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I have never lived in France and my knowledge of France is paltry. Nevertheless, from my Antipodean bolthole there are apparent anomalies that deserve airing.
Music industry writer Norman Lebrecht has just published a vignette on his French origins in the British Telegraph. He evokes memorable times and talks of his family’s centuries-old deep roots in France. They fought, they died for France; they loved France, they were indubitably French. This is as background to Lebrecht’s claim of current parlous times for Jews in France, claimed to be reflected in the substantial recent emigration to Israel and to Britain. The piece has been reproduced in the Australian Fairfax chain’s Sydney Morning Herald and (Melbourne) Age – the dominant ‘quality’ papers in Australia’s two major cities and (coincidentally) home to Australia’s largest Jewish communities.
I came across Lebrecht as the author of the 2007 The Life and Death of Classical Music. It is a fascinating read, replete with juicy anecdotes. There one discovers the entrepreneurialism and pizzazz of some post-War figures responsible for recordings that introduced me to classical music, especially the baroque. To wit:
“In France, Bernard Coutaz got into his Citroën 2CV and drove an engineer and organist from one cathedral to the next, recording baroque sonatas. Based in Arles … Coutaz and his Harmonia Mundi opened untapped realms of early music.”
The Vulnerability of French Jewry and Proximate Causes
The exodus of French Jews is real, but Lebrecht’s attempt at finding causes is skin deep.
“We were part of France – until France ceased to be France. The problem was not the waves of North African immigration from the Sixties onwards. Those waves actually contained many Jews: … For a while, Paris seemed friendlier than ever, and Jews a vital part of its élan. Alain Finkielkraut and Bernard-Henri Lévy, two popular TV philosophers, are avowedly Jewish. …
But the alienated populace in the outer suburbs, ignored by the Republic and exploited by radical preachers, contributed to Jewish unease. Some streets were no longer safe to walk in a skullcap. Anti-Semitic rhetoric was heard on the Right, on the Left, and from the banlieues.”
But the elephant in the room is missing from Lebrecht’s cri de coeur – Israel. Israel only gets a mention when Norman says goodbye to Uncle René in 1992, off to join relatives in the promised land (promised to whom and who by?).
The problem is that the dominant Jewish organizations – centred on the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives – have taken perfidious Israel to their breast. Rather than distancing themselves from Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of its subordinated Arab populations, CRIF et. al. have acted as unalloyed ambassadors for that rogue state.
In turn, endless lobbying and moral blackmail of successive governments by said organizations has compromised the state’s response to Israeli criminality. Dissenting Jewish organizations have remained in the cold. The phenomenon is, of course, replicated in other countries.
Academic Pascal Boniface, in his 2014 La France malade du conflit israélo-palestinien and elsewhere, has documented the process. The major threat to the Israeli lobby in such countries is a waning of state support and popular tolerance of Israeli’s unrestrained behavior. Anti-Zionism is the enemy, so Anti-Semitism has to be redefined for the purpose. The concept of anti-Semitism, and its significant moral and tangible implications, is thus debased for the good of a lost cause.
The pundits are whining about the implacable rise of anti-Semitism in France. But has there been? We don’t know, because the so-called warriors against anti-Semitism have shat in their own beds.
CRIF and its counterparts have thus put the Jewish communities that they claim to represent at risk of their comfort and security. They have betrayed those communities; indeed, they are traitors to their constituency in the service of a reprobate foreign power.
Lebrecht has missed the deadly irony of France’s malaise, which he attributes to a ‘state of moral confusion’. A better window into Lebrecht’s vision is located in an earlier article he wrote for the British Evening Standard in July 2004. There we read:
“I have never considered myself a Zionist, not even in the years when I lived in Israel and spoke its guttural vernacular. Utopian ideologies are alien to my outlook, their panaceas too pat, too ignorant of glorious individualism.
“Now, I have had to reconsider. The centre-Left embraces anti-Zionism as the Right once espoused anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism monopolises the comment pages of European newspapers. Zionism is anathema – at best an anachronism, at worst an impediment to world peace.
“Against Arab anti-Semitism and a battery of academic bigots and blundering journalists who malign Zionism as a terrible evil, I must fight the lie. … Israel has done its share of wrongs and will have to redress them. But the fact that anti-Semitism can thrive in the 21st century is proof that Herzl was right. If Jews are to enjoy the same human rights as the rest of humanity, they need a state of their own. A century after Herzl, I have decided to become a Zionist. If you deplore racial and religious hatreds, you should be one, too.”
Railing against the claimed racist Professor Yusuf al-Qaradawi, then visiting London, Lebrecht opined:
“It suggests to me that Zionism, the right of Jews to their own land [and if it’s already occupied?], is as important today as it was when Theodor Herzl formulated the idea in his pamphlet Der Judenstaat, in 1896.”
