After October 7, Holocaust historians were called upon by the media to comment on the event. Beyond these requests, many, especially in the American world, spoke out directly to defend positions of a political nature. The tribunes mushroomed, giving rise to polemics within the academic world about the use of history and the memory of the Shoah, and how they are making a comeback and could be instrumentalized in the current conflict. What is the significance of this massive return to the history and memory of the Holocaust as a point of reference since the October 7 massacres, and what is the significance of the proliferation of the word “genocide” to condemn Israel’s war on Gaza? How should we understand speeches that claim that Israel is instrumentalizing the memory of the Holocaust to justify a war that is considered genocidal, echoing the trope that the victims have become the executioners? We asked Tal Bruttmann to shed some light on these questions.
Stéphane Bou: Tal Bruttmann, as a historian specializing in the Shoah and anti-Semitism, how do you think your discipline can help shed light on the current situation? The reference to the Holocaust, whether emphasized or criticized by those who deplore its “instrumentalization,” is omnipresent in the commentary on the event. How do you see this phenomenon?
Tal Bruttman: The event of October 7 marked a fundamental break in the historical sequence that began in 1945, with the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust. From that moment on, the idea took hold that anti-Semitism had been banished that it no longer had a voice and should no longer be allowed to express itself. That’s not to say that massacres of Jews magically ceased in the postwar period—there were still pogroms, especially in Poland—as in Krakow and Kielce—where dozens of Jews were killed, but also in England and even in France, in Lens. Nevertheless, the hope that anti-Semitism was losing its effectiveness was strengthened by the creation of the State of Israel, which was supposed to protect the Jews. Let’s not forget that many of the immigrants who arrived en masse in 1948 were survivors of the Holocaust who had come to find a haven, a refuge. Among them were Polish Jews who were contemporaries of the pogroms that followed World War II, in which “only” a few dozen victims were reported.
SB: It’s interesting to note that these few dozen victims provoked immense trauma, to the extent that of the 250,000 Polish Jews present in Poland after 1945, almost 75 to 80% decided to leave, mainly for Israel.
TB: The international recognition of the Jews in Mandatory Palestine and the creation of the state follow the Holocaust chronologically, but are not a mechanical consequence of it. On the one hand, because the project as formulated by Herzl dates back to the end of the 19th century, and on the other hand, because we shouldn’t believe in the fable of a magnanimous compensation granted to the Jews after the Holocaust. Yet, the birth of the State of Israel marks the moment when Jews can finally be safe from anti-Semitism in their own state. However, October 7 was an abrupt break with this great idea. On October 7, the sanctuary was challenged. The Jews were attacked as Jews in their haven, in a massacre in which 1,200 people were killed. By the way, there’s a kind of reaction to this idea that I find very interesting. I regularly observe it following my interventions in the media, often by supporters of “La France Insoumise” who come to retort to me that Hamas didn’t attack Jews, but Israelis, and therefore it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Of course, this is to pay little attention to the statements of Hamas and the killers themselves, such as the one who was filmed calling his mother to boast—”Mommy, mommy, I killed ten Jews!” Above all, this shows the effectiveness of the strategy, which since the days of the USSR has been to replace ” dirty Jew” with “dirty Zionist.” This strategy has been adopted by a large number of anti-Semitic movements, from the Nation of Islam in the United States to Dieudonné and Soral in France, who have spread this idea to the extreme left, and even to a part of the left that today talks about Zionism all day long. And it’s clear that when people say that Zionist Israelis were killed, it’s to avoid saying that it was Jews who were murdered.
SB: There were also Israeli Arabs among the victims, as well as foreign workers like Thais, Nepalese, and Filipinos.
TB: Yes, because, as in most massacres, you kill the target and then take along all the bystanders—all those who didn’t need to be there. Because the assumption is that their mere presence betrays their complicity, if not their guilt. This just goes to show how much this event undermines the idea of a sanctuary for Jews—you can be the target of a massacre just for being there. It’s worth pointing out that this is the first instance of a mass slaughter of Jews in the haven that was supposed to protect them. Of course, this is not the first terrorist attack in Israel—in the 60s and 70s, Fatah or the PFLP regularly attacked kibbutzim or villages near the border. But back then, there were a few dozen victims at most. In this case, we’re dealing with a completely different scale, an operation in the military sense of the word, ultra-planned, where rape, mutilation and hostage-taking were an integral part of the plan. It wasn’t just about executing people… What’s more, the operation had to be filmed and broadcast.
SB: What can a Holocaust historian say about this approach? Personally, my first instinct was to say that there was something of the magnitude of the extermination impulse that had returned on October 7. Do you think it’s reasonable to describe things in those terms?
TB: I’m a historian, not a psychoanalyst or a psychiatrist. I don’t talk about “impulses.” We’re dealing with a terrorist organization. Hamas is a political movement with a highly structured ideology and a military wing. What happened on October 7 was a military operation with objectives. And what are these objectives? To kill Jews, to take them hostage, and to bring them back to Gaza as a bargaining chip, as a means of pressure and horse-trading. I don’t see how that’s an impulse. Not only were the executions planned, but also the rapes and mutilations. It’s all part of an operation whose goal was to strike as violent a blow as possible against Israeli society.
Stéphane Bou: “Impulse” is probably not the right word… In fact, I was more interested in pointing out the word “extermination.” In other words, it’s not the same thing to carry out a military operation, to go and kill your enemies with a strategic objective, and to give free rein to your desire to destroy them. The massacre that took place went beyond the military gesture, strictly speaking.
TB: But when I said “military operation,” I didn’t mean fighting an army. I meant a military operation aimed at destroying a civilian population. You have to understand every word. It’s an operation carried out by an army—Hamas is a military organization. Its military objective was to kill civilians—it is called an assassination operation. That’s the reality. So we agree on the substance. But you have to understand that when you analyze this as a historian, as a specialist in mass violence, you’re dealing with fields of analysis that make you say things in a way that may seem cold, but that aims to use precise terms to qualify the event as it unfolded. In my opinion, the term “extermination” is a difficult one. I invite you to read Raul Hilberg to see the problems with this term. But it’s certainly an assassination. Two thousand five hundred to three thousand Hamas members were sent out to kill as many Jews as they could find. In the film shown by Israel to journalists and diplomats, we see that at one point an order is given to stop the killing and bring back the hostages. In other words, there’s a lot of evidence of how well-planned the whole thing was. They were given carte blanche to kill everyone they could find, but at the same time, there was the idea of keeping some of them alive. You can see that sometimes in the pictures. Not everyone they catch is executed immediately, some are set aside, which clearly indicates that the killers knew they had a quota to bring back to Gaza. If international law is anything to go by, what we’re dealing with here, contrary to what Mélenchon and his gang are saying, is not just a war crime, but a crime against humanity, and even factual evidence of genocidal intent.
SB: We’re getting to what seems to me to be the most central question, which is “genocide,” such a controversial word today. Everything you’ve mentioned goes back to the question of the omnipresence of the Holocaust reference when talking about October 7, and the fact that both sides use it. I’d like you to start by talking about what it means for Israelis to refer to the Holocaust.
TB: We have to understand Israel’s very ambiguous relationship to the memory of the Holocaust and its weight. Initially, in the first thirty years or so of the state’s history, Israel rejected the history of the Holocaust as not part of its DNA. I refer, for example, to Tom Segev’s book “The Seventh Million,” which clearly shows the very poor reception of Holocaust survivors by the pioneers. And then, little by little, the Holocaust became an integral part of the Israeli DNA, to the point of becoming an exacerbated element. The Holocaust is the high point in the history of anti-Semitic violence, the most traumatic point in the face of which a “never again” can be asserted and embodied, on which the State of Israel is built and which gives it its historical mission. But here the historian finds a paradox. While October 7 rejects “never again” and thus evokes the Holocaust, I cannot ignore, at least as a specialist in anti-Semitism, that the killing of Jews is, unfortunately, a completely traditional activity. That is to say, 1,200 dead Jews do not refer primarily to the Holocaust, but to a whole series of anti-Jewish violence that preceded it by a long way, beginning almost in the 1st century A.D., for example with the so-called Alexandria pogrom. People didn’t wait for the Holocaust to start killing Jews. But in this long list of events, there is the most radical, the culmination of anti-Semitic violence, which the Holocaust represented, and which crushed everything else. It literally swept everything away. From the beginning, the Holocaust is invoked. The atrocities of October 7 recall the worst of the events that are central to the memory of Israelis and Jews around the world. There is a strong temptation on the Israeli side to immediately refer to this event—one can recall in this respect the example of Israel’s ambassador to the UN wearing a yellow star.
SB: This was immediately condemned by Danny Dayan, the president of Yad Vashem…
TB: And shows that not all Israelis have completely lost their heads over this event… By his behavior, the Israeli ambassador to the UN prompted the usual chorus of condemnation. But I’d like to take this opportunity to point out—something I’ve been stressing for many, many years, but which apparently doesn’t interest many people—that Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been walking around with a red triangle pin for years, and so have some of his lieutenants from La France Insoumise. What is this pin? It refers to the red triangle worn by political prisoners in concentration camps, and its wearing doesn’t shock anyone. When I mention it, people don’t seem to realize that Jean-Luc Mélenchon is walking around with a concentration camp symbol. But the idea is—”We are the ones fighting the Nazis” or “We are political prisoners, heirs of the victims of the Nazis. Isn’t Jean-Luc Mélenchon at least as open to criticism as Israel’s ambassador to the UN for wearing a yellow star? As far as I know, the Israeli ambassador is a Jew descended from Holocaust survivors. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is not the descendant of a camp survivor. The problem is this constant trivialization of symbols of oppression and Nazi violence… And we end up abusing the concept of genocide.
SB: This is nothing new, by the way.
TB: Indeed, for 40 years now, Israel has been regularly accused of committing genocide by its ideological opponents. But apart from thunderous declarations, no evidence of genocide has ever been produced. Today, of course, it’s being brought up again, mostly by people who have no particular expertise in the field. This is a fundamental problem, because the concept of genocide is an extraordinarily complex one from a legal point of view. When you use the term genocide, you have to know what you’re talking about, and very few people do. Didier Fassin, for example, recently used the term in the 21st century. This just goes to show that being a professor at the Collège de France, a doctor, an anthropologist, and a sociologist is not enough to be able to say relevant things about the issue of genocide. Fassin is clearly unfamiliar with the history of mass violence, especially as it relates to the 21st century, as he fails to mention what has been going on in China for almost a decade against the Uighurs, which would fall under the crime of genocide according to many international organizations. Nor does he address the case of the Rohingyas in Burma, a Muslim minority like the Uighurs, this time persecuted not by a communist government but by the Buddhist Burmese. So the accusation of genocide against Israel is immediately unleashed, and it’s easy to understand what would be at stake in saying “Israel, the first genocider of the 21st century,” i.e., comparing Israel to the Nazis. This is quite explicit when Fassin describes the military action in Gaza as a mirror image of what the Germans did in 1904-1905 in what is now Namibia when they massacred the Hereros. There’s a whole unhealthy, but ultimately quite presumptuous, game of saying that the Israelis are not different from the Nazis. They may have been victims, but as Jews, they’re no better than their executioners because, in the end, they’re doing the same thing. If you compare the way some people are now taking to the stage to denounce an alleged genocide in Gaza with their past statements on issues such as the Uighurs or Syria, you realize the emptiness of their postures, which are fundamentally ideological. Since October 8, there has been a proliferation of tribunes of people who have arrogated to themselves the right to speak. But one wonders in what name, if not for their ego. Because if you look at all these articles, there are very few real specialists, whether on Israel, Palestine, Middle East issues, or the Arab world. And so, not surprisingly, we end up with public statements that are factually wrong. It’s as simple as that. You get the impression that the facts have lost all meaning in relation to what’s actually happening. And we see people like Enzo Traverso in Mediapart explaining things that are also factually inaccurate.
SB: Enzo Traverso writes that the war in Gaza blurs the memory of the Holocaust. How do you understand this sentence? What’s the point of a text that considers Israel to be instrumentalizing the memory of the Holocaust to justify its genocidal war, thus echoing the trope that the victims have become the executioners? It seems to me that it’s only recently that intellectuals have taken up this trope and given it a certain legitimacy. This leads to a situation of extreme confusion because to accuse Israel of using the Holocaust for ideological purposes is also to use the memory of the Holocaust for ideological purposes. There’s a kind of conflict over the “right” use of that memory, and it becomes very difficult to navigate.
TB: I’m not sure there’s really anything new here. I think it’s mostly the scale and visibility of this phenomenon that’s new. I think you’re absolutely right in describing the situation. And we can’t overlook the responsibility of the Israeli government, which has made several statements that are deeply problematic and scandalous. We cannot assume that only those who are radically opposed to Israel and demonstrate a crass “anti-Zionism” are responsible for this confusion. Netanyahu and his government also bear a heavy responsibility through their statements and their political will. The military operation as it is being conducted, with its almost systematic destruction of buildings, is being carried out without any real objective—”destroying Hamas” doesn’t really mean anything—and without any reflection on the future. We can’t ignore these facts and simply put Israel in the position of the victim. Now, as far as Traverso’s statements are concerned, the degree of confusion in his stance and accusations is nothing short of genius. The text of the interview is now almost two months old. At the time, military experts showed that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza was on a scale virtually unprecedented in history and that more bombs had been dropped on Gaza in one month than in most previous conflicts. So the scale of the bombardment was extraordinary. Can we relate this to the number of deaths? I’m not trying to make a macabre calculation. It’s just that if you drop a number of bombs that is almost unprecedented in history, and the number of deaths remains relatively low, then either the target was completely missed, or it wasn’t the target at all. Similarly, the orders to evacuate the areas targeted by the bombing are not really consistent with a goal of genocidal destruction. But these elements are not taken into account by the accusers… This does not mean that there are no possible war crimes. It’s a question that needs to be raised, even the question of crimes against humanity that could be attributed to Israel. We must not shy away from that. But what’s interesting is this tendency to immediately qualify Israel’s military action as genocidal, while refusing to qualify what’s being done on the other side. La France Insoumise, for example, is quick to jump over the “war crime” and then “crime against humanity” boxes to label it “genocide” when it comes to Israel while sticking to war crimes when it comes to Hamas, which has committed at least a crime against humanity, if not what amounted to genocidal intent. It’s easy to see what’s at stake and how the law can be used to disqualify an enemy. For La France Insoumise, Israel is committing genocide. Hamas, on the other hand, only commits war crimes, which is much more respectable. To understand the extent to which the accusation of genocide is politicized, we need to look no further than the past positions of those who support the charge against Israel.
SB: You’re referring to the way South Africa took its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), claiming there was a “grave risk of genocide” in Gaza…
TB: In 2015, South Africa refused to arrest Omar al-Bashir despite two international arrest warrants issued by the ICC for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur. And last year, South Africa’s ruling ANC party made it clear that it would welcome Putin as a possible guest at the BRICS summit. Cyril Ramaphosa, for his part, argued that arresting Putin “[…] would be tantamount to a declaration of war. It would be inconsistent with [S.A.’s] constitution to risk involving the country in a war with Russia.” The reference to international law is therefore subject to variable geometry. And the same goes for La France Insoumise (LFI). We need only reread the many statements that followed the refusal of its elected representatives to vote for the French National Assembly’s resolution recognizing the genocide of the Uighurs in January 2022. Mélenchon described this vote as a gesture, explaining that if it took place, it would entail the obligation to “intervene to stop it” or to break off relations with Beijing. Among other things, he called for a “constructive dialogue” with China… If his positions of two years ago are to be believed, this means that he is in favor of breaking off relations with Israel and wants to push France to declare war on the Jewish State. Unless, of course, we consider his January 2022 statements to be a pure sham, designed to serve as a smokescreen for his refusal to call the plight of the Uighurs genocide, contrary to several international reports that seem to have no value in his eyes…
SB: One of my previous questions was to ask you how you approach the problem of the political and ideological positioning of historians, specialists in the memory of the Holocaust, in the context of the current conflict. What can they allow themselves to communicate in forums? In the United States, there have been polemics in which such historians have taken positions and argued about the interpretation of the event. In this case, it’s the specialists who are at odds. And it seems to me that this is something new, that October 7 has changed something in the way historians take political and ideological positions on current events.
TB: We have to distinguish who’s speaking and where they’re speaking from. Enzo Traverso is speaking even though he is not a specialist in any of the fields directly involved. Being a specialist on the Jews doesn’t make you a specialist on mass violence, Israel, Palestine, Hamas, or the Palestinians. Holocaust specialists have taken the floor to answer a whole range of questions about the qualification of October 7 in relation to the history of mass violence against Jews, in relation to accusations of genocide. They speak as specialists with expertise in these matters. Secondly, for them to take a position and argue, as you said, is the usual academic debate.
SB: Don’t you think it’s a little different today? When one historian of the Holocaust says that there was genocidal intent on the part of Israel, and another says that there wasn’t, aren’t political oppositions and ideological differences being expressed? I have the impression that October 7 triggered something new…
TB: I’m not sure. It’s raw, it’s salient, but I would refer you to the aftermath of 9/11, where there was also a huge amount of intellectual debate in academic circles. Even before that, during the long period of the Cold War, we had an enormous number of intellectuals tearing each other to shreds, with accusations flying from one side against the other, whether well-founded or not. I don’t think there’s much new in that, but it crystallizes a lot of things, including a whole debate around issues of anti-Semitism. It’s as if anti-Semitism had suddenly come to the forefront of many people’s minds, even though we were led to believe that it had disappeared. Today, however, it manifests itself almost openly, in France, where we are going, and elsewhere. But it’s appearing in places where we thought it was no longer possible for it to appear publicly, so it’s not always accepted. The astonishing communiqué of the NPA, which unreservedly supports the October 7 massacre and justifies it in terms of resistance, is a case in point. After all, there was no shortage of intellectuals who declared their support without seeing the slightest problem in the rape, mutilation, and murder of civilians…
SB: There are a lot of tribunes complaining about a climate of intimidation around the issue, a ban on saying anything, a kind of latent censorship.
TB: It’s the exact equivalent of what’s been said on the other side, on the hard right, for decades: “We can’t say anything anymore…” We’re thinking of Fassin’s tribune, to whose rescue a gaggle of other academics rushed to sign a petition of support, saying they couldn’t say anything anymore. The problem is that they’ve been saying what they hate about Israel not just for a week, but for decades. They’re perfectly entitled to say it, and they always have. But here we have something that is, in a way, surreal. They come to the rescue of an academic but in the name of what, of which need? Is he in physical danger? Is he in danger of losing his job? No, he’s been contradicted on a number of points in response forums. So we should come to the rescue of someone whose position has been debated by opponents? He spoke and was answered. What puzzles me is why everyone wants to talk about this event. And why they feel free to say almost anything. In France, especially around Mélenchon’s case, which is symptomatic.
SB: Symptomatic in what sense?
TB: Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been making anti-Semitic statements for ten years, and these don’t seem to be a problem for his party militants or his lieutenants who defend him. Since October 7, such statements have multiplied. But in addition, there are several intellectuals, what we could call organic intellectuals, to recall the communist period, who come to Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s defense and who also have no problem with it. It must be said clearly and repeatedly—for a large part of the left today, anti-Semitism is not a problem, as long as it is formulated in an “acceptable” way, as in the USSR under Stalin, where anti-Semitism was reclassified as anti-Zionism. Of course, at no point did Jean-Luc Mélenchon say “the Jews.” He has not crossed the Rubicon that would allow him to be tried. Mélenchon has never been convicted of anti-Semitism? Big deal! Neither has Marine Le Pen. Mélenchon uses dog-whistling, i.e., signals that are understood by those who want to understand them. Let me just remind you of one fact—in 1930’s France, not a single political party is openly anti-Semitic. There are some movements, but they don’t have elected members in parliament. If you look at the political programs of the parties that are in parliament, not one of them is openly anti-Semitic. We have to stop this fiction that in order to be anti-Semitic you have to put it in the party program or you have to call Jews by name. In this case, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s attacks are a direct reference to the Jewish conspiracy. The attack on Yaël Braun-Pivet is also deeply anti-Semitic. What’s interesting is that everyone focused on the obscure part of her tweet—”She’s camping in Israel.” No one picked up on the first three words of his tweet “Voici la France,” [this is France] with a photo showing 3,000 demonstrators at the Place de la République. “Voici la France” in opposition to Yaël Braun-Pivet. We’re following the same logic as Vallat, who declares that Blum and Mandel are not France, and Poujade, who declares that Mendès France is not France. Mélenchon says the same thing—after having formulated the same type of attack against Pierre Moscovici a decade ago. There’s a constant stream of anti-Semitic statements, relayed or broadcast by other members of La France Insoumise. And we could go on and on, adding the outbursts of Panot, Guiraud, and a few others. Anti-Semitism on the left is alive and well today. The new left that dominates is the one that no longer has a problem with anti-Semitism, but that doesn’t disqualify it.
Mélenchon’s first tweet about the call for a demonstration against anti-Semitism was to denounce this event on the grounds that it would be a demonstration in support of the massacre. This statement has everything. Since when does denouncing anti-Semitism have anything to do with what’s happening in Israel/Palestine? It’s brilliant when it comes to instrumentalizing the conflict and denying anti-Semitism. It’s all the more brilliant in that there is a constant instrumentalization of the Shoah that France is doing—first, they tried to regain their virginity by going to a commemoration organized by various left-wing Jewish and non-Jewish movements around the November 9 pogrom (the “Night of Broken Glass”); and then they tried to appear, on the very day of the demonstration against anti-Semitism, in front of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundup memorial, only to be chased away by activists from Jewish organizations. According to them, anti-Semitism only comes from the extreme right and is a thing of the past.
SB: And on the far right, Jordan Bardella says that the RN is the best shield for Jews…
TB: Jordan Bardella declares that Jean-Marie Le Pen is not anti-Semitic… The RN and Zemmour’s Reconquête party were present at the demonstration against anti-Semitism. Of course, it’s very problematic, we have to point it out, we have to denounce it. But La France Insoumise used this as an excuse not to participate, while Mélenchon didn’t even wait to find out before denouncing the organization of the march. That said, I’m perfectly willing to accept that the presence of the far right at the demonstration has caused problems for some and prevented them from going. But La France Insoumise could have proposed a different march, a different route, as it has done for other demonstrations. But they didn’t. Instead, Mélenchon and his lieutenants went to Place de la République to support the Palestinians, without having the slightest problem with the presence of certain organizations that are nevertheless highly questionable. In other words, there’s a problem with denouncing anti-Semitism, but not with supporting Palestine and denouncing Israel. Everyone is welcome. They are practicing the “double standard” that they have made a hobby of denouncing when it suits them… We’re in a situation where the RN instrumentalizes Jews against Arabs and Mélenchon instrumentalizes Arabs against Jews. They’re really two sides of the same coin. It’s Jews against Arabs.
SB: To each his own “evil” purpose.
TB: That’s it. Which shows the extent to which the two populations are reified. For both sides, these populations can be used to achieve their ends.
SB: In conclusion, would you say that the moment we’re living through, in relation to the conflict that followed the October 7 massacres, represents a break, a turning point in the history of anti-Semitism and the history of the memory of the Holocaust?
