A letter from an Israeli History Professor Shlomo Sand to the President of France

A letter from an Israeli History Professor Shlomo Sand to the President of France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is a powerful open letter to the
French President Macron by Israeli Professor Shlomo Sand.  Macron a few weeks ago made a particularly
stupid statement, even for a French Blairite, when he declared that anti-Zionism
was the new anti-Semitism.  This of
course has been the message of Zionism for the last 30 years.
You wonder why people who are, at
least on the surface, superficially intelligent, repeat this vacuous
nonsense.  Anyone with any understanding
of Zionism would know that it was Jewish people who were always its fiercest
opponents.  Jews saw in Zionism the
validation of anti-Semitism.  It was a Jewish
form of anti-Semitism.  Anti-Zionism rejected
the idea that Jews could not live with non-Jews, that anti-Semitism was part of
the non-Jewish psyche and could never be eradicated.  Zionism was racist even in its attitude to Jews.  It was no wonder that an ideology that was
transfixed by the racist nostrums of its day should, in turn, treat the Palestinians
in the same way as the Jews of Europe were treated.
Please read!
Tony Greenstein
France’s increasingly unpopular and intellectually lightweight President Macron
To President Macron
As
I began reading your speech on the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv round-up, I
felt grateful toward you. Indeed, in the light of the long tradition of
political leaders, both Left and Right, past and present, who have denied
France’s participation and responsibility in the deportation of Jewish-origin
people to the death camps, I was grateful that you instead took a clear
position, without any ambiguity: yes, France is responsible for the
deportation, yes there was anti-Semitism in France before and after the Second
World War. Yes, we must continue to fight all forms of racism. I saw these positions
as standing in continuity with the courageous statement you made in Algeria,
saying that colonialism constitutes a crime against humanity.
But
to be wholly frank, I was rather annoyed by the fact that you invited Benjamin
Netanyahu. He should without doubt be ranked in the category of oppressors, and
so he cannot parade himself as a representative of the victims of yesteryear.
Of course, I have long known the impossibility of separating memory from
politics. Perhaps you were deploying a sophisticated strategy, still yet to be
revealed, aimed at contributing to the realisation of an equitable compromise
in the Middle East?
Shlomo Sand – history professor at Tel Aviv University
I stopped being able to understand you when, in the
course of your speech, you stated that “Anti-Zionism
… is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”
Was this statement intended to
please your guest, or is it purely and simply a marker of a lack of political
culture? Has this former student of philosophy, Paul Ricoeur’s assistant, read
so few history books that he does not know that many Jews or descendants of
Jewish heritage have always opposed Zionism, without this making them
anti-Semites? Here I am referring to almost all the old grand rabbis, but also
the stances taken by a section of contemporary orthodox Judaism. And I also remember
figures like Marek Edelman, one of the escaped leaders of the Warsaw
Ghetto uprising, or the communists of Jewish background who took part in the
French Resistance in the Manouchian group, in which they perished. I also think
of my friend and teacher Pierre Vidal-Naquet and of other great historians and
sociologists like Eric Hobsbawm and Maxime Rodinson, whose writings and whose
memory are so dear to me, or indeed Edgar Morin. And finally I wonder if you
seriously expect of the Palestinians that they should not be anti-Zionists!

