Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Macron's Remarkable Vel' d'Hiv Speech

Jacques Chirac was the first French president to acknowledge France's responsibility in the Holocaust, but Emmanuel Macron is the first to attempt to school the French in the precise nature of their responsibility while at the same--en même temps, as he likes to say--recognizing the courage of those who refused to stand idly by:

Les 16 et 17 juillet 1942 furent l’œuvre de la police française, obéissant aux ordres du gouvernement de Pierre LAVAL, du commissaire général aux questions juives, Louis DARQUIER DE PELLEPOIX et du préfet René BOUSQUET.
Pas un seul allemand n’y prêta la main.
Je récuse aussi ceux qui font acte de relativisme en expliquant qu’exonérer la France de la rafle du Vel d’Hiv serait une bonne chose. Et que ce serait ainsi s’inscrire dans les pas du général DE GAULLE, de François MITTERRAND qui, sur ce sujet, restèrent mutiques. Mais il est des vérités dont l’état de la société, les traumatismes encore vifs des uns, le déni des autres a pu brider l’expression.
Les déchirures vives qui traversaient la société française ont pu faire primer l’apaisement et la réconciliation. Nos sociétés ainsi s’offrent de ces répits pendants lesquels le travail de la mémoire reste souterrain, pendant lesquels les peuples reprennent leurs forces et doivent se réconcilier peu à peu pour reconstruire, avant de trouver les mots de vérité qui les guériront vraiment. Avant aussi de retrouver le courage collectif d’affronter les fautes et les crimes.
C’est pourquoi nous n’avons pas à juger ici le parti choisi par ces deux chefs de l’Etat, tous deux acteurs de la Seconde Guerre mondiale et de ses complexités. Mais rappelons-nous aussi que c’est François MITTERRAND qui institua cette Journée du souvenir ; et rappelons-nous surtout durant toutes ces années le combat souterrain de tant et tant pour que rien ne soit oublié.

That is a remarkably balanced and nuanced summation. The remainder of the speech equals it in gravity and solemnity.

Macron has been accused, not least by the left, of being pas seulement un banquier mais un banquier de chez Rothschild.  The antisemitic intent of the charge needs no underlining. With this speech he has responded to the antisemites. Just as Bill Clinton was said to be the first black president of the US, Emmanuel Macron might be honored as the first Jewish president of France. Anne Sinclair was said to have coveted this honor for her ex-husband, but Macron is no doubt a more suitable person for the position.


Anonymous said...

Hey could you also comment on Macron's statement on the "civilizational" problems of Africa? His bizarre self-fashioning as a Jupiterian president? His reception of Donald Trump? Macron had already denounced French collaboration with the Nazis pre-election, but there are aspects of his post electoral life that seem more surprising to me, and that beg for the kind of reasoned and insightful analysis that your blog has always provided.

bert said...

This is a good book: Bad Faith by Carmen Callil.
Callil was important in the rise of feminist publishing in the UK. Early in life she was greatly helped by a kindly psychiatrist. Only after her psychiatrist's death (possibly by suicide) did Callil discover that this sympathetic figure, a source of strength in her life, was the daughter of Darquier de Pellepoix. Fascinated, she researched the whole story. The book is the result. Recommended.

thibault said...

As previously said, Macron just got finished crowning himself nearly, along with blaming the issues in Africa on their culture, yet your only bite is directed towards the left for being anti-semitic? Honestly, what?

It's obvious even you didn't put much stock in the jab based on how little you actually attempted to expand on it (the entire paragraph is incredibly silly considering how much Bill Clinton is hated today from parts of the Afro-American community such as BLM). The biggest jab you've given Macron recently is not even one directed at him, but rather people who view it as "boring." You've really no issue with his attempts at usurping parliamentary powers?

Robinson said...

Art can write what he wants on his (free) blog. I am not at all keen on having an ex-banker as president, but Art is 100% right to call attention to the ugly subtext of attacks on Macron's time at Rothschild. The left should not have any reluctance to condemn anti-semitism, and French complicity in the Shoah, in a forthright manner. We cannot only mention these things as a way of clearing our throats before we attack Netanyahu or French Islamophobia.

