Short question: why is nationalism in Essex such a paranoid, conspiracy-minded, UKIP-voting, weeping sore of bitterness, while nationalism in Glasgow is, faults admitted and proportions guarded, relatively progressive and democratic? Why is Scottish independence largely a cause of the left, while UK independence is a cause of the ‘fruitcakes’?
Short answer: I think it’s symptomatic of deep trends, which started to become visible in 2011 during the riots. People asked, why are we having these riots in England and not in other parts of the UK. The glib answer was, we have a Tory government, whereas they have devolution. But that was only itself a surface manifestation of something else. I think what is happening is that the national question is refracting the pathologies brought about by the secular decline of both Toryism and social democracy, the fatal weakening of consent of the governed as the state becomes less democratic, and the decline experienced by the social classes traditionally supporting them.
What seems to have happened is that some of the lower middle class and skilled workers who have been on a downward trajectory for some decades have turned toward an authoritarian, resentful nationalism. They believe that their fate is due to a sell-out of the country by a distant, cosmopolitan political class, and their losses and class injuries are compensated for by assertions of ‘Britishness’, and by identification with a pristine Britannia whose global omnipotence can be restored. Thus UKIP.
In Scotland, however, nationalism has taken on a ‘national-popular’ character (see this Paul Mason article
for a compelling example of what the 'national-popular' in this sense looks like). It is not just that centre-left nationalism offers an alternative to a decomposing social democracy predicated on Unionism; it is that it forms part of a popular/populist rejection of the entire political establishment as represented by the British state. That is why the real factor in uncertainty in the referendum is the turnout from the council estates, for that is where the ‘Yes’ vote is highest - the generations of workers and unemployed who have voted Labour since the Fifties, but are no longer represented.
And ever since the credit crunch, these processes have been accelerating, so that now all the unfolding problems of democracy, political representation and the class system are concentrated in the national question.
During the festive heyday of the antiwar movement, I stood with a noisy Stop the War contingent in a wanly sunlit south London street, with a Tony Blair mask on. For some reason, the mere appearance of this grinning visage angered people. More than one person came close to smashing my/his face in. If you hadn't been there, it would be hard to convey how visceral the popular hatred of Blair was. But don't take my word for it. Look at him. Look at that face. Stare into those eyes, and see if you don't end up smashing something.
There was always, though, a minority - usually well-placed, well-heeled, and well-connected - that was doggedly loyal to Blair, and sought to shield him against the views of the ignorant public. I imagine they were hugging themselves with glee when Blair was named 'philanthropist of the year' by GQ.
Now, the editor of GQ, Dylan Jones, is a metro-conservative who writes for the Daily Mail, and is responsible for the appearance of a book called 'Cameron on Cameron', in which the author fawns, simpers and throws softball questions. In writing about Cameron, he described
him as "strong" "steely" and "a lot tougher" than people think, in addition to being - what else? - "a doting husband and father". He was also, it should be said, down with the New Labour project back in its glory days of Britpop and Peter Mandelson and domes. (You remember all this, right?) So, there is absolutely nothing incongruous about GQ giving an award to Tony Blair for his philanthropic work in its 'man of the year' awards, or about the website hosting a glowing tribute to Blair
in connection with this. It is expected, and will be as long as the levers of cultural power are held by tedious sycophants - and, which is almost a tautology, as long as we have 'man of the year' awards.
Nonetheless, the reaction of the twitterati
, its collective jaw-drop, is impressive. That Blair is a war criminal has remained embedded deep in the popular common sense. That he did not scruple to defend Mubarak at the height of the Egyptian revolution, or that he was cheered when the young democracy was drowned in blood, is less well-known but it's on the record. Likewise, the recent discovery that he made some of his wedge by smoothing over the murder of 14 protesters by the Kazakhstan dictatorship
would seem to any civilised person to taint him permanently. Finally, those who followed Pillar of Defence closely will know that Blair, far from being negligent in the battle as some accused him of being, intervened early on to produce the fraudulent 'ceasefire deal' whose failure was used by Israel to legitimise its ground invasion. So he isn't just a perfect scumbag, but is still deeply imbricated in the administration of imperialist violence.
GQ's defence of the award is of the order of "he does a lotta good work for charidee, mate". (Though even they would blush to add that he doesn't like to talk about it.) They cite his faith foundation, and above all his Africa governance initiative. Assume for the sake of argument that their eulogy is entirely and rigorously accurate as to the details of Blair's foundation activities, and that there is no murkiness to be discovered in his activities. What is the point here? Are we supposed to fall onto our knees every time someone with wealth and power uses some of that accumulated lolly to advance their own political and moral goals? This is a prerogative of power, an aspect of wielding power and being productive in the world. This is true as much for Bill Gates today as it was for Andrew Carnegie back in the day. And Blair's foundations in particular are a manifestation of soft power - the velvet glove - entirely coherent and consistent extensions of the doctrines he implemented as Prime Minister and continues to pursue as a global power-broker. The money he deploys and administers comes from the US Treasury or from friendly oligarchs.
It isn't, therefore, that Blair is a bad example of philanthropy and didn't deserve the award. The problem is that he's a perfect example of philanthropy in action, and is fully entitled to this piece of shit award, and that we should stop revering philanthropy.
This stunningly arrogant, conceited article
by an American cop about events in Missouri, illustrates something very important about the potent intersection between the professional ideology of the police and popular authoritarian ideology. It says:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
You don’t know what is in my mind when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago? Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive? For you, this might be a “simple” traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is.
Now this can be taken as, simultaneously, a statement of 'unvarnished' truth, and also a profoundly ideological claim. Insofar as it is 'unvarnished' truth, it basically reiterates what has been well known for some time: nothing is more likely to provoke a violent reaction from police than to challenge their right to define the parameters of the situation
. This is why most of those who get beaten up are innocent of any offence. Burglars don't get beaten up because they accept the rules of the interaction, and don't question. They don't muddy things up by demanding that their rights or perspective be acknowledged, but submit entirely to the perspective of the state. This officer therefore speaks a more profound truth than he knows.
Insofar as it is in ideological claim, it is so because it asks people not simply to submit to authority but to see things from the point of view of that authority. Leave aside that the actual danger involved in a police officer's job is vastly over-stated
by 'thin blue line' propaganda which passes for infotainment and news. What is important is that people believe that the police officer does an extremely difficult job of mainly - with some exceptions - holding back a tidal wave of social evil. And that therefore, not only ought they be obeyed unquestioningly, but that it is the responsibility of the citizen, the 'civilian' and not the 'trained professional' wielding firepower, to minimise the danger of a confrontation. What the policeman is doing here is asking people to see things from the cop's point of view and to judge situations like Ferguson accordingly. And many people will, and do.
