JCall Discourse: A Semantic Analysis

, October 18, 2010

No. 61,

  • The year 2010 has witnessed a turning point in the way that Jews and Israel are treated. Through the JCall phenomenon, a part of the world Jewish community has become the partisan of a changed attitude toward the state of Israel. A call for “pressure” on Israel is voiced by a part of the Jewish elites who claim to be doing so out of affection.
  • The “Short Manifesto” published by JCall in Libération last July casts the adversaries of JCall as psychopathological. It suggests that being a Jew of “goodwill” means supporting the principle of publicly denouncing Israel, calling for a campaign of international intervention, recommending that Israel repeal a disastrous policy, and considering Israel as not being a democracy while treating with contempt the majority of its citizens.
  • Whereas the “Short Manifesto” holds that Jews who lack “goodwill” have failed to express themselves out of reticence, actually they have done so by adopting a critical stance different from that of JCall in the framework of the “Be Reasonable” platform. The promoters and signers of “Be Reasonable” expressed a principled, though not blind, solidarity with Israel based on respecting its sovereignty.
  • The reasoning upheld by the “Short Manifesto” is of a blatant perversity. It in effect supplies Israel’s enemies with the elements for a new, unquenchable criticism of the Jewish state, produces an abundance of arguments assigning guilt to the Jewish people, and pulverizes the consensus of Diaspora Jews by urging them to be relentless prosecutors of Israel.

1. Statement of the Problem

The “Jewish question,” so long debated in Europe, has gradually been redefined as the “Zionist question.” An abundant political, philosophical, media, and propaganda literature has made this subject one of the most highly prized cultural themes of the postmodern era – a transformation deserving special consideration in itself.

The fact of speaking about the “Jews,” of their identity – as Diaspora Jews or national Jews – often says much more about those who speak than about the objects of this discourse. Indeed, these ways of speaking, too, deserve to be regarded as objects of study in themselves. Although it is common to consider a discourse as a simple mirror of ideas, ideas are nothing without a linguistic form that gives them substance.

The year 2010 has witnessed a turning point in the way that Jews and Israel are treated. Through the phenomenon of JCall-a European Jewish lobby that supports Barack Obama’s policies, has the backing of Peace Now, and is financially supported by the European Union-a part of the world Jewish community has become the partisan of a changed attitude toward the state of Israel. (For the original JCall text see Appendix 1). A half-century of anti-Israel propaganda has accustomed us to recognizing “anti-Zionist” statements. But unlike the classic Judeophobic tradition, the call for “pressure” voiced by a part of the Jewish elites is not made in the name of hate, nor even of avowed hostility toward Israel. On the contrary, the critical demand that is expressed avows its affection for Israel. Therefore, this involves less a discourse of rejection than a discourse of anxiety.

Whereas the discourse of rejection is based on a semantics of stigmatizing and reproaching,[1] the empathetic discourse of affection justifies itself by a rhetoric of solicitude. The discourse of activists, most often Jews, who call themselves “friends of Israel,” now serves to enrich the stock of critical or pseudo-critical discourses.[2] It appears both urgent and useful to methodically identify this new form of voicing an opinion. To the extent that the stereotypes of this rhetoric gradually spread, invading the public and media space, they contribute to defining a new ideological phenomenon – that is, a political and cultural fact that deserves to be identified and analyzed as such.

2. A Textbook Case: The Body of the Text

On 22 July 2010, a little more than two months after JCall had launched its “Appeal to Reason” in the setting of the European Parliament, the French daily Libération published an article signed by Carole Tuchszirer – probably at the initiative of Bernard-Henri Levy, one of the principal signatories of the appeal. The article was entitled “A Short Manifesto Aimed at French Jews of Goodwill.”[3] The publication of this text was mainly meant to relaunch mobilization around JCall since the results that its promoters had counted on had turned out to be hardly satisfactory.

Indeed, this appeal for international pressure on Israel, mainly supported by the Peace Now pressure group, met strong opposition. Prof. Shmuel Trigano and Prof. Raphael Drai responded to it with a counterpetition, “Be Reasonable” (“Raison Garder”).[4] (For the text of “Be Reasonable” see Appendix 2) Although the latter did not receive support of any kind, neither from the media nor from politicians, nor financial backing, it aroused an unprecedented wave of signings, collecting more than twice as many signatures as the JCall appeal, in record time. This event in 2010 marked a turning point in the history of relations between the Jewish Diaspora and the state of Israel, as well as a change in the world and European ideology regarding Zionism. At the same time, it marked an enduring breach between two conceptions of the Diaspora’s role.

The following is the text that appeared in Libération:[5]

1) According to the dictionary definition, schizophrenia is characterized by impoverishment of socioprofessional relationships, by a tendency toward isolation, and by an autistic withdrawal into an inner world.

2) This inner world is where a part of the French Jewish community is evolving today. It has withdrawn into itself, caught in a quandary over what attitude to take toward Israel, the Netanyahu government in particular.

