The media has been swamped by a defense of French culture and values as being superior and enduring than the culture of those who were seemingly targeting it. I just want to propose some nuances that would advise to tone down this rhetoric.
Given that people like to call the Paris attack, a French 9/11, let’s draw some parallels here. When planes crashed in the world trade center towers on 9/11 of 2001 (and provided it wasn’t “an inside job” as some of my friends insist), it was not just America’s symbol of power that was targeted but American symbol of domination over the world. American imperialism is first and foremost economic, and its presence in the Gulf, its security for oil agreement is a testimony to that. What happened in Iraq is another case in point.
France’s “imperialism” has been cultural. Whether in its former colonies, yet most importantly in this case, at home. No other country has philosophized, legitimized and sacralized its way of living like France, so much so that even in the “White” Western world, people stereotype the French on this question. The point is that when attackers hit at the heart of “the Parisian life” they are not just reacting to France’s symbol of power, what French take pride of, but they are reacting to decades of domination and oppression in the name of this culture, as seen in the treatment of Muslims, their religion, way of life, and so on. So what matters is not culture itself (well that does not exist really) but what culture actually does, or how it is used. As an illustration, the Scots are proud of their kilt but they don’t force everyone to wear them, or at least they don’t mock people who don’t think kilts are their cup of tea.
Yet look at French TV, media and intellectual production at large. Over the years, Islamophobia has developed into a complex satirical art in itself (of which Charlie Hebdo is just an ugly frontman) and has been backed by concrete state discriminatory policies such as in the case of the veil all in the name of so-called “republican values”. Terrorism is targeting these symbols of oppression and turning it into a spectacle for global media consumption.
As a side note, whether attackers overthink the reality of these structures of dominance or act impulsively to perceived grievance is besides the point. From looking at the publications of “Islamic” militants they don’t show a higher degree of intellectual depth and reflection of social reality. Contrary to what ISIS and violent “Jihadi” observer theorize about, they are just angry and resentful. And this type of militancy gives them the possibility to channel this anger.
The recent events in France betray the primacy of the political (and not religious) dimension in the way different communities, groups, and states have handled (and have been handled in) this affair.
One facet is Israel’s urge to profit from the situation and attract a few more Jews to the promised homeland to which France has answered through Holland’s “Holocaust day speech” that urges Jews to reconsider and reflect on the fact that they are, after all, French.
Now one wonder in this case how truly wonderful are the various ironies of the politics in the age of Nation-State: Jews who have been in France for centuries have no problem going to Israel and adopt a completely different “nationality” yet deterritorialized Muslims who came there for less than a century because of economic imperatives have no place to go.
And another interesting highlight of the speech is a change of emphasis over what antisemitism really means. Although I profoundly disagree with the way the word is used in 99% of cases in contemporary social and political affairs since the end of WWII, Holland did seem to acknowledge that representations of Jews do change over time and come to reflect the concerns of ones time, namely here the politics of Israel and the general politics unfolding in the Middle East. Unfortunately, he acknowledged it through the worst wording ever: “hatred of Israel” (as if the reverse means anything in the first place) and, “imports the conflicts of the Middle East” (conflicts that in large part is fueled by your politically moribund foreign policies Mr Holland). Nobody is importing, it is you (and your predecessors) who is exporting!
And come to think about it, “antisemitism” does not mean much today (except for a very few “white” nostalgics) as it refers to a particular political discourse that is part of a specific period of time that sees the consolidation of national projects in nineteenth century and beginning twentieth century Europe. Today hatred against Jews is mostly similar “politically” to any other form of group hatred, racism or forms of xenophobia that occurs in any heterogenous society.
In any case, to go back to Holland’s speech, I don’t know what others think, but this is a huge improvement: moving from an atemporal abstract concept of antisemitism to one that may have some political historically situated logic (again not that “antisemitic” to describe these acts is in any way a useful term), in official western state discourse. It took the French to start it, who would have known!
