France and the Antisemitism Canard

There is real antisemitism and there is ersatz antisemitism. The latter has of late been getting more press than the former. The coinage has been debased.

Israeli academic Neve Gordon, a sometime target, notes:1

There is an irony here. Historically, the fight against anti-Semitism has sought to advance the equal rights and emancipation of Jews. Those who denounce the ‘new anti-Semitism’ seek to legitimate the discrimination against and subjugation of Palestinians. In the first case, someone who wishes to oppress, dominate and exterminate Jews is branded an anti-Semite; in the second, someone who wishes to take part in the struggle for liberation from colonial rule is branded an anti-Semite. …

Conventionally, to call someone ‘anti-Semitic’ is to expose and condemn their racism; in the new case, the charge ‘anti-Semite’ is used to defend racism, and to sustain a regime that implements racist policies.

The imbalance is best reflected in the craven catering by the European Parliament2 and by Britain3 and Austria to the pastiche of ersatz antisemitism pushed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – the bulk of which detail concerns quarantining Israel from criticism.

In opposition, the French organisation Union Juive Française pour la Paix noted, in June 2017:

It’s necessary to highlight that there is no officially condoned antisemitism in Europe, and that this vote is clearly intended to prevent not genuine antisemitism but the legitimate political criticism of a state, of its policies and of its character. The vote on this resolution brings home to us that, here in Europe, the right to criticize Israel is based on the general freedom of political expression – an asset so precious and fragile that it is necessary to defend it at all costs.

Ersatz anti-Semitism and the Pascal Boniface affair

The French academic Pascal Boniface has just published another book on the subject – L’Antisémite ((Pascal Boniface, L’Antisémite, Max Milo, December 2017.)) – for good personal reasons.

In his training, Boniface developed an expertise in international affairs, especially regarding defense and disarmament. The Parti Socialiste candidate François Mitterand is elected President in 1981. There is a void within PS personnel in these arenas. Boniface joins the PS, and becomes part of an ‘international’ secretariat of thinking heads. In this capacity, Boniface has interaction with PS heavies, especially those elected responsible for his fields.

In 2000, Alain Chenal, heading the Middle East/Mediterranean sector of the PS’ secretariat, establishes a small group to reflect on what the position of the PS should be regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was not expected to make waves.

In this context, Boniface wrote an internal 1300 word note in April 2001 regarding the PS’ de facto position on the Israel-Palestinian question. He suggested that the position – tacit support for Israeli governments (Ariel Sharon had become Prime Minister in March) that continue to flout international law – was driven by realpolitik rather than principle. The position deserved re-examination. The note is reproduced in L’Antisémite.4

The note was disseminated by supporters of Israel within the PS.  He was flooded with messages of criticism and abuse (including from Israel). There were some supportive responses.

He decided to write an article for Le Monde, which appeared on 3 August 2001. The abuse went public and continued – indefinitely. Select instances of abuse are recounted below.

In 1990 Boniface had created a research centre – the Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques (IRIS). He now found IRIS under attack as well, with his opponents contacting Council members (typically significant public figures) to resign and thus discredit the organization.

The long term campaign against Boniface

On 6 August, Clement Weill-Raynal, president of the Association of Jewish Journalists of France (Boniface: the membership being countable on the fingers of one hand), and lawyer/columnist Gilles-William Goldnagel wrote to Serge Weinberg, then president of the IRIS Council (familiarly, as a member of the Jewish community). They assert, inter alia (p.59):

[The note] has aroused a keen agitation in the breast of the Jewish community which finds itself implicated and sees itself denied the legitimate right to support Israel in the framework of democratic debate. … Alignment with these peremptory arguments, these faux pas, outrageous in tone, can only be prejudicial to the reputation of IRIS and to the heart of its Council over which you preside. We know equally that we have always been able to count you amongst the friends of Israel in France.

On 8 August, Le Monde published a riposte, vicious, to Boniface by the then Israeli ambassador, Élie Barnavi. The article implicitly carried extra weight because Barnavi was a significant figure on the ‘Left’ of Israeli politics – historian, partisan of peace with the Palestinians, etc. He had been appointed by Prime Minister Barak, but a Sharon-led government was now in place, and Barnavi appeared to be acting under instructions from the new government. There followed further abuse, even death threats.

