French to English Translations

Arié Alimi: Jew, Frenchman, Leftist…in whatever order – French to English translation

Arié Alimi, vice president of France’s  League of Human Rights, is a lawyer and human-rights activist. He has represented victims of French police violence and authored a book on the subject. In his latest book (Editions La Découverte, 2024) – excerpt translated below he explores his identity as a French leftwing Jew born to parents from Algeria and Tunisia. Alimi now supports the New Popular Front, the leftwing coalition formed to prevent an extreme right-wing electoral takeover of France’s National Assembly


My first contacts with socialist politics and ideals came via Zionism. Jewish youth camps and movements were modeled on French parties’ local branches and on Israeli political parties, which themselves grew out of the numerous factions of the Zionist movement.

Betar, inspired by the Zionist ideology of Jabotinsky,[1] was close to the Israeli Likud, Habonim Dror to the Avodah labor party, Hashomer Hatzair, and other leftwing anti-clerical Zionist movements, was closer to a more radical socialism and affiliated with Israel’s Meretz party. The main goal of these movements was to recruit, train and guide towards the Aliyah, the “going up” to Israel. For a very long time, I, like many others, secretly hoped to go live in this country that I only knew through summertime stays.

This was the ideological framework within which I became a Zionist socialist Jew. I was inspired by the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In 1993, the Oslo accords, the handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, seemed to sketch out this possibility – the creation of a Palestinian state that would have allowed the two peoples to live side by side, to end the hatred, the occupation, war, and uncontrolled settlement. For me, it was a moment of endless hope. As a law student at the Université Paris-Panthéon-Assas, I joined the Jewish Student Union of France (UEJF). There, I satisfied my need for community on the smallest scale, along with the opportunity to buy  kosher sandwiches.

This is how my participation in civil society began – thanks to kosher sandwiches. The university was a different universe from the Sephardic Jewish community of [Paris suburb] Sarcelles.  Assas was also a hostile university, traditionally linked to the far right, where the GUD[2] , renamed many times after repeated bans, was in good standing with the school administration. Its members’ antisemitism was overt, notably expressed through a slogan tied to the Israeli occupation: “At Assas as in Gaza – Intifada.” The main job of the UEJF branch at Assas was to fight against the GUD and the far right. First, we learned how to run fast – very fast, and to hide out in the basement restrooms, covered in Celtic crosses, to avoid the many attacks by the thugs who today form part of the base of the National Rally[3]. In the eyes of far-right militants, since we were Jews we were Zionists. Ties to the PSA UNEF-ID[4], the only leftwing organization at Assas, grew naturally in a hostile environment.

In May, on the last day of my final exams, before the results were even in, I had already gotten my tickets to fly to Lod Airport, and from there to head for student housing at the Har Hatzofim University [Hebrew University in Jerusalem]. I spent four months there every year, taking summer courses and wandering the alleys of the Arab Shouk, where I played chess with Israeli Arabs while talking about the conditions under which they lived and the constant discrimination they faced. I remember Hadil, who had a shop just behind the ramparts of the Damascus Gate. We spent our Saturdays, the Sabbath for the Jewish city, playing chess and drinking coffee with cardamom under the vines and fig tree that shielded us from the burning sun. I listened to him speak passionately of his and his family’s lives, of his status as a resident, lacking citizenship, though his family had lived there for generations. He told me how he had to give up his trade as taxi driver because of the unequal treatment in Jerusalem of Palestinian taxis and Israeli taxis -their license plates had different colors.

Facing this Palestinian man as a French Jew dreaming of becoming Israeli – our different identities linked by our shared humanity – my fear dissolved, swept away by a sense of guilt.

It was probably there, in Jerusalem, at the heart of the spirit of Judaism, that the Zionism of my young adult years began to erode. I was Jewish. I loved this country, where I had spent my happiest years. I had cherished the burning desire to become an Israeli Jew and not just a diaspora Jew. And then I discovered, through an encounter with a Jerusalem Palestinian, the other side of Zionism. I discovered those whom Zionism had never taken into account, who lived like foreigners on their ancestral lands, who were monitored, discriminated against, transformed into enemies both foreign and domestic. A people without land for a land with people. That Zionist identity that had settled into me, almost melded into my Jewish identity – as a foreigner among foreigners – had made of this native an enemy in his own land.

The veil lifted. I became aware of Israeli reality, far from the beaches of my childhood. Deep inequality, the poverty of most of the residents of this country where everything could be bought on credit, à l’américaine. Even Israeli Nobless cigarettes, which cost a few shekels and irritated your throat after the first drag, but which one smoked anyway because these were the cigarettes of the IDF soldiers, whom we revered as heroes. I discovered the greatest poverty – extreme and terrible misery – of Israeli Arabs. Militarism, new Jewish neighborhoods that progressively nibbled away at the occupied territory, destruction of houses, checkpoints, permanent ID-checking, police violence, the wounded and dead of the Intifada, the shutdown of the old city when an Israeli bus blew up. Death everywhere – it filters into consciousness almost as quickly as fear, which makes you take a breath before boarding a bus, looking suspiciously at each new passenger.

