May 2, Paris
What follows is the kernel, the beginning, or the false start of an article that will be developed in the coming days. But I wanted it to exist right now in its imperfect state. The creation of a JStreet look alike in Europe might be a ho-hum ripple in a long saga, but it comes as a last straw at a time when the noose is tightening around our necks. This JCall, one more frivolous example of how much we love Israel but just give the Palestinians what they want, whatever they want, is going to be presented to the EU Parliament on May 3rd and meanwhile back at the UN, Ahmadinejad will present his plan for nuclear disarmament… of Israel. With the blessings of Barack Hussein Obama. The JCall Appeal, at a time like this, is so infuriating, that it immediately provoked a vigorous response here in France. A genuine intellectual debate is underway, and I take it upon myself to report it with the fullness it deserves. We are good at this kind of debate in France.
The debate goes to the heart of a conflict that has been brewing in our societies, communities, and families in the first decade of the 21st century. I cannot approach it with any pretense to distance and objectivity. It is the dilemma that occupies my thoughts from morning to night. How do I reconcile my respect for freedom of thought and expression with my conviction that this kind of thinking—call it leftist, progressive, peace nowish—is so harmful that I must combat it? In a fair fight! That’s what I’ll try to explain.
JCall: the European echo to JStreet / Part 1
Let me begin with a prediction before I even explain the tune that JCall is calling: it won’t get anywhere. It’s no JStreet because it has no Obama in the wings, no AIPAC to snipe at, no Soros or Saudi money, and because European Jews are too close to the bone to heed this call.
Friday, April 30, Strasbourg. David Pariente, age 41 and wearing a kippa, was brutally attacked in the center of town at 12:30 in the afternoon as he got off the tramway in a square aptly named “l’Homme de Fer” [Iron man]. A vivid account of the incident by Maylis a 16 year-old lycée student is reported in the local paper--Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace: The victim was attacked by “ …two men in djellaba. One hit him in the back with an iron bar and knocked him down. Then he gave him a terrible kick in the face. I saw his head flung back.” Maylis called for an ambulance, the assailants ran off. One was caught shortly afterward, the other was arrested at his home where police found the iron bar—actually part of a weight lifting apparatus--and the knife. One of the aggressors is allegedly deranged. He said he attacked a Jew because a Jewish doctor sent him to a mental hospital.
JCall will solemnly present its “Call to Reason” to the European Parliament in Brussels on May 3rd. The Belgian government has fallen apart, the small French-Flemish nation is on the verge of splitting, and the population of Brussels is 1/3rd Muslim. What could be a more reasonable venue? EU parliamentarians flustered by the Greek economic tragedy might find it relaxing to lend an ear to reasonable European Jews who know on what side their peace is buttered. The two state solution by jove! If it works for Israel-Palestine it might work for Belgium. If those intelligent European Jews can impose law and order on their unruly Israeli brethren maybe they know how to get the enraged Greek populace off the streets and back to work.
What then is the reasonable call to be soon heard ‘round the world?
[A full English version of the Appeal is posted at www.jcall.eu
The JCallers, speaking as pro-Israel Jewish citizens of Europe, fully aware that Israel is in danger from outside enemies, believe it is also endangered by “the occupation and the uninterrupted pursuit of settlements in the West Bank and in the Arab quarters of East Jerusalem.” Occupation and settlements, they declare, are “a political mistake and a moral transgression.”
The four-point program of the Appeal can be summarized as follows:
1. Israel’s future depends on the two-state solution. The alternative would be a single state with a Jewish minority or a dishonorable regime that will lead to civil war.
2. The EU and the US should put pressure on both parties for a rapid reasonable settlement.
3. The final decision is up to the sovereign state of Israel but Diaspora Jews demand they make the right decision. “Systematic alignment [of Diaspora Jews] with the policy of the Israeli government is dangerous because it is against Israel’s true interests.
4. We want to create a European movement that will be able to make the voice of reason heard by everyone. Our ambition is to work for the survival of Israel, which depends on the creation of a “viable sovereign Palestinian state.”
To date the Appeal to Reason has garnered 3361 signatures.
Authorities have moved quickly on the Strasbourg incident. An Algerian, age 38, who unashamedly declares that the Jews are the cause of all that’s wrong with the world, has been charged with attempted murder aggravated by anti-Semitism and incarcerated. The man who accompanied him but did not participate in the attack was released.
Much remains to be learned about the genesis of JCall, its connection with JStreet, the EU, and other groups, parties, and backers. It was reportedly hatched in the Centre Communitaire Juif Laïque [Secular Jewish Community Center] in Brussels, under the guidance of Elie Barnavi, historian, and former Israeli ambassador to France. Teasingly called the “playboy intellectual,” Barnavi is the kind of Israeli French leftists love to appreciate. He is joined in the Appeal by star philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy and Euro-greenie Daniel Cohn-Bendit, hero of the 1968 Revolution, who dug deep in his pockets and found his Jewish credentials for the sake of Reason. But the most surprising signature is that of Alain Finkielkraut, the brilliant philosopher and writer who, in the first five years after the outbreak of the “Al Aqsa Intifada,” was cherished by the Jewish community for his perceptive, articulate, profound analysis of the situation. Like a secular rabbi, he spoke from his conscience to ours.
At the first notes of JCall two esteemed Jewish intellectuals—Raphaël Draï and Shmuel Trigano—swiftly drafted a response, “Raison Garder / Be Reasonable.” [Posted in both English and French versions at www.dialexis.org
] To date their petition has garnered 4027 signatures, 666 more than JCall. The JCallers who blithely criticize Israel are terribly offended by criticism of their movement. This is understandable. If your manifesto is a heartfelt expression of an opinion you are not surprised when others opinion back at you. But JCall is presented as Reason with a capital R. There can’t be another reason more reasonable.
“Be Reasonable” is far more precise, detailed, and forthright than the JCall Appeal. It seems as if JCall deliberately attempted to hide its game behind vague evasive excessively bare statements. When those who have signed the Appeal speak out to defend it, they are far more loquacious and harsh.
Dialexis, the non-sectarian organization hat launched “Be Reasonable,” rejects the pretentions of intellectuals and personalities who use a Jewish label as proof of objectivity. Their Appeal is the opposite neither democratic, moral, nor an expression of Diaspora solidarity with Israel.
[to be continued]