Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Adar I 5768 - March 6, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











French Jewish Community Opposes Honoring Israeli Writers in Paris

By Arnon Yaffeh, Paris

Inviting Israeli writers as the guests of honor at book fairs in Paris and Turin, Italy, is causing a stir in left-wing circles and in the French Jewish community, but for different reasons. Religious and traditional Jews, who comprise the majority of the active Jewish community in France today, are concerned over the ignoble representation of Judaism in secular Israeli literature. Jews are astonished to see the Israeli government cover the travel costs for these writers who vilify Israel and Jews and lend support to Palestinians.

French Jews, battling harsh criticism of Israel in the French press, find it hard to combat this type of literature. "It would be hard to convince Jews and non-Jews that what the Israeli writers describe is entirely fictional and does not reflect reality," wrote Serge Ben Attar, editor of a Jewish weekly. "What can we say about the distortion of history or the desecration of values sacred to Judaism?"

French Jews are unable to come to terms with the Israeli government's new policy of fostering anti-Jewish and anti- Israeli rhetoric merely because the writers happen to be Israeli.

At the Israeli booth you'll even find a swastika — on the jacket of a book by Avraham Burg, who was speaker of the Knesset and the former chairman of the Jewish Agency but then emigrated to France and renounced his Israeli citizenship. In his book compares Israel to Nazi Germany. The French hastened to translate it as justification for criticism lodged against Israel. The publishers admit that these books are not selling, but the Israeli writers were driven more by political considerations than commercial ambitions. Publishing the books is an effort to take advantage of French Jews' proclivity for anything that bears the name of Israel.

Despite the message the books carry, Arab states and the French left are calling for a boycott of the book fair, which is scheduled to be opened by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

"The gesture toward Israeli literature will bring disgrace upon France," reads a petition being circulated by the left and Muslim organizations headed by Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Hizbullah supporter in Europe.

The organizer of the book fair, representing the publishers, defends the event, saying, "We didn't invite the State of Israel to the fair, but rather Israeli writers, most of whom support the founding of a Palestinian state."

The recent five-day operation in Gaza shortly before the book fair is scheduled to open on Monday 3 Adar II, amplified the protests. These condemnations provide further opportunities to decry "atrocities, oppression, starving and laying siege to the Palestinian people." The books on display also contain remarks of this sort. Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria cancelled their participation, along with Israeli writer Aharon Shabtai. Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun spoke out against the boycott.

In Italy a similar controversy surrounds Israel's invitation to participate in the book fair in Turin. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano announced he would open the fair in response to calls by the radical left to boycott Israel.

Since this year is the 60th year since the founding of the State of Israel, many public events wish to commemorate that.


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