Unlike so many members of the “intelligentsia” in his country and elsewhere in the West, French economist and writer Guy Millière, who teaches at the University of Paris, is a staunch public champion of Israel:
“J’aime être en Israël, et j’aime le peuple israélien …. Je rentre en Europe, et en entendant ce que j’entends dire sur Israël, j’entends parler d’un pays où je ne suis jamais allé et où je ne puis me rendre, parce qu’il n’existe que dans la tête malade de ceux qui parlent.”
Perhaps it’s no accident that he’s also a conservative.
What follows are extracts, in translation from the French, of his impressions of Israel following his recent visit there for an academic conference:
“I just spent a week in Israel. It was a very short stay, and it will give me a good reason to come back – but do I need reasons to come back? The answer is no, because I love being in Israel, and I love the Israeli people.
This trip was an opportunity for me to give several lectures and meet hundreds of people. I know many of those who wanted to come hear me talk with me and could not for lack of space. I tell them this: it will only be postponed….
Being in Israel gave me the opportunity to meet friends, many, but also to immerse myself in places full of meaning. I cannot be in Jerusalem without thinking about all the spiritual past with which this town is loaded and without feeling that the harmonious beauty that is its is a much more harmonious beauty: the pervasive and palpable trace of more than two millennia of history.
I cannot take the road from Tel Aviv and not feel embraced by emotion at the thought of those who fought in the valley and the mountains to the rebirth of the country … I can only ponder the immensity of the progress in so little time … [now] one of the most modern, most innovative countries in the world.
…. The proximity of so many hostile countries around could not leave the mind. Near the edge of the Red Sea in Eilat there are three countries: Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The [Israeli] population lives calmly as if there was no threat, and one feels a quiet and determined strength in [Israel], far removed from the foolish and vile talk we can hear about it in France and Europe.
…..At the height of the Dead Sea, the road goes back between the Kingdom of Jordan and the Palestinian West Bank. It crosses Jewish villages and Arab villages. We glimpse, as elsewhere in Israel, very few police and a few soldiers. Again, the reality is far removed from the foolish and ignoble speeches you hear in France and Europe….
Arriving at Lake Tiberias … I decided to go through Nazareth, and I see that the Christian church … is surrounded by speakers spouting verses from the Koran, and placards predict the worst punishment for those who do not join the Muslim faith: traces of proselytism, the spirit of conquest and Islamic intolerance.
Along the road to Haifa, I encounter the signs of various companies, reminders that Israel is not only modern and innovative, but the first country in the world, per capita, in terms of technological innovations in several crucial areas ranging from biotechnology to medical artificial intelligence. One sees that in Israel, as in the Silicon Valley in the United States, there is rich creativity.
On the coast, cities like Netanya and Ashdod evoke in me their equivalents in California … the difference is that California is now bankrupt while Israel was not affected by the economic and financial crisis existing since 2008….
I spend an hour at Yad Vashem: I’ve already been. I come back every time, because it should never be forgotten. Strictly never.
… I go to Ofra, a Jewish town in Judea and Samaria – the first Jewish town in Judea and Samaria to have been rebuilt after Judea and Samaria were liberated from Jordanian occupation. Itamar, where the Fogel family was murdered, is nearby…. The people I meet at Ofra are kind, intelligent, forthcoming, extremely different from what is said about them in foolish and ignoble talk in France and Europe. One of them is a historian and wrote several books on Eretz Israel.
On ascending a hill, one sees throughout the region: there is land to cultivate, to build villages, huge empty spaces. Jewish villages protect themselves. If the Arabs were not impregnated with hatred and fanaticism, they could live in peace and cooperation with the Jewish villages, and they [the latter] would not have to protect themselves. I cross several times the security fence, and I write it here: it is aptly named. It is a barrier erected for safety. Hatred and fanaticism involve barrier and security measures.
I have read and listened to the inadmissible statements by Barack Obama regading “1967 borders”. I am mindful of the news: these statements do not surprise me at all. I know, since the time of the 2008 election campaign, Obama is an enemy of Israel and a friend to Islamists…. Netanyahu’s response and speech seem the least we can do … a legitimate reaction … In France and Europe, Obama is being cheered and Netanyahu booed. This is terrifyingly logic: it is consistent with the logic that I expose in Comme si se préparait une seconde Shoah.
I returned to Europe, and hearing what I hear about Israel, I hear about a country I’ve never been and where I cannot go, because it exists only in the sick head of those who speak of it.