3) This stance is not new but has been revived by recent events that have seen the Israeli government violently attack a so-called humanitarian flotilla that was seeking by this expedient to raise the blockade that is now harshly and unjustly striking at the Gazan population.

4) The harshest words written about this political shipwreck came from the unanimous Israeli press, from left to right, that stressed the fiasco of the operation both on the moral and political planes. Yes, “Gaza might well become our own Vietnam,” as the leftist Israeli newspaper Haaretz pointed out.

5) Whereas in the United States, demonstrations against the Israeli government took place, in France the Jewish community seems less resolved to make such a denunciation in its own name, at least not in public, in the television studio or on radio. Once more, the duty of reticence seems to have overcome the duty to react, while in many homes and among friends and relatives, the issue of the blockade of Gaza and the suicidal attitude of the Netanyahu government since its rise to power seem to mark a turning point in judging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

6) But once we have stepped out of our own homes, when we are no longer “among our own,” radio silence prevails, even if it is not implicit support for the policy of the present Israeli government. The reasons for such a split attitude are known: fear of harming the Jewish state, a bad conscience for not having chosen aliyah (immigration to Israel), and especially – for many – the refusal to play the game of a certain radical left that only dreams of seeing Israel melt into a binational state.

7) An anti-Zionism sometimes, but not always, redolent of antisemitism. A virulent anti-Zionism justified in the name of human rights and therefore harder to combat.

8) By employing critical distance toward Israel and its government, don’t we risk playing the game of our new adversaries, those for whom what Israel does is secondary in the last analysis to what it supposedly is and has always been intrinsically, a colony of occupation?

9) Not only since 1967 (the Six Day War) but since 1948 and even before that, since the Jews had had the impudence to establish themselves there in order to reclaim their political freedom.

10) We will not join their chorus. It is without them or despite them that we will publicly express what we feel inside: Israel has taken the wrong road. And because it is dear to us, because we don’t doubt for an instant that it is capable of coming back to the right road as it did when it withdrew from Lebanon, from Sinai, from Gaza, we enjoin it to continue to take the path traced by previous governments. It is because its pain is our pain that we must point out its mistakes, all the more so when many citizens in Israel share the same certainties and the same doubts and await our support.

11) This support has been able to publicly express itself for several months now thanks to the European JCall initiative for which the future of Israel needs to pass through the establishment of a lasting peace with the Palestinian people according to the principle of “two peoples, two states.”

12) Let there be many of us in France who will sign this appeal (http://www.jcall.eu/).

3. The Organization of the Text

This new appeal for JCall comprises four parts.

First comes a critique of the Jewish community of France, which did not agree to abandon its solidarity with Israel at the moment of the flotilla affair.[6] Meanwhile, the appeal points out that the Israeli press did not hesitate to do so. The text then expounds the presumed reasons for the community’s reticence, before briefly setting forth the grounds for the critique of Israel and the attitude to adopt in order to promote it.

Each paragraph of the text constitutes a distinct assemblage of argument. Each argument group, in turn, is based on a set of extremely simplistic stereotypes. The stereotypes, which serve as grounds for wide-ranging reasoning, are of two kinds. There are circumstantial stereotypes, forged by the media in reaction to events connected to Israel’s conduct in the flotilla affair, which took place at the end of May 2010. But there are also essential stereotypes, most often forged by Palestinian propaganda in order to discredit the Israeli government (especially when it is on the right).

The stereotypes belong to two registers of discourse. These conventional notions are transmitted and spread both by foreign anti-Zionist propaganda and by anti-Zionist propaganda emanating from the Israeli radical left. In all cases, these statements enable us to define the dominant doctrine linked to the delegitimization of Israel. The stereotypes are used to forge two categories of argumentation: first, an accusatory argumentation that aims to belittle those who do not support JCall and its project of a peace imposed on Israel. Then comes a laudatory argumentation that aims to justify JCall’s viewpoint in order to commit the reader of the text to enlisting in the “Appeal to Reason.”

The combination of these stereotypes makes it possible to build a system of moral contrasts that defines the worldview of JCall, that is, its conception of public discussion, its conception of criticism, but also of the role of the Diaspora or the idea that it has formed of the state of Israel, as well as the image of the Israeli government that it intends to propagate.

3.1 The Conception of Public Discussion

This conception is expressed starting with the first lines of the appeal. The approach adopted consists of challenging the viewpoint of the adversary by belittling his capacity to make judgments. Thus, the tactic involves disqualifying his ideological positions by suggesting that they are the result of psychological distortion rather than of thoughtful evaluation of the situation. The argument proceeds through two points, according to demonstrative reasoning that goes from “the general to the particular.” For that reason, it first makes an a priori evaluation:

1) According to the dictionary definition, schizophrenia is characterized by impoverishment of socioprofessional relationships, by a tendency toward isolation, and by an autistic withdrawal into an inner world.

