A turning point in European public opinion


A counter petition to JCall’s ‘Call for reason’ shows there is a component of Europeans that challenge the discourse of delegitimizing Israel.

JCall’s “Call for Reason” several months ago became the opportunity for 11,200 petitioners in Europe, but also the United States and Israel, to advocate a different perspective on the Middle East conflict and Israeli policies. The “Be Reasonable” statement we launched independently, with no institutional support, reveals the existence of a broad-based, profound movement in Jewish and non-Jewish public opinion, which runs completely counter to prevailing media discourse in Europe and even to purportedly representative Jewish institutions. As usual, the French media put a total blackout on what has been the most significant phenomenon emerging from JCall’s declaration, after have lavished attention on the latter, even though it barely managed to collect 7,000 signatures, and this despite heavy publicity and powerful connections in opinion-making circles, including in Israel.

What motivated such a strong opposition to this petition? Firstly, the peremptory nature of its claim to hold a monopoly on reason, morality and honor and cast anyone who thinks otherwise into the shadows of obscurantism. But a look at the socio-professional composition of our declaration’s signatories shows the opposite: 165 university professors, 56 research professors, 496 teachers, 387 engineers, 69 writers, 126 jurists and lawyers, 539 doctors, 91 journalists, 639 CEOs, 30 rabbis, 18 priests and pastors, etc. This proves that there is a sizeable component of the middle and upper classes that challenges the prevailing discourse of delegitimizing Israel’s existence.

It rejects the selective criticism of Israel, at a time when the Palestinian Authority, and not only the Hamas, continues to demonstrate, in multiple ways, its fundamental and structural warmongering. The examples of Oslo leading to a wave of terrorism, and of the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza opening the way to the Hizbullah and the Hamas are extremely telling. It was as if history had stopped 30 years ago for Peace Now and now for JCall.

There is something pathetic about seeing political blindness masquerading as moral grandiloquence. It merely exacerbates the isolation of Israel and the Jewish people, in the midst of an hypocrisy of international proportion. JCall prepared the way for the unanimous, and hence suspect, moral condemnation of Israel after the flotilla incident.

This was its immediate result. It’s not by submitting to its verdict that we will find a solution.

On the contrary, we must fight it at the root by reasserting the legitimacy of the Jewish people and restoring the Jewish historical narrative to counter the claims of its detractors, which have no scientific basis in reality. Israel is not guilty of existing. It does not carry the weight of an “original sin.”

IN JCALL’S mindset, there’s a whole psychological continent that draws on an ethics of self-sacrifice (or rather sacrifice of others) in order to beg the ideologists of our time for recognition.

This mentality diametrically opposes a fundamental principle of Zionism that alone has survived its ideological and moral crisis (since post-Zionism is a product of Israeli society): the idea of sovereignty.

By calling for a solution to be “imposed” upon Israel by governments whose pro-Palestinian stance is manifest, JCall denies this sovereignty, in the same appalling way, unique in history, that the Geneva Conference did in 1973. It proposes to place Israel under international supervision.

But it so happens that Israel’s sovereignty is democratic. And democracy is not a value to be brandished narcissistically to produce an effect. It is a procedure that must be respected, even when the results do not satisfy us personally.

Here too, there’s something offensive about JCall’s method. What does it mean to base a moral judgement on an ethnic origin when they express themselves “as Jews”? Or to pretend to address Israel and Jews while actually presenting their case to Europeans, and even to the European Parliament? This comes down to seeking the help of non- Jews to impose a minority opinion on the majority of Jews.

Our statement marks a turning point in public opinion and a refusal to see our voice and our identity monopolized by a party. It is a matter of adopting not a logic “defensive” of Israel but a much broader political and ideological stance, in direct relationship to where we are. Israel has become the screen onto which Europe projects all of its problems and its failure to face up to the challenges at hand, and so the question concerns Europeans as much if not more than Jews. This is why our declaration has garnered support from Jews and non-Jews alike. The time for reserves, despondency and resignation is over.

The writer, a professor at Paris University, is head of the Alliance Israélite Universelle College of Jewish Studies and editor of the journals Pardès and Controverses. He is the author of 18 books. http://www.shmuel-trigano.fr

August 11, 2010 | 2 Comments »

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  1. I love it when optimists holding an empty glass see it as half full. Self delusion works both sides of the aisle.