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We cannot let France silence its humanist Jews

Jewish anti-occupation activist Olivia Zemor faces a lawsuit from a pro-Israel group after calling for celebrities to boycott Israel. Here’s why I’m going to France to testify on her behalf. 

By Udi Aloni

Women activisits hold up signs during an action that attempts to dismantle a barbed wire part of the gate of the Seperation Wall in Bil'in, as part of the weekly protest against the Separation Wall and the occupation, West Bank, August 14, 2009. Hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli, and international activists, responded to the Popular Committee's call to resist to participate in the action. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian and French activists hold up signs during a demonstration against the Sseperation wall in Bil’in, West Bank, August 14, 2009.  (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

This week I am traveling to Paris to serve as an expert witness in court. In an unprecedented move, the French government has allied with a right-wing, pro-Israeli group to file a SLAPP lawsuit against the nonviolent struggle for justice in Palestine, and specifically against Olivia Zemor, a Jewish activist from the left-wing NGO Europalestine.

The story began seven years ago when French activist and chairwoman of Europalestine, Olivia Zemor, called on French singer Vanessa Paradis and actor Johnny Depp not to perform in Israel. Now, a pro-Israel right-wing lobby is trying to censor, intimidate, and silence Ms. Zemor by burdening her with the cost of a legal defense, until her group abandons its call for justice for Palestine. The prosecution accuses Zemor of hate speech and racism. The most absurd part is that Zemor herself is of Jewish origins.

I am going to testify as an Israeli Jew, and as an advisory board member of Jewish Voice for Peace, for two reasons. The first and most obvious one is to defend the basic right of the Palestinian people to nonviolent struggle against Israel’s apartheid, occupation, and illegal settlement project. The second reason is the necessity of making a tikkun (repair) from within the depths of Jewish culture itself. I am going to France to fight the frightening and bizarre new wave of anti-Semitism in Europe — an anti-Semitism that is depriving diaspora Jews of their right to struggle against the apartheid practices of the Israeli state. I am going to defend the idea that Jews can have diverse, independent points of view.

Seventy-four years after the fall of the Vichy regime, the French government is choosing to declare war on the right of Jews to live out their faith, the right to believe that to be Jewish is to be human — in the spirit of Primo Levi’s writings — not in the colonialist spirit of the State of Israel in 2018.

I am traveling to Paris to make a last stand for my right to be the decent Jew I learned to be in my mother and grandmother’s home. Will Israel succeed — as other oppressive regimes have— in silencing opposition in the diaspora? Is Israel functioning as a kind of colonialism-by-proxy on behalf of Europe and America?

These questions might be answered by the verdict in Paris, yet even acquitting Zemor will not be enough. The court must exact a heavy fine on those who are manipulating the justice system into a tool that is anti-Jewish, anti-Palestinian, anti-French, and anti-human.

Following the Holocaust, it was natural for Jews around the world to be the at the forefront of human and civil rights struggles, standing side by side with Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and others. The Jewish people gave birth to some of the greatest humanist thinkers of the 20th century, such as Primo Levi, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, and even my mother, Member of Knesset Shulamit Aloni, to name a few. Unfortunately, the Israeli state has chosen the opposite of the humanist Jewish spirit; instead of adopting the spirit of the prophets, it has adopted the spirit of the occupation.

The Bible says: “love the other; for you were others in the land of Egypt.” As a Jew, I will maintain my particularity and identity only in relation to this mitzvah (deed), and only in full realization of the values of libertéégalité, et fraternité. Because we were all made in God’s image.

My love for Palestine and my love for Israel are one and the same. As long as one people is not free, the other does not deserve liberty. I am part of a minority among the Jewish people, as the resistance was a minority of French citizens at the time of Vichy rule. We are the resistance among the Jewish people, and we are fighting for our future and for the future of Jewish morality. The French government should not only respect our right to do so, it also has the obligation to help us in our task — not just for Palestinians, not just for Israeli Jews, but for all humans.

Udi Aloni is an Israeli American filmmaker, writer, artist and activist whose works focus on the interrelationships between art, theory, and action. His last film Junction 48 won the Tribeca film festival and the Berlinale Audience award among many others. His book What Does a Jew Want? was published In Columbia University Press.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Jan

      Thank you Udi Aloni for standing up for the principles that you and I learned in our Jewish homes. My parents and grandparents would be horrified to see the massive injustices that Israel has heaped on the Palestinians.
      Opposing what Israel is doing is not anti-semitic. It upholds the highest standards of Judaism.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Tony Riley

      Hamasshole

      Reply to Comment
    3. Michael

      arabs OCCUPY Israel, arabs invades these terrains so this is occupation.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      There is a king of anti-Jewish “apartheid” in Israel. The Arab towns do not have to pay their water bills and the Jewish towns must pay. On the other hand, there are not the same requirements during the psychometric examinations (before entering in the university). For the Jews a rate of 750 is required and for the Arabs 600 only. Why ? Double standards..
      Concerning this Zemor, the most part of the French Jewish community consider her as a traitor.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “the most part of the French Jewish community consider her as a traitor”

        I. G. Halevy extends his astonishing streak and again breaks his own world record for intellectual own goals, proving the author’s point:

        “I am going to France to fight the frightening and bizarre new wave of anti-Semitism in Europe — an anti-Semitism that is depriving diaspora Jews of their right to struggle against the apartheid practices of the Israeli state. I am going to defend the idea that Jews can have diverse, independent points of view.”

        Reply to Comment
    5. BOAZ

      Olivia Zemor ?

