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We'll always have Paris

While the French gave the world a lesson in hope, democracy and standing up to fascism, the Israeli government advanced a childish, nationalistic law that declares: we are Jews, they are Arabs, we’re good, they’re bad.

By Alon Mizrahi

Supporters of French president-elect Emmanuel Macron celebrate outside the Louvre in Paris, May 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Supporters of French president-elect Emmanuel Macron celebrate outside the Louvre in Paris, May 7, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Europe and the world expect us to defend the spirit of the Enlightenment, under threat in so many places. They expect us to defend freedom everywhere, to protect the oppressed… They expect us to be just who we are. They expect us to bring a new hope, a new humanism to the world … they expect us, finally, to be ourselves. (Emmanuel Macron in his victory speech, per CNN.)

France demonstrated how to defeat terrorism yesterday: you don’t change the national agenda and you don’t get bogged down in depression or mythologies of demon slaying. You don’t surrender to fear and despair. You defeat terrorism by doubling down on your basic, fundamental values. France also showed the world how to defeat nationalist demons in a functioning Western country: you look them in the eye without any hesitation or confusion, and you don’t let them take even the slightest foothold.

The drift toward isolationism, nationalism, and fascism began with the victory of the Brexit camp in the UK. It brought about the insane result in the election of Donald Trump. That drift was seriously slowed in the Dutch elections, and came to a grinding halt with Emmanuel Marcon’s resounding victory in France.

The liberal states and political movements of the world, first and foremost France and Germany, must now move from defense to offense. The primary enemy of the free world is operating out of the Kremlin, aided by an army of rented keyboards and useful idiots in the service of a violent, vitriolic, and crude nationalism, fragmenting the world into wary, suspicious, and hostile tribes eager for battle.

It is reasonable to assume the French president-elect understands the picture quite well: the antics pulled just a day before the election, the same antics that were pulled on the Democratic Party in the United States, were met with a wall of apathy on the part of the French people and resolve on the part of the Macron family. Nobody went through the trouble of blurring the conclusion that Wikileaks is working with Russian intelligence.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem

At the same time that France sent a decisive “no” to the messaging of its own local Likud Party, headed by Marine Le Pen, at the same time that the French president-elect was speaking of humanism, enlightenment and liberty, Israel’s coalition of fear-mongerers voted to advance the “Jewish Nation-State Law.”

What is the so-called nation-state law? Nothing in practice. Its importance is solely declarative. It harms Arabic-speakers and the status of the Arabic language, but that is an inseparable element of the Israeli Right’s political agenda. That’s the stuff the Israeli Right is made of. That’s how you get votes.

The nation-state law has no significance, except for its declaration of the obvious. But it appears that right-wing politicians in Israel, the adults acting like children, finding comfort in the three or four cliched mantras that comprise their world: we are the Jews, they are the Arabs, we are good, they are bad, this is us, that is them.

In order to understand why the Right encourages such an impermeable and violent discourse, one need only compare it to the words spoken by the French president-elect on Sunday. A childish, mythological, historical jibber jabber about monsters and swords, compared to: we, the liberals, speak in the name of freedom, democracy, fairness, safeguarding a place for everyone under the sun. And they think they can win with Le Pen and Donald Trump, or the national-religious fascism in Israel. Funny.

As if to drive the point home, this week we learned that Israel’s anti-culture Culture Minister Miri Regev decided to stop funding the annual Book Week in Israel’s marginalized and peripheral communities. There is a logic to the decision, of course: you don’t need to know how to read in order to get caught up in the superficial, harebrained, fear-mongering messages of the Likud, just like those of fanatic nationalist movements the world over. Maybe you don’t even need to know how to read.

Emanuel Marcon gave his victory speech at The Louvre. “Every Frenchman identifies with this place,” he said.

Until Israel regains its composure, we’ll always have Paris.

Alon Mizrahi is a writer and a blogger at Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Arab Guilt

      On a week when the Israeli Left and the Palestinian people slaughtered over a 1,000 innocent Syrians in the name of “Arab nationalism” – the biggest problem in the world is . . . Israeli nationalism??

      LOL!

      Take the beam out of your own eye – and apologize for the crimes of *your* people – before criticizing your moral superiors. Arab nationalists do not have the humanity to complain about anyone or anything.

