Finkielkraut om den nye antisemittismen
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THE COMING ANTI-SEMITISM
An interview with Alain Finkielkraut in Le Figaro. Translated by C.Bloggerfeller.
LF: In In the Name of the Other, you are worried about the development of a form of anti-semitism under the banner of progressivism. What’s happening in Europe?
AF: After a brief parenthesis, the grands simplificateurs are back. Since the fall of communism, we’ve been witnessing the stupefying restalinization of part of the intelligentsia and the movement of the socially-concerned. No longer having any adversary to measure up to it, America appears all-powerful. And this image of American omnipotence has breathed new life into the pernicious idea that politics can do everything: all the world’s misfortunes are perceived as crimes; the objective universe seems to be made up of subjective wills, those which resist evil and those which foment it. This is why the idea of conspiracy has once more seized hold of the feeble-minded, and whoever talks about conspiracy soon or later ends up talking about the Elders of Zion.
Has the anti-totalitarian era passed?
One might have hoped we could have left the twentieth century with a different idea of politics than the Robespierrist conception of the struggle between humanity and its enemies. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall however, this idea has been making a paradoxical comeback. And it’s the tragic character of politics which has become obscured once again. Anti-Americanism is no less violent than it was in the 1950s. When America is a victim, as on September 11, it’s because it is a hyperpower. The one original feature of our time: adding Israel to the camp of absolute evil. Thus, during the movement against the war in Iraq, a new demonic entity was invented: Busharon.
After the attacks on the UN headquarters in Baghdad and in Najaf, there is renewed talk of Washington becoming «bogged down» in the sands of Mesopotamia. What do you think?
As Pierre Hassner has shown, America, since September 11, feels both vulnerable and invincible. This is a worrying cocktail and I suspect, with many others, that the White House is conducting world affairs in a state of intoxication. But it is loathsome to rub your hands together when things turn out badly, as if Islamist terrorism were not our common enemy, and it is idiotic to claim that America has the same policies now as it did during the Cold War.
In the name of the fight against terrorism, aren’t the United States authorizing infringements to international law and don’t they think they are the «States of exception» as they did during the Cold War?
When confronted with the Soviet Union, the Americans could back corrupt regimes, even install dictatorships, without any scruples. I’m part of a generation which came to politics between the war in Vietnam and the overthrow of Allende by Pinochet and the CIA. People would like to pretend that contemporary America was exactly the same as the America back then. But open your eyes: Milosevic, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein. Now the Americans are overthrowing dictatorships. And its this mission which is dangerously intoxicating them. Once they were too realistic, perhaps they are not Kissingerian enough today. A realist on their behalf, Hubert Vedrine was right to say that you don’t bomb democracy into being. But Europe is completely wrong to believe that a multipolar world could perform the duty of a global democracy by itself.
Can we seriously see a return of the rhetoric of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion amongst people who describe Israel’s defenders as a «gang» and the «French Zionist Star Academy»?
That expression of Eric Hazan’s, the editor of The Holocaust Industry, would have caused a scandal had it been said by Le Pen. Eric Hazan is anti-racist. And it’s no longer their belonging to a race that the Jews have to answer for, it’s their alleged racism.
So has anti-racism become the fodder of the new anti-Semitism?
The racist period of anti-Semitism is over, and hatred of Jews is expressed solely in the language of anti-racism. Example: the wall. The Israelis, as we know, have decided to build a security fence along the «green line». The Israeli left was behind this initiative, aiming to reinforce Israel’s security. The right reluctantly accepted a solution which implied the renunciation of Greater Israel. The Sharon government traced out the wall, snipping off a few kilometres of Palestinian territory. This decision was eminently worthy of criticism: it cut off, for example, the Palestinian town of Kalkilya. But the discussion which is raging today doesn’t express this sort of legitimate criticism. It denounces the measure as «apartheid». Etienne Balibar and Henri Korn explain, in Le Monde, that the wall divides the region between a «population of inmates» and a «population of prison camp guards».
What motivates the supporters of the wall of separation?
It’s not racial ideology as in the case of apartheid, it’s fear of Palestinian terrorism. To interpret the Israeli-Palestinian situation through the lens of anti-racism, is to condemn yourself to understanding nothing, and moreover to dragging in the most absolute hatred: the racist is the enemy of humanity. If Israel is a race of camp guards, how can we not celebrate when an Israeli is killed? Isn’t it one less Mengele? And nothing stops this hatred: the Jews of France who support a race of camp guards are complicit in the worst of crimes. This is the way they stick a swastika on the chests of those on whom they used to stick a yellow star. An animosity is displayed which becomes impossible to reason with and very hard to combat, because, in order to nazify the Jews, it makes use of the very memory of what happened to them.