Well, it turns out that there may well be interesting developments in French politics with the arrival of Nicholas Sarkozy as president. The French envoy Jean-Claude Cousseran who was roaming around the backdoors of Syrian government buidings around the time Mustaqbal deputy Walid Eido was killed, turns out to have a history of confrontation with French ex-president and Hariri long time friend Jacques Chirac. In this article dated from June 2002, Cousseran is said to have been fired by Chirac because he was trying to find proof of corruptive practices done by the latter. More than that, Cousseran was the head of the main French espionage agency, the Direction Generale de La Securité Exterieure (DGSE).
So please can somebody tell me why when this type of guy goes to Syria to investigate possibilities of change in French-Syrian political relations does a newly found Lebanese “anti-Syrian” politician get killed?
I have this little theory that the latest political assassinations (starting with Rafic Hariri) in Lebanon are carried out by local actors (Lebanese mostly but may include regional players) are triggered by international political shifts and decisions in order to force a status-quo on Lebanese political alignments and decisions. Although I don’t have the time to do this with great historical investigative detail but I kind of recall that most of the assassinations followed or preceded either the voting of UN resolutions, or the issuing of the finding of UN commissions, the visits of political delegates from outside, or some regional political agreement or re-alignment.
For example, Walid Eido’s assassination was preceded by renewed French diplomatic activity with Syria. In the case of Pierre Gemayel there was a very similar circumstance: Syrian and Iraqi rapprochement. I’ll try to find similar patterns later on. It’s like every time something is opening up in the face of Syria, some ‘anti-Syrian’ guy in Lebanon is being blown up. Of course, not any sort of “anti-Syrian” guy, but someone who represents the lamb, the ideal scapegoat, the ‘weakest link’ (Eido and Gemayel are perfect examples). As I argued for Gemayel’s killing, Eido’s assassination obeys the same type of political logics. No material costs (the guy has no popularity for example), but high symbolic effect (represents Hariri’s staunchest supporter).
Bear in mind that the US has not accused Syria for Eido’s assassination. This of course is not a signal that Syria is not behind the assassination but tells you more about specific political configurations, and possible re-alignments. Is it possible that something is cooking in the corridors of regional diplomacy and that some party (Lebanese most probably, but with possible regional help, even groups within Syria) is trying to force a specific status-quo on the Lebanese local political platform?
Just another menage-a-trois at a parisian salon? Non, mon petit, never underestimate frankish philandering:
P.S.: Query: How come Christopher Marlowe never talked about the nice threads Dr. Faustus got to wear? Necromancy has its benefits, indeed.
P.P.S.: Lest one think I spend my time perusing Saida’s weeklies, I should thank my “anonymous” source inside the Zionist Defense League for the bin Talal photo.
So Druze feudal warlord Walid Jumblatt and Sunni oligarch Saad Hariri are pushing French corrupted (in part by the lavish payments of Hariri family) and arms dealer president Jacques Chirac to accept civil war long-time militia-man extreme Christian wacko Samir Geagea as a most appropriate candidate for the presidency of Lebanon? And so Chirac meets with Geagea? Great… where have we come down to? Has the French president anything else to do than to meet with Hariri one day and decorate him on useless grounds, then meet the next day with baby killer Geagea? Pitiful L’Orient Le jour must now have multiple orgasms: “civilization has finally recognized that we Lebanese are part of them! They care about Lebanon!”
In any case, this development shows why I think Geagea has gained everything in a sense. Everybody thinks that Geagea worked for Hariri and that it is a shame for the Christians etc. But I think that Geagea has shrewdly worked his way in order to impose himself as the only feasible candidate. The more the opposition grew stronger the more the ‘majority’ could only resort to extreme ends in order to get their political share. This is where Geagea’s role became indispensable, a strategy followed by the extreme right in most countries, not to say the least in Israel… and papa Chirac will always do what the financial benefactors ask for (for example UN 1559 etc.).
