It has been a long time since I wrote something about Israel. An opinion article published today by La Libre Belgique, provides me the opportunity(1). Entitled BDS, a campaign against peace, the text is signed by a group consisting mainly of professors from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). They protest against the recognition by the academic authorities of the ULB, of a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) circle. This circle is radically anti-Israeli and is advocating the boycott of everything that comes from Israel, including exchanges between scientists and between universities. Rightly, the signatories of this opinion letter, emphasize that "legitimate criticism addressed to the government of a given country does not allow to discriminate in its citizens". They point out, moreover – and the media have often overlooked it – that the BDS campaign "is not only a criticism of the policy of the Israeli government" but aims, in fact, at denying the legitimacy of the State of Israel(2).
Now, here we are at the heart of the question. By successive shifts, expertly maintained by a skillful propaganda – especially through the manipulation of images – many of our media have embraced the "Palestinian cause" without nuances and let themselves be dominated by an "anti-Zionism" which amounts to an outright denial of Israel's right to exist. And the authors of the article add: "It should not be necessary to be anti-Israeli to defend the Palestinians". This is exactly what I believe.
I would even dare to say that, if one day – for what I hope obviously – the Palestinians obtain to live in a democratic State freed from their hateful and violent factions whether theocratic or ultra-nationalists, they will owe it in good part to Israel and to its tenacity. Are there many other countries which do not bend in front of the vociferations of those that we must call islamo-fascists? Still ongoing events – the shock wave of which is not to stop –, give us a obvious example of this phenomenon. In our countries, politicians, journalists and religious leaders rise, not against horrifying violences – they have already caused more than thirty deaths – but against a crappy video, of uncertain origin, suddenly brandished as the supreme insult of the West to the sacred values of Islam!(3).
I wrote it several times, I'm not a big fan of the Israeli government, far from it. But what State would do better in the situation, unparalleled in the world, that Israel knows? Despite errors and blunders, immediately denounced and amplified to infinity by our media, despite violence, which it is not clear how a country constantly threatened, attacked, demonized, could escape completely, despite acute social problems... Despite all this, the State of Israel lives, works, studies, invents, innovates, develops, welcomes, and hopes.
If you want to understand a little better the causes and mechanisms of the delegitimization that Israel undergoes for several years, read a book of Jacques Tarnéro: Le nom de trop. Israël illégitime?(4) (A name too much. Israel illegitimate?) Why does the name of Israel disturb? Why the obsessive hostility of which the country is the object? How is it that "gentle people" from among us become vectors of hatred? As writes it Pierre-André Taguieff in his foreword, Jacques Tarnéro engages in an in-depth analysis of this "total hatred of Israel which has become part of the global ideological landscape".
By the way, it is worth noting that Tarnéro does not hesitate to criticize severely some political and cultural drifts he observes in Israel. He does not hesitate to denounce an "intellectual Poujadism fed by bigotry and ignorance" which, he says, "is also part of the Jewish intellectual landscape today" (p. 242). But, he adds, "as much the Israeli political class seems devoid of imagination today, as much Israeli society sparkles with thousands of creative and generous inventions. Its infinite capacities of automockery shows the intellectual liveliness of a society yet subject to uncertainties (to put it mildly) of everyday life"(p. 245).
All that being said, Jacques Tarnéro shows how much the delegitimization of Israel is a highly profitable business - at least in the short term - for an Arab-Muslim world locked into resentment and rage. Quoting extensively the Tunisian psychoanalyst Fethi Benslama, author of a Déclaration d’insoumission, à l’usage des musulmans et de ceux qui ne le sont pas (Statement of insubordination, for the Muslims and for those who are not), Tarnéro concludes: "Far from emancipating the Arabs, the endless denunciation of the ‘Zionist imperialist, colonialist Evil’ locks the Arabs in a collective paranoia that drowns rather than helps. Helping Palestine to enter in civilization means to state that, far from freeing, terrorism destroys Palestine at the same time it destroys its fantastical enemy" (p. 214).
At the end of his foreword, Pierre-André Taguieff greets Jacques Tarnéro saying it takes a lot of courage "to defend Israel against its countless unscrupulous accusers". I do not consider to be particularly brave, but I fully associate myself with Tarnéro’s brilliant plea.
(1) BDS: une campagne contre la paix. La Libre Belgique, September 21st, 2012, p. 55. Among the signatories - that this statement honors - we find, besides a “bunch” of professors, presidents or former presidents of the bar, the names of the film-maker Luc Dardenne, the Minister of State Roger Lallemand, Marie-Jo Simoen, honorary general Secretary of the FNRS, Pierre Van Ommeslaghe, Sollicitor to the Court of Cassation, etc.
(2) A similar call: Le boycott d’Israël est une arme indigne (The boycott of Israel is a despicable weapon), was published in November, 2010 in Le Monde (here) by a group of personalities from the French intellectual, political and artistic world.
(3) This video, Innocence of Muslims, circulated on the Net for more than a year, without "disturbing" anybody. In a few minutes, you will find easily, on YouTube or elswhere (MEMRI, for example), videos of a greater virulence, inviting the Muslims to murder Jews and Christians …
(4) Jacques Tarnéro, Le nom de trop. Israël illégitime?, Paris, Armand Colin, 2011. It is worth noting that this remarkable book suffered an impressive media "boycott". As far as I know, no important French media (newspaper, magazine or Website) wrote a single line about it: Is’nt this highly significant?