18 January 2015


The following item came from a Verso blog following on from a Shlomo Sand article in CounterPunch on 16 January 2015 after the recent events in France with Charlie Hebdo. At the end of the article was a link to this item from 3 December 2014, and the one article explains the other.

Shlomo Sand banned from speaking

Shlomo Sand, author of The Invention of the Land of Israel, The Invention of the Jewish Peopleand most recently How I Stopped Being a Jew,was this month prevented from speaking at the University of Nice.

The following is a statement from the UJFP, the French Jewish Union for Peace:
Already banned (effectively) from the Maison des Associations on Nice’s Place Garibaldi two years ago, Shlomo Sand is now silenced in the place where we would least have expected it: the university!

The UNIA (Université de Nice Inter-Âge) had planned a public lecture for Wednesday 19 November entitled ‘Actuality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’, organised and presented by Yvan Gastaut (professor of contemporary history) with Shlomo Sand, professor at the University of Tel Aviv, invited to come and speak. We learned on the 6ththat this meeting had been cancelled – without any explanation.
What had happened, then? A technical problem at the venue? A participant falling ill, or being otherwise occupied?


With a simple email dated 2 November (and all our citations come from this document), Mr. Roger Guedj, emeritus professor at the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, warned the ‘leadership’ of the UNIA against the invite offered ‘to a questionable and widely-questioned historian on a particularly sensitive subject linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ and who ‘questions the creation of the State of Israel’.
Is the university not the proper place for controversy and debate? Alas! Mr. Guedj decided already: ‘lectures on current topics must be the object of consensus…’ In conclusion, he ‘hope[d] that it [would be] postponed, awaiting our leadership’s discussion of whether it is appropriate’. There was soon consensus at the UNIA… and this was put into action, with the meeting cancelled.

Two professors from the University of Nice, alerted to this, immediately expressed their indignation:
Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond (extracts): ‘S. Sand’s theses are, certainly, the object of doubt, but that does not at all make him a “dubious” historian, and his academic position is testament enough to this…

No, Sand does not at all challenge the existence of the State of Israel, indeed he is an Israeli citizen… the UNIA has the vocation of developing (rather than doling out....) culture, and in a convivial atmosphere, I shoud hope; but I do not much believe in harmony, since culture is only alive through and in confrontations’.

André Tosel (extracts): ‘I know and have read this historian of great intellectual talent and moral courage. This decision silences and sullies the university world for which UNIA claims to stand. Intellectual life does not consist of giving your blessing or dodging the issue. The contradictions of history have to be taken head on, arguing loyally and with respect in the discussion of analyses, rather than being neutralised by the reigning moral order’s prejudices regarding what can be expressed.

 These latter, alas, are a speciality of Nice’s. The university body and the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis must restore their intellectual prestige marred by this decision, repudiating and overturning it without delay!

The Zionists will not dictate their rewriting of history, in Nice or anywhere else!

Shlomo Sand is an Israeli academic who teaches at the University of Tel-Aviv –and he isn’t censored there – and is the author of many works of history including The Invention of the Jewish People and The Invention of the Land of Israel. The Zionists cannot forgive him for having questioned the founding myths of their ideology, namely the exile of the Jews and their return.

We can have disagreements with Shlomo Sand, as with any researcher. The Zionists have chosen to try to gag him. The meeting that was meant to take place at the Université de Nice Inter-Âge on 19 November was banned without explanation after the intervention of a professor from the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, arguing that a lecture on the subject ‘Actuality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ would have to be the object of consensus, this not being the case for ‘such a dubious historian’.

Too much – it’s too much! The Israeli government has just committed acts against the Palestinian population that the Russell Tribunal on Palestine called war crimes, crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide. Israel society in its majority approves of these crimes, partly because it is worn down by an incessant propaganda that denies Palestinians their dignity and their rights.

We will not let those who support a criminal policy silence our voices. We salute the two Nice academics, Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond and André Tosel, who have protested against this attack on freedom of expression. Nice, whose mayor treats Roma people as ‘delinquents’ and banned Rachid Bouchareb’s ‘outlaw’ film, is a city where this freedom is under threat. Already two years ago, Shlomo Sand was forbidden from speaking in Nice. And in that same city in 2003, a meeting with Leila Shahid, Michel Warschawski and Dominique Vidal was also banned.

We can also recall the case of Stéphen Hessel, barred from speaking at the École Normale Supérieur in 2011, or the ‘Israel, Apartheid State’ conference banned at Paris VIII in 2012. The UJFP (French Jewish Union for Peace) denounces these attacks on freedom of expression, which serve only to cover up for the destruction of Palestine that is currently underway. It demands that Shlomo Sand be able to speak freely at the university.


Translated from the French by David Broder. 


CounterPunch Weekend Edition January 16-18  Suis Charlie Chaplin

A Fetid Wind of Racism Hovers Over Europe


Nothing justifies an assassination, all the more a mass murder committed in cold blood. What has happened in Paris, the beginning of January, constitutes an absolutely inexcusable crime.

To say that involves nothing original: millions of people think and feel likewise on this account. However, in the light of this appalling tragedy, one of the first questions that occurrs to me is the following: in spite of the profound disgust experienced by the murders, is it obligatory to identify oneself with the victims’ actions? Must I be Charlie because the victims were the supreme incarnation of the ‘liberty of expression’, as the President of the Republic has declared? Am I Charlie, not only because I am a secular atheist, but also because of my fundamental antipathy towards the oppressive roots of the three principal Western monotheistic religions?