Claims Lebrecht, the Zionists not merely made the desert bloom, but dragged the resident hopeless Palestinian population, who only gained a name and an identity in 1917, into the modern world and a decent life.
As for the ongoing lack of peace and goodwill on Middle Eastern earth, blame the A-rabs:
“Where Jews fulfilled a dream, Palestinians cultivated an illusion.”
Lebrecht’s Wikipedia entry has some rather unfavourable comments on Lebrecht’s command of the facts of the music game by a considerable number of players in the industry. One is loathe to attribute accuracy to the anonymous mini-biogs of Wiki, but Naxos founder Klaus Heymann did achieve settlement of a defamation claim, so it’s not a good look.
However, we can say for certain that Lebrecht’s understanding of the origins, history and claimed legitimacy of Israel fail the test of understanding. By a considerable margin.
The Vulnerability of French Jewry and Israel
The main impediments to the security of French Jewry are two-fold. First, Israel.
Israel needs Islamic extremism, for two reasons – one ideological and one substantive. One cannot over-emphasize: Israel is existentially dependent on Islamic extremism.
Ideologically, Israel’s grotesque violent perpetuation of the Occupation has to be masked by the manufactured universal evil of Islamic extremism. (As we speak, settlers, with military cover, have destroyed yet hundreds more olive trees while the world is focused on Paris.) One needs not merely the propagandizing of the outside world; one needs the self-propagandizing of the Israeli leadership itself and its population and its supporters as to the ‘justice’ of its cause of lebensraum.
Corey Robin’s 2001 book, The Reactionary Mind, has a telling vignette.
“… the greatest enemy of the old regime is neither the revolutionary nor the reformer; it is simply the old regime itself or, to be more precise, the defenders of the old regime. They simply lack the ideological wherewithal to press the cause … with vigor, clarity and purpose. …
“According to Thomas Dew, one of the earliest and most aggressive apologists for American slavery, the Nat Turner rebellion destroyed ‘all feeling of security and confidence amongst the master class’. So frightened were they that ‘reason was almost banished from the mind’. It wasn’t just the slave’s violence that frightened them. It was the moral indictment leveled by the slaves and the abolitionists, which had somehow insinuated itself into the slaveholders’ minds and made them unsure of their own position. ‘We ourselves’, wrote Richard Harper, another defender of slavery, ‘have in some measure pleaded guilty to the impeachment’.”
Quite. The Israeli establishment and its tribalist loyalists have need of permanent self-brainwashing to avoid confronting the immanent evil character of the former’s ongoing barbarism and the absurdity of its defense.
Thus we have Netanyahu’s self-invited appearance in Paris and his obscene attempt to link Hamas and Hezbollah, both defensive organizations, to the Paris massacres and to Islamic State.
Substantively, Israel needs Islamic extremism as an essential force in the pursuit of Middle Eastern hegemony and territorial expansion. The 1982 Yinon Plan envisaged the fragmentation of neighbouring Arab states, to the benefit of greater Israel – and well advanced in implementation it is. The major beneficiary, if not the major motivating force, of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has been Israel. Dissolution of Syria (means to the permanent appropriation of the Golan Heights and the stepping stone to Lebanon and Iran), is almost there. Add the hitherto unimagined ‘gold mine’ of Mediterranean gas reserves, prime for monopolization.
Israel is actively supporting jihadi forces in Syria and Iraq towards this end. So also are the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France itself – all for their own particular interests. But the active participation of Israel in Islamic extremism has the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ as an integral part of the team fostering ‘global’ jihadism, neatly ignored in our self-regarding ‘liberty of expression’ media.
The Israeli establishment doesn’t give a rat’s arse about the conditions of French Jewry in France. Just as the Zionist forefathers didn’t give a rat’s arse (vide Lenny Brenner) as to the lot of European Jewry as long as the European powers, including the Nazis, could be brought to support their project for colonization. The Israeli establishment merely cares about French Jewry as potential recruits for helping to solve Israel’s ongoing ‘demographic problem’.
The Vulnerability of French Jewry and French Foreign Policy
The second impediment to the security of French Jewry is France’s utterly unprincipled and myopic foreign policy.
As with other members of the Western alliance, France is supporting jihadism as a means of getting rid of Bachar al-Assad. But it also contributed mightily to the spawning and flow of jihadis from Africa. President Nicholas Sarkozy formally fronted the charge to eliminate the Gaddafi regime (not least to expunge the memory of Gaddafi’s fulsome financing of Sarkozy’s election campaigning). Thus did the dissolution of Libya bring forth bounteous raw material for the ongoing dismantling of societies not under the protective wing of Our Side and its odious allies.
Moreover, Hollande has actively kow-towed to the countries that are the financial and spiritual bedrock of Islamic extremism – Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Hollande has bowed to the US demand to violate the Mistral warship contract with Russia, but France continues to sell arms to the jihadi financiers and to the Saudi-Israel ally, the charming General al-Sisi of Egypt.
