Alain Gresh : “This is the first time a president assimilates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism”.
The author of the comic book ” Un chant d’amour, Israël-Palestine, une histoire française” is telling us more about his book and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Alain Gresh – director of the online journal OrientXXI and a specialist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict- just released his comic book “Un chant d’amour, Israël-Palestine, une histoire française”. The La Découverte editions comic book is illustrated by Hélène Aldeguer. In this interview, Alain Gresh talks about his book, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the arrival of Netanyahu in Paris for the commemoration of Vél ‘d’Hiv’.
LeMuslimPost : Reading your book, we get the impression that the comic book gives a glimpse of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and finally, we learn a lot … Why did you choose this format?
Alain Gresh : Even though it is a comic book, a lot of work has been done. We chose this format upon meeting our illustrator Hélène Aldeguer, and of course because of my consistent interest in comic books. We attempted to reach a different audience -who wouldn’t necessarily read a book on Israeli-Palestinian conflict- and to make sure that those aware of the conflict would end up learning something. We tried to find original anecdotes. The comic book allows us to treat the story differently from a classic book. For instance the front page of France Soir in the morning of June 5, 1967 announced the attack of Israel by Egypt or even the encounter between Serge Gainsbourg and the the Israeli Ambassador who requested a song in June 5, 1967. These are a quite startling and visually-speaking events.
“ We do not hold any influence over Israelis”
We often criticize French people for bringing the Israeli-Palestinian matter to France. But in your comic book, like we can see in the title, it has always been a part of the “French History”, since General De Gaulle…
It became a recurrent debate in France since 1967, when De Gaulle convicted the Israeli war as he couldn’t forgive Israel for attacking first. Fifty years later, it remained a sensitive subject. In 1967, De Gaulle took a position against the Israeli war, which he considered as a war of aggression. Thus, contradicting the direction of the political class (except for communists), the massive pro-Israeli media and a big part of the public opinion. It is De Gaulle’s position, that determined the French policy for the thirty of forty years that followed. All of those who succeeded him -including highly criticized people like, Giscard d’Estaing who was considered a pro-Israelis- have followed the same path.. But for a decade now and particularly with Sarkozy and Hollande, we have been noticing a turning point in the French position. Not on principles, because France has always pushed for a two-state solution instead of colonization. Still, we have developed bilateral relations with Israel without considering what this country is doing to Palestinians. We have also witnessed the rise of a speech that follows the Israeli one, concerning “the war against terrorism”, and the fact of assimilating anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism. The reception of Netanyahu by Macron went a little too far: It is the first time, a French president does such an assimilation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. We have crossed a worrying stage. Since Sarkozy’s tenure, French politics focused on maintaining a close relation with Israelis to influence them. However, we do not have any influence over their politics.
“The amalgam between Jews and Israel is dangerous”
This amalgam between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism was actually developed during a speech held by Manuel Valls during the CRIF dinner, when he was the Prime Minister of François Hollande …
Yes. Holland has addressed this amalgam when he was a presidential candidate, but not as a president. But for Macron, it could be dangerous: the Vél d’hiv is an affair that concerns France. By inviting Nitanyahou, there is the idea that Israel represents the French Jews. In the comic book there is an encounter between Giscard d’Estaing et Yitzhak Shamir, in which the first Israeli prime minister stated the following about the Jews of France: “We have met our community”, to which Giscard answered “No, it is our community.” It is important because there is this dangerous amalgam between Jews and Israel, that resulted from the CRIF’s unconditional support for Israel.
France organized in January 2017, a summit for peace. Did it attain its purpose ?
I don’t think it did much. In 1967, or in 1980, when France recognized the PLO and the Palestinian right to self determination, it did not mean much in the international scene. But, there is a certain willingness to have a real independent policy and to believe in the role that we can play without following the Americans. However, it is France who will present the idea that there is no solution without PLO, and without the self-determination of Palestinians. Nowadays, we are pretending to keep the same positions: we are pushing for a two-state solution, but in fact we are not doing much to make it happen. We have a so-called balanced position, but it is almost more perverse: we put the occupant and the occupied in the same basket. We ask the occupied to negotiate with Israel without conditions which is absurd !
“Unofficial channels have opened up between Saudi Arabia and Israel”
We have seen candidates, like Benoît Hamon, commit to Palestine during their presidential campaigns. Is it crucial for a French politician to have a clear position on Palestine?
It is not crucial, no one votes based on the position of politician in regards of Palestine. For instance, they say Muslims have massively voted for Hollande in 2012. Have they been attached to the palestinian case, they would’ve never voted for him. Obviously, it is a question that matters, but to a certain degree. There is no sufficient pressure on deputies to consider this matter.
Through the ongoing diplomatic crisis between several Gulf countries and Qatar, we have seen Saudi Arabia coming even closer to Israel. Are we heading towards a normalisation of their diplomatic relations?
There is a particular alignment of the official channels between a number of Gulf countries, namely Saudi Arabia and Israel. I have a feeling that is not going so far. The public opinion in Saudi Arabia makes it difficult to have a normalization with Israel with no internal consequences.