Boniface found the event arresting. Here was a representative of a foreign government in a French daily of reference, threatening free speech in France, and accusing a Frenchman of racism. This should have been cause for public concern, but no.

In September, the L’Arche journal, a Jewish institutional outlet, in a long accusatory article under the title ‘Dr Pascal and Mr Boniface’, presents Boniface as being dangerous for French Jewry.

In December, in the conservative weekly Valeurs actuelles, Michel Gurfinkiel attributes recent presumed antisemitic incidents to the tolerance of such amongst the Left and the Greens, a tolerance that he claims has now infiltrated the PS courtesy of Boniface.

Simultaneously, Éric Conan in the conservative weekly L’Express accompanies figures and photos of antisemitic incidents, attributed to the Arab-Muslim community, with the claim that Boniface’s note induces the PS to opportunistically orient itself to this community because of its electorally greater weight than that possessed by the Jewish community. It is a lie that will be repeated endlessly, including by Conan into 2002. Boniface infers that the near identical articles by Gurfinkiel and Conan were fed by the fiercely pro-Israel peak Jewish organisation, Conseil représentative des institutions Juives de France (CRIF).

In early 2002, the US Neo-con pro-Israel Weekly Standard interviews Boniface on French foreign policy in the context of the Presidential election campaign. Although the interview is cordial, the published article is titled ‘Liberty, Equality, Judeophobia’, and Boniface’s purported views referred to as ‘bonifascisme’. The label is later reprised by the extreme pro-Israel Right.

In April, the first round of the Presidential election puts the PS candidate Lionel Jospin (then Prime Minister) into third place behind the National Front’s Jean-Marie Le Pen – a disaster for the Party. Boniface is blamed for his defeat. Boniface is accused of scaring Jewish voters en masse to desert the PS.

In September, Raynal, writing under a nom-de-plume in Actualité juive, accuses Boniface of subjecting the Jewish community to violent attack through his insinuations.

In 2003, the pro-Israel forces within the PS set up the Cercle Léon Blum under the direction of lawyer Laurent Azoulaï, formally to fight antisemitism but in reality to shore up the PS as a pro-Israel bastion. Some prominent anti-zionist (my label) Jews were in the meantime accused of antisemitism, but there was no peep out of Le Cercle Léon Blum.

Also in 2003, Élisabeth Schemla, former journalist of L’Express and Nouvel Observateur, creates the site, to shore up Israel’s image in the face of the country’s deteriorating reputation globally. Schemla accuses Boniface of assimilating Israel with Middle-Eastern dictatorships and of incorporating Israel in an ‘axis of evil’. A new campaign is launched against Boniface. Some PS members move to have Boniface expelled from the PS.

In March 2003, claimed that Boniface had been running around the Middle East (in 2002) furiously trying to drum up financial support for IRIS in fear of the Right coming to power. The site refers to the pursuit of ‘black gold’, claiming that such links will fuel arms sales to Israel’s neighbours and subject Israel to attack. Through this chain of ‘reasoning’ Boniface, claims the site, will end up before the International Criminal Court.

In June, a grand meeting of the pro-Israeli ‘ultras’ takes place, with Benjamin Netanyahu as honoured guest. Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) is reported as reclaiming the momentum (p.96):

As a Jew I have a natural sympathy for Israel. As a socialist I have a political sympathy. The Left has deceived you. There have been some unauthorised notes [allusion to the text written by Boniface …]. They were contemptible. … I’m telling you that the Left is back on board.

In spite of some internal support, Boniface surrenders his membership of the PS soon after this affair. For Boniface, debate has been rendered impossible. He notes that, during the 2012 Presidential campaign, François Hollande had proposed the recognition of Palestine. CRIF had led a battle against Hollande in favour of (the incumbent) Nicolas Sarkozy. By August 2012, Hollande as President had renounced the idea.

In May 2004, Malek Boutih, then PS functionary, in an interview claimed that it was a good thing that Boniface had resigned from the PS as he did not want the Party associated with this sectarian discourse. Boniface wrote to Boutih to correct him, but received no response.