In Ferguson, Missouri, there are 'outside agitators'. On this, the reactionaries and liberals
agree. Of course, there are all sorts of racialised rumours flying around in the guise of reporting about what is taking place in Ferguson. We are well used to this. We remember Katrina.
There will be time to sift through all that. For now, I simply want to ask a quick question: what is an 'outside agitator'? The metaphor of exteriority, of being outside, has two salient connotations. First, one is transgressing the spatial ordering of the state. It is states which constitute social spaces like districts, wards, counties, etc - a process that is historically far from racially innocent in the US. Second, one is 'outside' the polis; one's political being as such is 'outside', one is traitorous and disloyal. It is not just that one travelled from one city to another - that's fine, provided the political agenda one brings is benign for the system - but that one brought ideas that are not only not native to the destination, but actually foreign to the nation, the free world, civilisation itself.
Understandably, then, this language is very common in racial situations. The 'outside agitator' mytheme reeks of good old boy vigilantism, the commingling of race-baiting and red-baiting that was typical of Southern countersubversion in the dying days of Jim Crow. (The enforces of apartheid were also obsessively concerned with 'Edgy Tighters', as cartoonist Steve Bell rendered it with superlative accuracy.) Because racial situations unfold in heavily structured political spaces in which the definitions and boundaries of the 'local' serve the existing forms of dominance. And because racial situations are defined within the 'common sense' of white supremacy which, if it is to be seriously challenged, must be challenged from a point of view somewhere far outside that 'common sense', a point of view almost inimical to what the dominant ideology considers the moral and intellectual foundation of civilisation.
Of course, this implies that 'locals' are themselves otherwise not susceptible to radical disturbance. Indeed, the considered point of view of segregationists during the civil rights era was that 'their' African Americans were either content or too dumb to rebel by themselves, and that therefore if there was unrest it was the fault of the Jewish outsiders and their 'freedom rides' and connections to the global red conspiracy. The obvious liberal response to this sort of line was that injustice anywhere was a problem everywhere, that all citizens had moral agency and a stake in freedom, that there is nothing sacrosanct about 'the local' (and appeals to it are usually reactionary), and that red-baiting had proved itself to be an attack on all democratic forces. At least since Massive Resistance, that was the obvious liberal response. And it took no time at all to think it up, everyone already knew the lines.
So what does it say that a great many of today's liberals unthinkingly regurgitate the stuff about 'outside agitators' in Missouri?
This is a guest post by Arié Alimi, a lawyer defending two suspects in the Sarcelles riots.
I have never before publicly written anything in defense of my values or my clients; my professional tradition, like my religious one, is above all an oral one. However, I now feel it necessary to express the thoughts that have been weighing on me since Tuesday, July 22, when I chose to defend two young men in the Municipal Court of Pontoise whom many have associated with the anti-semitic violence which took place on Sunday, July 20, in Sarcelles. Since that court hearing, many people--close friends, colleagues, or people claiming to represent the Jewish community--have told me of their incomprehension, or even disgust, at my choice. They object not only to my defense of the two young men arrested in Sarcelles, but also to my defense of a young man accused of having traveled to Afghanistan for "jihadist" purposes.
How, I am asked, can I--a practicing Jew born in Sarcelles whose ancestors lived in Algeria, a former student of Sarcelles' Otsar Hatorah school and a congregant of that city's synagogue, a man who still lives in this place where a casual hatred of Arabs is the norm--how can I of all people defend a "jihadist" and "anti-semitic rioters" who attacked my fellow Jews? The question seems to have provoked the wildest theories in some circles.
I am accused of self-hatred--more specifically, of being a self-hating Jew. This slur is used every time a person who either claims a Jewish identity or has one imposed on him or herself fails to show solidarity with his or her community. This issue becomes more complicated whenever the Jew in question fails to show solidarity with Israeli policies, particularly those dealing with the bloody conflict with the Palestinian people. I have always proudly proclaimed my name, my tradition, and my attachment to Israel. I have done so in my capacity as president of the Union of Jewish Students at my law school; as someone who has always fought all forms of racism and anti-semitism; as someone who abides by kosher dietary restrictions; and as someone who feels the spirit of Judaism flow through my body and soul when I visit Jerusalem on vacation. This feeling was stronger still this past Monday in Sarcelles when I felt myself choke up at the sight of the broken storefront windows of businesses felt to be "too Jewish," or again when I saw the burned-down pharmacy at the local shopping mall which had been run by an elderly Jewish woman for the past forty years. Images of pogroms sprang back to life for me, like an eternal and inexorable return to square one.
So then, my defense of these young men is due to self-hatred? Perhaps. But if so, it is a hatred of the part of myself which is rashly tribal and prone to making collective judgments, this self born of blood ties which can't find time to catch its breath in its bellicose charge against the indistinct mass of anti-semites or anti-Zionists--two groups between whom it is no longer permitted to make distinctions, in public or even in private, since the events of Barbès and Sarcelles, the government's ensuing diatribes, and the round of condemnations against the rioters.
Given all this, I chose to defend two young men arrested by police officers who viewed them as hooligans merely because they happened to be in the street when a glass bottle crashed on the ground near the officers. Some have chosen to see my choice as a matter of simple self-interest. I will no doubt shock their sensibilities more by telling them that I have no desire to be compensated for my defense work in this matter. Many have invoked the narcissism of the lawyer surrounded by cameras. And I must acknowledge that if the press has the great capability of rapidly transmitting ideas to the largest amount of people, these ideas should be transmitted by someone willing to put his image forth to make them heard.
Others have seen my defense of these men as just another form of provocation, after my defense of a "jihadist" (if this last term still even has a meaning). I admit that of all the proposed explanations for my rationale, this one actually seems the closest to my true intention: to provoke. To provoke a reaction, a debate, to do my small part to shake up two of the indistinct groups which emerge within the broader French community imbued with republican values. I speak, on the one hand, of the Jewish community, and, on the other, of the impoverished youth from the ghettos with whom they have been clashing, some of whom are blind with a rage which the policies of several decades have done nothing but feed.
In view of the dark days which seem likely to come for my country, and given the official racism and anti-semitism which are being cooked up behind the scenes, the private dialogue between a lawyer and his client, regardless of his particular anger or hatred, is already a gesture towards peace and renewed understanding. I will therefore continue to defend "jihadists," "rioters," and disadvantaged youths from "bad neighborhoods." Frenchman, lawyer, Jew, and product of the housing projects of the ghetto--I am all these things, but not necessarily in that order.