Hence, Diaspora Jews, notably those of the French Jewish community, who do not share the views of JCall are said to suffer from a lack of judgment that may be attributed to a serious psychological disorder. This disorder is expressed in the form of an unhealthy dissociation, which precludes making a healthy judgment about the political situation prevailing in Israel:

2) This inner world is where a part of the French Jewish community is evolving today. It has withdrawn into itself, caught in a quandary over what attitude to take toward Israel, the Netanyahu government in particular.

The author of this appeal probably did not think seriously about what she was saying. The phrasing is probably either a linguistic tic or a formula used intentionally for polemical purposes. It is significant nonetheless, if not symptomatic, that the challenge to the opposing point of view is undertaken on the grounds of psychopathology, not of morality. This indicator of contempt causes the public discussion to undergo a serious dislocation. The principles to be combated are examined not through criteria of what is true and what is false, but from the standpoint of the clinical distinction between the normal and the pathological. This tic of argumentation is especially reminiscent of totalitarian practices where the opposition is subdued by calling the opponent “mad” and by labeling the nonconformity of his dissident stance toward the dominant ideological norm an “anomaly.”

This critique of a part of the Jewish Diaspora, already latent in the “Appeal to Reason,” reappears within the context of the boarding and seizure of the boats of the IHH[7] by the Israeli navy:

3) This stance is not new but has been revived by recent events that have seen the Israeli government violently attack a so-called humanitarian flotilla that was seeking by this expedient to raise the blockade that is now harshly and unjustly striking at the Gazan population.

5) . . . Once more, the duty of reticence seems to have overcome the duty to react, while in many homes and among friends and relatives, the issue of the blockade of Gaza and the suicidal attitude of the Netanyahu government since its rise to power seem to mark a turning point in judging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For the author, the French Jews who approve Israel’s reaction are to be doubly criticized. What they are rebuked for is not that they gave approval to the Israeli government in their conscience, but on the contrary, that they actually disapproved it while having neither the strength nor courage to denounce it publicly.

One detail deserves to be analyzed, however. The author who accuses Israel of having reacted with force to the brutal crew of the Mavi Marmara, speaks of the “so-called humanitarian flotilla.” This proves that she is no dupe and knows perfectly well that the Turkish convoy was humanitarian in name only. That betrays quite well JCall’s ideological position in principle, for which an Israeli government that is not on the left is guilty by definition. The support that French Jews seem to give to the policy of the “Netanyahu government” is seen as all the more criminal since it is said to be a pretense, or rather imposed by the fear of harming Israel. This inhibition constitutes an aggravating circumstance:

6) But once we have stepped out of our own homes, when we are no longer “among our own,” radio silence prevails, even if it is not implicit support for the policy of the present Israeli government….

In a very skillful but rather conventional manner, the article posits three reasons for such reticence:

6) . . . The reasons for such a split attitude are known: fear of harming the Jewish state, a bad conscience for not having chosen aliyah (immigration to Israel), and especially – for many – the refusal to play the game of a certain radical left that only dreams of seeing Israel melt into a binational state.

The author does not only read the thoughts of these cowardly Jews who do not have the courage of their convictions, she also focuses on their supposed justification:

8) By employing critical distance toward Israel and its government, don’t we risk playing the game of our new adversaries, those for whom what Israel does is secondary in the last analysis to what it supposedly is and has always been intrinsically, a colony of occupation?

9) Not only since 1967 (the Six Day War) but since 1948 and even before that, since the Jews had had the impudence to establish themselves there in order to reclaim their political freedom.

What the Jews who do not side with the morality of JCall fear (although they secretly share JCall’s conceptions), is – in short – seeing their criticisms taken up by the majority of Israel’s adversaries who view Zionism as a form of colonialism. We perceive here the force of intimidation of this pseudo-argument, which is so deeply rooted in minds that it prohibits any discussion. Like most of the anti-Zionist arguments, this one too rests on the implied notion that colonialism is a bad thing of which one must be ashamed.

Tuchszirer further imputes other fears to the Diaspora Jews who refuse to take part in denouncing “Netanyahu’s policy.” By joining in that criticism they supposedly also fear feeding:

7) An anti-Zionism sometimes, but not always, redolent of antisemitism. A virulent anti-Zionism justified in the name of human rights and therefore harder to combat.

Let us note in passing that by imputing such thoughts and fears to the Jews of France, it is much more certain that Tuchszirer is actually formulating the positions of JCall. The promoters of JCall advocate that Israel return to the pre-Six Day War (1967) borders. That is, to a territorial line that is purely and simply indefensible according to the standards of modern military strategy.[8] They pretend to believe that Israel’s withdrawal behind those lines would guarantee its peace. In other words, they suggest that Israel’s extension beyond those lines is at the root of its conflict with its neighbors.

It must then be asked: why did Israel not live in peace before 1967? On the purely ideological level, hardly anyone but the tiny minority of JCall’s partisans believes that anti-Zionism is “not always” mixed with antisemitism. By introducing this nuance, the author likely seeks to promote a specifically Jewish mode of anti-Zionism that would be distinguished from European and Arab anti-Zionism by its “Judeophilia.” What is anti-Zionism if not the doctrinaire refusal to recognize the Jews as a historic people entitled to collectively emancipate itself within a national setting?

In short, there is hardly any Jew, except for the dejudaized, who cannot answer the anti-Zionist arguments. More generally, hardly anyone, other than completely uninformed people, does not know that the new antisemitism has taken to covering its face with the mask of antiracism and humanitarianism.

3.2 JCall’s Self-Image

In contrast with the image of Israel and its political leadership, but also in contrast with the image of Diaspora Jews who do not subscribe to its criticism, the article gives JCall the image of a benevolent, understanding  body, and especially a very responsible one, one also capable of inspiring the right decisions for Israel’s welfare. In truth, this ethos of free and progressive thought is one that is adopted by a pressure group. For this group, the role of the enlightened Jewish Diaspora is from now on to exercise the art of scolding without limits.

The first requirement of this self-definition is to divest themselves of solidarity with Diaspora Jews who are victims of their own cowardice, but also guilty – through their reticence – of supporting a government presumed to be illegitimate:

5) . . . the Jewish community seems less resolved to make such a denunciation in its own name, at least not in public, in the television studio or on radio. . . .  10) We will not join their chorus….

JCall’s function is to provide critical supervision, which is more like that of someone who instills lessons than that of an adviser. In the present case, it means promoting its recommendations concerning both the state of Israel and European public opinion. It would also be proper to bring European opinion over to its viewpoint (since that viewpoint is not shared by Israel’s political majority).

For JCall’s activists, Israel must “com[e] back to the right road.” The retrieved wisdom would consist of pursuing the policy of unilateral disengagement:

10) … as it did when it withdrew from Lebanon, from Sinai, from Gaza, [hence] we enjoin it to continue to take the path traced by previous governments….

The text labels as “schizophrenics” inclined to “autistic withdrawal” those Jews who do not subscribe to these views. Here it might be asked about those who initiated the “Appeal to Reason”: what planet are they living on? Are they as well-seated in reality as they claim to be?

The pacifism and defeatism for which they would like to mobilize the world – especially those whom they call “the Jews of goodwill” – is based on confusing all the data. The withdrawal from Sinai was not unilateral, but a condition that has been respected for a mutual peace uninterrupted since then by Egypt. The withdrawals from Lebanon (2000) and from Gaza (2005) were both unilateral and were interpreted by the Arab world and Iran as signs of Israeli weakness and immediately celebrated as military victories by the most radical factions.

Moreover, these two disengagements left the ground free to be seized by Hizballah (Lebanon) and Hamas (Gaza), which quickly occupied the territory left vacant by Israel’s departure. The Gaza disengagement led to the Palestinian Authority’s destabilization by Hamas as well as enabling the latter’s putsch in Gaza. The Lebanon disengagement fostered the weakening of the Beirut government and Hizballah’s entry into that government.

Finally, the military and political progress of these extremist organizations led to two wars that Israel had to fight in order to protect its citizens: in southern Lebanon during the summer of 2006, and in Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009 (after three years of constant bombardment of the town of Sderot and other communities by the Palestinian militias in Gaza). Thus, the disengagement policy advocated by JCall, which was put into practice several times by “previous governments,” has proven its ineffectiveness. It especially demonstrated the inanity of the leftist slogan “territory for peace.” How can such a conception, which is both out-of-date and dangerous, be made to seem “reasonable”?

Nevertheless, this recommendation, which has both a moral and a political character, is presented as a necessary precondition for what would be, according to JCall, the true solution to the conflict:

11) . . . the future of Israel needs to pass through the establishment of a lasting peace with the Palestinian people according to the principle of “two peoples, two states.”

This proposition opens two perspectives of meaning of which the validity is more than dubious. On the one hand, it presupposes that Israel is responsible for the unending state of conflict that “the Palestinian people” imposes on it, without making the least reference to the Oslo accords, which were a decisive moment for the strategy of stages first advocated by the PLO, and were the prelude to an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks. This same presupposition also underlies the never-questioned term, the “Arab-Israeli conflict,” whereas since 1947 it has been the Arab world and more generally the Muslim world making war on Israel. On the other hand, the formula – both harmonious and conventional – of “two peoples, two states” dispels all doubt as to the basis of the objective political situation. In fact, such a solution would resolve nothing. It would at most involve increasing from twenty-one to twenty-two the number of Arab states facing the only Jewish state in the world.

