of murderous bomb and armed attacks has left the strategy of the Trump administration in tatters, it says.

Washington, according to Le Figaro, had been hoping to negotiate an end to the 16-year war from a position of strength. The fact is that, even if they have failed to capture any large urban area, the Taliban remain dangerously influential and capable of striking at will. They effectively govern 70 percent of the country, and are completely beyond the control of the "authorities" in Kabul.

The conservative paper's editorial is headlined "A graveyard for empires," and the article looks at the failed efforts of Genghis Khan, Great Britain and the Soviet Union to subdue the mountainous land which is now the scene of the longest US military involvement since 1945.

Despite spending more on the Afghan campaign than Washington put into the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II and committing 140,000 soldiers to the fight, the United States will certainly lose, says Le Figaro. And this despite Donald Trump's recent decision to boost the military effort. Even if neither the White House nor the Pentagon have been able to explain US political ambitions. Trump simply doesn't want to be the American president to let Kabul fall into the hands of the Islamists.

And, warns Le Figaro, Afghanistan now offers an option to Islamic State armed group fighters who have already been or will shortly be forced out of their primary war zone in Iraq and Syria.

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