French Jewish philosopher Andre Glucksmann dies at 78

Intellectual famously broke with Marxist peers, adopted right-wing ideology; said French Jews should not flee to Israel

French philosopher Andre Glucksmann (Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)
French philosopher Andre Glucksmann (Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

French philosopher Andre Glucksmann, who rose to fame in the 1970s after supporting the Vietnamese boat people, has died at the age of 78, his son said Tuesday.

Coming to prominence in the glory days of French intellectual thought in the 1960s, Glucksmann, who died late Monday, famously broke with his Marxist peers and became increasingly right-wing in later years.

In 1979, he rallied the support of fellow philosophers including Jean-Paul Sartre to the cause of the Vietnamese who were fleeing the war in their country.

The philosopher, born to Jewish parents from Eastern Europe, later supported US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lobbied on behalf of Chechen Muslims during their civil war with the Russian government in the 1990s.

“My first and best friend is no more,” wrote Raphael Glucksmann on Facebook.

“I had the incredible chance to know, laugh, debate, travel, play, do everything and nothing with such a good and excellent man.”

In a 2004 column for Haaretz, Glucksmann criticized then-prime minister Ariel Sharon for urging French Jews to immigrate en masse to Israel — a statement recently reiterated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to much derision.

“There is a well-known joke: ‘Tomorrow we will kill the Jews and the bikers! To which the punch line is: “Why the bikers?’ The disappearance of Israel would cause few tears in Paris,” he wrote at the time.

“But Sharon should be told: Refrain from unnecessary panic. The time has not come for Frenchmen of Jewish origin to lock their suitcases ‘as quickly as possible’ in order to flee to Israel. France is not going through Kristallnacht; it is going through a rising wave of angry and pretentious foolishness. That happens occasionally in soft democracies. The wave is also licking at other shores, and every citizen with common sense, whether Jewish or not, has an obligation to treat this contagious mental illness in his own home.”

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