Friday, May 14, 2004

Edgar Morin Acquitted

France's famous sociologist Edgar Morin, 82, is Sephardic Jew whose family, the Nahoums, came from Salonica. A long-time socialist and erstwhile communist who claims to have once been an anti-Nazi resister (the time when he dropped the surname Nahoum for Manin and then Morin), he was friends with Marguerite Duras, author/actor Dionys Mascolo (Duras' second husband) and author Robert Antelme (her first).

He is also an acerbic and relentless critic of Israel.

Along with Citizen Movement MEP Sami Naïr and author Danièle Sallenave, who lectures at Paris X university in Nanterre, Morin published an essay (my full translation is available here along with a response from the recently deceased Françoise Giroud) in Le Monde in June of 2002. The three authors accuse Israel and its Jewish partisans of reproducing their own sufferings during the Holocaust at the expense of the Palestinians. (Accusing Jews of themselves being Nazis is a common trope in anti-Israel polemics — just ask Norman "stop acting like Nazis" Finkelstein).

In that essay, the three authors wrote:
The Jews, who were the victims of a pitiless order are imposing their pitless order on the Palestinians. The Jewish victims of inhumanity are displaying a terrible inhumanity. The Jews, scapegoats for every evil, are "scapegoating" Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, made responsibe for attacks that they [the Jews] prevent them from preventing.
For these statements, two organizations, Lawyers Without Borders (ASF) and France-Israel took the three authors to court for "racial defamation and apology for acts of terrorism."

Libération reported yesterday that Morin et al. have been acquitted of the charges, which Morin says he found "grotesque."

Funny. One wonders if he knows what that word means.

Morin has also an ambiguous relationship with his own Judaism. He considers himself a "neo-Marano" and rejects the idea of "a chosen people." He says, "I was a Jew who wasn't one. A non-Jew Jew."

Curiously, on this subject, Morin feels drawn to volunteer information about his family life that isn't relevant, at least not explicitly so. His mother died of a heart-attack in 1931 when he was ten years old, a moment he describes as an "internal Hiroshima" and after which he withdrew from the outside world, secretly cursing his father, who overprotected him. Later in life, Morin learned that his birth had also nearly killed his mother. He had been delivered in breech position, almost strangled by the umbilical cord. "I had to die that she might live. She died that I might live," he says. His father Vidal felt "connected to Israel," as Morin says he does, too, but not as a mother nation to defend at any cost.

Morin has two daughters, the issue of his three marriages.

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