Sunday, March 31, 2024

Europe is the end goal for the Islamists

Israel on the Front Lines

The former prime minister of France explains that Israel fights in Gaza not only to defend itself, but to protect the values and security of a civilization under siege by an army of cowards and negationists


Editor’s note: What follows is the lightly edited text of a speech delivered by former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Paris on March 19, 2024 

I am convinced that the most essential thing today is the confrontation, dull but obvious, between liberal democracy and several forms of populism and totalitarianism that deeply challenge who we are. They attack our universal values, those of 1789 of course, our common heritage, democracy, respect for human beings and otherness, respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers, equality between women and men, the freedom of conscience, to believe or not to believe, to think, to write and caricature, culture.

There are many front lines. These are not easily summed up as a confrontation between the West and the rest of the world, or between good and evil. I don’t like that caricatural reading.

Populism is first our internal enemy, attacking ourselves, our democratic systems. As in the 1930s, it is originally Western. Can you imagine a world with Trump on one side and on the other Le Pen? It’s not an impossible scenario.

The first front line is in Ukraine, where our future is in play. We must do everything we can to support the brave Ukrainian people, everything to ensure that Russia doesn’t win, everything we can so that international law and justice win.

Another front line is the war brought by Islamism, shaped by the hatred of Jews. Twelve years ago, our country was hit at Montauban and Toulouse. Twelve years ago, to the day, we stood in the courtyard of the Ozar Hatorah school, martyred by an Islamist terrorist.

Europe is more than ever the target of jihadism and Islamism. Their strategy is long term, structured first on the European countries with large Muslim communities. Their goal is to attack us not just from without, but especially from within, to hit us at our heart to sow terror and division.

France has been in the crosshairs for many years, in its democratic, secular, Christian and Jewish dimensions, because we are the country of the Enlightenment and our values are universal. Our schools and our courageous teachers are hit. The press too. Charlie Hebdo and its editorial team will forever embody liberty and the France of Voltaire and Rabelais.

We have forgotten the long view and we don’t think about it between each attack. Sadly, we will be hit again. I told some young high schoolers the day after those terrible attacks in January 2015: “You are a generation that will live with terrorism.” It’s not nice to say nor to hear. But it is necessary to continually remind the French that this battle will be long and arduous.

We therefore need all of society to be mobilized, everywhere.

This war is fed by political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. We must understand the link between jihadists and Islamism that ideologically validates ruptures with society. Let us be clear: Here at home, we have thousands of radicalized people who represent a major threat.

We must first count on our security forces and our armies, on the patient work of our intelligence services and of the justice system.

We also immediately understood and anticipated the implacable mechanics of the ‘yes, but,’ this new negationism, which was about to be put into place to erase the crime and turn the reaction of the attacked into the cause of all evil.

But we must also wage an ideological, intellectual, and cultural war against Islamism. We must understand that for the last 40 years Islam and Muslims have been caught in the convulsions of our contemporary world: the Iranian revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the wars in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabian and Qatari support of fundamentalist Islam, Khomeini’s fatwa against the British writer Salman Rushdie, the civil war in Algeria that caused 150,000 deaths in the ’90s, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 … and in Europe.

The greatest challenge is within Islam itself: We must prevent the collusion of fundamentalist Islam and moderate Islam. European Muslims are the Islamists’ objective, they want to separate them from the rest of the citizenry, they hope there will be retaliations and attacks against mosques so that a climate of civil war can be created. Which is why they must be protected, but also reminded of their own responsibilities. All Muslims must rise up against this Islamism. I’m particularly troubled when I read that 57% of young Muslims consider Shariah more important than the republic’s law. If we in Europe are not capable of building an enlightened Islam, through the promotion of Muslim intellectuals who share our values, through interpretation of the Quran, through controls on imams, with a de facto break with the Islam of the native countries, then the worst is possible. Which is to say, confrontation.

The path along the ridge is narrow. We are democracies, states with rule of law, and also societies confronted with unprecedented crises of confidence. It’s a difficult time. Defending democracy, our civilization, secularized, tolerant societies, with our Judeo-Christian heritage, and integrating the Islam of millions of citizens who will remain here, the great majority of whom—it should be remembered—reject Islamism: This is a considerable, crucial task.

But what is the connection with Israel?

It’s the same front line.

Oh, obviously, with all the differences and nuances.