      #ArabGuilt

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Yeah! And I hear that the Leftists and the Palestinians are also teaming up with the dictator Xenu (“Incident 2” to those in the know) in the Galactic Confederacy to detonate hydrogen bombs inside volcanoes and kill all peace-loving Zionists or banish them to be brainwashed on the Canary Islands! And that Leftists are secretly brainwashed thetans in disguise! It’s an evil anti-Scientology-anti-Zionist plot!
        See this important source of information to buttress your important claims!
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_opera_in_Scientology

        Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      This writer lives in some sort of bubble when he attributes things like the Brexit as being some sort of prelude to Fascism. Can’t he understand that the majority of the public in the UK was tired of sending its tax money to a bloated, anti-democratic bureaucratic dictatorship in Brussels instead of using it for internal needs? That maybe they think that an inflexible economic system dominated by a clique of German bankers who cynically gave loans to countries like Greece and Ireland knowing that they couldn’t pay them back in order to take over national assets in those countries? That really the EU is nothing more than what writer Frederick Forsyth called it….”the Fourth Reich”? That maybe religious minorities like the Jews and Muslims are tired of having important religious principles like circumcision and kosher slaughter of animals under constant attack by an unelected EU “thought police”?

      Secondly, I don’t think the vote was an unequivacle endorsement of “enlightened liberal values”. I find it ironic that Macron says that being “humanist” is “returning to our (European) selves.” Wasn’t it this same “humanist” Europe that in the 19th century took over much of the non-European world and brutally exploited it and wiped out entire indigenous populations, then carried out two Civil Wars (First and Second World Wars) leading to millions of deaths and finally dealt with what ALL the countries in Europe called “the Jewish problem” by way of genocide which was either passively or actively abetted by the same “liberal, humanist” elements in Europe? Not to mention that many have now morphed this “Jewish problem” into the “Israeli problem?”

      Even if we assume that the pro-Macron vote was some sort of endorsement of “liberal, humane values” it must be pointed out that Le Pen got over 1/3 of the vote and the election had one of the lowest turnouts in the history of the Fifth Republic and with the highest number of blank or spoiled ballots cast. That shows a LOT of Frenchmen had no real problem with the National Front. In the first round, 40% voted for extremist parties with strong anti-democratic and demagogic candidates.
      No, this election is not a vote against “extremism” or antisemitism.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “Wasn’t it this same “humanist” Europe that in the 19th century…?”

        No. Any more than Merkel’s Germany is Hitler’s Germany. Grow up. Learn. The Germans have. Europe has. They learned the hard way but they sure learned. Hence the Macron margin of victory even in a highly stressed Europe and a highly stressed France. Like adults, they eschewed tempting, facile answers. They know better. The electorate in France or Germany is a more mature electorate than in either the United States or Israel. They have seen more, made more terrible mistakes, are more educated, and know better the dangers of nationalist intoxications.

        “Not to mention that many have now morphed this “Jewish problem” into the “Israeli problem?”

        “Not to mention,” eh? With this sentence you append we come to the unfortunate point, as I read it, of your fulmination: To anti-Semitize, to say that any criticism of Israel is delegitimizing and illegitimate. (And inside of that I hear the plaintive cry: Why can’t we have our own good ol’ 19th century exploitation? It’s no fair!”)

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Oh, yes, the Germans have certainly learned. They discovered they weren’t strong enough to conquer Europe militarily, so they switched to using their banks and economic system to take control of Europe and to strangle it economically. Fortunately, the British were smart enough to realize this and they voted for survival and independence.

          Regarding “learning their lesson” and the Holocaust, the Germans have moved to a more sophisticated approach….they made saying antisemitic things politically incorrect, but then say cursing Israel is praiseworthy. Take Gunter Grass, for instance. A member of the Waffen SS, he goes over to the Left, but then says that “Israel is a threat to the entire world” because of its supposed nuclear arsenal. So we see that he really didn’t change, he just modified the outer package.
          The Germans play a double game with Israel…they sell us submarines (which BTW makes needed employment in the their shipyards) and, at the same time, financially support radical anti-Israel organizations. Too bad more Israelis don’t understand this.

          Reply to Comment
          • duh

            Have those submarines been tested? I bet you anything they’ll try to fire nuclear missiles and end up shooting radical leftwing social-justice warriors.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            What a cheesy new low in manipulative, anti-Semitizing, cheap German-bashing nonsense. Not worthy of a reply. Everybody’s a secret anti-Semite and progressive demon when you want him to be Ike52. The British and all the Europeans are of course, when you need them to be, but they are the victims who stood up to the evil Germans when you want them to be too. More Israelis don’t understand this because they are not manipulative, paranoid fabulists who see everything through the prism of “let’s see, who else can I invoke to externalize the blame for the occupation?”

