The renowned historian Shlomo Sand - author of The Invention of the Jewish People and The Invention of the Land of Israel - was interviewed by the French magazine Télérama in 2009. The recent re-publication of this French interview still contains powerful responses to the violence that we see in Gaza today. How can we still be asking the same questions 5 years on? Both then and now, Sand continues to be one of the few Israeli intellectuals – even on the Left – who has continued to condemn the bombardment of Gaza.
Israeli public opinion supports the (2008-2009) Gaza War. You are a dissonant voice...
I have reached the peak of my academic career, I have nothing to lose and I am not afraid. Of course, yes, I do feel very alone. But do not forget that almost ten thousand young people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on 3 January. Even in 2006, at the beginning of the war against Hezbollah, there was no mobilisation of such an extent. It was a very politicised demonstration, with the far Left as well as the Israeli Arabs who live in Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
The forms anti-Semitism takes today in France are very varied, and often have little or nothing in common. Since the Second World War, anti-Semitism has no longer been supported in France by a certain abject consensus (which in the 1930s was even shared by many celebrated writers, such as Céline). It persists in the form of disparate minorities, some publicly active, others concealed.
Verso author Esther Benbassa is a Franco-Turkish-Israeli member of the French senate and a leading voice in comparative histories of minorities. Below is a translation of her discussion of the turmoil in the Middle East and the response of Europe, original published in Le Huffington Post.