Via Political Theory Daily Review, in Cabinet Thomas Keenan and Eyal Weizman on the libel suit by Eyal Sivan against philosopher Alain Finkielkraut.
In February 2004, French-Israeli filmmaker Eyal Sivan filed a libel suit in the Paris courts against philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. The previous year, Sivan, working with Palestinian filmmaker Michel Khleifi, had released Route 181: Extracts from a Palestinian-Israeli Journey—a four-and-a-half-hour travel documentary tracing what remains, in the memories of the landscape and its inhabitants, of the violent expulsion in 1947–1948 of some three-quarters of a million Palestinians from the territory that would become the state of Israel. The film had been aired on the European cultural television channel Arte in November 2003, and a few days later, on November 30, Finkielkraut was interviewed on the French Jewish radio station RJC. In the radio broadcast, Finkielkraut launched an aggressive critique of the film, arguing that its entire meaning rested on a false analogy between Israel’s 1948 war of independence and the Nazi Holocaust, that the film was a “call to murder,” that Arte was guilty of “incitement to hatred,” and that Sivan himself was representative of a “particularly painful, particularly frightening reality—Jewish anti-Semitism.”
The case came to trial on 23 May 2006, and the official transcript of the proceedings at the Palais de Justice, Paris, is translated here in its entirety. The case revolved around witnesses, in the courtroom and in the film. To testify on his behalf, Finkielkraut called on the filmmaker Claude Lanzmann; historian and former Israeli ambassador to France, Eli Bar-Navi; and Anny Dayan, a cinema studies professor and pro-Israel activist based in Paris. Sivan called two left Israeli intellectuals: philosopher Adi Ophir, and film theorist Haim Bresheeth, as well as Parisian publisher/activist François Maspero, who established his radical publishing house against the background of the Algeria war.