Ibrahim Ezzat/Anadolu via Getty Images
To the tens of thousands of “indignant” who, this last Sunday, Oct. 20, assembled in a number of French and European cities to show their support for “the Palestinian cause,” there is one question that we should not tire of asking:
Where were they when it was Hamas, not Israel, that arrested, tortured, massacred the Palestinians guilty of wanting peace and dreaming of freedom?
Why did they not march with the same passion during the long ordeal of the 380,000 civilians killed in the war in Yemen?
And the Syrians pounded, buried alive in their villages, gassed by Damascus’ army, why were they not afforded the same mobilization of the “social and political” left? Why did Jean-Luc Mélenchon, spearheading the compassion for today’s 4,000 dead Palestinians, not have a single word for the 400,000 dead of yesterday’s war in Syria? Actually, he did have a word, even two: He swept away these 400,000 corpses by repeating, in every manner and through every broadcast, that they were all victims of an obscure quarrel over “gas and oil pipelines.”
And the victims of Omar el-Bechir in Sudan? And the adversaries of el-Bechir, engaged for six months now in a “war of generals”—this did not, to the best of my knowledge, cause a flood of protesters to rush into the streets.
And the Afghan women, locked in their burqas after the Taliban took back control of Kabul two years ago? Why is it that the fate of these women, no less than that of the Iranian women assassinated for a veil worn askew, did not seem to inflame these protesters who now call out to the republic for justice?
And the Uighurs, genocided by China?
And, for the older of these self-proclaimed defenders of the rights of man, the victims of Gadhafi in Libya? Or of the dictatorship in Egypt? Or of Putin’s wars in Chechnya? And before that, well before, at the time of the siege of Sarajevo, the 100,000 Bosnian Muslims butchered by Serbian soldiers? Why were there so few of you, then, at the breach and on the streets, to defend those Muslims?
And to say nothing of those bombarded at Mariupol, or those massacred in Bakhmut. Stand With Ukraine organizes, every Saturday, solidarity meetings on that same Place de la République, where we see nary a representative of La France Insoumise, of the New Anticapitalist Party, of the Union Syndicale Solidaires, of the Fédération Syndicale Unitaire, of the MRAP (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples), or even of the CGT, now part of this new “National Collective” in “support of Palestine.”
The truth is that, for these people, the dead are not equal.
There are, in Europe, consistent rebels who have always taken up the cause of the Ukrainians, Uighurs, Bosnians; of the Arab Muslim nations that some wanted, in the name of cultural relativity, to crush into perpetual servitude; for the nameless and numberless victims of the wars the world forgot; for, more recently, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh abandoned by all. These rebels also took up the cause of the two-state solution, then the Oslo Accords, then the Geneva Initiative that, along with Bernard Kouchner and Patrick Klugman, I was a French sponsor of—in short the cause of the Palestinian people.
But for those out in the streets today, there is a double standard. Even though all children killed should cause the same anguish, a death only moves them if it allows them to cry out “Israeli murderers” or “Zionism equals Nazism” or “from the river to the sea,” which is to say, in good French, “Death to Jews.”
Add to all this that these indignant people did not flood the streets when it was 1,400 women, men, children of Israel who were disemboweled, decapitated, burned alive, submitted to pogroms.
Those same people we see chanting “We are all Palestinians” might well have, two weeks earlier, like the rebels of 1968, exclaimed “We are all Jews”—but they did not and, furthermore, it seems the idea never crossed their minds.
Add, also, that they tolerated, in their processions, the flag of Hamas, an organization that speaks like ISIS, thinks like ISIS, films its crimes like ISIS.
And add again that one of their reasons for assembling, at least one that appeared in their tracts and their social media, was the destruction of a hospital in Gaza—an attack which was shown to have been caused not by an Israeli shell but a Palestinian one. Add, then, that these indignants were manipulated and that their manipulators are masters of disinformation with no other goal than to inflame souls, sow chaos, and kill Jews.
Antisemitism, it was once said, is the socialism of fools.
Today it is Hamasism that reproduces that same criminal imbecility—making these protests an offense to the democratic spirit.
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Translated from the French by Matthew Fishbane.
Bernard-Henri Lévy is a philosopher, activist, filmmaker, and author of more than 30 books including The Genius of Judaism, American Vertigo, Barbarism with a Human Face, Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, and The Empire and the Five Kings. His most recent film, Slava Ukraini, will premiere nationwide on May 5, 2023.