Ok so whereas most of the newspapers (of course not Al Mustaqbal) were reporting about Chirac having asked Israel to attack Syria in the midst of the July war (as leaked in Israeli newspaper Maariv, english link), l’Orient le Jour was busy living its ideological fantasy world, of a French president decorating a wealthy successful Lebanese (mini-Hariri). Its front page titled: Chirac à Hariri : Le Liban ne peut exister que libre, uni et souverain. The subtitle was much more outrageous: Demain, place de l’Étoile, les députés de la majorité rappelleront Berry à ses devoirs. Doesn’t it show L’OJ blind trust that ‘the majority’ is legitimate and is going to ‘teach a lesson to ‘Berri’ the evil guy close to the ‘other side’?
See, this is blunt ideological practice. What I like in L’Orient le Jour is that you don’t need to scratch your head too much, it’s so blatantly there in front you. It is the easiest target of criticism. And one of the reason is language: the discursive differentiation operated by language (it is a French newspaper). More on that one day.
Everything is symptomatic of the upper class French network. Check this for example also on its front page:
Nouveau président de l’Institut du monde arabe (IMA) à Paris, Dominique Baudis, qui connaît parfaitement le Liban, prépare une méga-exposition sur le thème « Les Phéniciens et la Méditerranée » qui se déroulera dans les locaux de cette maison prestigieuse. Baudis viendra à Beyrouth très prochainement dans le cadre de la préparation de cet événement.
I have a special message to Baudis (although he may not understand): Come Baudis and show us true civilization. We need people like you from France, just like Chirac who gives medals to his private cash disburser. Come and make us continue living in our fantasy world populated by the ideas of Michel Chiha and other early ideologues of the Christian-elitist Lebanon.
So it turns out that in Israel a stamp has been made with the face of French candidate for presidency Nicholas Sarkozy as a thank you note for his ‘Comité de soutien à Israel’.
I am posting this because I know that most of the French/Lebanese community want to vote for him as “the right is always pro-Arab in France”. Not when the right is Bushite you fools.
And of course there are other reasons why Sarkozy is the most horrible thing that has ever happened to France. I call this, the ‘burger effect’. (Thanks Nicholas)
At the opposite end of the spectrum of reactions was a major Gulf state official. Speaking privately, not for quotation, he said, “if I had to choose between living with a nuclear Shiite Iran across the Gulf from us, and the bombing of Iran’s nuclear installations, with all the dire consequences of such an attack, I would still opt for bombing.”
While it has been fun to watch Chirac make the unforgiveable political mistake — telling the truth — over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, it should be stressed that the Israelis do not believe their own propaganda concerning Iran.
Truth be told, I am starting to get a bit scared, but maybe that is just because the White House has sent Cheney out to the media. I still think it is mostly bluster, but:
“A mistake could be made and you could end up in something that neither side ever really wanted, and suddenly it’s August 1914 all over again,” the U.S. officer said on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the issue. “I really believe neither side wants a fight.”
Update: A propos French president Chirac, check the remarkz in French:
“Je dirais que ce n’est pas tellement dangereux par le fait d’avoir une bombe nucléaire – peut-être une deuxième un peu plus tard, bon… ça n’est pas très dangereux. Mais ce qui est dangereux, c’est la prolifération. Ça veut dire que si l’Iran poursuit son chemin et maîtrise totalement la technique électronucléaire, le danger n’est pas dans la bombe qu’il va avoir, et qui ne lui servira à rien… Il va l’envoyer où, cette bombe ? Sur Israël ? Elle n’aura pas fait 200 mètres dans l’atmosphère que Téhéran sera rasée.” (…)
“J’ai eu un mot rapide, et je retire naturellement, quand j’ai dit : “on va raser Téhéran”. C’est évidemment une boutade dans mon esprit… mais bon. Je n’imagine pas que l’on puisse raser Téhéran !”