Saturday, August 18, 2012

French President François Hollande's Speech

 The Jews & Humanity

In an article ("The Crime Committed in France, by France") in The New York Review of Books, you will find the published text of a speech that French President François Hollande delivered on July 22, 2012; it was about a particular event, as the article notes, "to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup on July 16 and 17, 1942, when the French police arrested 13,152 Jewish men, women, and children from Paris and its suburbs, and confined them to the Vélodrome d’Hiver, a bicycle stadium in Paris." They were later deported to German concentration camps; and only 811 survived.

The speech is a good one, and a reminder that any act of hated directed against the Jews is an act of hatred directed against humanity. Bravo to French President François Hollande for making it. Some of you might tire of this message, but you shouldn't if you care about humanity and the values of liberal western democracy. Hatred of the Jews, often thinly disguised as anti-Zionism or anti-Israel rhetoric, is unchecked and unadulterated hatred pure and simple; it has gone on far too long with far too little international condemnation or censure. Such makes this speech welcome, an excerpt which follows:
The Shoah was not created from a vacuum and did not emerge from nowhere. True, it was set in motion by the unprecedented and terrifying combination of single-mindedness in its racist frenzy and industrial rationality in its execution. But it was also made possible by centuries of blindness, stupidity, lies, and hatred. It was preceded by many warning signs, which failed to alert people’s consciences.

We must never let our guard down. No nation, no society, nobody is immune from evil. Let us not forget this verdict by Primo Levi on his persecutors. “Save the exceptions, they were not monsters, they had our faces.” Let us remain alert, so that we may detect the return of monstrosity under its most harmless guises.

I am aware of the fears expressed by some of you. I want to respond to them.

Conscious of this history, the Republic will pursue all anti-Semitic acts with the utmost determination, but also all remarks that may lead France’s Jews even to feel uneasy in their own country.

In this area, nothing is immaterial. Everything will be fought with the last ounce of energy. Being silent about anti-Semitism, dissimulating it, explaining it already means accepting it.

The safety of France’s Jews is not just a matter for Jews, it is a matter for all French people, and I intend it to be guaranteed under all circumstances and in all places.

Four months ago, in Toulouse, children died for the same reason as those of the Vel d’Hiv: because they were Jews.

Anti-Semitism is not an opinion, it is an abhorrence. For that reason, it must first of all be faced directly. It must be named and recognized for what it is. Wherever it manifests itself, it will be unmasked and punished.
I would recommend that you read the full speech. You can do so at [The New York Review of Books].

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