            I prefer this view of the Merkel’s Germany, Ike52:
            https://twitter.com/lisang?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
            (“Best of the memes from the Merkel-Trump meeting.”)

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            I suggest you go ask the Greeks, who were driven to desperation by a combination of internal irresponsibility and German manipulation, what THEY think of the Germans.

            The Holocaust did not occur in a vacuum. It is popular among Germans and others to say that it was the result of a small group of National Socialists taking over, but not only did the German people collaborate in it, as a nation, but the whole of Europe, which was always talking about a “Jewish problem” in ALL the countries, were generally happy, with some exceptions, to have the Germans do the dirty work for them. Frederick Forsyth, in his novel “The Odessa File” pointed out that the horrors done to the “faceless masses” of Jews in the occupied countries as “out of sight and out of mind”, but they saw their Jewish NEIGHBORS, sometimes RELATIVES and comrades who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the First World War taken away, and they said NOTHING! As a people.

            Public opinion polls in German show more virulent anti-Israel feeling there than in any other European country. I just saw one that said something like 40% of Germans can understand why people don’t like Jews because of what we are supposedly doing to the Palestinians. You are being a fool if you think they say this because they supposedly are concerned about “Palestinian human rights” because they are crawling on their bellies to the Iranians to do business with them, and the Germans played a key role in building up Saddam Husseins chemical warfare infrastructure.
            The more things change the more they stay the same. A murderous, racist hatred that built up over generations that culminated in the Holocaust does not disappear over night, or even within 70 years. Look at all the antisemitic incidents that occur in Poland, a country where there hardly any Jews anymore. It is not only the Jews, we see the same endemic hatred in the Balkans and between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. So don’t tell me that this is entirely a “new Germany”. No doubt there are liberals there, but they have to prove that they have really changed.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            So now you want to make this some big distracting argument about what the Germans are “really” like and those Europeans too. As if that were the point. Where this all started is when you painted the humanist 21st century Europeans who voted for Macron as no better than their 19th century exploitive counterparts–part of your never ending “progressives are really just cynical, selfish bastards putting on airs” agenda–and I said, basically, look, if those Europeans of today are such unrepentant, unregenerate, mouth-breathing fascists at heart then why, when France is under great economic and immigration pressure, did it turn away Le Pen and elect Macron?

            And btw, when you make blanket statements like “German bankers who cynically gave loans to countries like Greece and Ireland knowing that they couldn’t pay them back in order to take over national assets in those countries” and greedily manipulating poor Greeks and crawling to the Iranians to make a buck–if anyone ever said similar things about Jewish bankers you would recognize it for the Protocols of the Elders of Zionism anti-Semitism it is.
            (And you are talking to someone who is no friend of bankers and thinks Paul Krugman of the NYT has always been absolutely right that the EU/German (and American Republican) obsession with fiscal austerity and economic shock treatments is insanely, stubbornly poor economics, so I am not singing the praises of the Germans in international economics and finance but I am not seeing sinister plots everywhere that is is convenient for me either. I might very well see sinister plots tied to bankers in general, yes, but I’m not singling out German/European bankers as especially evil so as to further a “look over there not over here in Israel” narrative.)

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            The French people did NOT overwhelmingly “turn away from Le Pen to vote for Macron”. She got 34% of the vote. Compare this to her father, who when he ran against Chirac only got 18% of the vote. Add to that the very low turnout by 5th Republic standards and the larger than normal number of spoiled ballots, and around HALF of the French voters didn’t feel any need to vote against her. In the first round, extremist parties with only a shaky connection to true democracy, and the Republican values of the 5th republic got around 40% of the vote. Those are VERY large numbers. Many of us have not forgotten the Dreyfus Affair and Vichy legacy of France.

            In the US, if Black Lives Matter people and all those who are screaming about “white privilege” and the legacy of slavery (which ended 150 years ago) and formal and informal racial discrimination (which ended 50 years ago) are considered to have legitimate grievances, then it is more than legitimate for us Jews to be very skeptical about whether modern Europe has really shed its history of genocidal antisemitism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I will remind you that is it not me who thinks Le Pen is just fine or no big deal or a model for hollowing out the Palestinians nicely. That would be a Feiglinist in sheep’s clothing named JeffB.