      NON-violent struggle ? ?

      For Justice in Palestine ???

      Describing Mrs Zemor as the guru of a Trotskyite cult would be more appropriate.

      Her CAPJPO organization condoned the siege by Palestinian activists of the Hashomer Hatzair Paris local on rue Saint Claude while children had a peula there , back in 2002;

      In 2004, she stood for the European elections on a Europalestine list where she had embarked the notorious Dieudonné , stand up artist turned antisemite (this is not a libel, Dieudonné has been sentenced several times by French courts for antisemitic slurs);

      Her appeal to Vanessa Paradis not to perform in Israel came with the threat that Paradis’ shows in France would be disrupted if she only dared to disregard that appeal….

      Some pacifist, you bet…..

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        It always amazes me, the self-righteous indignation at the “violence” of non-violently disrupting a Vanessa Paradis show in Paris, invariably juxtaposed in the same person with a blithe nonchalance about the savage violence visited on the Palestinians day in day out, night in night out, by the Israeli army and the settlers. Just amazing.

        Reply to Comment
        • BOAZ

          Ben, you know nothing about me. Don’t pass jugements… Or get lost.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Sorry Boaz, I know what you said and didn’t say. But look, you’re offended. You feel violated. Excuse me for my terrible presumptuousness. A sensitive Israeli is offended. This is serious. A crime has been committed. We musn’t be violent. How dare I visit such violence on a sensitive person. Or pass judgment, heaven forbid. Because Israelis never do that when they lock up Palestinians indefintely in administrative detention without the slightest due process. And they always try to know something about the Palestinian persons. They care. So they’re sensitive when people feel violated. So I’ll amend my violent, violating statement to say:

            It always amazes me, the self-righteous indignation at the “violence” of non-violently disrupting a Vanessa Paradis show in Paris, usually juxtaposed in the same person with a blithe nonchalance about the savage violence visited on the Palestinians day in day out, night in night out, by the Israeli army and the settlers, but sometimes just juxtaposed to indifferent silence about the savage violence visited on the Palestinians day in day out, night in night out, by the Israeli army and the settlers.

            I stand corrected. Please forgive my violence.

            P.S.: Israelis really should think twice about calling others cult participants. It is too much throwing stones in a glass house.

            Reply to Comment
          • BOAZ

            Still riding on your high moral horses, eh ?
            You have no clue about what I think about the occupation, violence, oppression of another people … do you feel more comfortable, now ?

            But I am sick and tired of people like you who keep spouting hate based on a one-sided analysis and aggravate the issues .

            And BTW, i presume you are not French-speaking ? I am, and a “fellow citizen ” of Ms Zemor. Rest assured that her Europalestine-CAPJPO website reeks of hatred.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            I’ve been reading the Europalestine website for years, the only hatred there is for injustice, occupation and ethnic cleansing.
            Vous racontez n’importe quoi en pensant que personne ici connait le site, ya himar !

            Reply to Comment
          • BOAZ

            You are not only lying, you are losing your nerves. Did I add “koss hemek” to my message ?
            Suffice to mention that Élie Semoun had parted ways from Dieudonne back in 1998 and that another associate of the Europalestine list for the European elections was Alain Soral.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            Nope, you’re lying, Alain Soral was not an “associate” during the 2004 elections, you’re just pulling stuff out your a** ! It’s not because someone says he supports an organization than the organization is accountable, Europalestine has no link whatsoever to Alain Soral, vous tentez juste de les salir !
            PS. No such thing as “koss hemek”, connard !

            Reply to Comment
          • BOAZ

            Just what I said….you are losing your nerves.

            You are unfit for rational debate.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            Telling people they lose their nerves is mostly when one’s got no argument. We can thus conclude that Europalestine has parted from Dieudonné when his antisemitism became known and that they have no association with Alain Soral.
            #Hasbara101

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Boaz: From the horse I rode in on, your chief characteristic that I can discern is cageyness. (Réticent/rusé? Sans parler de hostilité.) Cageyness about what you think about the occupation, violence, and oppression; cageyness about what happens in Israeli-occupied territory; cageyness about what happens in France and who said precisely what in French and when and what for, cageyness about inside information you supposedly possess, cageyness about guilt by association. Though Baladi Akka seems to have penetrated this state of affairs nicely.

            “people like you who keep spouting hate”

            This is simply your ad hominem delegitimizing of any and all opposition.

            “based on a one-sided analysis”

            Here we fall back on the tried and true, Americans-exploiting “let’s look at both sides, a ‘balanced’ viewpoint” method of interminably “managing the conflict,” employed by the side with the huge imbalance of power.

            “and aggravate the issues”

            We wouldn’t want to “aggravate” anybody and their issues, now would we? What’s the hurry? We’re comfortable. We have our nice little occupation. Why ruin it? Let’s not get anybody in a kerfuffle. Let’s “manage” the conflict for another 50 years and everybody calm down and not “aggravate” anything. Like those “outside agitators” like Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, and JVP and “those people.”

            Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        Back in 2004, Dieudonné was not yet known to be an antisemite, you might as well blame his former Jewish partner Elie-something for their collaboration ! The members of Europalestine have publicly distanced themselves from Dieudonné years ago, so you just again trying to manipulate people here !

        Reply to Comment
    6. Stan Squires

      I am from Vancouver,Canada and I wanted to say that I hope the Judge in Court at Versailles rules in favor of Olivia Zemor.She is doing good work and needs to continue doing so.

      Reply to Comment