For a while now, the both of us, two French citizens, a Muslim and a Jew, having
strong ties with Tunisia and Israel respectively, realized that it is high time
we speak out. We have both committed to YaLa-Young Leaders in France, in Tunisia
and in the Middle-East, and saw Toulouse and Montauban’s attacks as a national
tragedy that challenged our beliefs. It revealed and highlighted issues
concerning Muslim and Jewish dialogue in France and in the world. This piece,
which we wrote together, points out the necessity to stand united beyond hatred
and division and calls for peace. It also calls for self-examination. This is
where we stand.
France is host at the same time to the most important
Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe. The coexistence between these two
communities is far from being easy. Yet it is necessary. Each of us has her own
education, her own personal experiences. But we believe that the lessons we have
learned led us to get involved in the promotion of the message of peace and
coexistence in Israel, in France, in the Arab world and beyond.
am a daughter of Tunisian immigrants who carried with them the memory of World
War II and the colonization to France. My grandfather is a World War II veteran
who fought against Nazism with the Allied armies and until recently one of his
best moments has been to relate his stories to his grandchildren.
up in a small town in the suburb of Lyon. I don’t remember meeting Jews at
school, and if I did I was never aware of it. I have no memory of hatred and
prejudice or anti-Semitism at home. Nevertheless, I am nowadays deeply committed
to Muslim-Jewish dialogue in France and beyond in Tunisia, Europe and in the
Middle-East via the organization I created in France and via YaLa-Young
As far as I am concerned, I do believe that there is a huge gap
of misunderstanding, fear and unfortunately sometimes hatred between these two
In order to achieve our goal, I have already founded a
Muslim-Jewish think tank, JEM EGO, where young leaders coming from both
communities deal with issues throughout workshops on history, geopolitics and
This first step will lead us to create and implement projects
in non-formal education.
I am deeply convinced that the Middle East
conflict generates and fosters extremists in each community and specifically in
France, where people identify themselves with one of the parties to the
Belonging to the Arab and Islamic community, I acknowledge that
the non-existence of a Palestinian state is one of the greatest obstacles to
normal and peaceful relations with the Jewish state.
I, Sarah, am a Jew
descending from people who came from all over Europe (some fleeing the pogroms
at the beginning of the 20th century) and France, having in mind the
German/Yiddish proverb “Happy as G’od in France.”
Yet, during World War
II, my family suffered severe humiliations, had to hide, to escape from arrests
and resist the Nazis, while loosing their relatives and all of their
Obviously, my family history is a determining factor in my fight
against racism and anti-Semitism. After what they went through, my elders have
always set an example regarding these questions. For instance, my maternal
grandparents have a very multi-cultural and multi-religious group of friends,
from all over the Mediterranean basin, and at the same time are very active
Zionists. Their friends have always respected their views and
I grew up in a small town in Alsace that was visited by my
grandfather’s best friend, Hamdi, quite often. He was a former general of Anwar
Sadat when they first met in the ‘70s. I remember spending holidays in Egypt
with Hamdi’s family. I had to continue this way, reinforced by having been a
victim of anti-Semitic attacks since the age of 11. I have always thought this
was because of ignorance and indoctrination. Therefore, I have committed myself
to organizations fighting against racism and anti-Semitism, for Israel, for
peace with Palestine.
I think that extremists in the world tend to use
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a pretext to stir up hatred.
beings have the choice to be either active or passive, either positive or
negative, regarding peace. Then, it is a matter of responsibility. As a Jew
living in the Jewish and democratic state, I believe it is time to go further to
the definition of who we are, which means to negotiate borders with the
Palestinian state and to start cooperation based on mutual recognition and
We both believe that each community should examine itself after
Toulouse and Montauban’s terror attacks which were only the emerged part of an
iceberg of conflict, racism and Islamism.
Besides these introspections
that should be conducted very thoroughly by our religious and cultural leaders,
we will need help from the public authorities and from the media to promote and
reinforce existing projects in various fields of action – such as the Aladin
Project of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, the Coexist Project of
the UEJF (Union of Jewish Students of France) SOS Racisme and AFEV (Association
of the Foundation for the Student for the City, the organization Inshalom, the
Jewish-Muslim Friendship of France, and other initiatives.
As has been
already understood by several organizations, sports, and especially football,
are a tremendous peace promoter. Thus, it would be interesting to establish a
tradition of football games between Israeli and Palestinian children in
Clairefontaine like the one organized in 2004 by the fashion designer Daniel
Hechter. Sharing is one of the core common values in Judaism and Islam. We have
to live together in France, in Tunisia and in the Middle East, and if sometimes
it is for the worst, we have to strive that it be for the best.
the relations between France, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the new
French government’s members will surely do their best to preserve an open
dialogue and trigger new negotiations as the socialist party wrote in its
program, proposition No. 59.
This dialogue will be critical but
definitely not overbearing regarding the two parties, considering that a
Palestinian state living aside Israel in peace and security is in Israel’s
interest, in addition to recognizing the right to self determination of the
Palestinian people and the concretization of their national aspirations via an
international acknowledgement of Palestine, with negotiated frontiers between
the two parties.
This position has actually been France’s for quite a
long time, in accordance with the European Union’s policy. A significant numbers
of ministers have been to Israel and Palestine and have strong political (and
sometimes, personal) ties with this area. We call on them to accompany
effectively and efficiently our efforts to build a solid peace via direct
negotiations between the parties rather than imposing views from the
In addition to the situation in the Middle-East, the new
government is aware that it has to work hard to improve the situation in France
concerning Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that keep growing, not to mention the
challenge of fighting against Islamic terrorism, that – need we mention it? –
has nothing to do with Islam but uses Islam as a vehicle and thus harms the
Muslims’ image with each bloody strike.
This will happen via taking
strong judicial measures against perpetrators of such racist acts and keeping a
close watch over terrorist activities pursuant to the existing legislation, as
well as carrying on a frank dialogue on all sensitive issues between the Jewish
and the Muslims communities, along with educational projects to wrestle with
ignorance and prejudice.
The government is made up of some people coming
from both communities, committed to them as well as to the French Republic idea
of “vivre ensemble.” There cannot be a better image to illustrate this core
French value that must glow over the world and especially over the Middle East
and North Africa.
Don’t see any do-gooder-ism here. We are aware that our
struggle is the hardest. A tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that
grows (African proverb).
But we keep going on since there are not many
paths to peace. Peace is the path.Samia Hathroubi, a history teacher in
Paris, is president and founder of “Juifs Et Musulmans Ensemble pour une
Génération Ouverte” (JEM EGO). Sarah Blum, a student at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, is a former Project Coordinator at the European Friends of Israel.
They are both active in YaLa – Young Leaders.