In August, regular media interviewee Frédéric Encel variously claims that Boniface was in the pay of Saddam Hussein (because Boniface was opposed to the invasion of Iraq) and in the pay of Qatar because Boniface (as a football tragic) hadn’t objected to Qatar being handed the 2022 World Cup.

Boniface, finding irony as one of the few means of responding to the onslaught, noted that Qatar was throwing money around with abandon, but none had gone in his direction.

In December, Boutih repeated his lie of May. On advice, Boniface decided to sue for slander. The lower court decided for Boniface in October 2006 and again in the court of appeal in July 2007. The repeated claims that his April 2001 note recommended electoral opportunism to the PS were judged contrary to its contents. That should have ended the polemic, but no – on the contrary.

In March 2006, media commentator Philippe Val and Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL) in a radio exchange repeat the libel. BHL is the omnipresent celeb ‘public intellectual’ which fortunately has few rivals elsewhere.

In 2008, Raynal has Boniface meeting Hezbollah officials in Lebanon, photos as ‘proof’. Boniface highlights that at the time he was in a group visit to Lebanon where they met everybody, and he had pretty much been around the world multiple times – a product of his professional orientation.

In November 2015, BHL questions on air ‘what is the state, especially the Foreign Ministry, doing subsidizing Boniface’s IRIS’. ‘Questions should be asked’, he says. BHL continues to lobby IRIS Council members against its director.

A perennial antagonist has been Frédéric Haziza, presenter on the Parliamentary television network LCP-AN and on radio. According to Boniface, Haziza has regularly placed loaded statements before his invitees, inducing them to share his prejudices. Boniface claims that at one stage Haziza even held him responsible for the horrendous murders at the kosher supermarket on the Paris perimeter in January 2015.

In January 2017, Haziza put loaded statements to Manuel Valls who was standing in the PS Primary for selection of the Presidential election candidate. The same lies are repeated regarding Boniface’s note. It is suggested that Boniface, because he finds an ear of people in power, has fostered national division, fractures, parcellization, etc. Valls, once on friendly terms with Boniface (a 2003 letter of support from Valls is included in Boniface’s book), had since gone over to the ultras.

In November 2017, in an article in the ‘Left-wing’ weekly Marianne, Valls repeats the mantra. “What Boniface has written over the years poses a real problem. I have besides taken issue with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Armed Forces which finance IRIS …” Freedom of expression, a là Je suis Charlie, is to be selectively applied. Valls claims that Boniface, in league with other ne’er-do-wells, is engaged in intellectual terrorism against right-thinking people. Valls reproaches the ‘complaisance’ of Boniface and his crowd regarding the Islamic threat, his current obsession.

Not enough to attack the man, Boniface’s three sons were all, at various times, tarred with the same brush.

Boniface notes that what has happened to him is hardly credible. For 16 years, the same accusations, whereas 15 minutes reflection in examination of the April 2001 note (or any other public statement) could have cleared up the inanity.

The atmosphere

A charged atmosphere has thus enveloped Pascal Boniface since 2001. A note on the L’Antisémite book on the Left-wing site Le Grand Soir provides an instructive clue – reference to don Brasilio’s la calunnia aria in Beaumarchais’ libretto for Rossini’s Barber of Seville, devoted to advice for the disarming of a stronger adversary: Here’s part of it:

The calumny is a little wind,
a very gentle little breeze
which numbly, softly,
lightly, kindly,
begins to whisper.
Little by little, mildly,
in a low voice, hissing,
it goes flowing, it goes buzzing;
in people’s ears
it enters deftly
and makes heads and brains
stun and blow.
Getting out from the mouth
the clamour grows …

Such is the means by which Boniface has been turned into a pariah.

Notes Boniface, how many times have I heard: ‘Your reputation precedes you.’ Or ‘I’ve not read but I’ve heard speak …’

With respect to Conan’s articles in L’Express in late 2001 and 2002, Boniface had a telephone exchange. “You’ve distorted my views”, said Boniface. According to Boniface, Conan replied thus: “Yes, but that’s not how the note is interpreted in the breast of the community.”