I fear that Macron's forthrightness on jewish matters risks turning anti-semitism into a partisan question in France, with the anti-Macron people ever less willing to speak clearly about what happened in 41-45 or to acknowledge the resurgence of anti-semitism in France. That is that fault of Macron's enemies, however.

Anonymous said...

@Robinson: I wish that the speech hadn't been given in the presence of Netanyahu, as though the Israeli PM were a sort of Jewish Pope. Even the president of Israel would have been a less jarring guest. Netanyahu makes it his business to conflate international criticism of the Likud line with anti-semitism (or Jewish self-hatred.) For Macron to call anti-Zionism a renewed form of anti-semitism *in front of Netanyahu* made me uneasy. By what right can Netanyahu speak for the Jews of France, either those of today or the Vel d'Hiv victims? Or rather: I see what Netanyahu might want to claim that right, but no reason for the President of the Republic to appear to concede it.

Still, to Robinson's point: opposition to the policies or the existence of the State of Israel, while in principle separable from anti-semitism, invariably becomes mixed up with anti-semitism. Critics of Israel have more of a duty than anybody else to try to keep the two things separate: this means convincing the world that we genuinely hate anti-semitism. If our condemnations of anti-semitism are just "throat clearing" for attacks on Israel, the bad faith of our anti-Zionism will be evident. Anti-semitism is a vile scourge that the President of France is right to condemn with clarity, even in front of Netanyahu.

Blaise said...

As far as "first jewish", do not discount Leon Blum :-)
(i'll grant you he has not been president)

Anonymous said...

the speech is very generous to Mitterrand, whose actions under Vichy were quite a bit more complex, to put it kindly, than were De Gaulle's. Good on Macron for making it, I suppose. I share the previous comment writers unease at the presence of Netanyahu. It is as if, in the 1980s, the Brits had decided to invite P. W. Botha to a solemn ceremony of apology for the atrocities of the Boer Wars.

bernard said...

President Macron's speech went directly to my heart and I would thank him for that, as I have a personal stake in this truth although these days I find myself wondering wether the French commissaire de police committed treason against my ancestor for being Jewish or Political. he was certainly the former and recently discovered evidence suggests that he was also the latter. I have no way to know as he is one of the very few who slipped entirely through the lists at the Memorial.
As for most of the commentors above, I guess that they should write to President Macron's diplomatic advisor and suggest that, rather than meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel on this sad occasion, he should have invited Hamas, the well know social welfare organisation, to Paris to share in this event.

Anonymous said...

The reason for Netanyahu's presence is simple enough: a good portion of European holocaust survivors settled in Israel after the war. These people were Europeans who had been betrayed by their native countries, their families killed. One cannot blame the survivors for choosing to settle outside Europe in a land built for Jews. It is partly to France's credit (although it was also a matter of geopolitical luck) that more Jews survived in France than elsewhere, and that more of them chose to stay than to emigrate. Of course the Holocaust led to a greater sense of trans-national religious solidarity among Jews: it was a crime perpetrated against the Jews of every nation. Of course it creates a special bond between French Jews and Israel, one that Macron is right to acknowledge.

I can't say that I've always approved of Netanyahu's behavior on these occasions, but was certainly appropriate for him to be present for Macron's speech.

bert said...

Netanyahu's one of the very few political figures over the years I've harboured a pure hatred for. I still remember the pleasure it was to watch him make his concession speech in '99. Over time the hatred has waned somewhat - these things are hard to sustain. The sleekness and glibness he acquired in New York that used to drive me up the wall has steadily rubbed away. It was interesting around the 2015 elections to see his most serious challenges coming from smaller parties to his right. Over the last couple of decades Israel has moved decisively to the right, reflecting the demographic changes that came with largescale immigration from the former Soviet Union.

Those are the facts, and the facts make change unlikely. Continued occupation, continued settlement-building, continued can-kicking. Macron's influence is zero. And with this in mind his comments ought to be seen not as foreign policy positioning but as the serious-minded ethical reckoning he presents them as being.

Incidentally, when it comes to foreign policy positioning we should be very wary of conflating ”opposition to the policies of the State of Israel” with ”opposition to the existence of the State of Israel”. Anonymous at 9.00pm, my apologies if I'm misunderstanding what you wrote there. A very bright line is needed between those two positions, on the wrong side of which is somewhere that should be firmly off limits.