This is a translation of an article from Libération including an interview with a founder of the JDL. Thanks to Andrew Miller for translating.
The Jewish Defense League, an Extremist Micromilitia.
Libération spoke with one of the founders of this extra-legal organization whose members, fond of street brawls, adhere to a radical Zionism.
Loud and speaking informally, the man says his name is Itshak Rayman and that he's a spokesperson for the Jewish Defense League(JDL). Over the telephone, he tells me to meet him in a McDonalds in the République neighborhood of Paris "for the air conditioning." Once there, the unctuous sexagenarian lets me know that two of his followers are keeping watch over the restaurant and that he's well-aware of whom he's speaking with. As for the name that he gave, it's really just an alias, alongside "Michaël Carlisle," "Eliahou Tubiana" and "the old man." His real name is Jean-Claude Nataf. He is one of the organizers who, in 2001, founded the JDL with Pierre Lurçat. This pretty much sums up the ambiance of our encounter with this controversial organization which sees itself as the bodyguard of the Jewish community.
On Sunday July 13, a few dozen militants attacked pro-Palestinian protestors not far from the synagogue of La Roquette. Video evidence shows JDL militants pursuing their adversaries, brandishing chairs and bar tables while shouting "Palestine, we fuck you in the ass!" The next weekend in Sarcelles, they once again confronted pro-Palestinian protestors while armed with baseball bats, hammers, brass knuckles and tear-gas canisters in order to defend a synagogue which the police had already cordoned off.
In addition to protecting religious sites, the JDL doesn't hesitate to take on anyone it considers an enemy of Israel. In June, two of its sympathizers were sentenced to ten months in prison for having attempted use a home-made bomb on the car of a young Jewish man who had criticized Israel's policies on his blog. These heavy-handed methods are part and parcel of the movement; beginning in 2002, hardly a year after its formation, one of its sympathizers stabbed a young police commissaire on the edges of a protest. The officer was seriously wounded while his attacker fled to Israel where he is currently incarcerated for an unrelated offense.
While the JDL disassociates itself from the most extreme actions of its sympathizers, it nevertheless asserts the Jewish community's right to "self-defense." "The police expect a wave of (anti-semitic) attacks in France" claims Jean-Claude Nataf. "Yet there is no will to stop this and the Crif (the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions) refuses to put its foot down. We don't wish harm on any Muslims. But they better not come and fuck with us" would also work. The co-founder went on to illustrate the role of the JDL: "Fifteen days ago, we received a call warning us that a young Jew was being attacked at knife point at Beaubourg [ndlr: the neighborhood around the Centre Pompideau, close to but outside of the Jewish neighborhood of the Marais.] Five minutes later, we had five of our guys on the scene looking for the attackers." Marriages, protests, business deals... The organization "secures" wherever it chooses.
The JDL, which enjoys no legal recognition, has no known fixed headquarters in Paris. It is financed exclusively through private donations, affirms Nataf. Its financial cover is Solidarity Israel, legally incorporated in 2011 with Joseph Ayache as its president. This thirty-something former member of Betar (a youth Zionist movement) who completed a tour of military service with the IDF is considered by the police to be the principal leader of the JDL alongside David Bettey, 36. Below them on the hierarchy, "the core membership constitutes between 30 and 40 people" according to a police source. "But the movement has a strong mobilizing capacity and can marshal up to 200 people by tapping into the membership of the Betar and the SPCJ (the Protection Service of the Jewish Community, a security service under the aegis of Crif and of the Israelite Central Consistory of France) and from the young Jews from working-class neighborhoods."
For the political scientist Jean-Yves Camus, the JDL represents "the Jewish streets of East Paris and the Parisian banlieue where the situation can often be difficult for Jewish residents." Its militants come from a brawling culture, ardently practicing Mixed Martial Arts or Krav Maga. This method of close-quarters fighting, used most notably by the IDF, is designed for concrete situations, such as when one's adversary is armed with a gun.
The most zealous militants hold an ideology as severe as their training. "The major figure of reference for them are Vladimir Jabotinsky (1884-1940, a figure of radical Zionism, ndlr) and the Israeli-American Meir Kahane," explains Jean-Yves Camus. An extreme nationalist, Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in 1990, created in 1968 the American Jewish Defense League, which the FBI classified as a terrorist organization in a 2001 report. He also founded the Kach party in Israel which was banned in 1994 due to its racism. Although the French branch of the JDL is technically separate from its American counterpart, they share the same name and emblem and the charters of both organizations cite Kahane as an inspiration. For Jean-Yves Camus, the JDL is clearly an "organisation identitaire." [ndlr: a xenophobic organization based around a single ethnic or religious group. The closest American term, "hate group" doesn't quite capture the same nuance.] For instance, in a tweet from April 2014, the JDL claimed that "assimilation and mixed marriages have cost the lives of more Jews than the Holocaust."
Blue-White-Red In 2001, in an article published on its site which was promptly withdrawn, the organization expressed "cautious support" for Marine Le Pen. A communiqué published soon after denied this support while still noting that the positions taken by the FN "against Islamization (remain) a significant step to solving the urgent problems in our country." Jean-Claude Nataf himself was present during a FN march on May 1, 2013. The vice-president of the FN, Louis Aliot, remembers having encountered him during the "Blue-White-Red" festival [ndlr: an annual FN gathering] in 2003. "We don't sympathize with the FN, but why ignore the real danger?" responds Nataf. "Nowadays, 100% of our attackers come from ' [ethnic] diversity.' "
Such are the principal reasons why the JDL is considered anathema to Palestinian sympathizers. "We're talking about a small, private militia" according to Dominique Cochain, a well-known lawyer and advocate for the Palestinian cause, who lists off numerous cases of "pure and simple assaults" attributed to the League. In July 2012 for instance, Olivia Zemor, President of the CAPJPO-EuroPalestine, was drenched in paint by JDL members claiming to be journalists. These attacks continue unpunished, claim the JDL's detractors, who accuse the authorities of turning a blind eye towards the JDL's activities. "Individual members are prosecuted and lightly punished, but the authorities never turn their sights on the organization" Dominique Cochain accuses. Nataf does not even attempt to deny charges of impunity; "We have nothing against the police. On the contrary," he says with a smile. "During the protests on July 13, we even worked with them; the police saw perfectly well who were the aggressors and who were defending themselves." He adds, "In any case, we have everything we could ask for with [Manuel] Valls.”
