Sunday, 17 August 2014

Gaza and French anti-Semitism

The recent bombardment of Gaza has thrown up many reactions, in many countries.  In France, protest is always framed by multiple, sometimes overlapping, histories: those of the French Jewish community and its post-Revolutionary assimilation, of French anti-Semitism with its landmarks in the Dreyfus affair and in the disgraceful moment of the Vichy regime in the 1940s, and then the history of French involvement in the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire, the Sykes-Picot agreement, the bloody and traumatic Algerian war of independence, and the arrival of the pieds noirs in France, and subsequent to that the growth of the French Maghrebi population - both Arab and Jewish.   France was an early ally of Israel, being its chief armourer up to the Six Day War, and the state which sold Israel nuclear technology in the 1950s.  After 1967, France's policy stances vis-a-vis the Middle East varied more, and were more likely to be Israel-critical.

These contexts make for the particular nature of French public discussion of Israel, which is at times fraught.  The philosopher Alain Badiou, already mentioned on this blog in the context of commentary on the Ukraine crisis, has long articulated both his support of the Palestinian cause and his critique of anti-Semitism.  Recent events have embroiled him in fresh controversy.  Here is a chain of articles giving a sense of this debate, mostly taken from the Verso website:

Alain Badiou's "anti-Semitism": Badiou, Segré, and Winter respond to the current accusations in France




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