            In case you also forgot, the topic of this article is roughly this:

            ‘At the same time that France sent a decisive “no” to the messaging of its own local Likud Party, headed by Marine Le Pen, at the same time that the French president-elect was speaking of humanism, enlightenment and liberty, Israel’s coalition of fear-mongerers voted to advance the “Jewish Nation-State Law.”’

            It is not a referendum on just how and to what degree some Europeans still harbor “genocidal anti-Semitism” even though they sent a decisive “no” to the anti-Semitic Le Pen. Germany is Israel’s biggest defender in the world. They are not selling Israel submarines at steeply subsidized prices to make money. Do I have to quote Larry Derfner’s article again on how the Europeans give Israel a pass they give no one else?

            Your complaints are like that of a blame-externalizing spoiled child complaining that its parents who spoil it are abusers who are to blame for the child’s bad behavior. I also read all of this as “look over there not here at Israel” or something like that.

            You would think that Macron’s victory would be good news to you but I can hear your teeth gnashing. Why so upset? It wouldn’t be the victory of liberal democratic over “popular democratic” forces would it? (See Persico on Feiglin.)

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            Germany both supports Israel and works to undermine it at the same time. It lets other countries take the lead in BDS and UN condemnations of Israel for its own reasons. The officially sponsored Friedrich Ebert and Konrad Adenauer Foundations support anti-Israel activities.
            I just heard a lecture by Professor Richard Evans, a noted historian and expert on National Socialist Germany. He said two interesting things. The first was discussing the motivation that kept Germans fighting even though it was clear that the war was lost already in 1943, as contrasted to the First World War when they threw in the towel while their armies were still outside the borders of the Reich and in fact were actually advancing in Russia. He said one of the biggest motivations was “fear of international Jewish retribution”. The second was public response to one of the most infamous antisemitic films. Jud Suss (sp?) which was about a court Jews who carried out heinous crimes against Aryan maidens. The Gestapo monitored public reaction to the film and noted that when the Jews was carrying out his crimes, people in the audience would stand up and start screaming.

            So, do you think these attitudes simply disappeared when Germany lost the war? That children growing up after the war, whose parents either passively or actively supported the Holocaust didn’t transmit, at least to some extent, their views to their children and the grandchildren?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​I’m trying to understand what point you’re driving at. To begin with, I appreciated your setting JeffB straight on who and what Marine Le Pen and the FN really are—and you’ll remember I agreed with you. But what are you up to now? I am not invested in defending the Germans which seems to be some kind of subtext you’re introducing here. But I think your approach to the question of German guilt and to what degree the Germans have owned up to it—formally, in their education system and formal societal mechanisms, and informally, and to what degree they are unregenerate—versus actually being Europe’s most evolved and civilized liberal democrats—is rather simplistic and tendentious and serving a propagandistic aim rather than an objective one. (Tell me, is the average Israeli guy in the street a better liberal democrat than the average German guy today? The average Israeli politician versus the average German politician? Really?) With respect to whomever, the Germans, the Israelis, the Palestinians, we come back to a point made repeatedly: It does not matter what you think some of the people within these parties *feel* — it matters what they *do* — what they agree to do and what final status accords ensure that they do. People’s *feelings* will change with time in the setting of a fair accord and decent respectful interactions. To expect to change feelings first and not behavior first gets it backwards. Change the behavior and the feelings will follow. It gets back to this feigned helplessness:”Oh well, we Israelis, who have never depended for our security on what anyone *feels*, suddenly throw up our hands and swoon and say “oh! until those Palestinians change deep in their hearts and tell us they love us we simply can’t trust they truly deeply really want peace!”

            But I don’t even really understand your point. We’ve got several right wingers in these pages either directly or indirectly singing the praises of Le Pen and various allied right wing movements, including that of Donald Trump, who prior to Macron’s victory let it be publicly known that he supported Le Pen and hoped she won. You are the lone right winger here calling out Le Pen for who she really is. The rest of them seem overjoyed at Le Pen’s advance. So what gives? Your message seems confused and contradictory. You want an anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, ”pro-Israel,” truly deeply non-anti-Semitic European Rightist? You’re not going to get it from Le Pen or any of her ilk. Better stick with the liberal democrats and at least get a non-anti-Semite. Otherwise you’ll have to get Naftali Bennett elected to a European presidency. Good luck.