The JDL's radicalism has earned it severe criticism from other Jewish organizations. For the President of the Union of Jewish Students in France, Sacha Reingewirtz, the organization "is fundamentally opposed to the values of both the Republic and of Judaism. It maintains a violent and racist ideology which must be condemned in the same way as we condemn anti-semitism." For the President of Crif, Roger Cukierman, "the JDL does not present a positive image of Jews in France and I cannot condone its methods" However, he judges that "many Jews have the impression that the authorities do nothing to protect them. Before we consider banning the JDL, let's worry about those who attack the synagogues. Because there's a serious risk that they'll create their own private militias." As moderate as this criticism may be, it elicits only laughs from Jean-Claude Nataf: "Officially, we and Crif have no connection. The reality is that whenever they organize something, we're there to help protect- but from the exterior." And the "old man" gloats that the JDL has recently received more messages of support than ever before.
Translated by Andrew Miller
This is a translated article from Libération on the French pro-Palestine group, Gaza Firm. Thanks to Hugh McDonnell for the translation.
Mathias Cardet, at the centre of the Gaza Firm Group
Willy Le Devin and Dominique Albertini. 6 August 2014
The inveterate anti-Zionist is moving in the same direction as Alain Soral.
If he denies being the ‘leader’ of the Gaza Firm, Mathias Cardet – real name Thomas N’Lend – is certainly its most prominent figure; yet another avatar of this mild-mannered 39 year old, born into a French-Cameroonian family in 1975, whose CV is nonetheless explosive. Two books from the start of the 2010s gave him a degree of notoriety.
In the first, Hooliblack, he presented himself as a former ultra of Paris Saint-Germain – this is questioned by certain frequenters of the club – as well as an ex-member of the anti-skinhead group Black Dragons. In the second, l’Effroyable imposture du rap (The appalling imposture of rap), he reinterpreted the history of the genre to present it as a political-commercial manipulation of American derivation, which aims to disarm the impulses of black rebellion and divert them towards consumption.
Virulent yet peppered with scholarly references, the work sparked the interest of many in the mainstream media. Few picked up on the fact that it was published by Kontre Kulture, the publishing house of Alain Soral – from which one can also procure, for instance, the books of the neo-Nazi Hervé Ryssen. Since then, Cardet and Soral’s relationship has blossomed. The discourse of the ex-ultra is indeed quite compatible with that of the far-right essayist. Cardet presents himself as a patriot for whom the stands of the Parc des Princes were a school in ‘national fervour’. Attaching himself to the claim of ‘dissidence’, he also advocates ‘reconciliation’ between French of native stock [de souche] and those from immigrant backgrounds. This has earned him the criticism of the black supremacist Kémi Séba.
Like Alain Soral, finally, he makes no secret of his unwavering anti-Zionism, for example by sporting an ‘anti-SS’ t-shirt (standing for anti-suceurs de sionistes – Against Zionist cocksuckers). The strengthening relationship between the two men has also seen them organise talks together, for example on the theme of ‘con of rap, con of anti-racism’. Cardet also appears regularly on the website of Soral’s organisation, Equality and Reconciliation. He has also just launched his own platform on the internet. Named the V-sign [bras d’honneur] – another code of the Soralien school – it is dedicated to promoting ‘dissident artists’.
Less well known is his ambiguous role in the Georges Tron affair, which saw the mayor of Draveil and former junior minister accused of rape by two of his female colleagues. The following episode was reported in the French cultural magazine, Les Inrockuptibles. A former neighbour of one of the alleged victims, Cardet met her in June 2011 and, without her knowing, recorded a conversation in which she boasted of being supported by the Front National, and said that she was expecting to get material reward out of the affair.
Flanked by a good-for-nothing by the name of Noël Dubus, Mathias Cardet immediately canvassed several media outlets to try to sell them the document, before going to Tron’s lawyer, Olivier Schnerb. ‘I succeeded in convincing him to give up the idea of profiting from his recording and to hand it to the police’, the latter recounted, while describing a man ‘looking for redemption’. Cardet took his advice before going off the radar. Which makes even more mysterious a person who, while seeking redemption, seems ever to amass reincarnations
This is a translated article from Libération on the JDL and Gaza Firm. I am grateful to Hugh McDonnell for the translation.
Besides the Jewish Defence League, the French Ministry of the Interior looks into banning the Sheikh Yassin group and the Parisian ex-ultras of the Gaza Firm 6 August 2014Willy Le Devin and Dominique Albertini
The Jewish Defence League (LDJ) is not the only group currently in the sights of the French Ministry of the Interior. While the latter continues to look into the possibility of banning this small ‘self-defence’ group, it might equally target the pro-Palestinian side.
In fact, this would involve two groups in particular: the Gaza Firm and the Sheikh Yassin group. These two groups of radically different styles have participated in most of the meetings in support of Gaza that have taken place in Paris over the last few weeks. They have done so despite the fact that the organisers themselves declared that they were not welcome. ‘Instructions were given for the processions to remain completely impermeable to these people’, maintains Alain Pojolat, member of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) and one of the principal organisers of the demonstrations. All the associations authorised to demonstrate – the Parti des indigènes de la République, EuroPalestine, Palestinian Youth Movement and the Union générale des étudiants de Palestine – employed teams of stewards who were vigilant to protect them from any infiltration.
Infiltration is precisely the working method of the Sheikh Yassin group. It was founded in France in 2004 shortly after the Israeli Defence Force’s killing of the blind Palestinian sheikh Yassin, spiritual eminence of Hamas, and is led by Abdelhakim Sefrioui, a radical Islamist well known to the police. For ten years Sefrioui has been conspicuous for his sermons and anti-Semitic quips made at the exit of mosques that he judges to be ‘unfaithful’. Which is to say, too complacent with regard to Israel. As such, he attacks the imam of Drancy, Hassem Chalghoumi, who is held in contempt by many Muslims who take him for a windbag in the service of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF).
For a period of time Sefrioui also maintained informal relations with Mohamed Achamlane, leader of Forsane Alizza, a small Islamist group from Nantes that was dissolved in March 2012 on the order of Claude Guéant, the then Minister of the Interior. Since that time, the Sheikh Yassin group, composed of some thirty ‘brothers’ from the Paris region, has by itself run the website of the cultural association Ansar al Haqq, a platform working to recruit for jihad.
Then there is the Gaza Firm, whose style is completely different. This movement is made up of supporters of Paris Saint-Germain football club, and comes out of groups of ultras (K-Soce Team, Microbes and Karsud), which are subsets of the Supras Auteuil PSG supporters group, dissolved in 2010 by government decree. Generally, members of the Virage Auteuil at the Parc des princes (PSG’s ground) were characterised by their anti-racism, as opposed to their fascist rivals from the Boulogne stand. But, according to a source knowledgeable of ultra circles, the groups making up the Gaza Firm made an objective alliance with their enemies to put up a common front against the government bans.