The logical culmination of this recommendation, formulated outside the sovereign political framework of the state of Israel, is an appeal to non-Israeli opinion, precisely aimed at altering the course of Israeli policy from outside:

11) This support has been able to publicly express itself for several months now thanks to the European JCall initiative. . . .

12) Let there be many of us in France who will sign this appeal….

3.3 The Exercise of Criticism According to JCall

Given that JCall’s representativeness is limited to its promoters, its initiative has little chance of really being heard. Thus, the strategy of discourse consists of using what one might call “the argument of the third- party guarantor.” This reasoning technique involves referring to other voices whose positions have sufficient authority to impart legitimacy to whoever refers to them. In the present case, the author of the article bases her own criticism of the Jews who do not share her viewpoint on the fact that elsewhere, other critics of Israel have made themselves heard.

In Israel:

4) The harshest words written about this political shipwreck came from the unanimous Israeli press, from left to right, that stressed the fiasco of the operation both on the moral and political planes….

In the United States:

5) Whereas in the United States, demonstrations against the Israeli government took place, in France [they did not]. . . .

The strength of the argument rests on an a fortiori reasoning, which remains implicit and has the logical form: “if. . .then.” The text provides two examples:

a) If the Israeli press (of both right and left) has expressed virulent criticism, then, a fortiori, we are entitled to do the same;

b) If demonstrations against Israel have taken place in the United States, then, a fortiori, we have grounds for expressing our disagreement publicly.

The apparent effectiveness of the method derives from two reasons: since JCall addresses Diaspora Jews first of all, if Israeli Jews provide the tone of this criticism from within Israel, then it is legitimate to openly criticize Israel from outside of Israel. Furthermore, if the United States, which is in solidarity with Israel, allows itself to openly criticize Israel, then there is no reason why in France and in Europe, which are traditionally critical of Israel, the Jews should not assert their own criticisms loudly and strongly.

The reasoning claims to be further strengthened by a simple system of reference that can be corroborated:

4) … Yes, “Gaza might well become our own Vietnam,” as the leftist Israeli newspaper Haaretz pointed out.

This obviously involves an appeal to authority that is rather poorly grounded. Indeed, what is this support worth? The “leftist newspaper Haaretz,” while the sole reference in Israel for foreign editorial offices, as a daily newspaper is only read by a very small fraction of the Israeli public. How much then is the quote from this newspaper worth that associates Israel’s intervention in Gaza with the American presence in Vietnam? Formerly, another parallel of the same kind used to be alleged: between Israel’s supposed warlike nature and the French presence in Algeria. Such associations – both forgeries of Palestinian and Israeli radical-left propaganda – presuppose that Israel acts in the manner of an imperialist and colonialist power. JCall seemingly refrains from stating such an opinion. Yet its employing of this equation more or less betrays its real ideology, which is a Diaspora variant of the delegitimization of Israel, by projecting onto Israel’s unique history categories of historical judgment that are wholly unsuitable for evaluating Israel’s political context.

The text supplies another motif, an unexpected one, regarding the supposed legitimacy of the critique that JCall feels it has the right to make of Israel. This has to do with stressing its solidarity with many Israeli citizens who await moral assistance from the Diaspora:

10) . . .  all the more so when many citizens in Israel share the same certainties and the same doubts and await our support.

This argument implies that “many citizens” (Israelis) are victims of their own government. It further implies that Israel is not a democratic state, that its leaders are not elected, and that they govern against the will of their population. Furthermore, that Israel’s citizens have no means of expressing their “certainties” and their “doubts” and that in order to do so they need the “support” of JCall, which is capable of promoting their aspirations and supplying them with the echo that they are deprived of in their own country.

The text offers a final argument to justify JCall’s hardly democratic interventionism. This argument rests on an emotional motive. Invested with moral responsibility and with a sense of history, which they alone have at their disposal, JCall’s promoters feel compassion for Israel. This element of passion, which is not reason to be sure – it curiously contrasts with the theme of an “Appeal to Reason” – is used twice, however, which is not the case for any other argument used throughout the text:

10) . . . because it is dear to us,[9] because we don’t doubt for an instant that it is capable of coming back to the right road. . .we enjoin it to continue to take the path traced by previous governments. It is because its pain is our pain that we must point out its mistakes….

If the emotional argument does not have the same logical load as the other arguments put forth by the text, to say the least, this element of pathos, which trespasses on the privacy of the readers, operates like an argument that can facilitate the acceptance of criticism of Israel. Indeed, no one can prove attachment without his feelings attaching him in one way or another, and without this link obliging him in regard to the loved object. The resort to the sentimental motif here has the function of captatio benevolentiae, or seductive persuasion.

3.4 The Split Representation of Israel: The Evil Object and the Naughty Boy

The text presents a split image of Israel. This picture is ambivalent to the extent that the name Israel refers both to the country and to the government in power. It is in this area, which is the text’s main area of reference, that the stereotypical expressions are the most emphatic. Upon examination, it seems that these designations are divided into an almost equal proportion between the two aspects: the state on one hand, its government on the other.