            Reply to Comment
      • duh

        Herzl’s approach to Kaiser Wilhelm was during the time Germany brutally oppressed Southwest Africa (Namibia). Though he later decided a German protectorate over Palestine wouldn’t be such a great idea, he still got excited over the thought of Germany taking Cyprus from Britain and allowing Jews to settle there. You can’t be a Zionist and disown European colonialism, bucko.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Everything in this article by Alon Mizrahi illuminates, in the present context, the crucial contrast mapped out by Tomer Persico:

      A ‘truly’ Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud’s Moshe Feiglin
      https://972mag.com/a-truly-jewish-democracy-on-the-ideology-of-likuds-moshe-feiglin/62170/

      Study the contrast Persico makes between “popular democracy” and “liberal democracy.” And the relation of those two political forms to the value accorded the will of the majority versus human rights and the rights of the individual. And the connections Persico makes to fascism and National Socialism. And while you are at it think of Lisa Goldman’s recent article on the Israeli state’s threatening of journalists. And then think about the distinctions Alon Mizrahi makes on this page. The right wing jibber jabbers and many of the commenters here are Feiglinists. They dress it up in various euphemisms and niceties and rationales about “security” but this is what they are doing. We have had Jewish nationalists here singing the praises of both Le Pen and Putin and the “tide” that is turning in their favor. Nothing could make Alon Mizrahi’s point better.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      If Mizrahi is not happy here in Israel, I suggest him to go to Paris. Israel is not a gulag he can leave whenever he wants.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Which is another way of saying this:

        “A communal democracy represents the essential will of the people. Hence, any person objecting to the actions of the state is ipso facto not truly of the people. Actually, it is almost impossible to criticize government in a communal democracy, because such criticism automatically excludes the critic from the community of citizens the government represents, and therefore also from the community of citizens entitled to its protection and to civil rights. For, how can a loyal citizen criticize the actions of a government representing his will? If his will is different from that of the government, he is certainly not a loyal citizen. Such disloyal citizens are either foreigners, i.e. not members of the people; or they are members of the people, but ones needing re-education. One may recall the fate of such citizens from “popular” regimes in the past….”
        https://972mag.com/a-truly-jewish-democracy-on-the-ideology-of-likuds-moshe-feiglin/62170/

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          No, the writer seems to be so unhappy in the Israeli “hell” that I suggest him to leave to a place where he will be more happy, for inst. Paris which is as you know a quite and secure town.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Which is another way of saying, “I am a one-note-Charlie who can’t muster a complex thought, or contend with one, if my life depended on it.”

            Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      Although France does not permit census questions of religious identity, one group recently used a Sickle Cell trait testing of newborns as a rough estimate of Moslem percentages in France.It was found that about 38% of French newborns are Moslem. In Paris, Moslem babies were 78%.
      Paris will not always be Paris !
      Actually, France is inevitably sliding into civil war !

      Reply to Comment
      • i_like_ike52

        It wouldn’t be the first time…there was the terror of the French Revolution, revolutions in 1830 and 1848, the Second Empire authoritarian state, the massive violence of the Paris Commune in 1871, the mass antisemitic riots in Paris accompanying the Dreyfus Affair, (which brought Herzl to realize there was no future for the Jews in Europe), pro-Fascist riots in the 1930’s, the virulent antisemitism and anti-democratic Action Francaise, then Vichy, then the violence accompanying the French withdrawal from Algeria, and then May 1968 (which fortunately burned out before many people were killed).
        France has a long history of this, and unlike Ben, I believe nations have strongly inbred characteristics that are handed down from one generation to another.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Of course you believe that. Moshe Feiglin couldn’t have said it better. (And Feiglin’s secret heroes, the National Socialists, fervently too believed that “nations have strongly inbred characteristics” and I see that Lewis is already into tracking genetic data.) At least you’re coming fully out of the closet with Lewis from Afula here. The contrast between your positions and Alon Mizrahi’s position on this page could not be clearer. Popular Feiglinist democracy versus liberal democracy. This is what the battle is really about. This is what all the whataboutery is ultimately driving at. This is what the debate is about underneath all the euphemistic talk. And what is Feiglin’s ideology really all about? It is about this:

          ‘According Feiglin’s model, maintaining hold of territories is not a question of security but a question of identity. A truly Jewish identity can be realized only through the holding of any occupied territories in the Land of Israel. Those, on the other hand, who wish to return such territories are trying to sabotage Jewish identity and replace it with “a new Israeli identity.”’

          A ‘truly’ Jewish democracy: On the ideology of Likud’s Moshe Feiglin
          https://972mag.com/a-truly-jewish-democracy-on-the-ideology-of-likuds-moshe-feiglin/62170/

          Reply to Comment
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