From a newsgroup on Middle East Socialism today

March 2001

Subject: Elias Khoury replies to the Israeli ambassador in France

Elias Khoury is a Lebanese writer and novelist. He is also the editor in chief of the cultural supplement of the Annahar newspaper. He is one of the 14 arab intellectuals (including the poets Mahmood Darwish and Adonis, the writer and thinker Edward Said) who signed a statement in protest of a neo-nazi conference that was supposed to be held in beirut. in the article below he is responding to an article written by the Israeli ambassador to France, which was published in the french Le Monde.

The Insolence of an Ambassador

by Elias Khoury

The statement issued by a group of Arab intellectuals against the conference organized by the American IHR and the Swiss "Vérité et Justice", and which was supposed to be held in Beirut, caused many reactions, the most important of which was the small article written by Mr. Elie Bernavi, the Israeli ambassador to France (the article was published in Le Monde, 18 March 2001). In the said article, Mr. Bernavi "saluted" the stand taken by the 14 Arab intellectuals.First, the issue must be clarified in its Arab dimension: the stand taken against a conference organized by two neo-nazi organizations expresses in my opinion the position of the democratic intellectuals of the Arab world, which is against the distortion of truth, against the "myths" of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and against anti-Semitism, which is the most dangerous sickness of European culture. We are in no way concerned in denying the Nazi Holocaust, or in diminishing the number of the victims. These are issues directly connected to European racism, which produced the horrors of the Second World War, and which is now manifesting itself in different forms, through the enslaving of the Third World, the systematic theft of its wealth and the direct occupation of its lands. The most dangerous manifestation of this racism is its position towards the Palestinian people: European racism thought that it can wash the Nazi crimes through committing yet another crime in Palestine, which transformed the Jewish victim into an executioner, or which used the concept of the victim to justify a colonial occupying movement.

Many intellectuals fell into the trap of denying the Nazi Holocaust, the last manifestation of which was Mr. Roger Garaudy. The victim cannot ally itself with the executioner; and we, in that sense, cannot justify the Nazi crime or belittle it, in the pretext that we are fighting Israel. The real struggle against Zionism starts with the struggle against the concept of racism, and with holding the criminal responsible for his crime and not allowing him to commit another crime in the name of repentance for the first one. This is why Mr. Bernavi's article was irrelevant. Because the Israeli ambassador, who represents a state that occupies, besieges and confiscates lands, and who murders little children, is the last person who has the right to salute a group of intellectuals who issued a statement in defense of Justice, aiming to resist racist tendencies that threaten the Arab society in its soul and its culture, through pushing it to imitate the racism and confessionalism of Israel.

I don't know how the ambassador of a state who uses medieval siege methods in Ramallah in order to suffocate an unarmed people, who doesn't ask for more than its independence and the retreat of the colonialist flocks who are obsessed with religious mythology and the hunger for somebody else's land, I don't know how this ambassador dares to speak of the coming reconciliation between the executioner and the victim. Israel is not a lamb, and it has no right to speak in the name of the victims. This must stop. Israel is the embodiment of racial discrimination, of repression and occupation. In spite of the insolence carried by the article of the Israeli ambassador to France, the Arab intellectuals will not change their minds. Our position stems from our belief that freedom for Palestine is but a part of the fight for freedom from racism all over the world. All the Israeli ambassador has to do is look at what his army is doing, so he will be ashamed enough to stop giving others lessons in morality.