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A senile ‘fixation’

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The unexpected French success of “Indignez vous!” (or “Cry Out”), the 30-page call to non-violent arms by 93-year-old Stephane Hessel — former member of the French Resistance, concentration camp survivor and diplomat — has been met with mild wonder.

After all, the initial run of 8,000 is now approaching 800,000 — outpacing famed French novelist Michel Houellebecq. In his essay Hessel calls for the citizenry to rise up, as he did against the Nazis, to confront the tyranny of the markets, big finance and the governments that are all too cozy and enabling of them.

But the thin tome, made up of a mere 13 pages of actual text, is not without its critics. On one of his pages, Hessel takes Israel to task for its actions in Gaza. “Jews themselves perpetrating war crimes is intolerable,” Hessel writes.

For this, the son of a Jewish father and a survivor of Buchenwald has been accused of anti-semitism. As both The Independent ( and The Jerusalem Post reported, French Jewish groups have condemned Hessel for his “fixation” on Israel.

Per JP: “We think the circumstances surrounding the publication of this book are very abnormal,” Marc Knobel, a researcher on anti-Semitism at CRIF, the French Jewry umbrella organization, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “It’s a sort of a cult around Hessel, an image of pure humanity of a man at the end of life who wants to proclaim something.”

Hessel reportedly visited Gaza in 2009 and proclaimed the results of Operation Cast Lead to be “crimes against humanity.” The discussion of Hessel’s book falls on the two-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, which killed an estimated 1,400 residents in Gaza, including hundreds of children. It also coincides with a U.S. diplomatic cable newly released via Wikleaks that purports Israel purposely keeps living conditions in Gaza on the brink of collapse.

Peter Voskamp

Peter Voskamp is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC.

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