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Weinstock, who was born in Antwerp in 1939, espoused anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian views even before the 1967 Six-Day War. As such, he was invited, three weeks before the war’s outbreak, to speak to the Palestinian students’ union in Paris. The Paris correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Maariv, Uri Dan, reported about the event at the time: “Most depressing of all was the appearance of Nathan Weinstock, a Jew, who had a place of honor on the stage and delivered the keynote address… Weinstock was even more extreme than the Arabs in the abuse he hurled against Israel.”
In retrospect, Weinstock explains, that event showed him the degree to which he played the part of the “useful idiot” at the time. “I was thrilled when I got up to speak to the Palestinian students,” he told me. “Very naively, I was convinced that the Palestinian students would be happy to hear my pacifist message. So I was astonished when not one of them showed the least interest in what I said. Instead, they listened ecstatically to Radio Cairo, delighting in every word and swallowing the boastful announcements that the Arab armies would soon throw all the Jews into the sea.”
In 1969, Weinstock published “Zionism: False Messiah,” an anti-Zionist pamphlet (in French; an English translation came out a decade later) that quickly became the bible of anti-Israeli propaganda in France. Gradually, however, he says, he became aware of “the anti-Semitic nature of the blind assault on Israel. First, ‘the Zionists’ are condemned, then the ‘Zionist takeover’ of the media, and finally ‘Zionist world domination.’ When I was quoted, my criticism of the Palestinians, however minor, was always omitted. In the end, I understood that I had been used. My listeners took no interest whatsoever in me. For them, I was a Jewish alibi for their anti-Jewish posture.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back for Weinstock was the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000. “Once again the Palestinian leadership avoided taking responsibility,” he says. “The Palestinian leadership was cowardly, declining to tell their nation that one has to know when to conclude the struggle, because the central goal has been achieved.”
How do you account for your polar reversal of position – from anti-Zionist guru of the radical left as a young man, to supporter of Israel today?
“In the 1960s I was under strong Trotskyite influence, and I took a doctrinaire approach to issues – not based on a genuine attempt to analyze them, but in order to adjust them to simplistic, pre-set positions. The radical left has not reconsidered that period, and in many senses sounds exactly the same today. When one looks at who supports the Palestinians in Europe – and it is clear that the Palestinians do indeed have rights that need to be addressed – one sees that they don’t care about anything else: not the Armenians, not the Cypriot-Greek issue, not what’s happening in Western Sahara. Only one thing interests them, and I cannot accept that.
“We also need to remember,” he continues “that Israel took a self-righteous stance in that period, and it was very difficult to voice criticism about its behavior. In the meantime, a generation of ‘new historians’ sprang up in Israel, such as Benny Morris, who took a realistic view of history. As in every country, there are dark areas in Israel which need to be examined. But has there been any country in history without dark corners that were kept hidden? This process is underway in Israel today – but where are the Palestinian ‘new historians’? To emerge from the tangle, the Palestinians must show courage and choose the path of coexistence with the Israelis. This is a task that only they can perform for themselves.”