Friday, June 10, 2005


would De Gaulle have been sued for racial defamation?

Just the other day, I posted information about the sentence that the Appeals Court of France gave to Edgar Morin and to Le Monde for having published an article by him containing two sentences that were singled out as being anti-semitic.

I was stumbling through my bookshelves, trying to find something and happened upon this book that a French friend sent me in 1990. It is Le Choix des Juifs by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber published in 1988. I couldn't remember even owning it, so I leafed through it and found two pages which were a complete deja vu.

I don't know if a version exists in English, and it might be slightly different in the translation, but the words that I am putting in bold were the same precise ones I translated from French as being the cause for the sentence of racial defamation. I saw that the Guardian had a somewhat different English translation, but the gist was the same.

Shimon Peres: The history of men is a history of change. The rhythm has never been as rapid as it is today. That which in other times required a thousand years, today requires a thousand days. Unheardof changes. We mustn't only oversee the nature of the changes, but also capture their rapidity. In every moment one has to be able to move before the typhoon washes everything away.

Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber: If Israel succeeds in becoming a land of instruction and culture, do you hope that it succeeds in involving the entire region? Wouldn't the Arab nations prefer to follow a completely different model than the Israeli one?

SP: The Arab world never stops asking itself the question: what happened to us? Why did our development, our splendour, that was real for centuries, come to a stop for such a long time? For many generations ther Arabs were pioneers in mathematics, art, astronomy. They invented algebra and grammar, they have built the most beautiful monuments, the greatest universities. What happened then? They are looking for an answer to this question, which is a very painful one for a people to ask.

Israel could help them find the right answers, adapting the technological potential to development. We have an advantage in comparison to the super powers; we are too small to become threatening. We haven't got the means, nor the dimensions, nor the ambition to be an imperial power.

All of our history is extraneous to the domination of other peoples. The research of Hebrew philosophy itself is concentrated on the domination of oneself, never on the domination of others. To try to dominate others destroys yourself. All of the empires have tried to dominate us have learnt that at their own expense. It is an important lesson.

Yet I recall the interpellation of De Gaulle, after the Six Days War: "Israel, " he said, "chosen people, self-assured and dominator". He did not use the words by accident. He was not the only one to direct this accusation of imperialism against Israel. Many others have thought the same, and in particular, the entire Arab world.

My response is simple: De Gaulle was mistaken. All of our history demonstrates that. I had the opportunity to meet with De Gaulle. I was struck, as a matter of fact, by his mastery of language. But in the circumstance under discussion, I was surprised by his lacunes in the history of the Jewish people. Even when, in his Mémoires, describing what Nazism represented, he completely ignores the Jewish problem, the tragedy of the Holocaust.... He said that the Six Days War would have started a world war... After all, if we were such dominators, would we have given up, freely, without combat, all of the Sinai to Egypt? We have given it up twice even: after the war of '56 and after that of '73. No. If the Israeli people should try to dominate others, they would cease to be themselves, they would lose their own identity.

J-J S-S: Why then do they maintain control over the Palestinians?

SP: As a matter of principal, we are talking about our land. We have a right to it. As a matter of fact, we have to try to search for peace.

J-J S-S: Then, the solution seems clear: divide the territory between the two people.

Shimon Peres explains what, to him, is the difficulty in this:

SP: This land can only with great difficulty be divided. All of the Jews of Israel consider Palestine patria of the Jews, and this was acknowleged in the Balfour Declaration. But a part of them only expects to annex the territory. These "maximalist" patriots claim the land, both for historic and religious reasons, as well as for reasons of security, to create a cushion between us and the Arab States, and to be less vulnerable. But the more reasonable ones know that we have to withdraw from the greater part of the currently occupied territories. We haven't got the means, nor the legitimacy to impose our law on a population of two million Arabs.

J-J S-S: What is preventing you from withdrawing?

SP: A treaty is necessary, a negotiation, that guarantees our security and defines recognised frontiers. Unfortunately, on the Arab side there has up to now been no one who has wanted to commit himself to this. Maybe it is also our fault if we hesitate, or we are fearful of the choice of the interlocutors. That could be...

In the meantime, the Israelis continue to keep the Palestinian people under control. They have been doing so for twenty years. The situation very much resembles - due to the violence the comparison is imposed each day - to a colonial operation.


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