If the members of the Gaza Firm have known each other for a long time, it is only with the occasion of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that they adopted their new name. In the processions, these young men, mainly based in the banlieue, distinguish themselves by chants and gestures coming straight out of the football stadium. Their look is more homogenous than that of other organisations – keffiyeh, t-shirt in the colours of the K-Soce Team and black gloves can be seen again and again. According to our sources, the dossier on the Gaza Firm at the Ministry of the Interior is still quite thin.
It does not appear that the group played the leading part in the clashes that marked certain banned demonstrations in the Paris region. However, the NPA complained of an ‘aggressive attitude’ towards its stewards from members of the Gaza Firm, whilst the authorities noted anti-Semitic slogans coming from the group, as well as ‘quenelles’ – the rallying symbol of the polemicist and comedian Dieudonné. This comes as little surprise given that one of the organisers of the Gaza Firm, Thomas N’Lend – who goes by the pseudonym of Mathias Cardet – is close to the far-right essayist Alain Soral. What is more, the latter has welcomed the creation of the Gaza Firm, seeing it a ‘goy defence league’, as opposed to the Jewish Defence League (LDJ). The group’s use of the national flag and the national anthem, the Marseillaise, appears in keeping with Soral’s notion of ‘national reconciliation’. His endorsement, though, is something of an embarrassment, from which N’Lend-Cardet has tried to distance himself.
In a video made available on the far-right website Info libre, he presents his group as a modest representative of the ‘banlieue in revolt’: ‘From the moment that there is a communitarian militia [i.e. the LDJ]… we stood up to say this has to stop.’ In its only statement the Gaza Firm declared itself to be ‘apolitical’ without any links ‘to Dieudonné or even Alain Soral’. ‘In any case, with the start of the French football Ligue 1, three quarters of these guys will not be the slightest bit interested in anything other than football’, predicts a source familiar with Parisian supporter circles. ‘Maybe ten or so guys will stay around Cardet to do the punching’.
This is a translation of a recent article from Le Monde analysing France's pro-Palestine movement. Again, thanks to Stephen Hastings-King for the translation.
Pro-Palestinian Organizations look to form a united front in Paris
LE MONDE | 28.07.2014 à 13h51 • Mis à jour le 28.07.2014 à 17h57 |
Par Faïza Zerouala
They believe they have proven their ability to contain a protest. The organizers of the gathering in support of Gaza on Saturday, July 26 in Paris, saw the protest at the place de la République as a “success that contradicted the government.”
The banning of the demonstration by the prefect of police, and subsequently upheld by the Administrative Tribunal of the Council of State, had been motivated by the risk of “troubling public order.” The government emphasized the failure of the organizers, a collective comprised mostly of associations of young Palestinians, the NPA and the Parti des indigènes de la République, in the areas of containing a demonstration and in security.
According to police estimates, between 4 and 10,000 people gathered on Saturday afternoon at the place de la République in support of the people of Gaza. It was a peaceful and calm gathering until some incidents broke out around 5PM, despite the efforts of a security force dressed in yellow vests to maintain calm.
“SECURITY DID A GOOD JOB CONTAINING THE PROTESTORS”
Several dozen protestors confronted the forces of order, throwing stones, bottles and broken glass torn from a destroyed Abribus at them. 65 people were arrested. 41 were still in custody on Sunday, including 1 minor. There were suspected of “aggravated willful violence” (armed or in a group) against the forces of order, and of “rebellion.” Youssef Boussoumah relativized these excesses: “During the protests against the CPE (2006) or the “bonnet rouge” demonstrations (2013) there were incidents, but no-one accused the organizers of being incapable of managing the protests. Given the level of tension, the organizers did a good job containing the protestors. And if the gathering had been authorized, we would have had even more ability to secure things.”
The collective had mobilized around 80 people to maintain order. Their responsibilities included physically controlling people who had come to fight with the CRS. They also moved through the gathering attempting to dissuade people from breaking or vandalizing things, explaining that by doing it the “hurt the Palestinian cause.”
Mr. Boussoumah praised the efficacy of this security force while, at the same time, regretting that there were not more of them. Because of the ban, come organizations belonging to the National Collective for a Just and Durable Peace between Palestine and Israeli, like the Association France Palestine solidarité (AFPS) withdrew their support for the gathering. The spokesman for the organizing collective explained that the same thing happened with Muslim associations which had said they were prepared to shoulder the security effort.
Monday morning, the organizations had not yet officially called for new protests. They explains that they were thinking about the strategy to adopt that create the best conditions for maintaining mobilization. A co-ordination meeting was expected Monday night in Paris, open to all organizations that wanted to support the population of Gaza. Mr. Boussoumah explains that the national collective was there, in addition to the informal collective.
These “new forces” could be made up of the Parti de gauche, the Southern union or of the Ensemble movement. The PCF cast doubt on its support: Mr. Boussoumah avowed: “We have also made contact with a number of neighborhood associations in the Ile-de-France which are ready to help us.” The stated goal is to show the government that the collective has the capability of mobilizing a diversity of organizations and to beef up security in order to convince the Prefect of Police to authorize the next demonstrations.
The AFPS confirms that this meeting was held and was “open to all the collectives with which we can work.” The president of the AFPS and one of the main organizers of the authorized protests on July 16 and 23, Taufiq Tahani explains that the meeting was necessary. He speculated that, by banning some of the protests that the government had wanted to “sow division between the organisers by suffocating the mobilization. But this no distinction between good and bad organizers. The movement in solidarity with the Palestine is diversified.”
For the president of the AFPS, it is clear that the ban was a diversion on the part of the government, which “has no political response to bring to the subject. It is complicit in the butchery that is happening in Gaza.” The two organizations issued a joint statement saying that the demands of the protest will be filed [with the police] as soon as possible regardless of the outcome of the consultation meeting.
This is a translation of an analysis of the recent Gaza protests in Le Monde. Thanks to Stephen Hastings-King for the translation.
A New Generation #Gaza is born in the streets of France
LE MONDE | 26.07.2014 à 10h22 • Mis à jour le 28.07.2014 à 13h35 |
Par Ariane Chemin et Faïza Zerouala
They wear their keffieh on their shoulders or wrap it around their waists like a beach wrap or an Oriental dancer’s veil. They wrap them around their faces, copying the men of the desert—or, depending on your viewpoint, hooligans. They wear them “like a sheikh” (In French “comme un cheikh”, pronounced “shirr”) or “Bedouin style” one calls it while another prefers “Arafat mode.” The girls wear hijab or accessorize with a “BB” turban in a style from the 1960s along with pretty make-up. One woman even dared a triple superimposition: first, a black headband, of the type traditionally worn around the hair before donning a veil: second, a red scarf and, third, another of green. These are the Palestinian colors, “the colors of resistance” said protestor Azadine Chetouani.