The manager of a Jewish radio station claims to Boniface: “I haven’t read your note but I take [Elisabeth Schemla’s] word for it.” Boniface finds it astounding that for an affair which this media commentator finds so important he cannot be bothered to check the facts.

Notes Boniface, “gradually the rumor becomes a certainty and the accusation undeniable”. Including even for Boniface’s doctor. Thus is Boniface subject to “accusation without proof and without grounds; culpable without crime and condemned without right of appeal”.

Three of Boniface’s most strident detractors, all with regular use of the media, have been Frédéric Encel, Frédéric Haziza and Bernard-Henri Lévy. Boniface reports that Encel has claimed on Jewish radio that when he goes on the media he does so above all to defend Israel. That Haziza has said ‘as a journalist, he has always worked for Israel’. And that BHL, at a CRIF convention, had pushed for war in Libya in thinking ‘above all of Israel’.

President Emmanuel Macron is currently concerned with the supposed prevalence of “fake news” reaching vulnerable French citizens and is canvassing measures to stamp it out. Predictably, he is looking in the wrong places.

Pascal Boniface, the moderate

Of relevance is that Boniface is a moderate regarding the Israel-Palestine ‘question’.

He is scrupulous in his language and approach. This mentality has been embodied in IRIS itself.

Boniface was 12 years old during May ’68 and he confronted, via the strong views of his stepfather and father, two diametrically opposed interpretations of the same events. The experience stuck with him. He has sought dialogue with even his most vituperative critics, and has even been involved in some joint projects as a consequence.

He has been a consistent advocate of the ‘two-state solution’. He doesn’t criticize Israel qua state, but Israeli governments. Many Israelis are fiercer and more fundamental critics of Israel than is this man accused non-stop of upending the security of French Jewry.

His object of criticism is ‘the pro-Israel lobby’, which divides not Jews and non-Jews but sectarianism5 and universalism. Many of his collaborators and supporters are Jewish who face their own marginalization by the ‘ultras’ claiming to represent French Jewry in toto.

Boniface cites a telling article by Clement Weill-Raynal (by this time, following dialogue, supportive), in L’Obs of February 2009, titled ‘Who wants the skin of Pascal Boniface’ (p.174):

For if Boniface is the key man to silence, it is precisely on account of the moderate character of his positions on the Middle East conflict, which renders him more dangerous for extremists of every hue.

A natural trajectory

Pascal Boniface is everyman. As a youngster, from the evidence he was exposed to and devoured, he was naturally sympathetic to Jewish suffering and then also to Israel.

As a child he was strongly affected by a 1963 song by Jean Ferrat, Nuit et brouillard (night and fog), which evoked the Nazi death camp trains. In school, he participated in the showing of Resnais’ 1956 Nuit et brouillard (the common title taken from a 1941 directive of the German occupier), the previously unseen shocking images of which had a powerful impact.

Still young, he was moved by reading The Diary of Anne Frank and Koestler’s novel La Tour d’Ezra (English title, the 1946 Thieves in the Night), the latter on early Jewish settlement in Palestine.

In the 1970s, the crimes of Vichy are belatedly allowed into the light in France. A documentary on the Dreyfus affair exposes the antisemitism of France’s late 19th Century and the nobility of the struggle against it. The path-breaking 1969 documentary Le Chagrin et la Pitié, censored in France for a period because of its exposure of collaboration, added to his education.

Thus was Boniface “strongly sensitized to the cause of the struggle against antisemitism” – engendered by the horrors of the concentration camps, the deportations under Vichy, the intolerable injustice of Dreyfus and a general admiration for the great Jewish writers.

Then, as everyman (p.39):

My appreciation of the Israel-Palestine conflict has evolved in the course of the years in a manner, it seems to me, rather representative of the general and global evolution of public opinion in France: from strong support for Israel to the taking of conscience on the lot of the Palestinians.

The high point of support in France was in the immediate aftermath of the six-day war. It was David against Goliath, those plucky Jewish settlers who had made the desert bloom, surrounded by aggressive Arab neighbors, etc. The mainstream media – before, then and later – was universally pro-Israel.