Hence, Israel has two faces. As a state, the text speaks of it as of an unruly child, a naughty boy incapable of reflection, still immature, who must be advised and led by the hand because he has not yet reached the age of reason:[10]

10) … Israel has taken the wrong road…. we must point out its mistakes….

As a national entity endowed with a political leadership (“the Netanyahu government”), Israel appears as an evil object. It arouses antipathy and unforgiving harshness. It is significant that the identifying expressions are all variations on the theme of “government”:

2) “Israel, the Netanyahu government in particular”; 3) “the Israeli government violently attack[ed] a so-called humanitarian flotilla”; 3) “to raise the blockade that is now harshly and unjustly striking at the Gazan population”; 6) “even if it is not implicit support for the policy of the present Israeli government”; 5) “the suicidal attitude of the Netanyahu government since its rise to power”; 8) “Israel and its government,” etc.

Several remarks on these prefabricated statements are in order. They are heavy with meaning. The “government” of Israel is all the more deserving of criticism since it is “in particular” that of “Netanyahu.” It is also necessary to consider as an intrinsic and not accidental characterization that the “Netanyahu government” is “suicidal” by nature. This means that it conducts a policy that might be fatal for Israel. Likewise, it is by its essence the creator of an aggressive “policy” that is “violent,” imprisoning (“the blockade of Gaza”), “harsh,” “unjust.” Hence, any events that might take place during the term of this government would repeatedly confirm its “suicidal” (for the state) and inhuman (for the world) nature.

Note, moreover, that the expression “Netanyahu government” is constructed as a fixed semantic unit within which it is no longer possible to distinguish between the subject and the complement. Thus the only distinction allowed is of the type: “Israel and its government,” as if these two entities did not have a logical connection between them. Reification operates here as a necessary precondition to demonization.[11] Note also that in contemporary terminology, to speak of “rise to power” generally connotes Hitler’s political victory (“the rise to power of the Nazis in 1933,” etc.).

This insinuates that any “support” for this government is reprehensible in principle. To the extent that this “support” is “implicit,” it would be all the more reprehensible as it could not be avowed. In the mind of the ordinary person, informed by the history of the twentieth century, the idea that a government practices a policy of war, of violence, of contempt for human rights, and of injustice, immediately signifies the memory of fascism or Nazism. Here we perceive on what level of vulgarity and confusion this critique of Israel’s political choices is situated.

This implicit representation (the government of the state of Israel acts as the fascists and Nazis acted) contrasts curiously with the expression “Gazan population.” The text leads back incidentally to the lie of anti-Zionist propaganda that describes Gaza as an “open-air prison.” This second representation conceals the political dimension of the conflict, entirely obliterating the presence of Hamas.

3.5 JCall’s Vision of the World

This article in the press, published a little more than two months after the “Appeal to Reason,” is an updating of the “Appeal”: we find in it the same arguments, the same implicit theses, the same ideological principles. In the meantime, the flotilla affair had supplied an opportunity for the partisans of JCall to hone their criticism by doing more to focus on their presumed adversaries: the Israeli government as well as the Diaspora Jews who attest their solidarity with it. JCall’s view of the Jewish world brings into conflict two tendencies that are opposed word for word, both on the ethical level and on the political level, situated at opposite poles of a political continuum supposed to set apart the political positions of the right (the Jews in solidarity with the Netanyahu government) and the left (the partisans of JCall and the Israeli citizens, in a minority, who do not see themselves reflected in the governmental majority now in power).

According to its construction of reality, JCall is the sole depository of sound judgment, whereas the Diaspora Jews in solidarity with Israel are the very incarnation of unwholesome judgment, of illegitimate support for a political leadership wholly devoid of judgment. Resulting from this division is a series of oppositions that are actually caricatures meant to justify both the terminology and the claims made by the “Appeal to Reason.” This involves a fundamental polar opposition presented by the following table showing the significant items:

Jewish community of France Netanyahu Government Partisans of JCall
Unwholesome judgment Devoid of judgment Healthy judgment
 “Schizophrenic” Harsh Concerned for Israel’s future
 Servile Blind Free
 Fearful Unjust Courageous
 Cowardly Amoral Moral
 Politically dependent Politically immature Politically mature
 Timid Aggressive Pacifists
 Unreasonable Irrational Reasonable

4. Concluding Remarks

Methodical analysis of this text lays bare the motivations of the ideology that inspires JCall. It demonstrates that an ideological discourse is first of all a discourse closed into itself, worked out on the basis of a stock of stereotypes and platitudes that when displayed produces an effect of instant recognition of what is presupposed. The reader who is somewhat informed about historical changes can discern, beyond the magic of readymade formulas, the trace of a propaganda discourse crystallized into a set of dogmas.

