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Bernard-Henri Lévy Headshot

Why I Defend Israel

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Of course, my position hasn't changed.

As I said the day it happened, in a fierce debate with one of Netanyahu's ministers in Tel Aviv, I continue to find the manner in which the assault against the Mavi Marmara and its flotilla was effected off the Gaza coast as "stupid."

Had I had the least remaining doubt, the inspection of the seventh boat, carried out without a trace of violence this Saturday morning, would have convinced me there were other ways to operate to have kept the tactical and media trap set for Israel by the provocateurs of Free Gaza from snapping shut, in a spilling of blood.

That said and repeated, the flood of hypocrisy, bad faith, and, ultimately, disinformation that seems to have just waited for this pretext to flow into the breach and sweep across the media of the world, as is the case every time the Jewish State slips up and commits an error, is by no means acceptable.

The catch-phrase trotted out ad nauseum, of the blockade imposed "by Israel," when the most elementary honesty requires one to make it clear that it has been undertaken by Israel and by Egypt, conjointly, on both borders of the two countries that share frontiers with Gaza, and this with the thinly-disguised blessing of all the moderate Arab regimes, can only be described as disinformation. The latter, of course, are only too happy to see someone else contain the influence of this armed extension, this advanced base and, perhaps one day, this aircraft-carrier of Iran in the region.

The very idea of a "total and merciless" blockade (Laurent Joffrin's editorial in the June 5th edition of the French daily, Liberation) "Taking hostage, the humanity [of Gaza] in danger" (former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in Le Monde, of the same date) constitutes disinformation. We mustn't tire of reminding others the blockade concerns only arms and the material necessary to manufacture them. It does not prevent the daily arrival, via Israel, of between a hundred and a hundred and twenty trucks laden with foodstuffs, medical supplies, and humanitarian goods of every kind; humanity is not "in danger" in Gaza, and it is a lie to state that people are "dying of hunger" in the streets of Gaza City. It is debatable whether a military blockade is the right option to weaken and, one day, bring down the fascislamist government of Ismaïl Haniyeh or not. But the fact that Israelis who cover the checkpoints between the territories night and day are the first to make the elementary but essential distinction between the regime (that they seek to isolate) and the population (that they are careful not to confuse with the regime, even less to penalize them since, once again, aid has never stopped passing into Gaza) is indisputable.

Disinformation: The utter silence, throughout the world, about Hamas' incredible attitude now that the flotilla has carried out its symbolic duty, which was to catch the Jewish State out and relaunch, as never before, the process of demonization.

In other words, now that the Israelis have carried out their inspection and mean to take the cargo of aid to those for whom it is supposedly intended, Hamas' attitude in blocking that aid at Kerem Shalom checkpoint, allowing it to slowly rot, is met with silence. To hell with any merchandise that has passed through the hands of Jewish customs! Chuck out the "toys" that brought tears to the eyes of good European souls but became impure because they spent too many long hours in the Israeli port of Ashdod! Gaza's children having been nothing more than a human shield for the Islamist gang who took power by force three years ago, or cannon fodder or media vignettes. Their games or their wishes are the last thing anyone worries about there, but who says so? Who shows the slightest indignation? Liberation recently ran an awful headline, "Israel, Pirate State," which if words still mean anything, can only contribute to the delegitimization of the Hebrew State. Who will dare to explain that, if there is a hostage taker, one who coldly and unscrupulously takes advantage of people's suffering and, in particular, that of the children -- in sum, a pirate -- in Gaza, it is not Israel, but Hamas?

Disinformation once again, laughable but, given the strategic context, catastrophic disinformation: The speech at Konyan, in central Turkey, of a Prime Minister who has anyone who dares to evoke the genocide of the Armenians in public thrown in prison, but who has the nerve, there, before thousands of fired-up demonstrators yelling antisemitic slogans, to denounce Israeli "State terrorism."

Still more disinformation: The lament of the useful idiots who, before Israel, fell into the clutches of these strange "humanitarians" who are, in the case of the Turkish IHH, Jihad enthusiasts, anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish apocalyptical fanatics, men and women some of whom, just days before the attack, expressed their wish to "die as martyrs." (the Guardian, June 3rd, Al Aqsa TV, May 30th). How can a writer of the calibre of Sweden's Henning Mankell allow himself to be taken advantage of this way? When he tells us he is thinking of forbidding the translation of his books into Hebrew, how can he really forget the sacrosanct distinction between a stupid or wrong-headed government and the masses of those who do not identify with it and whom he associates, nonetheless, in the same insane plan for a boycott? How can a chain of cinemas ("Utopia") in France decide to cancel the release of a film, A Cinq heures de Paris, in the same way, simply because its author, Leonid Prudovsky, is an Israeli citizen?

Disinformers, finally, the batallions of Tartuffes who regret that Israel declines the demands for an international inquiry when the truth is, once again, so much simpler and more logical: What Israel refuses is an inquiry requested by a Council of Human Rights of the United Nations, where those great democrats, the Cubans, Pakistanis, and other Iranians reign. What Israel does not want is a procedure of the kind that resulted in the famous Goldstone report commissioned, after the war in Gaza, by the same sympathetic Commission whose five judges, four of whom had never made a secret of their militant anti-Zionism, wrapped up 575 pages of interviews of Palestinian fighters and civilians conducted (an absolute and unprecedented heresy in this kind of work) under the watchful eye of Hamas political commissioners in a matter of mere days. What Israel could not stand for is the masquerade of international justice such a botched inquiry -- whose conclusions would be known in advance and would only serve to haul, as usual and perfectly unilaterally, the sole and unique democracy of the region into the defendants' dock -- would be.

One last word. For a man like me, someone who takes pride in having helped invent, with others, the principle of this kind of symbolic action (the boat for Vietnam; the march for the survival of Cambodia in 1979; various and sundry anti-totalitarian boycotts and, more recently, the deliberate violation of the Sudan border to break the blockade that hid the perpetration of the massacres of Darfur), in other words, for a militant of humanitarian interference and the media fuss that goes with it, this pathetic saga has something of a caricature, a gloomy grimace of destiny. But, all the more reason not to give in. All the more reason to refuse this confusion of genres, this inversion of signs and values. All the more reason to resist this hijacking of meaning that places the very spirit of a policy conceived to counter the intent of barbarians at their service. Destitution of the anti-totalitarian dialectic and its mimetic reversals. Confusion of an era when we combat democracies as though they were dictatorships or fascist States. This maelstrom of hatred and madness is about Israel. But it also concerns, as we should be well aware, some of the most precious things established in the movement of ideas in the last thirty years, especially on the left, and these are thus imperiled. A word to the wise is sufficient.