The turning point comes with de Gaulle, ‘acting as a man of state’. In late 1967, de Gaulle puts an end to the long time strategic Franco-Israeli alliance – that which had produced the 1956 Suez fiasco and which had seen France as Israel’s top supplier of armaments and facilitator of its nuclear arms capacity. Later, Mitterand, ignoring the PS Party barons, declares in 1982 that the Palestinians must have a state of their own and in 1988 accommodates a visit of Arafat to France. Later still, Chirac also pursues a detached line.

To CRIF’s protests in 1988, labeling Arafat a terrorist, Mitterand replied (p.112):

[I intend to] determine the policy of France and not that of a particular community. … You come to see me as French citizens. Well, the Jews will vote as they want. I have clearly seen that there has been an unfavorable reaction to me and the policies I enact. You will do as you must. Let me say to you that that is of no importance – France is on another plane. It includes many parties other than the Jewish community.

For Boniface, a succession of events leads to a reconsideration of his earlier views. The Israeli intervention and actions in the Lebanese civil war after 1982 exposed Israel as an aggressor, no longer a David against more powerful neighbors. The violent repression of the non-violent first Intifada after 1987 was a key moment. And, of course, the ongoing settlements in the Occupied Territories – contrary to international law.

The everyman Boniface happens to be of the genus homo academicus. His particular specialty demanded that he confront Middle Eastern affairs, as elsewhere, with the professional skills acquired in his training. Boniface had to learn that, when it comes to Israel, other criteria apply.

Implications of l’affaire Boniface and comparable

The Israel lobby operates on the presumption that reason and evidence, after which humanity itself, has to be jettisoned.

Boniface notes wryly that the accusations that he is in receipt of petro monarchy funds follows naturally from the axiom that one can’t acknowledge that criticism of an Israeli government is a product of reasoning and analysis.

Boniface is a slow learner (p.167):

What has happened to me is hardly credible. … The same received ideas [over 16 years] that could not withstand examination seem engraved in marble. I find it difficult to believe that, in a world where knowledge, individual and/or collective reflection and the means to know and understand augment daily, that people can still affirm that to criticize the government of a country is synonymous with hatred, as well as of its people. The consistent strategy to appropriate ‘antisemitism’ in the service of the protection of a government, an alliance of hard Right and extreme Right, has been long successful.

Boniface looks for explanations behind cathartic events. The latter don’t come from nowhere. He surmised that the July 2005 London assassinations requires an examination of contemporary chaos in the Middle East, not least the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He is vilified for this attempt.

By contrast, Boniface could strongly criticize the incoming Chirac government after 1986 over its moves to re-integrate France into NATO and to re-start nuclear testing. He did so, and with no adverse impact on IRIS funding.

There are multiple tyrannies globally. One is permitted to analyze and criticize them, indeed in some cases (those of ‘our enemies’) one is feted. But for one country, the freedom of expression does not apply.

More, detractors regarding Israel and related matters should not be permitted to expound on anything else. They have to be shut down totally. When Boniface was invited to an outer Parisian suburban library in autumn 2014 to talk on ‘conflicts in the world’, the mayor, seeking election to a higher post and being warned off by the lobby, cancelled the event. Boniface notes that Ukraine would have been the top subject of conversation.

As a (Jewish) friend noted, in a supportive letter reproduced in the book, Boniface has been ruled offside even before the match has started.

Beyond Boniface as a specific instance, the implications are profound. Education, intelligence, learning is a dangerous no no. What is the point then of the whole edifice of scholarly and educational institutions. Catechisms are preferred. Yet the West rails against Islamist madrassas devoted to churning out fundamentalists and possible jihadis.

Boniface defers to the outburst by the mad dog falangist and Franco lieutenant José Millán Astray in response to the principled stance of Miguel de Unamuno at a meeting in October 1936: “¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte!” – ‘Death to intelligence! Long live death!’

The more do successive Israeli governments fail the morality smell test the greater the reliance on the ‘death to intelligence’ catchcry. It’s called the hasbara.

The pro-Israel lobby operates openly in France as a fifth column. One can criticize Putin, no worries (it is obligatory to do so); Netanyahu, no way.