The specific quality of ideological evidence is that it does not allow itself to be easily deconstructed, since it has merged with the memory of the words that it has twisted and adapted to its mechanisms. Nevertheless, ideological statements give themselves away through their own linguistic automatism. Even though they can produce an illusion, they cannot long resist the test of historical reality. They do not permanently resist the questioning of the false evidence that they present.

Let us now recapitulate, drawing several necessary conclusions.

The text uses psychiatric terminology to judge the adversaries of JCall. It contrasts the latter with an ideal representation of “Jews of goodwill.” If one believes this “Short Manifesto,” being a Jew of “goodwill” means supporting the principle of publicly denouncing Israel, calling for a campaign of international intervention, recommending – despite recent political history – the repeat of a disastrous policy (unilateral withdrawal), and calling for an asymmetrical peace with the “Palestinian people” (whose two-headed political leadership does not want it, in the case of the Palestinian Authority, or purely and simply rejects the idea of peace with Israel, in the case of Hamas). In short, all this means considering the state of Israel as not being a democracy and treating with contempt the majority of its citizens, who have made a clear political choice.

The text also holds that outside of JCall, the Jews who lack goodwill have not expressed themselves. This is false. They have done it in very large measure by adopting a critical stance different from that of JCall in the framework of the “Be Reasonable” platform. But the article does not speak of that. They even took a public position, contrary to what the text asserts, but they expressed themselves precisely in order to counter – and with much success – the JCall initiative.

Therefore, it cannot be said that this “fraction of the French Diaspora” acted in conformity with a withdrawn attitude or out of a pusillanimous or tacit complicity with Israel. To the contrary, the support that they gave to Israel was open and complete. In contrast with JCall, the promoters as well as the signers of “Be Reasonable” strongly expressed their solidarity with Israel. But this was not blind solidarity. To be sure, it was solidarity in principle but took up the essentials of what is under consideration here. This solidarity was not expressed in the name of abstract normative ideals, nor even to avoid taking responsibility. This solidarity was quite simply affirmed – and publicly affirmed on a fundamental point of the public debate. This, namely, is that the state of Israel is a sovereign state and it would entail diverging from one’s role as a noncitizen of that state to interfere with it in order to dictate its conduct.

Finally, the promoters as well as the signers of “Be Reasonable” also considered it their duty to oppose the rhetoric of solicitude. They did not believe that the policy of the state of Israel ought to be conducted separately from what the majority of its citizens believe. That is, “without them or despite them.”

The reasoning upheld by this “Short Manifesto” is of a blatant perversity. Despite its several rhetorical precautions, its defensive or preventive strategies, it in effect supplies Israel’s “new adversaries” with the elements for a new, unquenchable criticism of the “Jewish state.” It produces an abundance of arguments assigning guilt to the Jewish people, informing on Israel’s “crimes,” and delegitimizing Israel. It pulverizes the consensus of Diaspora Jews by reversing the role that the Zionism of the founding fathers assigned to the Diaspora, since, instead of urging the Jews abroad to act as ambassadors of their national renaissance, it expects them, on the contrary, to conduct themselves as relentless prosecutors, moved only by their unilateral passion for justice and peace.

All of these principles, then, belong to an “enlightened” pseudo-counter discourse that the harmful ideology of this text invites one to endorse.

Appendix 1

CALL FOR REASON[12]

We are citizens of European countries, Jews, and involved in the political and social life of our respective countries. Whatever our personal paths, our connection to the state of Israel is part of our identity. We are concerned about the future of the State of Israel to which we are unfailingly committed.

Israel faces existential threats. Far from underestimating the threats from its external enemies, we know that the danger also lies in the occupation and the continuing pursuit of settlements in the West Bank and in the Arab districts of East Jerusalem. These policies are morally and politically wrong and feed the unacceptable delegitimization process that Israel currently faces abroad.

For these reasons we have decided to take action based on the following principles:

1. The future of Israel depends upon urgently achieving peace with the Palestinian people on the basis of the Two States Solution. As we all know, this is urgent. Israel will soon be faced with two, equally disastrous choices: either to become a state in which Jews would be a minority in their own country, or establish a regime that would be a disgrace to Israel and lead to civil unrest.

2. It is essential therefore that the European Union, along with the United States, put pressure on both parties and help them achieve a reasonable and rapid solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. History confers on Europe a particular responsibility in this region of the world.

3. While the final decision belongs to the sovereign people of Israel, our commitment to Israel as Jews of the Diaspora obliges us to work towards reaching a just solution. Systematic support of Israeli government policy is dangerous and does not serve the true interests of the state of Israel.

4. Our objective is to create a European movement that will allow the voice of reason to be heard by all. This movement is non-partisan. Its aim is to ensure the survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. This depends on the creation of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.

We ask all those who agree with the above principles to sign and encourage others to sign this call.

