April 1, 2020

Jean Daniel, Leading French Journalist and Humanist, Dies at 99

In France, where news and opinion are blurred and journals typically report and interpret events with a political or cultural bias, Mr. Daniel used journalism as a means of advocacy. He also had influence in high government circles. He was a friend of David Ben-Gurion, the Zionist who became Israel’s founding prime minister in 1948, and for 60 years he supported Israeli interests.

But Mr. Daniel also defended Palestinian and Arab rights. He condemned the Arab-Israeli War in 1967 as an unwarranted expansion by Israel. In lightning airstrikes and ground assaults, Israel inflicted heavy losses on the Arabs and seized the Sinai Peninsula, East Jerusalem and cities and territory on the West Bank.

From 1954 to 1964, he was a correspondent and editor of the leftist weekly newsmagazine L’Express, which opposed French colonialism in Indochina and Algeria. He was also a confidant of Pierre Mendès-France, the French premier who withdrew French forces from Indochina after their defeat by Vietnamese Communists at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

As a correspondent in Algiers, Mr. Daniel supported Algeria’s war of independence from French colonialism. But he also deplored torture and atrocities on both sides, which continued for decades after the brutal six-year war formally ended in independence for Algeria in 1962. Mr. Daniel was close to Ahmed Ben Bella, the revolutionary who became Algeria’s first president, in 1963.

In 1964, Mr. Daniel quit L’Express and co-founded Le Nouvel Observateur, a reincarnation of the left-wing newsmagazine France Observateur. Le Nouvel Observateur was later sold and renamed L’Obs. Under his direction for 50 years, Le Nouvel Observateur became France’s leading weekly journal of political, economic and cultural news and commentary. His editorials opposed colonialism and dictatorships, and ranged over politics, literature, theology and philosophy.

Mr. Daniel, who was also a correspondent for The New Republic in the late 1950s and early ’60s, wrote for The New York Times and other publications for decades. He was the author of many books on nationalism, communism, religion, the press and other subjects, as well as novels and a well-received 1973 memoir, “Le Temps Qui Reste” (“The Time That Remains”).

His book “The Jewish Prison: A Rebellious Meditation on the State of Judaism” (2005, translated by Charlotte Mandell) suggested that prosperous, assimilated Western Jews had been enclosed by three self-imposed ideological walls — the concept of the Chosen People, Holocaust remembrance and support for Israel.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/business/media/jean-daniel-dead.html

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