Sunday the 13th, Wednesday the 16th, Saturday the 19th and, finally, Wednesday July 23: in four demonstrations a new generation went out into the streets. The Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip, which to date has killed over 800 people, and which, on July 16, massacred four children of the same family on a beach, prompted thousands of young people out onto the streets. “We are all children of Gaza” they chanted, clapping with their hands held over their heads, before repeating, endlessly “We are all children of Gaza,” their arms extended forward in the manner of football supporters whose PSG jerseys are sponsored by Qatar as are the three comic strips based on their games. Barely a month ago, for the round of sixteen match between Algeria and Germany, they were done up in war paint, their faces green, red and white. Black as since replaced the white.
Between the old pro-Palestinian militants of the “red” Left, who have worn sandals on the tar since the 70s and broadcast their voices through megaphones, and the young “ultra” wreckers who, Saturdays and Sundays, try to poison the ends of corteges with their anti-Semitic slogans, burning Israeli flags and mime Dieudonné’s quenelle, a new style of protestors have appeared. While their elders watched for the dates of pro-Palestinian actions in the pages of L’Huma, they hop on the RER when a Twitter contact posts a photo of a child killed by a shell, a piece of news or a slogan. Their banners are hastags: #ManifGaza, #FreeGaza, #HelpGaza and others besides.
Sometimes they arrive at the demo wearing shoes and city costimes, the uniform worn in the office they’ve just fled, often without saying anything to their colleagues. For the first time—or nearly—young people who are not accustomed to demos and who hold themselves at a distance from the political parties, young people who vote, work and observe Ramadan at the beginning of the summer are taking to the streets.
Samir is 35. He wears the white fitted shirt preferred by the young traders that you see smoking cigarettes at the feet of the towers at Le Défense. He never imagined that one day he would protest. Intimidated, he brought two comrades with him, total strangers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but who work in the same construction company offices. “I came in order to not be non-chalant” Samir says. He has not yet worn a keffieh on his shoulders. “Too ostentatious,” he says. He is one of the last. Everyone else wears a keffieh. Their first.
The checkered scarf has becoming a rallying sign among these first-time protestor born in the 80s and 90s. These “boho-Muslims,” who explain that they are really “French” even though no-one asks them, never say what North African country their parents come from and do not wear their religion on their sleeves. Nonetheless, over the past few days they’ve been using every available means to get hold of one of these scarves that Yasser Arafat—this Mandela who rocked their youth—used to wear on his head on television when they were kids. “The keffieh is resistance. It’s a political thing.” These thirty-somethings say in chorus in order to convince themselves that there is nothing religious in this cloth square with the Argyle weave in red and white, black and white. None of these protestors have ever set foot in Gaza. In general, the checkered scarf has never been in either their wardrobes or their drawers. These days, they’ve been looking among family members to find one who might have brought one back from Haajj along with a djellabah or a bottle of Zamzam water.
“My keffieh? I took it out of the plastic yesterday.”
“I wear the keffieh that my grandparents brought back from Mecca in 1996” Wassila told us on Wednesday July 23. She has just passed the bac at Montigny-lès-Cormeilles in le Val-d'Oise. “It’s the same age I am.” Slim Saihi, 37, who works for the insurance company Groupama, came to the protest with his wife. “My keffieh? I took it out of the plastic yesterday. I bought it in Bourget at the salon of the UOIF. It is the color of my heart.”
At Clignancourt, among the mail-order shops, the vendors with keffieh were sold out in a few days. Along the route followed by the demos, you can get one for 5 euro. Some people, like Lakhdar, a railroad worker of 40, still don’t quite know what to call this “scarf.” One also senses from the slightly gauche manner in which they throw it over their shoulders that they are not yet entirely at ease with this new accessory. Mohammed Bennouiouia, 34 and the father of a family, just got one. “I bought it at the last demo. It’s the first one. I hope that the bombardments will stop and that I won’t need this keffieh when I go out on Saturdays any more. But I don’t have much hope.” He would prefer to keep it at home among the other souvenirs of his infrequent militant actions.
There aren’t many snapshots of this political mish-mash of a new generation. They don’t have many big engagements. “I am anything but in favor of demos” says Arafa, 33. She is a site manager. “I have only gone into the streets one, in 2002, against the Front National” after the defeat of Lionel Jospin in the first round of the presidential election. For others, the first militant shock dates from 2008. It was between Christmas and New Year’s, during the Israeli operation “Cast Lead” carried out against Gaza by the IDF. In 2013, many also protested against marriage equality, wearing stickers on their chests “A Daddy + A Mommy” in the same places where now, this summer, they wear their new keffiehs. “Reference points are important.”
JACQUES CHIRAC IN JERUSALEM IN A FACEBOOK LOOP.
YouTube, that infallible archivist who never sleeps, has come to refresh their memories and to add to those memories some otherwise forgotten little comedies. One cult scene, from Jacques Chirac’s October 1996 trip to East Jerusalem, plays in a loop on Facebook. Annoyed in the old city by an Israeli security too tight for his liking, the former president gave it to the body guards in an English as much Frenchie as approximate: “Je commence à en avoir assez. What do you want? Me to go back to my plane and go back to France? This is not a method. This is provocation.” These five phrases have achieved cult status after being resuscitated by social networks at the beginning of this July while “Operation Protective Edge” unfolds in the Middle East. On the net, comments recall that a street in Ramallah bears the name of the ex-Chief of State, the unexpected hero of the Gaza generation.
“Remember that Manuel Valls planted an olive tree in a park for peace in Palestine in 2008” recalls one of the protestors. Another video plays on the internet. It was in 2006. Valls, who was not yet head of the government and had not yet banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris, and who was still at Evry (Essone), met with Leila Shahid, who is now the ambassador for Palestine at the European Union. The “kefeih generation” has no problem with posting and sharing texts and images from these two ceremonies. We hear from a choir of thirty-somethings: “The Socialists are finished. Hollande defended Netanyahu. We will never vote for him again.” Nora Saihi, an elegant young woman of 37, swears: “We are even ready to vote for Martine Le Pen” before being overshadowed by the breaking of the fast a little before 10 PM, a fast that did not prevent them from marching in support of #Gaza with dry throats under the summer sun.
This is a further article from Le Monde on the group, Gaza Firm, which has appeared on pro-Palestine protests. Thanks again to Stephen Hastings-King for translating.
A Radical Pro-Palestinian Collective Behind the Banned Protests for Gaza.