*****

Appendix 2

BE REASONABLE ! [13]

A group of intellectuals and personalities, ostentatiously claiming their Jewishness as a pledge of objectivity, has taken the initiative to publish an “Appeal to Reason” (http://www.jcall.eu/ ); an appeal they intend to circulate as widely as possible. Unfortunately this appeal goes against its own stated aims: democracy, morality, solidarity within the Diaspora, and the commitment to Israel’s fate. It is clear that this offensive has a self-serving agenda and doesn’t truly stand for the best interests of the Israeli people.

We took into our hands to organize a petition under the name of: “Be Reasonable”.

1. The idea of an imposed peace with Israel under pressure, even with the intervention of the superpowers, is a denial of both the democratic process and the international law, with hints of neo-colonialism. It violates the freedom of choice of the citizens of the Israeli democracy and sets a dangerous precedent for all other democracies.

2. It relies on the cooperation of a U.S. president who fails to face the deadly challenge of Iran, and of the European Union, which has generally identified itself with the Palestinian cause. Israel is under threat of extermination, a threat expressed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its satellites surrounding Israel from the north (Hezbollah) and to the south (Gaza, i.e. Hamas).

3. While these petitioners put the blame and responsibility of political deadlocks on Israel alone, every objective investigation tends to prove that neither the Palestinian Authorities nor the Palestinian society are genuinely interested in a fair peace: according to a poll by the Al-Najah University in Nablus, 66.7% reject the creation of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, 77.4% reject the idea of Jerusalem as the capital of both states (April 2010).

Creating a Palestinian state without the assurance that there is a real desire for peace within the Palestinian population as well as in the entire Arab world would expose the small territory of Israel to a fatal strategic weakness.

4. The “Appeal to Reason” is suffering from amnesia. The Oslo Accords led to an unprecedented wave of terrorism. The withdrawal from Lebanon was followed by the establishment of Hezbollah. The withdrawal from Gaza helped legitimize Hamas. Furthermore, the guarantees of the UN Security Council are not worth the paper they are printed on: the disengagement from Gaza led to the election of Hamas and the subsequent daily shower of rockets and missiles. Wouldn’t an independent Palestinian state with “East Jerusalem” as a capital be the hub of even more intensified terrorist activity? By then, expression of regrets by our Reasonable Petitioners would be worthless.

5. The sense of morality, of honor and the commitment to peace are not the monopoly of just one side. They are a permanent challenge.

This ill-advised petition could bring serious harm and injury to the citizens of Israel. Indeed, such a position has been used to justify calls for boycott against the State of Israel, its products and its citizens as well as questioning the legitimacy of Israel’s existence.

Confronted with the real threats to its security, which compromise any possibility of lasting peace in the Middle East, we intend to establish and promote a public mediation forum within the European Union. This forum will defend and publicize the legitimacy of the State of Israel within the framework of a true and sustainable peace, and continue the fight against anti-Semitism that has been dangerously resurfacing in Europe.

Please endorse this declaration and show your support for the State of Israel.

Please sign and forward “Be reasonable!”

*     *     *

Notes

[1] Cf. Georges-Elia Sarfati, L’Antisionisme, Israel/Palestine au miroir d’Occident (Paris: Berg, 2002). [French]

[2] The activists who justify their critique of Israel in the name of friendship are not to be confused with the group of “Friends of Israel” founded by the former prime minister of Spain, José María Aznar, precisely a short while after the flotilla affair.

[3] Carole Tuchszirer, “Petit manifeste à destination des juifs français de bonne volonté, ” Libération, 17 October 2010.  [French]

[4] www.dialexis.org.

[5] For purposes of analysis, the text has been divided into numbered paragraphs.

[6] For an analysis of the Gaza flotilla issue see: Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The Gaza    Flotilla: Facts and Official Reactions,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 102, 15 September 2010.

[7] Insan Hak ve Hurriyet ve Insani Yardim Vakfi (the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief) was founded in 1992.

[8] This was notably established by a colloquium held by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in 2010, “Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace.”

[9] The “Appeal to Reason” stated that “Israel is part of our identity.”

[10] The idea of an “Appeal to Reason” is understood here as a demand for putting Israel under tutelage.

[11] The “Appeal to Reason” speaks of Israel’s “moral fault.”

[12] http://www.jcall.eu/

[13] http://spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=6789

 *     *     *

Prof. Georges-Elia Sarfati is a linguist and philosopher, specializing in semiotics and political-discourse analysis. From 1993 to 2001 he taught at Tel Aviv University and at the Hebrew University. He is currently director of research at Sorbonne University (Paris) and founder of the Popular University of Jerusalem (a pedagogical branch of the Im Tirtzu organization). He has written several books on Jewish identity and modern philosophical issues.

 

Georges-Elia Sarfati

Georges-Elia Sarfati is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Clermont Ferrand in France and carries out research at the CNRS, the French national center for scientific research. Previously he taught at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of a number of books which deal with the analysis of the relationships between discourse, politics and ideology.