Things to do before leaving on a nice holiday:
1 Cancel newspaper / milk deliveries
2 Arrange for a neighbour to water your plants
3 Drop the cat off at a friend's house
4 Write about antisemitism on your blog



mpz13 said...

Manuel Valls, said on March 7 2016 at the dinner of the CRIF : «Il y a l’antisémitisme et il y a l’antisionisme, c’est-à-dire tout simplement le synonyme de l’antisémitisme et de la haine d’Israël.»
Emmanuel Macron, said on July 16th on the anniversary of the "Rafle du Veld'Hiv" in front of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu : « Nous ne cèderons rien à l’antisionisme car il est la forme réinventée de l’antisémitisme. »
Well this is very wrong. This is so wrong, it is unacceptable.
Anti-Semitism is one thing, even though it can take different forms and intensities according to time, places and people. Let's be clear : anti-Semitism is never ok.
Anti-Zionism is another thing a very different thing. Zionism is a complex thing. It was born as a nationalistic movement, it is also an ideology, it is also political movement and now a state policy. There is nothing wrong in commenting, debating, criticizing Zionism. Jews were never unanimous about Theodore Herzl and Zionism anyway. Ben Gourion was a one kind of Zionist, so was Golda Meir, it wasn't the same understanding of Zionism as with Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu.
So there are also various forms and big differences in anti-Zionism according to time, places and people.
Anti is a simple prefix – too simple probably.
For instance, my anti-Zionism (and I am the son of Auschwitz survivors) doesn't mean "Throw back all Jews to the sea !" nor that the state of Israel has no right to exist and should be destroyed, I am not even in favor of the boycott of Israeli products.
My anti-Zionism is based on the belief that the present behavior of the state of Israel and its government is shameful, degrading and in total contradiction with all core values of Judaism as they were taught to me. I can't accept the humiliation of people, the building of apartheid walls, destruction of plantations and the continuous building of illegal settlements in Cisjordania in violations of international laws. I also have a problem with the notion of "Jewish state" just as with Islamic State, I don't like religious states, I prefer secular states.
I want to be free to express publicly these beliefs and opinion without being considered an anti-Semite !
Antis-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. If from now on it is seriously considered equivalent in France to despise or attack Jews, and to blame Israel for such or such Zionist policy, this is madness ! I don't want to be equated with Dieudonné.
But I understand this is a lost battle. Communitarianism is too strong among the Jewish community. When I read from Bernard in the comments that the answer to the questioning of Netanyahu's presence is right away that one would probably have preferred Macron to invite the Hamas… No sound debate is possible on this matter.

Anonymous said...

@bert: I don't know what the pervious writer meant, but for my part I dislike it when people talk about "Israel's right to exist." This expression seems designed to conflate support for a single state in all the territory now controlled by Israel with a desire to expel the Jews from Israel/Palestine (or to exterminate them.) I do not support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State if this means denying the citizenship rights of Palestinian Arabs, and I don't think that making most Palestinians Arab citizens of powerless but nominally independent Bantustans in Gaza or the West Bank is a solution to anything. If this is anti-semitism a great and growing number of young, non-orthodox Israelis are anti-semites with me. I admit that I'm reluctant to call myself an anti-Zionist because the word Zionist has so often come to be used as a synonym for "jew" by anti-semitic riffraff.

bert said...

The Rabin assassination is an act of vicious vandalism that keeps hurting, all this time later. Even so, Ariel Sharon was willing to put the settlement process into reverse, briefly, before his brain burst. The two-state solution remains the best hope for the future you imagine. I caution against turning your back on it. The most hostile opponents of those you say you support are the keenest to bury it.

I recognise the difficulties. American engagement remains essential, and less than nothing can be expected from the current Sheldon Adelson / Jared Kushner disposition.

Anonymous said...

I cannot see the two state solution solving anything. The larger half of the divided Palestinian state that would emerge from a deal would be shaped like swiss cheese thanks to Israeli settlements. It would have no military and Israel would keep a tight leash on its democracy to make sure that it did not come to be ruled by any unruly political movements. I don't see any reason to think that the Palestinians will become more reconciled to the existence of Israel after the emergence of a two state solution than they are now. I can't blame them.

