TORONTO (Dec. 15)
French literary and political circles were stunned recently when it was revealed that in a little known article written in 1972 the eminent French philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre had defended the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Monish.
Until his death two years ago, Sartre was internationally recognized as one of the world’s greatest figures in literature and philosophy. A playright, essayist, journalist and critic, Sartre was also deeply involved in leftist circles. After World War II Sartre wrote "Anti-Semite and Jews," a seminal work on the psychodynamics of anti-Semitism.
Sartre was always meticulously fair in his discussions about the Mideast. He had been to Israel, had many Israeli friends and on one occasion used the pages of Le Temps Modeme, a French monthly to bring together Arab and Israeli intellectuals for a symposium on the elusive search for peace in the Mideast.
While critical of certain aspect of Israeli politics. Sartre was always careful to eschew the extreme rhetorical modes of some of his leftist allies. Until 1972.
Then, in an issue of a little known Maoist publication called "Cause de People -J’accuse, " Sartre wrote an article which, for reasons that are unknown, aroused virtually no comment and which disappeared quickly from public scrutiny. The article has now surfaced as a result of Sartre specialists in France who are collecting everything which the "master" ever wrote. The explosive piece was reprinted in toto in a recent number of the Paris weekly "Les Nouvelles Litteraires."
In his article in the Maoist review Sartre justified the massacre of the Israeli athletes at Munich by arguing that a state of war existed between Israel’s "establishment" and the Palestinians.
Sartre said that in this uneven combat the only effective weapons which the terrorists can muster is terrorism. In his polemic on behalf of the assassins, Sartre made the comparison between the revolutionary forces that fought the French in Algeria and the Palestinian struggle against Israel. One cannot support the first, he said, without the second.
Sartre admitted that the terrorism weapon is execrable but that it is the only thing which "poor and oppressed people" have recourse to. The Palestinians, he argued further, chose the Olympics as a venue for their deed because it had world significance. "Denied representation at the UN they were forced to choose this method to publicize their cause" he wrote.
After castigating the Israeli government for its inflexibility in the Munich affair, Sartre said: "Thus the Olympic Games attack showed everyone the despair of the Palestinian fighters and the horrible courage which this despair gives them. It does not tactically advance their cause but it demonstrates it and proves better than any UN speeches that the Palestinian problem must be resolved immediately and that the Palestinian problem has become everyone’s problem."
ARTICLE CALLED A ‘DIRTY SURPRISE’
The response to Sartre’s 10-year-old article has been swift.
Michel-Antoine Burnier, an essayist, writing in the same periodical which featured Sartre’s piece, called the latter "a dirty surprise."Burnier pointed out that the Maoists themselves were embarrassed by the Munich massacres and disassociated themselves from the Arab attack. He also stated that Sartre’s rationale is an explanation of why there is now an open hunting season on Jews in France today.
Of Sartre, Burnier wrote: "Sartre himself taught us that to be quiet is a form of speaking and one is responsible for one’s writings, even the consequences thereof. Those sentences have tarnished the image of a man."