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Why did they kill Jaurès? An Israeli lament

Jean Jaurès speaking circa 1910

I have a new hero. I first heard of him long ago. It would be difficult to miss his name. Walk down any odd street in France and you’d pass pass a “Jean Jaurès high scool”. Often enough, the street himself will be named after Jaurès. Indeed, the street just south of my house here in Tel-Aviv is “rehov Jean Jaurès”.

But Who was Jaurès? I began looking into that only recently. He was the father of the French labor movement, and thus, in a way, the father of contemprary European socialism. Jaurès was born one decade after the Spring of Nations and came of age at a time when Marxism needed to be reinterpreted.

He was the man for the job, reading communist literature with both love and deep criticism. He accepted marx’s theory of historical materialism, did not believe that the hegemony of a single social class would end it.   Was he a moderate? yes, but he was also a rebel among rebels, recreating the movement so that it would thrive in a possible future.

Jaures could sense the approach of WWI and opposed it. He campaigned against Frances involvement in the war. The right-wing press launched a campaign against him. It succeeded. One man, poetically named Raoul Villain, was moved enough by the op-eds to assasinate Jaurès at cafe “Le Croissant” on Rue Monmartre, one summer day in 1914. The following summer day, French troups were mobilized.

Why am I thiking of Jaurès these days? I live in a land where courageous moderates are assasinated every so often. We’ve lost our own socialist leader, Haim Arlozorov, on Tel-Aviv’s beach in 1933. The assasin was never caught, but during the days preceeding the murder, Arlozorov was the target iof a negative campaign in the revisionist paper “The People’s Front”, and the event was most likely related to it.

More famously, we lost a leader who struggled to put an end to wars. The campaign preceeding Yizhak Rabin’s assasination in 1995 featured his image manipulated to look as though he was wearing an SS uniform. Comparing Rabin and Jaures may do injustice to both, but in a sense, they share something. Both were charismatic leaders who faught to change an ideology rather than abandon it. Jaurès remained a communist. Rabin remained a Zionist. T hey both saught to redefine what these words mean, and both paid the price.

Still, perhaps the reason Jaures comes up in my life right now is that I feel assasinated too, and that we all are, in a way. The newspaper founded by Jaures was named l’Humanité. Think of humanity as a single entity in Israel, and you’ll be regarded as a traitor. Humanism is not only out of vogue, it’s firbidden by God.  50 rabbis, all serving as “head rabbis” in Israel’s different cities, published a decree this morning that flats may not be rented out to Arabs.

Redefining ideologies is frowned upon, narrowing them is the current fad. Gideon Saar is our second education Minister in a row to take critical texts out of school textbooks. Socialism is out the window. Netanyahu’s government is selling everything down to our drinking water. Opposing war is great during peace, but as soon as the skies cloud up, doing so is akin to treason. Killing our foes is the solution to all our problems, ask Likud MK Ayub Kara who said that if the Carmel fire is found to be a case of arson, it’s causers should be hung “like Eichmann”.

We read this, then step out of the house and cross Jean Jaurès st. and we remember that great leaders have existed in history, that great thinkers have, that great people have. Yes, Jaurès too was killed and the war that he failed to prevent was worse than anything we’ve seen in this region, but at least he was there.

We are so Jaurèsless these days, I hope that does not mean that were are hopeless. I bet if Jean was to cross his eponymous street beside me, he’d cheer me up and tell me we are not. That’s what leaders do.

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Enjoy Jacques Brel’s fantastic eulogy to the man. Its lyrics describe the hardship suffered by the working classes at the turn of the 20th century. Each refrain consists simply of  the repeated question: “Why did they kill Jaurès?”.

And don’t miss its reggaesque interpertation by Zebda, a band from Toulouse. Song begins at min. 1:00, right after the actor with the very fake-looking beard concludes his soliloquy.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Ben Israel

      (1) Who says Jaures was right? Had France not backed their Russian allies who were backing the Serbs, the Germans and Austrians would have gobbled up the Balkans. Would the world have been a better place had that happened?
      Who would have been next on the list?