LE MONDE | 25.07.2014 à 12h18 • Mis à jour le 26.07.2014 à 07h18 |
Par Faïza Zerouala
The pro-Palestinian collective at the origin of the banned protest on Saturday July 19, which deteriorated into confrontations with the police, called for another demonstration on Saturday the 26th. But this new demonstration was banned by the Prefect of Police on Friday the 25th. “We met with the organizers and discussed the route and organizational situation of this demonstration” explained Bernard Cazeneuve, the Minister of the Interior, on Thursday, July 24. At the same meeting, Prime Minister Manuel Valls demanded “guarantees” on security questions.
Why this caution? The explanation is that the organizations which support the Palestinians are not a unified front. Had the National Collective for a Just and Lasting Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which is comprised of organizations with histories like the Human Rights League, the French Communist Party (PCF) or the CGT, organized the demonstration, they would have advanced consensual and pacifist demands. But these associations, which advance more radical demands, are those which called for those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause to demonstrate for the first time on July 13th.
That day, events were choreographed by an informal collective without an official name comprised of about 30 friends who were long-time militants because, they said, the traditional actors “won’t move.” This network is comprised of a small core of militants, but it’s abilities in using social media as a tool for mobilization compensates for their numerical weakness. They brought together members of the Union general des etudiants de Palestine [The General Union of Palestinian Students], the Mouvement des jeunes Palestinians (PYM France) [The Palestinian Youth Movement] and Génération Palestine, in addition to l’Union juive française pour la paix (UJFP) [The Union of French Jews for Peace], the Nouveau Parti anti-capitaliste and the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR).
By their own admission, this call to mobilize was the fruit of improvised meetings in the face of catastrophe. Their groups had been more or less dormant since the strong mobilizations against “Operation Cast Lead” was launched by Israel at the end of 2008-beginning of 2009.
The informal collective supports the right of return as well the release of political prisoners. But its representatives say their demands do not bear exclusively on peace. This nameless collective supports Hamas and opposes the Unity Arrangement. One of the members of the GUPS, which was formed in 1959 and is one of the few Palestinian associations operative in France, sees this need for autonomy as a reaction against the “language of National Unity which has been a weak politically for a long time. They prefer to organize outside of all that.”
“WE WILL NEVER AGAIN BE DEPRIVED OF OUR STRUGGLE”
There are more than political divergences, explains Omar Al-Soumi of the Mouvement des jeunes Palestiniens (the Palestinian Youth Movement). His friends and he did not want to depend on a National Unity agreement that is, in their eyes, not at all representative. Son of a Palestinian artist, he became involved with militant activity 10 years ago as Sciences Po. He recalls: “At the time, the classic militant profile was a retiree from public service with white hair. We wanted to open ourselves up to popular neighborhoods, to the “New France” that has emerged through immigration in order to never again be deprived of our struggle.” Mr. Al-Soumi was mostly in charge of uniting the banlieue (Parisian suburbs).
In order to appeal to these French people of immigrant origin, the collective developed an additional language: the struggle against colonialism. Youssef Boussoumah of the PIR, with 30 years of militant activity behind him and the “Daddy” of the PIR, was made spokesman. The PIR was started in 2005 in response to the law prohibiting religions symbols in public schools. “In France, the colonial fracture is open. Palestine is experiencing supreme injustice: it is the last colonial cause.”
For everyone the questions remains political above all. Haoues Seniguer, researcher at the Groupe de recherches et d'études sur la Méditerranée et le Moyen-Orient (The Mediterranean and Middle East Research and Study Group) partially confirms this hypothesis: “Some of these movements are mobilized in the name of a common reference point, for example the Islamic identity of the Palestinians. But they know that they cannot make the conflict into a matter of religion without losing support.”
The NPA, the only political organization that supports them, describes itself as irritated by the religious slogans that are started in the course of demonstrations. However, Omar Al-Soumi assumes that groups which are very religious and close to Hamas like the Cheikh Yassine Collective demonstrates alongside them: “This doesn’t bother us to the extent that we support all forms of resistance and armed struggle. Diplomacy and negotiation never lead to anything.”
This is a translation of an article from Le Monde on the French group, Gaza Firm. Again, thanks to Stephen Hastings-King for the translation.
An obscure “Gaza Firm” on the margins of pro-Palestinian demonstrations
Le Monde.fr | 26.07.2014 à 11h08 • Mis à jour le 26.07.2014 à 11h21 |
Par Caroline Monnot
A screen capture from a video uploaded by Equality and Reconciliation show a group of about 30 people from the “Gaza Firm” marching down a small street in the 18th arrondissement of Paris on July 19. Among their chants was, notably, “Israel out of France”
Present for a while on July 19 at Barbès during an banned pro-Palestinian demonstration and on July 23 at Denfert-Rochereau (during an authorized protest) was an intriguing new collective. Called “Gaza Firm”, it takes its cues, as do others, from the culture of [sports] “ultra-supporterism.” It is made up of former members of the “K-Soce Team,” “Microbes” or “Karsud” of the Auteuil fringes of PSG (but, of course, not at all). “They’re very political types, but without much in the way of reference points” explains someone who knows the milieu well.
This collective benefits from fervent support and is affiliated with the “Equality and Reconciliation” movement. The association started by Alain Sorel, an extreme-right polemicist close to Dieudonné, characterized them on July 20 in these words: “Gaza Firm, a Goyim Defense League” Equality and Reconciliation—which says much about this collective---confirms that “Gaza Firm”, which was not called by that name at the time, “was already illustrious after the Day of Rage, chasing ultra-Zionist provocateurs who came to cause trouble for public order. Political power must shut down these dissident voices.” The 26 January “Day of Rage” demonstration mixed the extreme radical and “Dieudonnist” Right and stands out in the mind because of their numerous anti-Semitic slogans.
“Anti-System” Cultural Platform on the Net
Equality and Reconciliation posted a video showing a group of about 30 people from Gaza Firm protesting in a spectacular way on July 19 on a small street in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Among others things, they shout “Israel out of France.” Beyond the confines of Equality and Reconciliation, someone named Mathais Cardet takes care of publicity for Gaza Firm. He is their current father figure. He describes himself as a former hooligan, and has lately achieved a certain notoriety for a book he published entitled “Rap: The Big Fraud,” which got him a number of television appearances. A fellow traveler of Alain Sorel, who edited the book and with whom he has given some talks, Cardet has launched an “anti-system” cultural internet platform called “Bras d’honneur” (Arm of Honor). He was present Wednesday around the cortege along with some people from Equality and Reconciliation. On Friday, July 25, Gaza Firm published a communique denying any political affiliation with anyone. The authors write: “Gaza Firm is a group of friends from various backgrounds brought together by the Palestinian cause but also to confront the blind and unpunished violence of racist Zionist groups like the Jewish Defense League and Betar,” The author follows with the jaunty affirmation: “Gaza Firm is apolitical, which means that under no circumstances will it manipulate or be manipulated by either persons or political parties.” Before claiming that there is “no link” to Dieudonné “or even” to Alain Soral.