More than just being a «French affair», aren’t Israel and the new anti-semitism a question posed to Europe?
The Europeans have more and more trouble understanding Israel. Let’s be clear: for me, understanding Israel doesn’t mean excusing everything its government or army does. I’m not asking for impunity for Israelis, I simply want to tear the conflict away from the grip of anti-racism and give it back to its own truth again. But Europe has inherited a very great distrust of nationalism from the dark times of the twentieth century. It has become post-national: it thinks the dissolution of nations in a general mixing together is the best response to the racist madness which devastated it between 1939 and 1945.
It’s a justifiable response to the disaster…
Nobody may plead for a return to former innocence. But ideology is getting the upper hand. By ideology I mean the logic of a single idea and, in this case, the reduction of the history of mankind to this edifying alternative: tolerance or stigmatization. In anti-racism everything comes down to exclusion just as in Marxism everything came down to exploitation.
Aren’t you exaggerating a little?
During the recent world athletics championships, a 42-year old Jamaican athlete was forced to compete under different colours, because she was not fast enough to represent her own country. She was described as «the future Slovene Marle Ottey». No more natives, no more foreigners – home countries themselves are aligning along the model of Real Madrid. The Jews are a less and less intelligible exception to the movement of history.
Attached to Israel, do they seem a historical people, marked by an immemorial narrative and Biblical sites?
The Jews are a people who, in the era of «future Slovenes», want to continue to be a people. Certainly, there are Jews of all races and colours, but, as Jews on the mother’s side, they perpetuate the tradition of blood rights in the era of rights to land. As the time we live in is incapable of thinking of the world in any other terms but those of anti-racism, this ethnic perseverance and, with it, the idea of a Jewish state tend to appear not only exotic, but unacceptable.
If an extreme Left is becoming «negationist» [i.e. denying the Holocaust], as you imply in your hypothesis, is it because of this ideological anti-racism? Or by taking up philosophies of history once more, is it espousing ways of thought which «deny» (in Francois Furet’s words) the Jewish experience?
It is not the instutional left we are dealing with here but the so-called «Left of the Left» and its increasing grip on the spirit of the age. Back in 1968, leftists were reading Marx, Trotsky or Lenin. In our day, everyone is invited to read Noam Chomsky. I thought this intellectual had been discredited by his preface to Faurisson [a French academic Holocaust denier] and by his ardent denial of the Cambodian genocide. I was wrong. The most prestigious publishers are fighting over the rights to the political works of a man who condemns to non-existence every crime or atrocity for which the American-Zionist entity cannot be held responsible.
To what extent does a «new Islamophobia» exist in France?
When a Frenchman is found guilty of an act of anti-Semitism, no one, except the supporters of the extreme Right, would accuse his denouncers of «anti-French racism». When you remark that hatred of Jews is widespread in the Arab-Muslim world, you are accused of stigmatizing Islam. The horror of our era is denegation. The emperor is never naked: there are always sociologists there to dress him up again and reports, like those of MRAP [French anti-racist organisation], on anti-Arab racism to disqualify me by claiming I gave my support to Oriana Fallaci’s book, Rage and Pride.
The MRAP report spoke of one of your articles on Fallaci’s book as an «anti-Arab diatribe»…
In that article I said that to the extent she wrote with too broad a brush, she yielded to generalisation and she let herself box in those she called «Allah’s children» in their own evil essence; in an article in Le Monde which published several reactions to the MRAP report I clarified things in the following way: «Oriana Fallaci is right to say that the violence of the Islamists should not be imputed to the poverty caused by the West, because this violence proceeds from a state of civilisation, but where she is seriously and inexcusably wrong is when she turns this state of civilisation into a destiny and she shuts up individuals with a double lock. Normal democratic life is the vocation of Arab and Muslim countries.» But it was in vain that I spelled out in black and white that Oriana Fallaci was succumbing to the temptation of racism, MRAP didn’t want to hear, because today there are two sorts of anti-Semitism: the old French anti-Semitism which we have the duty to mobilise against and the anti-semitism which comes from the excluded or the potential victims of racism. The latter must be put in doubt, minimised and those who speak about it must be discredited by any means possible because it has no place in the great new ideological narrative of a humanity marching towards mutual recognition and equality.