”… the Palestine question within a European context.”

By Alain Gresh

This essay addresses the Palestine question within a European context. After reflecting on why Palestine has been widely embraced as a “universal cause,” the author explores its relationship to the “Jewish question” in the changed context following World War II: Whereas prior to the war it was the Jews who were perceived as a threat to European civilization, today it is the Muslim immigrants who have the scapegoat role. Also discussed are philosemitism (and its manifestations in the West) and anti-Semitism (as it relates to the Arab world), and how these phenomena have been impacted by the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The essay concludes with “utopian musings” on possibilities for a future Palestinian-Israeli peace. 

”IF ONE DEAD ISRAELI is worth several dead Palestinians, how many Congolese corpses are needed for a Gazan shroud?” These words were written by the French journalist Hugues Serraf immediately following Israel’s launch of Operation Cast Lead against Gaza. In his article, Serraf notes that 271 people had been killed at about the same time in the Democratic Republic of Congo by fighters from Uganda on their way to the Central African Republic, without anyone making a fuss about it in the international press. He then goes on to ponder this discrepancy in a way that is entirely valid, whatever one may think of his implied conclusion.

To understand why Israel has become the perfect bad guy, the one everyone loves to hate unreservedly and without risk of contradiction except by a “Zionist”; the one whose excesses systematically evoke comparisons to the Nazis. . . . It is possible that the predictability of reactions concerning Israel springs from a logic that I am frankly unable to grasp. Perhaps it really is possible to say that the Palestine conflict is more serious, more intense, more tragic—in short, more everything than anything else. But you have to demonstrate it. [1]

Let us try to demonstrate it, even if beneath his feigned naiveté Serraf is already convinced of the reason: to his mind, it is anti-Semitism that explains the “fixation” on Palestine, that makes it possible to express without shame or remorse an “eternal hatred” for the Jews. Could Palestine be the new name for anti-Semitism?


ALAIN GRESH , longtime editor-in-chief and current deputy-director of the French monthly Le Monde diplomatique, is the author of numerous books. The present essay is adapted from the last chapter of his latest book, De quoi la Palestine est-elle le nom? (2010).


1 Hugues Serraf, “De Gaza au Congo: des poids, une mesure,” Rue89, 5 January 2009.

Click here to read the post in its entirety at the Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 41, no. 1 (Autumn 2011), p. 67 Essays