Three French policemen in a front-page cartoon of the Paris newspaper Le Figaro are saying to each other, "Terrorists are not hard to spot. The extreme left has long hair, the extreme right short hair and the extreme center sparse hair.
That caption is probably the most accurate view yet published here of the state of intense police efforts to find the perpetrators of the bombing nine days ago of a synagogue in the Rue Copernic that is still the main topic of press and public interest.
Among the theories advanced for the bombing, which killed four persons and wounded 12 outside the synagogue filled with Friday-evening worshipers, are that it was the work of an isolated mad bomber, French neo-Nazis, a European fascist conspiracy, Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the master terrorist Carlos, the KGB and Jewish Renewal, the most militant of the major French Jewish groups.
Interior Minister Christian Bonnet caused a stir in the National Assembly Wednesday when he turned to Robert Ballanger, the Communist Party parliamentary leader, and said, "The investigators are looking in all directions, including some, Mr. Ballanger, about which you have perhaps not thought."
Police spokesman refused to be drawn into speculation about what their minister had in mind, but it soon came out that there was a "Cyprus lead" -- a mysterious man named Alexander Panaryu who was traced as the owner of a secondhand Suzuki motorcycle found blown up in the Rue Copernic.
Panaryu reportedly had paid a dealer $1,000 for it two weeks before the bombing, peeling the money ostentatiously off of a roll of U.S. $100 bills, dsiplaying his Cypriot passport and giving his address as a comfortable hotel off the Champs Elysees.
He checked out the day of the crime and disappeared. Attempts to trace him to the home address he gave in Nicosia were fruitless, and the Cypriot Embassy here said the man's name is not really Cypriot or Greek.
While the "Cyprus lead" was being given big press play, police made a series of swoops in southern France, picking up and later releasing still another dozen neo-Nazis and conducting a fruitless search at a chateau where the neo-Nazis are known to have held summer solstice ceremony in June. The police have been stung by widespread charges, including from police union leaders, that they are blind to neo-Nazi activities and are themselves infiltrated by neo-Nazis.
Among those he picked up was 81-year-old Henri-Robert Petit, a wartime deputy to Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, the Vichy government's Jewish Affairs commissioner, who set off a storm last year from his exile in Spain by saying in an interview that "the only things that were gassed" in the Nazis' concentration camps were "lice."
The neo-Nazis have been complaining that the repeated police roundups are a harassment that violates their civil rights. Even some leftist newspapers are beginning to comment that such arrests look like an attempt to bemuse public opinion.
Aides in Jewish community organizations are saying privately that they can produce no evidence to back charges by some of their leaders, especially Jean-Pierre Bloch, that Libya is the main backer of the neo-Nazi movement that has spawned dozens of marginal groups that sometimes spend as much energy in intrigues and street fighting against each other as against their Jewish, communist and other officially proclaimed adversaries.
Assertions that bombings at the Bologna railway station in August, at the Munich beer festival earlier this month and the Rue Copernic synagogue were all part of the same wave of terror have been made from the start, but evidence to support that view seems limited at best.
In an attempt to embrace all speculation at once, there are those who seriously suggest that Western Europe's neo-Nazis, who often cooperate better across frontiers than inside their own countries, are financed by Libya under cover of a common struggle against Israel and the Jews. This view postulates that the Nazis are actually being manipulated by Qaddafi on behalf of the KBG in order to destablize Western societies.
What is not clear, however, is what real interest Qaddafi, who owns a large bloc of stock in Fiat, Italy's most important company, would have in destabilizing Italian society.
A PLO spokesman in London disclaimed any connection with the Rue Copernic bombing on the ground that anit-Semitism is dangerous for the Palestinian people since it "reinforces the Zionist movement, encouraging Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine and thereby strengthening the movement that has enforced the exile of millions" of Palestinians.
Word came from Israel that the government was considering plans to make facilities available for the settlement of 3,000 Jewish families from France.
Despite all the outpouring of official support for the Jewish community of France in the past week, a number of things have continued to feed its insecurity, among them the statement by Prime Minister Raymond Barre that the people who were killed in the street outside the synagogue were "innocent Frenchmen."
A number of commentators jumped on that as an inadvertent empression of the view that French Jews are less French than other French citizens.
A Louis Harris poll published this weekend by the weekly L'Express showed that 10 percent of the population consider that Jews are not French at all, and that another 10 percent feel that they are not as French as other French citizens.
Even if, as is quite possible, the tiny French neo-Nazi movement was not involved, this week's events have given them the publicity they had hitherto sought with limited success. As Alexander Sanguinetti, who died just this week after decades of service to Guallism as perhaps its most intellectually independent politician, said: "Thirty or forty years after defeats, the ideas of the losers return in force among the victors."