Gresh, Alain

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GRESH, ALAIN (1948– ), French Egyptian-born historian, journalist, and political activist. Gresh was born in Cairo to a Coptic-Catholic father and a Jewish mother. Though an Egyptian citizen, he was raised and educated in French and studied at the French High School in Cairo. He remembers the war of 1956, after the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Nasser, when as a young boy he could not understand why French planes were bombing Egypt. After his high school was in turn nationalized, Gresh became aware of the growing anti-Jewish feeling in Egypt. Himself a declared atheist, he moved to France towards the end of the Algerian war of Independence, in 1962, and met in Paris Henri Curiel, who led a network of "porteurs the valise" – the French militants who provided help and weapons to supporters of Algerian independence. A left-wing, anti-colonialist militant, he grew closer to the left-wing Catholic activists of the ccfd and Témoignage Chrétien and to the Monde Diplomatique newspaper, a forerunner of the movement against globalization, and he eventually became one of the paper's chief editors together with fellow left-wing Jews Dominique Vidal and Serge Halimi. Still committed to atheism, he nevertheless advocated a dialogue between left-wing and grassroots religious movements, whether Christian (ccfd), Islamic, or Jewish. His sympathetic view of Islam is expressed in L'Islam, la République et le monde (2004), Gresh's contribution to the heated and passionate debate about Islam and French laicism. A relatively moderate anti-Zionist, accepting Israel as a given fact and advocating a two-state solution, Gresh got from his Egyptian childhood an understanding of the Arab cause, which he assimilated into his sincere adherence to French Republican values; his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is summarized in a 2001 book, IsraëlPalestine, Vérités sur un conflit.

[Dror Franck Sullaper (2nd ed.)]