French Protest Leader Tells Israeli Activist: Don't Separate Social Issues From Politics

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the leaders of the 1968 student protest in France, says that money for West Bank settlements deprive Israel of money for social welfare.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the leaders of the 1968 student protest in France and today a member of the European Parliament representing the Green Party, appeared this week at an event of the students union in Jerusalem and analyzed the social protest in Israel from his perspective. Everyone sees me as a reflection of something that happened in the previous century, he began in his address to the dozens of students who came to hear him at a city center cafe. Im very proud, but I really think that its not connected to me, but to a moment in history when people take to the streets. Suddenly they feel that theyre making history, that they can change the pace of history, its direction.

Cohn-Bendit called on the leaders of the protest not to be deterred from entering politics and exerting influence from inside. The attitude of staying away from politics, he says, led to the major failure of the students vis-a-vis the government of Charles de Gaulle, which was reelected during the protest because the demonstrators were reluctant to enter traditional politics. The moment you march in the streets youre part of politics, youre defying political forces.

Nir Kedar

But above all Cohn-Bendit emphasized that he also visited Birzeit University on the West Bank yesterday and met with Palestinian students, because it wont be possible to conduct the social discussion separate from the political discussion. If 8 percent of the gross domestic product goes to the settlements, then theres no money for social welfare. Youll have to choose and if you dont youll lose out. Theres no other choice, he said. I really think, from my experience, that a movement loses out when it doesnt put things on the table. You can argue whether or not the Palestinians are right, but you have to conduct the discussion. At the moment you have a black hole in your awareness. Youve achieved a lot, but only if you conduct this discussion will you be able to make a real change. You already have a welfare state. But in the settlements. You must deal with this problem.

Youre right that Israel is a democracy, but up to the wall, only up to the wall. Beyond the wall the occupation is like the French occupation in Algeria.

Another piece of advice that Cohn-Bendit gave the students was to maintain their solidarity.