But Israel, the only democracy in the region, an open society, where 2 million Israeli Arabs live with the same rights as the rest of the population, is attacked by the Islamists of Hamas.

I want to say a few personal words.

I’ve visited Israel regularly for more than 40 years now.

I’ve forgotten nothing of my encounters with young laborers in the early ’80s, of my carefree travels in the West Bank, of my stays at a kibbutz, of the later sistering of the town of Évry with the camp in Khan Yunis in the south of Gaza (before Hamas took power there).

I mourned Yitzhak Rabin, the man of the Oslo Accords who had raised so many hopes, assassinated by a Jewish fanatic. I’ll always remember my last discussion in 2015 with Shimon Peres, who still believed in peace and who imagined what might come of the Abraham Accords.

I love this country, its people, its dynamism, its resilience, its force, its army, the IDF, courageous, young, and popular … but I also can’t ignore its weaknesses and fractures.

“I love this people-world, stuck on a minuscule band of earth that ended up being conceded to it, now three-quarters of a century ago, by the West and a world still dripping with the all the Jewish blood spilled over the centuries, and I love the miracle of endurance and intelligence, of lucidity and goodness: even as, like on the first day, exactly like that first day, it hears its neighbors howling death, it remains, for the most part, loyal to its founding principles and ready for peace the day that the others also are.”

These words are not my own; you can find them in the wonderful work of Bernard-Henri Lévy. So strong, so right, so personal.

I make them mine.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Israel.

But since Oct. 7, everything has changed.

I felt it deep down, on the spot, next to the representatives whom I salute and who were with us. A few days after Oct. 7, we dove into the country’s disarray and incomprehension, the horror at the perpetrated acts, the smell of death, the pain, the dignity and tears of families close to the victims and hostages—those French and all the others too—the reaction of the IDF. We did not return unscathed …

But we also immediately understood and anticipated the implacable mechanics of the “yes, but,” this new negationism, which was about to be put into place to erase the crime and turn the reaction of the attacked into the cause of all evil.

Worse still, the victim, basically, deserved it! Ah, if shame had a face …

It’s a country’s duty to respond as a democratic state that protects its citizens. France had to make this choice the day after the attacks of November 2015. We have to stand together against obscurantism.

For, as I understand it listening to a lot of commentary since Oct. 7, it’s really that all the misfortune in the world can be blamed on the State of Israel. And, as we’ve heard on television, the Israelis massacred at a rave party, did they not have any consciousness of the “indecency” of their celebrations—given that just a few hundred meters away as the crow flies, the Palestinians were living in an “open-air prison”?

On Oct. 7, pregnant women were disemboweled. It’s unfathomable, we condemn it, but in the long view, hasn’t the politics of “colonization” sharpened the hatred of the oppressed?

Infants were decapitated. It’s barbaric, for certain, but the Gaza blockade, in the long view, has put an entire generation of youths in a cage.

Grandmothers were butchered, their corpses stomped on. It’s horrible, but wasn’t it Netanyahu himself, in the long view, who made Hamas grow?

Israel’s misfortunes, deep down, she caused them herself.

We demand from Israel and its “hateful government” temperance, measured action, restraint. To be exemplary, perhaps? Either way, we demand of the country, which can’t wait for our opinion, a “targeted and proportional” response. Only that way, would it be legitimate.

Yes, that’s what we are hearing in France, that’s what our diplomats are saying, lacking all imagination, so, so cowardly, yes, like other chancelleries—and that’s to say nothing of a totally discredited United Nations—so far removed from the realities on the ground.

We demand a permanent cease-fire … But that would be a victory for Hamas!

What are these people thinking?

In the noise and fracas of international reprobation, I’m still waiting for one thing, which I haven’t yet heard: Has anyone at all thought to ask Hamas to prove its temperance and to contain its own violence?

Who is demanding of Hamas to free its hostages, spoils of an ignoble bargain, to lay down its arms, to demand of its leaders to surrender or go away.

And yet, if these conditions were met, the war would be over!

The truth is that without Hamas—an Islamist organization founded by the Muslim Brotherhood—Israel would not be in a permanent state of war to defend itself and its citizens in the face of uninterrupted rocket attacks sent over Israeli territory. Only Israel’s technological power keeps it from continually crying over new dead.

Without Hamas, there would not have been an Oct. 7, there would be no hostages, no war.

That’s what our diplomatic corps should be defending, instead of coming out with the same tired language of decades past.