Certain caricatures published in Charlie Hebdo, that I’ve seen ages ago, appeared to me to be in bad taste; only a minority amongst them made me laugh. But isn’t the problem to be found there! In the majority of the caricatures on Islam published by the weekly, in the course of the last decade, I have discerned a manipulative aggro intended to further seduce the readership, obviously non-Muslim.

The reproduction by Charlie of the caricatures published in the Danish magazine seemed to me appalling. Already, in 2006, I had perceived as pure provocation the drawing of Mohammed decked in a turban in the form of a bomb. This is not so much a caricature against Islamists as a stupid conflation of Islam with Terror; it’s on a par with identifying Judaism with money!

It has been affirmed that Charlie, impartially, lays into all religions, but this is a lie. Certainly, it mocks Christians, and, sometimes, Jews. However, neither the Danish magazine, nor Charlie would permit themselves (fortunately) to publish a caricature presenting the prophet Moses, with kippah and ritual fringes, in the guise of a wily money-lender, hovering on a street corner. It is good that in the society these days called ‘Judeo-Christian’ (sic), it should no longer be possible to publically disseminate anti-Jewish hatred, as was the case in the not-too-distant past. I am for the liberty of expression while being at the same time opposed to racist incitement.

I admit to, gladly, tolerating the restrictions imposed on Dieudonné from expressing too far and wide his ‘criticism’ and his ‘jokes’ against Jews. On the other hand, I am positively opposed to attempts to restrain him physically. And if, by chance, some idiot attacks him, I will not be very shocked … albeit I will not go so far as to brandish a placard with the inscription: ‘je suis Dieudonné’.

In 1886, there was published in Paris La France juive of Edouard Drumont. And in 2014, the day of the assassinations committed by the three idiot criminals, there appears, under the title: Soumission [Submission], effectively Muslim France, of Michel Houellebecq. The pamphlet La France juive was a genuine bestseller by the end of the 19th Century. Even before its appearance in the bookstores, Soumission was already a bestseller!

These two books, each in its own time, have benefited from sizeable and heated media coverage. There are, certainly, differences between them. Amongst other things, Houellebecq knows that, at the beginning of the 21st Century, it is no longer acceptable to generate fear-mongering of a Jewish threat, but that it remains readily acceptable to sell books implying a Muslim threat. Alain Soral, less adept, has not understood the ‘rules’ and, for this fact, he is marginalized in the media – and so much the better! Houellebecq, on the other hand, has been invited, with much fanfare, to appear on the coveted 8 o’clock program (journal de 20 heures) of French public television, while his book is simultaneously responsible for the dissemination of the fear of Islam.

A bad wind, a fetid wind of dangerous racism, hovers over Europe: there exists a fundamental difference between challenging a religion or a dominant belief in a society, and that of attacking or inciting against the religion of a dominated minority. If, in the breast of ‘Judeo-Muslim’ [no less ridiculous than the Judeo-Christian label] society – in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf Emirates – there is a groundswell of protests and warnings against the dominant religion that oppresses workers in their thousands, and millions of women, we have the responsibility to support the persecuted protestors. Now, as one well knows, Western leaders, far from encouraging the would-be disciples of Voltaire and Rousseau in the Middle East, maintain their total support to the religious regimes the most repressive.

On the other hand, in France or in Denmark, in Germany or in Spain populated by millions of Muslim workers, more often forced into the worst jobs, at the bottom of the social scale, it is necessary to show the greatest prudence before criticizing Islam, and above all to not crudely ridicule it.

At the moment, and particularly after this terrible massacre, my sympathy goes to the Muslims who reside in ghettos adjacent to the metropolises, who are at considerable risk of becoming the second victims of the murders perpetrated at Charlie Hebdo and at the Hyper Casher supermarket. I continue to take as a reference point the ‘original Charlie’: the great Charlie Chaplin who never mocked the poor and the little-educated.

Moreover, and knowing that one’s writings always occur in context, how to not raise the fact that, for more than a year, so many French troops are present in Africa to ‘combat the jihadists’, when no serious debate has taken place in France on the usefulness or the damage of these military interventions? The colonial gendarme of yesteryear, who carries an incontestable responsibility in the chaotic heritage of [arbitrary] borders and regimes, is today ‘recalled’ to reinstall ‘law and order’ by means of its latterday neo-colonial gendarmerie.

France joins the military coalition in Iraq, beside the US military, firefighting pyromaniac, responsible for the chaos created in the region, and notably in the rise to power of the frightful ‘Daesh’. Allied with the ‘enlightened’ Saudi leadership, and other ardent partisans of the ‘liberty of expression’ in the Middle East, [France] shores up the illogical border carve-up that it had imposed a century ago according to its imperialist interests. It is summoned to bombard those who threaten the precious oil reserves whose product it consumes, without understanding that, in doing so, it invites the risk of terror attacks in the heart of the metropolis.

But, in fact, it is possible that this process is well understood. The enlightened West can’t possibly be the naive and innocent victim as it loves to present itself. Of course, for an assassin to kill in cold blood innocent and unarmed people it is necessary to be cruel and perverse. But it is necessary to be hypocritical or stupid to close one’s eyes on the particulars that have provided the foundations of this tragedy.

This is also proof of a blindness that we had better understand: this conflict will further escalate if we don’t all work together, atheists and believers, to open true ways of living together without hating each other.

Shlomo Sand is the author of How I Stopped Being a Jew, Verso, 2014.
In November 2014 Sand was denied the opportunity to talk at a University in France (seat of the liberty of expression). The UJFP summarises the affair here.
An earlier version of this article was published on the site of the Union Juive Française pour la Paix, and reproduced on Mediapart. Translated from the Hebrew by Michel Bilis; translated from Bilis’ French by Evan Jones.




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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm