Letter of Abbe Pierre to Roger GaraudyApril 15, 1996
Very Dear Roger,
You know the limits of my strength. I weaken every day, even though many think that my strength is great because my voice is still resounding and because, as soon as I have the conviction that an action or an issue creates injustice or falsehood, I recover my energies, however briefly.
Forgive me for talking so much about myself, but this is to explain to you and to all who would deem it useful to make my letter known, why, despite phone calls, I am late in expressing my convictions concerning you as a person, whom I have known for over 50 years, and concerning your actions, from the most intimate to those having great public consequences.
As a communist deputy, you were the first person with whom I had a debate, the memory of which has remained unforgettable because it was fruitful for both of us.
Your most recent book reached me while I was at the limits of my strength, attending to other pressing tasks. At 83, with all that is happening to me, I can read very little. I have only 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon when I can really work.
About this crushing, thousand year old unending drama surrounding Israel, you have known, for many years, my careful considerations and you know that my thoughts extend beyond the contemporary dramas.
We have had serious discussions about this subject.
It is impossible for me to speak about your new book with all the care that is required, not only because of its fundamental subject, but also because of the amazing, brilliant and scrupulous scholarship on which each argument is based, as I noticed while going through it.
I will do my best so that soon, true historians with your same passion for truth will set out to debate it with you.
The insults against you that I have seen (even in a Daily that I like most because of its customary objectivity) and that have bombarded you from all sides show the dishonesty of those who have rashly condemned you.
In this letter, I want to make public two convictions: one, in a few words, concerning your person; the other (still imperfectly expressed) concerns how my life has led me to conceptualize the succession of historical events, which I view with sadness. Such is the admirable faith (but for many centuries withdrawn to itself) of this people, my brothers, that limits itself by not hearing the call to a mission of another, nobler greatness.
Providence had allowed me, in other times (that seem so near), at the risk, voluntarily accepted, of my life, to come to the help of those I could help. Because of this, I am particularly sensitive to their pain.
About you and your life, a few words suffice. You are one of those men who will never cease to be tormented by a devouring thirst for the Absolute, until faced with Infinite Love.
I blame those who are too superficial, or too busy with many other things, that they do not know how to respect and love your research, and do not understand the manner in which (all during your life) you have tried to approximate the Absolute, approaching it from its many, perceived, fragmented dimensions, from all over the world and through the centuries, that people share (and over which they are led astray, and sometimes fight).
It is not without some painful trembling and great humility that I invoke another of my convictions concerning the Jewish portion of the human universe.
After I finished my theological studies, I pursued my own biblical studies. It came as a horrible shock when I discovered the Book of Joshua. I had already been gripped by more serious trouble when I learned of the Golden Calf's order to massacre 3000 people a short time before Moses brought the "Table of Laws," which said, "Thou shall not kill!" But with Joshua, I discovered (surely told centuries after the event) how a true Shoah took place on all existing life in the "Promised Land."
I say: "If I promise you my car, and if you come at night, kill the guard, force the door open and take the promised car, then what is left of the 'promise'?"
Doesn't violence destroy the foundation of the promise? Indeed, afterwards, the Covenant will continue to be repeated constantly with a people who (not unique, it seems, but unique as a highly constituted people) have in their conscience the notion of a Unique Eternal (indeed, not yet clearly knowing that this Essence is Love). I live this revelation with Jesus, Jesus who founded the Trinity of faith: Deus caritas est. But does not this Covenant also concern this part of the world (that can and must be called not "Promised Land," but "Holy Land," filled with crimes but also with Prophets)?
I can no longer justify promises by God (even if orders to massacre are attributed to Him -- and isn't this an offense to God?) for only this corner of the earth, for or against which so many are still dying today.
Is not the Covenant to send all of Israel to spread the faith it has received, for all of the earth?
The promised land is for every Believer (hence, for every Jew, too). I cannot swerve from this idea, of carrying to the whole earth the JOY of experiencing the true GOD.
Oh, how I would like to still be young, to work with fraternal groups for the realization of the mission received first in Israel, then in Jesus.
I do not ignore that the retreat of Israel upon itself is partly due to the strange reversal of history caused by Constantin after the Edict of Milan, and the harmful consequences that accompanied its beneficial effects.
We have heard that in the year 2000, the Pope (will it be the same Pope?) will express the intention to confess the historic mistakes that accompanied the zeal of Christian missions.
Could he underestimate the role that the words, "deicidal people," played in anti-semitism? This would be insane, for it is to all peoples, to all humans, that Jesus offered himself in ransom.
At that time, forbidden martyrs were replaced (to compensate for the decadence of the empire) by the disastrous structures of privilege: Prince-Bishops, Pope-Kings, including the most abusive confusion between the spiritual and temporal.
Roger, we are both old men, and we have to talk more about this and question people more scholarly than myself. Please, from these illegible lines that we will read together over the telephone, keep the force and loyalty of my affectionate esteem and my respect for the enormous work of your new book. To confuse it with what has been called "revisionism" is a deception and a veritable slander by unthinking people.
I embrace you and assure you that you and your family will remain present in my daily offering.
May 11, 1996
Dear Abbe Pierre, Dear Roger Garaudy,
I am saddened by the flood of hatred and contempt heaped upon you. This reveals the feeling that many carry in their hearts. Remember, Abbe Pierre, a devoted man, dragged in mud, will enhance your value (in the eyes) of the one who judges and condemns.
And you, Roger Garaudy, you have a twofold luxury: in the eyes of the French, you incarnate two phobias -- communism and Islam. One would think you do it on purpose.
You have proved that you love the Jews infinitely more than those who give lessons. But here you are, you also love the Palestinians and Arabs in general, the majority of whom are Muslims, but sometimes Christians. All Palestinian or Arab brothers who, for generations, have been humiliated, colonized, dispossessed, bashed, imprisoned, starved. And you have reason to love them and to want justice and peace for them. Nobody understood (and nobody explained, either) that it is because of them that you embarked on the mad enterprise that consists in trying to explain (to the ignorant and to people who do not want to know) the consequences of the horrible extermination of Jews, or the fate of the Arabs, who had nothing to do with Polish or Russian pogroms, the Dreyfus Affair, the concentration camps, or the Nazi extermination. And yet, it is they who are dispossessed. What is contested is not the abjectness and horror of antisemitic massacres, it is their use to justify the creation and permanent expansion of the State of Israel and to cover up mad injustices. To make of "Auschwitz" a political argument to support Israel is to run the risk that this argument be contested. And when the historical reexamination of the Nazi period is refused, when the files are closed, is not that really to prevent the questioning of the legitimacy of the State of Israel and its behavior? Yet history will prevail. One day, everything will be known.
Thank goodness that it was a Jewish historian (for whom I have great respect) who wrote 30 years ago in "Les Temps Modernes" a marvelous article, "Israel, Colonial Fact?" Is he right or wrong? And if it is true that the colonization of Palestine was devised by the Zionist movement a hundred years ago, during the height of the colonialization period, is there no reason to doubt that this colonial domination will end like the others? It is better to think about it than to curse. Has not Arafat agreed to pay a heavy price for peace? And, to a certain extent, the Israeli pacifists, too? Rabin included? Are "negationists" the Nazis of today who want to revise history in order to give good reason for the Nazis of yesterday? I will never believe (after reading Abbe Pierre's declarations and R. Garaudy's book) that these brothers have converted to Nazism.
It is said that the theology of Abbe Pierre is "obsolete." I know others who are even more so, and who could do better to be more modest.
As for you, my two brothers, the struggles you are waging, at your age, to raise the consciousness of all those who need it, compel respect and contribute to hope.
Pastor Roger Parmentier
A 1940 Gaullist veteran of the Free French Forces (FFL), I was arrested in October, 1943, and deported for 18 months to Buchenwald, then to the hell of Dora, where thousands of French deportees lost their lives in the underground factories of V1 and V2. I returned disabled.
This is to tell you that we shared with our Jewish comrades all the ordeals of the camps. Having said that, I ask journalists with what right they deny veteran deportees the right to question theories elevated to truth, not by Jewish deportees but by some Zionists?
What kind of society do we live in, where we do not have the right to criticize, in any manner, either Jews or Israelis or Zionists, without being automatically accused of anti-semitism or racism?
Let journalists know one thing: The vast majority of deportees in Nazi camps were not Jewish, even though the media give credence to the thesis that only Jews were deported and exterminated.
Let them know, too, that in France, there were about 250,000 deportees, of which about 25,000 were French Jews. Between 80,000 and 100,000 returned, of which about 15,000 were Jews.
Nobody speaks about the non-Jewish deportees. Why? There is a lot of talk about Shoah, but nothing about the underground factories of V1 and V2 in Dora, where thousands of French deportees died of exhaustion and bad treatment. Dora, too, was a camp of extermination, by work and by hunger.
As for Auschwitz, it is true that about 800,000 Jews from all of Europe perished after 1943, but we must not forget that the first exterminated deportees were 400,000 Soviet soldiers, about 150,000 gypsies, 500,000 to 600,000 Polish, and deportees of other nationalities.
There is no talk about this, either. So why talk only about Jews' sacrifices and conceal the martyrdom of other deportees? They, too, have the right to memory.
As a senior deportee, Garaudy is saying the same thing, when he maintains that deportation of "non-Jews" was concealed and when he denounces the manipulation of numbers, from the official talk initially of about 4 million Jews exterminated in Auschwitz, now reduced to 1 million.
Is it "revisionist" or "negationist" or even antisemitic to maintain this?
In the camps, there was no monopoly by any category. We were all equal in the face of suffering and death.
We cannot accept that deportation be monopolized by some and that journalists who have known neither deportation nor war be permitted such manipulation.
Doctor of Law
Commander of the Legion of Honor, Paris
("Le Figaro," Friday, May 3, 1996)
Cana: 102 Faceless Dead
We killed 170 people in Lebanon, most of whom were refugees, during the month of April, 1996. Many of them were women, old people and children. We killed 9 civilians, one a 2 year old girl and one, a centenarian, in Sahmour, on April 11th. We killed 11 civilians, including 7 children, in Nabatyeh, on April 18th. In the UN Camp in Cana, we killed 102 people. We made sure to inflict death from a distance. In a very secular manner, without the archaic idea of sin, without the antediluvian worry to consider man in the image of God, and without the primitive proscription, "You shall not kill!"
Our solid alibi is that we are responsible for nothing, that the responsibility falls on Hezbollah. A most doubtful alibi. For when we decided to launch a massive attack on the civilian region of South Lebanon (while Israel ran no vital risk), we decided, ipso facto, to spill the blood of X number of civilians. When we decided to drive half a million people out of their homes and to shell those who remained behind (while in Israel, we did not have one single victim), we decided, in fact, to execute several dozen of them. This (alibi) allowed us to make such cruel decisions without seeing ourselves as rotten.
We killed them because the increasingly wider gap between the sacrosanct character that we attribute to our own lives and the more limited character we give to theirs, allowed us to kill. We believe, in the most absolute manner, with the White House, the Senate, the Pentagon, and the New York Times on our side, that their lives do not have the same weight as ours. We are convinced that with Dimona (Israel's atomic site), Yad Vashem and the Shoah Museum in our hand, we have the right to compel 400,000 people to evacuate their homes in 8 hours. And we have the right, at the end of 8 hours, to consider their homes as military targets. And we reserve the right to rain 16,000 shells on their villages and their populations. And we reserve the right to kill without any guilt feelings.
But all this cannot alleviate the gravity of the massacre, Israeli style, and our responsibility for its execution. For it is perpetrated, in general, in places to which we give free range to immoderate violence.
The shelling of Cana was executed according to the rules, orders and objectives of operation, "Grapes of Wrath." There is something wrong in these rules, orders and objectives. Something that is no longer human. Something that touches on the criminal.
And all of us, without exception, were an integral part of this machine. The public supported the media, who supported the government, who supported the Chief of Staff, who supported the inquiry officer, who supported the officers, who supported the soldiers who fired the three shells that killed 102 in Cana.
Nothing can prevent Cana from becoming an integral part of our biography. Because, after Cana, we did not denounce the crime, we did not want to subject the affair to the eyes of the law, we merely wanted to deny the horror and go on with our current affairs. That is how Cana is part of ourselves -- like one of the features of our face.
As the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein (in the Cave of the Patriarchs on Muslims while praying) and the crime committed by Ygal Amir (like the reactions to them) were manifestations of rotten seeds in the heart of the national-religious culture, the massacre of Cana is no less extreme a grain of rottenness in the heart of secular Israeli culture: its cynicism, brutality, instrumentalism, egocentrism of the powerful; this tendency to blur the frontier between good and evil, between permitted and prohibited; this tendency not to require justice, not to care about truth.
The manner in which contemporary Israel has functioned during and after Cana shows that modern, rational Israeli life conceals a terrifying aspect.
Ari Shavit/Haaretz/New York Times Syndication.
Ari Shavit is a writer and columnist of the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. He lives in Jerusalem. (Translated from Hebrew in "Liberation" of May 21, 1996.)
This pamphlet is a reply to the lies of the media about Roger Garaudy's book, "The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics: A Reference Book to Purify Political Life in the 21st Century."
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