The French social scientists Edgar Morin, Sami Naïr and Danièle Sallenave have published in the French newspaper Le Monde (4 June 2002) a magisterial historical analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In “Israël-Palestine : le cancer”, the authors use the metaphor of cancer to describe vividly the radicalization of the conflict and the international implications of the spreading of hatred and violence. In this paper, they expose a terrifying landscape of a “seismic zone” that could destabilize the whole planet. Edgar Morin is an emeritus professor of sociology, author of more than fifty books and one of the most renowned French intellectuals, Sami Naïr is a university professor and a European deputy (vice-president of the French political party “Mouvement des Citoyens”), and Danielle Sallenave is a writer and a researcher at the university of Paris-X-Nanterre.
The authors remind us first that the Israeli-Palestinian cancer has been formed from a territorial pathology in which two nations have developed two political pathologies, one born from domination and one born from privation. Consequently two peoples are tragically confronted, one persecuted in the past and anguished about its geographical insecurity, and one persecuted in the present and denied political right.
In this historical context, the second Intifada awakened a collective anguish in Israel that has put in power the “reconquistador” Ariel Sharon. During March and April 2002, twenty years after the invasion of Lebanon and the massacre of Sabra and Chatila, Sharon pretended to conduct a war in the Occupied territories for the survival of Israel. During this war, he allowed the destruction of schools, archives, land registers, houses, and canalizations. This systematic destruction of civil infrastructure and equipment has oppressed the Palestinian population more and more. Morin, Naïr and Sallenave consider that it is Sharon’s policy which compromises Israel chances of survival by assuring in the very short term its security by terror. Sharon’s triumph today could mean tomorrow’s suicide. In the short term, it is probably Hamas that reinforces Sharon’s policy but in the middle term, it is certainly Sharon who paves the way for Hamas’ policy.
Regarding the right of return of the Palestinians, the authors also question the general attitude that consists to disapprove it, since it has been presented as a major cause of the failure in the peace process. The right of return of Palestinian refugees is not seen as a right symmetric to the right of return of Jews who never lived in Palestine, but both as a sacrilege and a demand of demographic suicide by Israel. The authors consider that this right of return should be put on the peace agenda not as an obstacle but as reparation with negotiable modalities.
Regarding the intensity of violence, the authors note that, at that time, the number of Palestinian civil victims was 15 to 20 times higher than that of Israeli civil victims. Consequently pity and compassion should not be reserved to only one side when on the other hand Israel sees only terrorism in the Palestinian resistance.
Morin, Naïr and Sallenave qualify a “sinister hoax” the political tactic which consisted to demand of Arafat to prevent suicide attacks, when at the same time the Palestinian leader was and is still prevented to act. The authors regret that only an “admirable minority” in Israel refuses to participate in the infernal dialectic of repression-suicide attacks.
The authors also criticize the use of the term “terrorist” which is now a cliché utilized by occupants, conquerors and colonialists to qualify national resistances. The French social scientists see no common measure between a terrorism of clandestine groups and a state terrorism using massive arms provided by the US under the frame of their military assistance to Israel. Should horror and indignation in front of civil victims massacred by a human bomb suddenly disappear when these victims are Palestinian and massacred by inhuman bombs? the authors ask. In their viewpoint, a human bomb is an extreme existential act for a teenager but it is also a political act for an extremist organization.
The French social scientists also raise this “incredible paradox” of the Israeli-Palestinian cancer. Jewish people from Israel, descendants of victims of an apartheid called ghetto, ghettoize Palestinians. Jewish people, who in the past were humiliated, despised, persecuted, today humiliate, despise, and persecute Palestinians. Jewish people, who were scapegoats and blamed for all the evils on earth, are now blaming Arafat and the Palestinian authority that become Israel’s scapegoats, responsible of suicide attacks that they are concretely prevented to prevent.
The authors denounce the new anti-Jewish resentment, emanating from the Israel-Palestine cancer, which is propagating in the Arab world as well as the anti-Arab resentment which is spreading into the Jewish world. The Israeli-Palestinian cancer is developing new tumors in North America, Europe and the Arab world. And the current American “war on terrorism” has allowed Sharon to include the Palestinian resistance among the terrorist enemies of the West, so that the Israel-Palestine confrontation becomes a confrontation not only between two nations but between religions and civilizations.
However the authors observe that an unexpected electroshock came from the Saudi offer made during the 2002 Arab summit (Beyrouth, 28 March 2002) of a definitive recognition of Israel by all Arab states in exchange of all the territories taken in 1967, in conformity with UN resolutions and international right. They believe there are also reasons to hope for a peace based on justice but also on cultural ingredients – which are essential factors in the Mediterranean context – since more than 40% of Israelis come from the Arab world.
The Middle East is a seismic zone where East meets West, where North and South are confronted, riches and poors, Secularism and Religion, religions between themselves. All these antagonisms risk to be exacerbated by the Israeli-Palestinian cancer. Its metastases are already pervading Islamic, Jewish and Christian cultural spheres. The world is in danger of major cascading catastrophes, Edgar Morin, Sami Naïr and Danielle Sallenave predict.
Abstract by Reda Benkirane
Israël-Palestine : le cancer, by Edgar Morin, Sami Naïr and Danièle Sallenave, Le Monde, 4 June 2002