Boniface’s status within the PS was always marginal, but his 2001 note was seen as a potential virus. The PS had to be immunized against the Boniface effect, and immunized it was.

From 2016, the latest pretender to the throne and his novice En Marche troops had to be brought into line, and the ambition was readily effected. En Marche candidates for the June 2017 Legislative elections were vetted by CRIF and LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’Antisémitisme) and suspect candidates weeded out. President Macron knows where his bread is buttered.

A note at the end: the Badinter speeches

Robert Badinter is a French elder statesman. A doctorate in law and barrister, he was for a decade an unstinting champion of the abolition of capital punishment in France. As Justice Minister under the Mitterand Presidency, he personally oversaw the implementation of his ambition in October 1981 (as well as other path-breaking progressive legislation). He was fiercely attacked for his role and, I am advised, suffered antisemitic slurs from certain quarters in the process. He has since long been active in human rights activism at a global level.

However, two speeches of Badinter’s constitute ‘Exhibit A’ for the ambiguity of the antisemitism label and rebuke.

In February 2015, Badinter spoke at a gathering in Lyon to commemorate the local roundup of Jews under the Vichy regime in February 1943.6 His father was in the roundup.

The pathos of the occasion is well captured in his words:

I have come many times in the past to Lyon to commemorate the roundup of Jews on February 9, 1943, in the rue Sainte-Catherine, a place that is still so charged with painful memories. I’ve come alone and I’ve come with members of my family. I’ve watched the ceremonies. But I myself have never chosen to speak. The children of those deported, who saw their loved ones vanish into the night of the death camps, were, so to speak, amputees. Life heals the wound, scars form. But there are times when the unspeakable pain returns, when there is nothing but an empty void. I dreaded that sense of emptiness and chose instead to come among you all, in an act of filial piety and faithfulness to memory. Today, however, the time has come to break my silence.

But then this:

There seemed good reason to believe that violent anti-Semitism had been drowned in the torrents of blood spilled in the Holocaust. It was a fool’s paradise, we know that now. … in the twenty-first century, a new breed of anti-Semitism sprang up, masquerading under the name of anti-Zionism, and fomented by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, two thousand miles away from France.

Then follows a listing of recent horrific crimes carried out in France – against Jews, as well as others. Badinter calls the perpetrators of these murders barbarians, as indeed they are.

There is an implicit guilt attributed to the anti-zionist camp, whereas I have no doubt that its members would concur in Badinter’s designation of barbarity. More, the statement ‘the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, two thousand miles away from France’ puts Israel and Palestine on another planet, where the happenings there can thus be of no consequence whatsoever with respect to mindsets and events in France.

Back in the space- and time-eradicating world of late modern media, it has been reported that the Kouachi brothers, the Charlie Hebdo murderers, ‘would sit in apartments watching footage of the US-led invasion [of Iraq in 2003]’, evidently part of their ‘re-education’.

The 2003 Iraq invasion had Israel’s interests at or near the top of the list – c/f New York Times, 27 February 2003, and (a recent insider disclosure) Mondoweiss, 7 February 2018. Remember the clique that engineered the invasion, personnel centred on the Project for New American Century and the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, notably Wolfowitz and Feith, and including Bolton, Libby, Abrams, Wurmser, Perle, Kristol and Kagan – with Rumsfeld and Cheney giving the putsch formal ‘legitimacy’.

One might not want to too readily draw conclusions from wisps of information. But if researchers want to pursue possible links and join dots, not least professionals whose job it is to do just that, one should not try to prevent such activity if it threatens conceived wisdom or decline to peer into the material to ascertain whether there might be a soupçon of plausibility to it.

Robert Badinter gave a formal presentation to a UNESCO round table devoted to ‘the prevention of antisemitism’ in December 2016.7 It is here confronted circuitously that what’s going on in Israel and Palestine has something to do with it, if only to generate unwarranted heinous reactions in unstable minds.

The Toulouse multiple murderer Mohammed Merah is referred to (unnamed) in both Badinter speeches as representative of depravity in his clinical murder of Jewish schoolchildren. Unquestionably. Yet, in spite of the two thousand miles distance, the deranged Merah (before his convenient death in a massive shootout) saw fit to refer to the killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli forces. The attribution of the ‘barbarity’ epithet is selective.