This is a translation of an article in Le Monde on the Jewish Defence League. Thanks to Stephen Hastings-King for translating.
The JDL, a League dedicated to Jewish Self-Defense
LE MONDE | 25.07.2014 à 11h16 • Mis à jour le 29.07.2014 à 09h29 |
Par Caroline Monnot
Is the JDL run by this anonymous spokesman? Either way, the JDL’s website has recently undergone a facelift. It was a clean-up operation: for example, they pulled down the panegyric to Baruch Goldstein, responsible for the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians at the Tomb of the Patriarch in Hebron that was posted in February.
When you contact the Jewish Defense League, the ultra-right wing Jewish nationalist group, “Moshe Manouchian” responds to you by mail. The next day, he calls you on the telephone and introduces himself as “Mose Rayman.” When you ask your interlocutor, whose real identity you do not know, to explain the pseudonyms, names that belong to two heroes associated with the red flag, Communist resistance fighters from the FTP-MOI, he replies: “They’re respectable people, no?”
This man with the mature voice is quite a bit older than the militants for whom he acts as spokesman or as interface with the press. The message consists of a few points. Is the LDJ a violent extremist group? “Le Monde says that. We reject all forms of racism and violence (,,,) We want things to calm down. We have no intention of replacing the French police.” And, at the end of the conversation, “I’m sorry my moderation has disappointed you.” On Tuesday 22 July, the “benevolent” spokesman for the JDL, which “lends a helping hand,” gave a highly controlled interview to Le Monde. To the on-line news service “Jewish Telegraphic Agency” he introduced himself “Amon,” yet another pseudonym. In this case, he came across as a press secretary [un encadrant].
The Site Gives a Vague Air of Respectability.
The website includes a charter published on July 18. The JDL “rejects the myth of the Palestinian people” and defines itself as “an ideological emanation of the movement founded in the United States by Rabbi Meir Kahane.” Murdered in 1991, Kahane was the founder of the Jewish Defense League, which the FBI has listed as a terrorist organization since 2001. In Israel, his Kach Party was banned as a racist organization. Kach argued for the expulsion of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. This website features a photographs of Missak Manouchain next to Menachim Begin, the emblematic figure of the Zionist Right and prime minister of Israel from 1977 to 1983, of Ilam Halimi, a victim of Youssouf Fofana’s “Gang of Barbarians,” and of Myriam Monsonégo, the young girl shot at point blank range in front of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish School in Toulouse.
A new website, a charter and an (anonymous) spokesman for the press—all this gives the impression of an organization in the classic sense of the term. And a vague air of respectability, very far from what the JDL has represented since it first appeared in France early in the 2000s during the second Intifada.
The LDJ does not have an organizational map. Its hard-core membership consists of a few dozen people, but may have grown to 200-250. It operates a bit like an affinity group. But it has directives, slogans and networks that it relies on for mobilization. Its militants are rarely more than 25 years old and are well-known by their actions and, in some cases, by their repeated court appearances and convictions. Over the past 10 years, they have been accused of hundreds of assaults, which they characterize as “reprisal measures.”
“It’s often really primitive” explains an old Left Zionist militant. “An organization like Betar had journals and training classes. With them, there’s no ideological transmission.” Formerly a member of Betar and now an editor, David Reinharc knows some of them. “The young ones claim to follow Jablonky and Meier Kahane, but don’t know who they were.” For him “the JDL is a brand, a magnet for fools. There is a mystique about them. And they play with that. It’s very narcissistic.” He concludes: “They are young assholes who around whom an attraction-repulsion phenomenon has been created that they don’t deserve.” Samuel Ghiles Meilhac, a sociologist who specializes in the Jewish community, talks about “aimless Jewish youth. They like to beat people up. That gives them the chance to live with a little ‘Israeli-style virility’ without actually being there.”
But the Jewish Defense League is also a symptom. It’s presence in front of the synagogue on rue de la Roquette on July 13, where it confronted a group that came from the margins of a pro-Palestinian demonstration, gave it a new aura within a part of the Jewish community that felt itself to be not adequately protected. “In those days, they got the sympathy of the base community” argues Sammy Ghozlan, president of the National Office of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, which itself says there were problems “with these kids” in the recent past.
The discourse of “self-defense” used by the JDL resonates in the more popular areas of the 19th arrondissement or in the bigger suburbs (of Paris) where the CRIF and other big community institutions (in which the JDL plays no part) have not lived up to expectations. Samuel Ghiles-Meilhac points out: “There was the ‘Day of Rage’ and the murders in Brussels, there was La Roquette and Sarcelles. There is a strong sense within the Jewish community that there is a groundswell of anti-Semitism.” And he adds: The JDL is a very tricky topic for these community institutions. The climate of fear and the community’s shift to the right creates anger and ambivalence.”
A Convenient Red Flag
The JDL can be understood as an aspect of a populist and right-wing conflict with the elites who control Jewish institutions. Yonathan Arsi, one of the vice-presidents of the CRIF explains: “It reflects a social trend that is happening in our community. As usual, the squeakiest wheel gets the grease.” Gil Taieb, the other vice-president of CRIF, is one of the few institutional leaders that the JDL will sometimes listen to. Taeib argues: “We need to try a complete overhaul. Finger-pointing that allots them a disproportionate role pleases them. At the same time, they’re a convenient red flag. There are people among them who can be recuperated. There are others, more out of control, who won’t accomplish anything. Those to go around chanting “Death to Arabs!” must understand that they are putting us in danger. We have to eliminate that.” A directory that includes the personal addresses of the most visible members of the JDL has been circulating through social networks in recent days. The leadership of community groups is concerned: “If there is a serious incident, it will get out of control.”
My latest article for Jacobin
What happened at the rue de la Roquette? What happened in Sarcelles? The Anglophone media is, with some important exceptions, unequivocal: a rabid outburst of antisemitism. Synagogues and Jewish businesses attacked. The air filled with Jew-hating slogans, including a particularly noxious call to “gas the Jews.” Roger Cukierman, president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, CRIF), compared the events to Kristallnacht. It is not only Israel apologists who are worried about these events. Palestinian activists are appalled by the reports. Is this the pro-Palestine movement in France today? (continue)