We all want to end the war and its procession of violence, death, suffering, with, first of all, Israelis mourning their sons and daughters sent into combat and the Gazans transformed into human shields by Hamas. All lives are worth the same. But intentions are not.

So let us say things clearly:

I have no sympathy for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and its ultra-right-wing ministers, and not much more for a large part of the Israeli population that has watched its country slip into a political impasse for too long. At the end of this war, Israelis will demand explanations, they alone will choose, with sovereignty, to turn the page on this suffering. It’s up to them to decide—not us. For Israelis form a lively, beautiful democracy.

But they will have to take on other challenges that we cannot ignore, those posed by Hezbollah and of course Iran. And here too, we are fully implicated.

We know that peace will arrive through the elimination of Hamas’ terrorist apparatus. It’s the first condition for reestablishing a Palestinian Authority worthy of its name, in Gaza and the West Bank, provided the PA changes, that its corrupt and discredited leaders are replaced. In partnership with Israel, which will demand absolute security on its borders, and with the support of the international community and countries in the region, a political solution must be found for the Palestinian people, who have a right to self-determination.

It will take time … a long time. It won’t be easy, as you know. And we’ll have to return to the beautiful reflection that Jean-Michel Blanquer gave us.

The attacks of Oct. 7 were the worst in Israel’s history. The barbarity manifested and the inhumanity of the acts that day gave us all a lesson on the enemy that the Israelis must fight.

Our own enemies are not that different. In Toulouse, Nice, Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, or in Paris. See the link between the Bataclan and the rave in the Negev.

So obvious.

Which is why we must defend Israel’s right to defend itself.

It’s a country’s duty to respond as a democratic state that protects its citizens. France had to make this choice the day after the attacks of November 2015.

And while Israel fights, like the Ukrainians, also for us, in defense of our values, our support must be impeccable.

All we have to do is stand together against obscurantism.

We must rise up against the hatred of Jews that has surged in our compatriots since the start of this conflict with a terrorist group.

For too long, we have been lonely, too few, in denouncing the hatred of Jews against a background of rising Islamism and abject complicity from a part of the political left, along with cowards of all stripes.

The Jews of France knew the torment of Ilan Halimi. They saw the denial of justice that Sarah Halimi endured, after Ilan’s death.

The killings in Toulouse, those in the Hypercacher in Vincennes, the death, in 2018, of Mireille Knoll, a Shoah survivor, stabbed at home, all revealed that the France of human rights and the Dreyfus affair had become a country where one could die simply for being Jewish.

And since Oct. 7, the anxiety and incomprehension are back. Fear, too, in the form of a kippah no longer worn in public, a name erased from a mailbox, a mezuzah taken down. Now, in Paris’ Science Po university, a student is denied entry to a meeting because she is Jewish, sorry: a Zionist!!!

Like the Jewish women, thrown out of the protests of March 8, because they wanted to recall the incomparable femicides of Oct. 7.

It’s unbearable. That’s not France. It’s time to revolt! And to make the republic stand!

So, dear Bernard-Henri Lévy, you write of the solitude of Israel: Are Jews alone? Yes, you are right: “There is no land, on this planet, that is a haven for Jews, that’s what Oct. 7 made clear.”

To not understand that is to not understand anything about what we are living through, or what the Israelis feel, what the Jewish world feels.

It is our imperative duty to respect without fail the history of Jews in our country, and their past suffering.

I will not tire of repeating:

Without France’s Jews, France is no longer France.

That duty ties us, through our fraternal bond, to Israel.

Tonight, I want to say to the Israeli people, to my Jewish compatriots, that thanks to this magnificent assembly, to our engagement, and mine, as with a majority of French people, you are not alone!

Over there, our future, our destiny is also in play.

Oct. 7 reveals the drift on one part of the left—the famous “irreconcilable” left—of the ravages of Islamo-leftism, of wokism in our universities, of relativism, of social media, of conspiratorial theories that converge in their hate of universal values and therefore of Jews.

Yes, it’s all the same front line.

To be a patriot and republican is to understand that.

Oct. 7 is therefore a revealing event that forces us into a startling realization.

Only republicanism and an uncompromising defense of our universal values, of secularism, of our schools, our language, the uniqueness of France will make it possible.

It’s another story?

No, it’s the same one.

And we will meet again to speak of it, and act together.

So, let us take the offensive!

That’s the pact that we seal this beautiful night!

Thank you.

Translated from the French by Matthew Fishbane.

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