At the Hebrew University library, I discovered the works by those  already being called the “new historians.” Zeev Sternhell[5] succeeded in marring my view of Zionism, which he unhesitatingly described as a “nationalist and socialist ideology.” As for [Yeshayahu] Leibowitz,[6] a religious Jew, he shattered my lawyer’s view of the concepts of the people and the nation that I had associated with Zionist and Israeli reality. Throughout my entire childhood, I had thought of myself as belonging to an oppressed people who had heroically reconquered their land, built a new Jew, a new people, a State that bravely faced the permanent war waged by the Arab countries, a State where Palestinians could live in peace. I toppled from a great height, weighed down by the beliefs that had once sustained me. I was still Jewish, more Jewish than ever, but less and less of a Zionist. And yet I still loved this country, now different in my eyes from the one I had adored.

These two identities that had been fused for so long were now barely able to coexist. My Jewish identity, distilled in the casks of universalism and equality (if only formal) of the French Republic, confronted a Zionist identity damaged by injustice against the Palestinians. A justice for an injustice – a liberated Jew but a Zionist occupier. This first awareness of the brutality of domination, of settlement, carried me daily ever further from the shores of Zionism and my promised land. The tension within me between Jew and Zionist began to feel like a death struggle. I had to choose or implode. I returned to Paris and decided to remain French,

On November 4, 1995, the day that Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by rightwing extremist terrorist Yigal Amir, the hope of another Zionism grew even more distant. I understood that my life would from then on remain attached to France, where my identities could still coexist.


I find the slogan, “From the river to the sea,” which has become common among Israeli nationalists and some of the de-colonial left, intolerable. It is the outgrowth of an ideology in which I don’t recognize myself. If it were a matter of envisioning one State for two people, I could sign on – distant and improbable though this may seem. But that is not what I hear in this slogan. I hear violence, deportation, nationalism and the earmarks of totalitarianism. I hear above all that the end justifies the means, that the atrocities committed on October 7 are justified by a colonial-style domination that only armed struggle can defeat. I hear that the 78 percent of Israelis who were born in that land don’t matter.

The subtext is that no one is born innocent in that land, and that you are born carrying the burden of colonization. This reflects a racial and nationalist view that is strangely in tune with rhetoric claiming  that antisemitism and Islam are the same. Behind the slogan, “From the river to the sea” lies  a concept of armed struggle in which the targeting of civilians is okay, and seen as a lesser evil, given all the Palestinian victims. It also echoes the Israeli government position that justifies bombings in Gaza bhythe need to protect residents and free the hostages….

 To accept that blood is an inevitable part of liberation and self-determination is to justify violence and death as a means of de-colonization or self-determination. This distances me both from my political companions and my co-religionists. Doesn’t the killer dominate the targeted person when the trigger is pulled? Murderous violence reproduces relationships of domination, by inverting or shifting them. That is not liberation. To think that freedom can be won with ideologies of inequality, such as that of Hamas, is to accept that anew  time of oppression will follow “liberation.” My Jewish, humanist and universalist identity, and my de-colonial identity, based on self-determination, join and resound together to reject murderous violence. I am not a token Jew. Not a Zionist, nor anti-Zionist. A de-colonialist and universalist Jew.


[2] Groupe Union Défense – a small, violent, extreme-right outfit

[3] Rassemblement national in French, the major right-wing party, led by Marine Le Pen.

[4] Autonomous Socialist Party – National Union of French Students-Independent, Democratic



French to English

Leon Sedov: Trotsky’s Son, Stalin’s Victim by Pierre Broué – French to English Translation

Introduction by Peter Katel

Kremlin-ordered murders of dissidents abroad began nearly a century ago.

One telling episode took place in Paris one year before World War II. It deserves to be better known.

On Feb. 16, 1938, Leon Sedov, eldest son of Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova, died mysteriously in Paris after an appendicitis operation. He had been poisoned, though that did not become clear until decades later.

Alongside his father, Sedov fought Stalin’s transformation of the USSR and the global Communist movement into a totalitarian machine. Under constant surveillance by his key assistant, later revealed as a Soviet spy, Sedov was a key target of Stalin’s campaign to “liquidate” anti-Stalinists around the world, like their comrades in the USSR.

Two years before he was killed, Sedov had written the first detailed denunciation of the Moscow purge trials. These were a Kremlin spectacle designed around the lie that Trotsky and other veteran revolutionaries were terrorist allies of Hitler.

The late French historian Pierre Broué (1926-2005), Sedov’s only biographer, made the case for Sedov’s historical importance.

French to English

Albert Camus – After The Epidemic Has Passed

[After the epidemic has passed] For some time, at least, they would be happy. They now knew that there is one thing that one may always yearn for, and sometimes obtain: Human tenderness.

– Albert Camus

La Peste/The Plague, 1947

Translated from French by Peter Katel
French to English Translations

Translating Camus, The Plague

Notably, all of our fellow citizens very quickly refrained, even in public, from calculating how long their exile would last, a habit they might have adopted. Why? Because, though the most pessimistic may have settled, for instance, on six months, suffering ahead of time all of the bitterness of the months to come, they struggled to raise their courage to meet this challenge, using their last reserves of strength to deal with such a long period of suffering. Yet, sometimes, an encounter with a friend, a notice in the newspaper, a fugitive suspicion or a sudden burst of foresight, led them to realize that, after all, there was no reason why the epidemic shouldn’t last more than six months – maybe a year, or longer still.

Albert Camus

La Peste/The Plague, 1947