TB: In the history of the memory of the Holocaust, absolutely not. We can see the nonsense in Traverso’s comments that you quoted. It’s one thing for the history and memory of the Holocaust to be invoked by some of the players. But I don’t think there’s a real turning point here, that something new is really taking hold. In terms of the history of anti-Semitism and terrorism, this is certainly an important moment. It’s probably the equivalent of 9/11 in the context of relations between Israel and the Palestinians. You don’t need too much hindsight to see that. As was traditionally the case in ’73, ’67, and ’56, there are international repercussions. The dates I’ve just mentioned go far beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And once again, we must insist on one thing. In 1956 and 1973 it wasn’t Israel against the Palestinians, it was Israel against the Arab states. We can’t forget that there are two dimensions to this conflict. On the one hand, there is the question of the Palestinian state—which still doesn’t exist, more than 70 years later—which we cannot avoid addressing. The attitude of the current Israeli government, which refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, is a fundamental problem that the Israelis will have to face. On the other hand, there is the question of relations between Israel and the Arab countries. It’s easy to forget that Hamas launched its attacks on October 7, just as Israel was about to sign agreements with Saudi Arabia. In other words, at a time when the Arab-Israeli conflict was about to be resolved. It’s easy to see how dangerous these agreements could be in the eyes of Hamas and the Muslim countries that support it, i.e., Iran and Turkey. I don’t know if we should talk about a rupture, but we are facing an important, historic moment from which many things will flow internationally. Even at the national level, we can see everything that’s at stake in the United States, from the presidency to what’s happening on the campuses to the global economy.
Interview by Stéphane Bou
Tal Bruttmann is a historian of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. His books include “La Logique des bourreaux” [The logic of executioners] (Hachette, 2003), “Au bureau des affaires juives : l’Administration française et l’application de la législation antisémite” [At the Jewish Affairs Office-the French Vichy Administration and the application of anti-Semitic legislation] (La Découverte, 2006) and, with Stefan Hördler and Christoph Kreutzmüller, “Un album d’Auschwitz. Comment les nazis ont photographié leurs crimes” [An album from Auschwitz. How the Nazis photographed their crimes] (Seuil, 2023).
|La France Insoumise (LFI) is a French political party founded on February 10, 2016, and led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. It places ecosocialism at the center of its project and is positioned on the far left of the political spectrum. With 75 deputies in the French National Assembly, it has made a name for itself through its outrageous statements, its links to Islamist groups, and its hatred of Israel.
|On November 6, the Italian historian Enzo Traverso gave an interview to the left-wing French daily Mediapart entitled “La guerre à Gaza brouille la mémoire de l’Holocauste” [The war in Gaza blurs the memory of the Holocaust].
In this interview, he worries about the devastating effects of the instrumentalization of the memory of the Holocaust to justify the “genocidal war” waged by the Israeli army in Gaza. He warned that this misuse could lead to a “spectacular upsurge” in anti-Semitism.
|The Nouveau parti anticapitaliste (NPA) is a French far-left (Trotskyist) political party founded in February 2009. It was recently the subject of an investigation for “terrorism apology” after its communiqué about the Hamas attack on Israel, in which it reaffirmed “its support for the Palestinians and the means of struggle they have chosen to resist.”
|Yaël Braun-Pivet is a MP of the majority party “La France en Marche” and the Speaker of the National Assembly (the lower house of the French Parliament).
She has been regularly attacked on social networks because of her Jewish origins, notably by Jean-Luc Mélenchon (see footnote 1), who criticized her for “camping out in Tel Aviv to encourage the massacre,” while she was making a “support” and “humanitarian” trip to Israel with several MPs in October 2023.
|Le Rassemblement National (RN)—called the Front National (FN) until 2018—is a French far-right political party led successively by Jean-Marie Le Pen (1972-2011), Marine Le Pen (2011-2021), and Jordan Bardella since September 2021. Despite a “de-demonization” initiative launched several years ago by Marine Le Pen (daughter of founder Jean-Marie) to purge its ranks of the most visible supremacist, racist, and anti-Semitic elements and to appear as a “normal” political party, this political formation is still strongly criticized for its xenophobia, its dubious links with openly anti-Semitic European far-right parties and its former strong relation with Vladimir Putin.