Obama the Chinese; Israel and the Jews

Symposium, in London, on Obama's foreign policy and its supposed 'gifts' to his enemies. My thesis? An anthology of citations from Sun Tzu, the Chinese general of the era of the warrior kingdoms whose brilliant manual of military strategy, written for King Helu, assured his place in the annals of history. "Subdue the enemy, if possible, without fighting" (Ahmadinejad's Iran). Or, "War is like fire; he who is not ready to lay down his arms at a point shall perish, consumed by his arms" (the programmed retreat of the expeditionary corps in Iraq). Or, "When the enemy is one, divide it" (the celebrated Cairo speech inserting the iron wedge of the good division between the majority who identify with moderate Islam and the minority -- at this time -- of avowed fascislamists). Or, "As a rule, the general who triumphs is the one who is best informed" (what else did the 44th President of the United States have in mind in the very first days of his mandate, when he undertook to restore some order in the American intelligence agencies?). Or, again, "Treat your prisoners well, feed them as though they were your own soldiers" (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib). I know the case of Obama is already very complicated -- mixed-race, Kenya, Hawaii, a bit of Islam, Indonesia. But for all that, I think one can understand nothing about the individual or his conduct of 'external affairs' if we do not attach this additional dimension and complexity: he is the most Chinese of all American presidents.

"Jews against Israel" was Libération's headline this morning, in reference to this other symposium I am opening tomorrow, Sunday, in Tel Aviv, whose purpose, under the joint sponsorship of Haaretz newspaper and France's embassy in Israel, is to reflect upon the democratic ideal our two countries have in common and concerning, as well, the JCall appeal that I signed with others. The latter affirms in particular that the unconditional solidarity, of principle and in its principles, with what Theodor Herzl baptised the State of the Jews cannot function without freedom of speech regarding any erroneous actions on the part of this or that government. Libé's title is of course absurd. Totally and inopportunely absurd. For the signatories of this appeal have joined forces not 'against' but 'for' Israel. They include Alain Finkielkraut, indefatigable adversary of those who blame Israel. And Elie Barnavi, who was one of the most brilliant ambassadors of the unlikely Ariel Sharon in Europe, as well as Avi Primor, one of the most illustrious pioneers of the very Zionist Jewish Agency. And they include a man, your servant, who, on the first day of the war willed and triggered by the Hezbollah iranosaurs in the summer of 2007, insisted on coming to share the daily existence of Israeli citizens under bombardment on the front lines of the north. All of these signatories assert two simple things. That unconditionality without dialogue is neither democracy nor, even less, Zionism. And that there are situations in which, to borrow the title of a well-known book by Amos Oz, one must help people to divorce. It's understood, this does not mean 'imposing' anything upon them or, even less (I've spent my life fighting this), imagining I don't know what 'boycott' , but proposing ambassadors, peace facilitators, mediators of good will -- Obama's United States, precisely, or the France of this other friend of Israel, Nicolas Sarkozy, or Europe.

The constraints of closing are such that I had just written this column when I learned, from Tel Aviv, of the calamitous inspection operation conducted by Tsahal units against six ships that had left Turkey with the supposed intent to break through the Gaza blockade. At the time of this writing and like everyone else, I dispose of very little information about what actually happened. And I am sure that we will soon learn that this 'humanitarian' flotilla was humanitarian in name only, that they took advantage of signs and symbols and had the media coup in mind much more than the misery of a people. And that the Turkish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, if not such a party in the Turkish government, responsible for this provocation had good reasons to refuse the Israeli proposal to put in at the port of Ashdod so the actual contents in the ships' holds could be verified. Be that as it may. I am equally sure that the Tsahal I know, careful with human lives and imbued with the purity of arms, this army that is not only ultra-sophisticated but profoundly democratic as well, whose conduct in times of war I have often admired, had other means of action available than to set off this blood bath. And had I the very least hesitation, even one, as to the appropriateness of increased vigilance on the part of Israel's friends, had I but one doubt, only one, as to the importance of this JCall and the disjunction it allows us to make between unfailing support of Israel and the necessary criticism of the bad actions of a bad government, this stupid, irresponsible, criminal and, for Israel herself, disastrous initiative would have settled the question. Sorrow. Distress. Anger as well, faced with this temptation I know well on the part of some Israeli leaders, one that consists of believing they are alone in the world and will always be blamed, and to act accordingly. Autism is no policy. Nor, even less, a strategy. It is right to say so. And firmly.