      (2) It is suprising that people keep repeating the tired myth that “the Right” so hated Rabin that they put out a photomontage of Rabin wearing an SS uniform. The official Shamgar Commission investigation of Rabin’s murder showed that the photomontage was made at the behest SHABAK agent Avishai Raviv whom Shamgar found was the person closest to Yigal Amir in the months before the assassination. The SHABAK is run directly out of the Prime Minister’s office and it has been reported that Rabin knew the story about the photomontage and protested to the heads of the SHABAK, who were carrying out a provocation campaign using Raviv against the Right, that they were going too far with that one.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Regarding France’s involvement in the war: I don’t really think it decided the war in favor of the Allies. It may have exhausted the Germans on a western front, but it nearly demolished France. Jaures was not a fan of the Germans, but he might have had better ideas of how to face them then sending countless soldiers to be cannon fodder at Verdun.

      As for the photomontage, does it really matter who came up with the bright idea? There was such a campaign, it was embraced by the right and Rabin was murdered.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben Israel

      Yuval-
      (1) When World War I started, no one knew it was going to turn into the mass slaughter that it became. One could use all the arguments you used in order to claim that Britain, France and the US should not have become involved in the Second World War, either.

      France declared war on Germany after Germany declared war on its ally, Russia who had mobilized in order to come to the aid of their ally Serbia who was being attacked by Austria, in spite of the fact that Serbia had agreed to all the terms of the ultimatum that Austria had presented them in the wake of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. What choice did France really have at that point?

      (2) I find it suprising that you think it is unimportant that the government, using its SHABAK secret service was carrying out extremist anti-Rabin activities and propaganda in order to discredit the Right. Governments have falled due to lesser scandals. It is not against the law to level criticism at a government in power, particularly when the policies it is carrying out are extremely controversial and lead to large-scale bloodshed and they don’t have clear majority support. The same happened to Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and their policies promoting the War in Vietnam. They, like the Israeli Left, attempted to discredit their political opposition as “dangerous extremists”.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben Israel is lying, as usual. The infamous placard was made by two Habbadniks, Raviv merely showed it to the reporters. Everything else he says is also a lie: the Shmagar report did not refer to the photomontage, the GSS did not know of it in advance, and Rabin was certainly not involved. An old lie, made so that the Israeli right wing could wash its hands of the blood it spilled.

      Reply to Comment
    5. sh

      There’s a Café du Croissant in Paris 2° with a plaque saying Jean Jaurès was assassinated in front of it. If you want to arrange to meet a friend in any French town unknown to both of you, best pick Place Jean Jaurès. There’s sure to be one.

      Jaurès was a Dreyfusard which is probably why the street in TA was named after him. Unlike Rabin, Jaurès was a pacifist.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel

      I stand corrected, Shamgar did not say that Avishai Raviv ordered the infamous SS poster made, but they did confirm that he publicized it to the media. Why would a SHABAK agent do that? It is extremely unethical for government officials to use governmental personnel and resources to harrass and discredit the political opposition. Richard Nixon was toppled from office for doing things like that.
      Yossi’s claim that the SHABAK “didn’t now about it ahead of time” is pure speculation. Maybe that’s what they claimed post-facto, but they have a history of perjuring themselves, such as in the Bus 300 case when they tried to frame an innocent man for the killing of the captured terrorist. It is a fact, confirmed by Shamgar that Raviv carried out a whole series of provocations and acts of violence against Jewish Leftist in order to discredit the Israeli right. One of the worst incidents was the murder of an Arab in Halhoul carried out by other murders. Before the police had a chance to solve the case, two dummy organizations run by SHABAK agent Raviv “took credit” for the killing, leading to Arab terror groups to threaten to kill Israelis and also to denunciations of “the settlers” by politicians like Yossi Sarid (even though I believe he knew the truth when he made the statement) as being “terorists”. Again, recall this was the official SHABAK carrying out this kind of despicable act, and the SHABAK is under the direct control of the Prime Minister’s Office.
      These activities were unethical and the fact that a “right-winger” was convicted of having pulled the trigger in the Rabin Assassination doesn’t have any bearing on the SHABAK’s behavior one way or the other. There is no “collective guilt” on the Right because it is legitimate to protest governmental actions any more than there is “collective guilt” on the Left because of their support of Oslo, even though Oslo led to the terror war which killed or wounded THOUSANDS of Israelis.

      Reply to Comment

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