Nonetheless,
I suppose that you do not particularly appreciate people on the Left, or,
perhaps, the Palestinians. But knowing that you worked at Rothschild Bank, I
will here provide a quote from Nathan Rothschild. President of the union of
synagogues in Britain, he was the first Jew to be named a lord in the United
Kingdom, where he also became the bank’s governor. In a 1903 letter to Theodor
Herzl, the talented banker wrote that he was anxious about plan to establish a
“Jewish colony”; it “would be a ghetto
within a ghetto with all the prejudices of a ghetto.”
A Jewish state “would be small and petty, Orthodox and
illiberal, and keep out non-Jews and the Christians.”
We might conclude
that Rothschild’s prophecy was mistaken. But one thing is for sure: he was no
anti-Semite!
Of
course, there have been, and there are, some anti-Zionists who are also
anti-Semites, but I am also certain that we could find anti-Semites among the
sycophants of Zionism. I can also assure you that a number of Zionists are
racists whose mental structure does not differ from that of utter Judeophobes:
they relentlessly search for a Jewish DNA (even at the university that I teach
at).
But
to clarify what an anti-Zionist point of view is, it is important to begin by
agreeing on the definition of the concept “Zionism,” or at the very least, a
series of characteristics proper to this ter. I will endeavor to do so as
briefly as possible.
First
of all, Zionism is not Judaism. It even constitutes a radical revolt against
it. Across the centuries, pious Jews nurtured a deep ardour for their holy
land, and more particularly for Jerusalem. But they held to the Talmudic
precept intimating that they should not collectively emigrate there before the
coming of the Messiah. Indeed, the land does not belong to the Jews, but to
God. God gave and God took away again; and he would send the Messiah to restore
it, when he wanted to. When Zionism appeared it removed the “All
Powerful” from his place, substituting the active human subject in his
stead.
We
can each give our own view on the question of whether the project of creating
an exclusive Jewish state on a slice of land with a very large Arab-majority
population is a moral idea. In 1917 Palestine counted 700,000 Arab Muslims and
Christians and around 60,000 Jews, half of whom were opposed to Zionism. Up
till that point, the mass of the Yiddish-speaking people who wanted to flee the
pogroms of the Russian Empire preferred to migrate to the American continent.
Indeed, two million made it there, thus escaping Nazi persecution (and the
persecution under the Vichy regime).
In
1948 in Palestine there were 650,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arab Muslims and
Christians, 700,000 of whom became refugees. It was on this demographic basis
that the State of Israel was born. Despite that, and against the backdrop of
the extermination of the European Jews, a number of anti-Zionists reached the
conclusion that in the name of avoiding the creation of fresh tragedies it was
best to consider the State of Israel as an irreversible fait accompli. A child
born as the result of a rape does indeed have the right to live. But what
happens if this child follows in the footsteps of his father?
And
then came 1967. Since then Israel has ruled over 5.5 million Palestinians, who
are denied civil, political and social rights. Israel subjects them to military
control: for part of them a sort of “Indian reservation” in the West Bank,
while others are locked up in a “barbed wire holding pen” in Gaza (70% of
the population there are refugees or their descendants). Israel, which
constantly proclaims its desire for peace, considers the territories conquered
in 1967 as an integral part of the “land of Israel,” and it behaves there as it
sees fit. Thus far 600,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers have been moved in there…
and this has still not ended!
Is
that today’s Zionism? No!, reply my friends on the Zionist Left — which is
constantly shrinking. They tell me that we have to put an end to the dynamic of
Zionist colonisation, that a narrow little Palestinian state should be created
next to the State of Israel, and that Zionism’s objective was to establish a
state where the Jews would be sovereign over themselves, and not to conquer
“the ancient homeland” in its entirety. And the most dangerous thing in
all this, in their eyes, is that annexing territory threatens Israel’s
character as a Jewish state.
So
here we reach the proper moment for me to explain to you why I am writing to
you, and why I define myself as non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, without thereby
becoming anti-Jewish. Your political party has put the words “La
République” in its name. So I presume that you are a fervent republican.
And, at the risk of surprising you: I am, too. So being a democrat and a
republican I cannot — as all Zionists do, Left and Right, without
exception — support a Jewish State. The Israeli Interior Ministry counts
75% of the country’s citizens as Jewish, 21% as Arab Muslims and Christians and
4% as “others” (sic). Yet according to the spirit of its laws, Israel does
not belong to Israelis as a whole, whereas it does belong even to all those
Jews worldwide who have no intention of coming to live there. So for example,
Israel belongs a lot more to Bernard Henri-Lévy or to Alain Finkielkraut than
it does to my Palestinian-Israeli students, Hebrew speakers who sometimes speak
it better than I do! Israel hopes that the day will come when all the people of
the CRIF (“Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France”) and their
“supporters” emigrate there! I even know some French anti-Semites who are
delighted by such a prospect. On the other hand, we could find two Israeli
ministers close to Netanyahu putting out the idea that it is necessary to
encourage the “transfer” of Israeli Arabs, without that meaning that
anyone demanded their resignations.
That,
Mr. President, is why I cannot be a Zionist. I am a citizen who desires that
the state he lives in should be an Israeli Republic, and not a
Jewish-communalist state. As a descendant of Jews who suffered so much
discrimination, I do not want to live in a state that, according to its own
self-definition, makes me a privileged class of citizen. Mr. President, do you
think that that makes me an anti-Semite?

 

 

 

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