And the insecurity and suffering of French Jewry? It’s called blowback. Chalmers Johnson’s 2000 book of that name(1) was received by a former G.W. Bush Administration official with the claim “Blowback reads like a comic book.” That was before 9/11. Immediate overseas interest was, post 9/11, joined by domestic interest which (according to Johnson) involved the book being reprinted seven times in less than two months and becoming something of an underground bestseller.
The ‘underground’ characterization may indicate why no subsequent US Administration has learned its lesson – has anybody in authority read it? The fate of all Cassandras, it appears. Chalmers Johnson was an authentic Conservative (as opposed to the abuse of that label in the long-standing farcical American political lexicon), with a long professional and scholarly record. Dying in 2010, he (fortunately) has intellectual descendants but who (unfortunately) continue to be accorded comparable marginalization.
And the Economy?
One might add belatedly a third impediment to the security of French Jewry. It is to be found in France’s faltering economy without a helmsman. Fog-headed President Hollande, pig-headed Prime Minister Valls and cynical bankster and Economy Minister Macron, further pressured by the unaccountable technocracy of Brussels, are undermining working conditions and social security while having no plans for job generation whatsoever. This plan of inaction, coupled with increasing police surveillance and repression, provides a favorable nursery for the racaille element (vide then Interior Minister Sarkozy) in the banlieues to be lured by the seductions of crackpot imams (as well as those of the French intelligence services seeking patsies).
Who is Rightfully French?
The propaganda is coming thick and fast that the ‘Muslims’ (i.e. migrants from North Africa and their descendants) are undermining the cultural unity, secularism, etc. of France. Can they really be considered part of what ‘we’ understand to be France? (Ditto the Roma, but nobody – especially successive Interior Ministers – cares about them.)
In the late 19th Century, during the height of the Dreyfus affair, the old regime and its literary beacons were delirious in declaiming ‘outsiders’ as destroying the true French identity and France itself. Jules Lemaître summed up the prevailing consensus – three minorities, active, are overwhelming the quiescent majority of the country in pursuit of their devious aims. And they were? Jews, Protestants and freemasons.(2) Fast forward to the current age. North Africans (Muslims) are the new Jews.
Spokespersons of the National Front, headed by leader Marine le Pen, are prominent in the charge. More ‘respectable’ centres publically deride the National Front as extremist while echoing its platform. Islamophobia is acceptable fare in the mainstream media.
Michel Houllebecq’s new book, Soumission, has the Mussies taking over the Republic in 2022. It’s fiction, of course, but so is the likelihood of the plot becoming reality. But the book will have the culturati buzzing on the theme for some time.
Caroline Fourest is a media star. If not an Islamophobe herself, she managers to keep the flame burning brightly. Fourest was a staffer at Charlie Hebdo when the decision was made to reproduce the controversial Danish cartoons. A recent vignette in the London Review of Books has Fourest successfully sued by a woman claiming slander for Fourest’s account of her being physically attacked for her appearance.
Pascal Boniface devotes a chapter to Fourest in his 2011 Les Intellectuels Faussaires; the chapter is sub-titled ‘serial-liar’. Boniface notes that Fourest’s media presence is understandable, given her attributes – amongst which: young, feminist, excellent debater with conviction and pugnacious. Claims Boniface, there is a more important reason for her media stardom.
“She moves to become a passionate champion [pasionaria] of the struggle against Islam, according to her an existential threat to our liberties. This is a combat that she leads well in the name of laicity, and defense of the rights of women and of sexual minorities. At the same time, she goes to mount another related combat: the struggle against anti-Semitism, Jews and Israel being also threatened by Islam.
“A woman, young, laic, of the left, who, without defending overtly Sharon and Bush, reacts violently to those who attack them in presenting [the critics] as being ‘useful idiots’ in the service of Islam …”
There is also a contingent of the Islamophobia media galaxy who are Jewish. Representative is literary giant Alain Finkielkraut, and self-styled Renaissance man Bernard-Henri Lévy. Lévy traverses the globe as a self-appointed government emissary (single-handedly bringing down Gaddafi), effectively serving Israel’s interests. (Note Lebrecht’s curious kudos to these two personages, above, in his recent Telegraph article.)
This is the cultural and political milieu in which France’s population of North African origin find themselves. I wouldn’t call this a ‘state of moral confusion’. I’d call it a state of moral decay. It’s not too far removed from the moral decay that fostered Jewry as outsiders in a previous era, with catastrophic consequences.
If French Jewry wants to recover its security and maintain its Frenchness (as well as its Jewishness) it needs to look for the root causes of its current problems. And they aren’t to be found in the banlieues.
Evan Jones is a retired political economist from the University of Sydney. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire, Time Warner, 2000.
2. Michel Winock, Le siècle des intellectuels, Seuil, 1997.