For a nation that has long prided itself on its fondness for romance and love, it seems odd that the French would decide to declare war on reproductive pursuits of any sort. Yet that is exactly what Paris is doing, at least when it comes to Jewish procreative activity in certain parts of the Land of Israel.
On Monday, Haaretz published the contents of an internal European Union document regarding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The memo, which outlines the EU's plans for 2009, was prepared by the French Foreign Ministry, as Paris currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
In the document, the French stress that Israel must halt the expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, stating that the EU "expects a complete freeze of all settlement activities, including natural growth." After reading that sentence over a few times, it occurred to me just how absurd, and highly impractical, the European stance is.
AFTER ALL, what exactly does France mean by "natural growth"? According to demographers, there are three basic factors that come into play vis-Ã -vis the natural growth of a population: fertility, mortality and migration. Put more simply, natural growth is merely the number of births minus the number of deaths, plus the net inflow or outflow of migrants.
What the Europeans fail to understand is that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are no different from human collectives anywhere else. They are dynamic, living entities. Children are born, the elderly pass away, newcomers move in, others move out, families grow and expand.
So when France, or for that matter the EU, insists that Israel freeze "all settlement activities, including natural growth," they are essentially demanding the impossible.
Just look at each of the three components that make up "natural growth" and you'll see why.
In terms of mortality, Israel cannot control or dictate when people die, so that part of the equation is obviously beyond the government's ability to influence.
As for migration, the only way to prevent people from moving to Judea and Samaria would be to adopt Soviet-style limitations on freedom of movement. Such steps are not only anathema to a democracy, they are largely unenforceable in any event.
That leaves fertility as the only remaining element of "natural growth" that theoretically could be frozen.
Taken to its logical conclusion, then, the French call for a freeze on "natural growth" in the settlements can mean one thing and one thing only: no more marital relations for Jews beyond the Green Line.
After all, such activities might just result in little bundles of joy down the road, and who knows what damage that might cause to the peace process, c'est non? One can only imagine how the EU might become aroused (pardon the pun) to bring about such a freeze. Will the French Embassy in Tel Aviv begin distributing birth-control pills to the residents of Ma'aleh Adumim and Shiloh? Or perhaps the EU will dispatch special monitors to keep a watchful eye on ovulation patterns in Ariel and Efrat.
IF ALL this sounds ridiculous, that is because it is.
It is simply unrealistic, unreasonable and unacceptable for the EU to demand that the "natural growth" of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria should cease.
Judea and Samaria are the heartland of the Jewish people, the cradle of our ancient civilization and the setting for much of our hallowed past. Following in the footsteps of our ancestors, we have now returned to reclaim our nation's patrimony.
Moreover, Jews have a right - "natural" or otherwise - to live wherever they please. Assertions to the contrary are little more than small-minded bigotry and discrimination.
The notion that Jews should not be allowed to live freely in a certain area because they are Jews may have been French policy back in the dark days of the Vichy regime, but it has no place in today's world, and Paris should know better.
It was more than two centuries ago that the basic document of the French Revolution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, affirmed in its very first article that "men are born and remain free and equal in rights."
Like it or not, those noble sentiments apply no less to Jews than to anyone else - including the residents of Judea and Samaria.