Is it not conceivable that what we have in the deranged Merah and others turned fanatic is a response to the decades-long carnage of Israel against Palestinians (the Gaza butchery exemplary), and of the ‘West’ under American tutelage against (secular) Arab regimes which countries just happened to be not subsumed within the Western-Israeli alliance?

Chalmers Johnson called it ‘blowback’.8 Johnson was a principled Conservative, with an impeccable establishment background. He had his several ‘road to Damascus’ moments. Alas, he is dead, and his significant scholarship and insights have been almost immediately consigned to the margin.

Badinter claims ‘I am not going to discuss the legitimacy of the rights of the various parties here, nor the best solution to end this conflict’. However his preceding paragraphs imply indubitably that legitimacy is entirely with the state of Israel (qua Jewish state). Badinter’s short statement on the origins of the state of Israel are a shocking, if conventional, caricature.

A speech to a UNESCO gathering is no place for the battles over history, but it is also no place for fairy tales. Out of which comes, in noir et blanc:

What is certain is that in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, anti-Semitism has once again spread widely under the name of anti-Zionism. We must have the lucidity to recognize that under this label that refers to Zionism, it is indeed the Jews, and Jews everywhere, who are targeted. And I would say that anti-Zionism under the surface is nothing but the contemporary expression of anti-Semitism, namely, hatred of the Jews.

This statement is wrong, unacceptable, and inexplicably misplaced from a man of Badinter’s personal and professional experience.

To maintain the dignity of any commemoration of Jewish victimization – of the Holocaust or the roundup under Vichy or of crimes against individuals – it would seem essential that Israel (and the antisemitism accusations derived therefrom) be absent from the narrative.

I would surmise that a significant percentage of anti-zionists are themselves Jewish, possibly even the majority – certainly amongst the activist core. Simply, they don’t want their personal integrity compromised by this criminal rogue state and its vast support and disinformation propaganda network.

Behind ersatz antisemitism is the claim that questioning Israel’s unsavoury behavior involves ‘the Jews, and Jews everywhere, who are targeted’. It is a lie. Rather, the incorporation of ‘Jews everywhere’ with the imperatives of the state of Israel, and thus collective responsibility for its crimes, is the responsibility of the Israel lobby. Thus is the security (and integrity) of Jewish communities everywhere, and each individual, endangered.

Real antisemitism has been instrumentalized by the ersatz antisemitism bandwagon. The state of Israel is the beneficiary. The Palestinians remain the immediate victims. International Jewish communities also become victims – victims of their unsolicited inclusion in Israel’s criminality and its instutionalized protectorate hiding behind the ersatz antisemitism canard.

Pascal Boniface and others of his ilk are scapegoats in this ongoing travesty.

  1. Neve Gordon, ‘The New “Anti-Semitism”’, London Review of Books, 4 January 2018. []
  2. Union Juive Française pour la Paix, ‘An Intolerable Europeanization of ‘Antisemitism’ Blackmail’, Counterpunch, 7 June 2017. []
  3. Stephen Sedley, Letter in response to Gordon, London Review of Books, 8 February 2018. []
  4. The note is also reproduced in Boniface’s 2014 La France malade du conflit israélo-palestinien, Éditions Salvator, February 2014. I outline the contents and the context of La France malade in ‘The Israel Lobby and French Politics’, Counterpunch, 9 July 2014. []
  5. In the French, communautaire and communautarisme, which have negative connotations. It would be misleading to use the close English equivalent, so ‘sectarian’ and ‘sectarianism’ is chosen here. []
  6. Robert Badinter, ‘France: The Return of Anti-Semitism’, New York Review of Books, 13 August 2015. []
  7. Robert Badinter, ‘Antisémitisme: tirer les enseignements de l’histoire’, UNESCO, 6 December 2016, reproduced to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January. The speech in English, ‘Anti-Semitism: Learning the lessons of history’, is reproduced here. []
  8. Chalmers Johnson,  Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, Time Warner, 2000, 2002. []
Evan Jones is a francophile and retired political economist at University of Sydney. Read other articles by Evan.