On the other hand, Israel cannot accede to a one-state solution because the majority in democratic Israel/Palestine would never guarantee the rights or even the safety of the Jewish minority. The situation is an impasse that will not be resolved any time soon: not until the entire Arab-Muslim world becomes willing to accept Jews in its midst, or until it acquires the power and unity to expel them.

The West can and should insist on a halt to Israeli settlement building: the practice is deeply unjust and won't make any eventual settlement any easier.

brent said...

Macron surely deserves all the credit you give him for the clarity of his remarks on France's obligations to remember its anti-semitic past. His nuanced defense of De Gaulle and Mitterrand is particularly deft. But to do so under the aegis of Netanyahu's visit is a different thing, and to join the Israeli right in equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a disturbing error. Yes, the two are frequently conflated. Clear distinctions need to be made in every instance. But the Zionism of Netanyahu--the permanent occupation of Palestine with all its attendant injustices--if wrong. Protecting those policies behind the shield of anti-Semitism is worse than wrong--it's a moral disgrace and an affront to everyone who cares about real anti-Semitism, past and present. Macron is subtle enough to understand this, so--alas--one can only attribute his error to political expediency and bad faith--a dangerous tendency for this suddenly all-powerful young man.

mpz13 said...

@brent : I envy the concise clarity of your comment. This is almost exactly word for word what I think, except that I don't believe it is an "error" from Macron. This tendancy to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is not recent, there is a growing, very real and powerful intellectual lobby behind it, so in my opinion it is not a simple "error" due to political expediency, it is a calculated political move.
After meeting with Trump, Poutin, Netanyahu, the next test of Macron opportunism and/or cynicism will be the way he will deal with Erdogan. I bet, the two, all smiles, will meet before the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

@mpz13: anti-zionism can be distinguished in principle from anti-semitism, but the two go together more often than not. Look at what is happening in Turkey right now: local Jews are being attacked in order to protest the Israeli government. In the Muslim world anti-Zionism is a polite way to express anti-semitism; among westerners anti-Zionism is an excuse not to think about or unequivocally condemn anti-semitism.

It would have been disgraceful for Macron to make his remarks about Vel d'Hiv and then "en même temps" condemn settlements on the West Bank or something like that. Some western politicians, such as Jeremy Corbyn, are willing to condemn anti-semitism and the Holocaust, but only in a dependent clause: in order to avoid the appearance of bias, they must condemn Islamophobia or settlements in the same sentence.

The BDS movement reeks of anti-semitism to me because of the way in which it singles out the Jewish State. You will not invite Israeli academics to your university but you will buy Russian gas and Saudi oil and Chinese consumer products (and not think of Ukraine and Chechnya, or Yemen and Bahrain, or Tibet: to say nothing about the internal politics of these nations). Israel commits many injustices. The unique enmity that it arouses has little to do with these, and quite a bit to do with the world's attitude towards the Jews. This is what Macron was responding to in his condemnation of anti-Zionism. He was right to do so.

Unknown said...

@mpz13 Did you see this?
J’ai cessé de vous comprendre lorsqu’au cours de votre discours, vous avez déclaré que :

« L’antisionisme… est la forme réinventée de l’antisémitisme ». Cette déclaration avait-elle pour but de complaire à votre invité, ou bien est-ce purement et simplement une marque d’inculture politique ? L’ancien étudiant en philosophie, l’assistant de Paul Ricœur a-t-il si peu lu de livres d’histoire, au point d’ignorer que nombre de juifs, ou de descendants de filiation juive se sont toujours opposés au sionisme sans, pour autant, être antisémites ? »

mpz13 said...

@Michael Wells.
Yes I read that letter,thanks to the link provided by Arun Kapil in AWAV but only after my comment.
This is a nice letter. I can't say I am always 100% in agreement with Shlomo Sand but I circulated this letter among my friends with pleasure.
I must say that I am totally depressed by the attitude of most of my Jewish friends who would rather die than admit to publicly criticize Israël.
I have never felt such a strong communitarianism before. This violent and passionate "pro-Israelism" is new to me, to the extent that I look at Israel as the country owned and run by American Republicans speaking hebrew and not by Jews as I was brought up to be.