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Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua said in Paris that Jews living in France are “partial Jews.”

At a conference sponsored by a French Jewish author lecture group and Yehoshua’s French publishing house, the essayist and novelist said, “I am a total Jew because I live in Israel, but you in France are partial Jews, though one is not better or worse than the other.” The audience of several hundred appeared surprised but offered no response.

Yehoshua’s comments were an echo of remarks he made a couple of years ago to a U.S. Jewish audience, sparking in an intense debate of Jewish identity in Israel and the Diaspora.

In France, Yehoshua said French literature is obsessed with the past, “while Israeli writers are focused on the present.” He added that the most important question for Zionism are the borders of Israel, whereas in Jewish history there are no borders.

To the mostly secular crowd celebrating the French-language publication of his latest novel, which is not yet out in English, Yehoshua said that “being a Jew is an identity and a people in which religion is only one component.”

At an earlier speech in Paris to open a new lecture series at the Elie Wiesel Study Institute, Yehoshua said the future of Israel might depend on the interest that non-Jews have in Judaism and a Jewish state.

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