Seven months after the end of the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, the Syrian army is making progress in the Damascus countryside and the opposition is exerting all its military might to achieve a strategic victory in Aleppo. Recently, news of the regime using poison gas against the opposition has reemerged with Israel leading the charge.
All the voices calling for organizing the Geneva III conference for negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition have faded. The circumstances on the ground that allowed the regime not to give concessions at Geneva II still hold. The Syrian army continues, with its allies, to make progress on the ground. This allows the regime, once again, not to give any serious concessions in any negotiations that will take place in the foreseeable future. It is on this basis that the opposition’s latest battles in Quneitra, Daraa, Kassab, Idlib and Aleppo have been waged.
Until now, it appears that of all the battles, the battle of Aleppo stands in a class of its own. In the battles of Damascus, its countryside (Eastern Ghouta and Qalamoun), Homs and its nearby surroundings, the opposition forces acknowledged their loss. They put up a strong fight just to make the other side pay a heavy price. All the other battles do not make up, in military or moral terms, for losing in Damascus and the central region, except the battle for Aleppo. That is why we see the opposition forces’ massive mobilization in the economic capital of Syria.
The opposition is not merely talking about making progress in Aleppo but is promising to take complete control of the largest city in the north. Based on its discussions, the opposition wants to achieve a quick victory in Aleppo before the regime and its allies finish their battles in Damascus and Homs. Achieving stability in the capital and the central region for the regime will free up a large segment of the elite forces and will allow the Syrian army and its allies to move towards other active fronts. It would then be very difficult for the opposition to achieve progress of any strategic value in the north or the south. Until today, the al-Qaeda-inspired fighters have not been able to make a strategic breakthrough in the north. In Aleppo, the war is led by Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (Army of Foreign Fighters and Supporters) which includes mostly Caucasian fighters who are well-trained and have combat experience.
Against this background, news has emerged once again that the Syrian army has used chemical weapons. Last August, the Syrian government asked for an investigation of an incident whereby militants used chemical weapons in Khan al-Asal in Aleppo. But after the attack on Eastern Ghouta, the regime was accused by Western forces of using poison gas against the opposition. Washington led a campaign threatening an attack on Syria until Russia proposed a solution that required Syria to give up its chemical arsenal. This time, the Syrian government sent a letter to the United Nations on March 25 saying that it monitored communications between the opposition in Jobar, which is adjacent to the capital, indicating that “the terrorist organizations are going to launch attacks by using poison gas with the aim of framing government forces.”
While the opposition has remained silent, Israel this time led the charge of accusing the regime of using chemical weapons. On April 7, the Israeli Channel 10 website reported a “major Israeli security source” saying that the Syrian army has gone back to using chemical weapons against the opposition forces. It used it at least in one case on March 17 in Harasta, eastern Damascus. According to the Israeli security source, the material used was not deadly chemical weapons found on the list of prohibited materials based on the agreement with the West, but rather substances that cripple those exposed to it for several hours.
After four days, the Syrian opposition grabbed the accusation and ran with it. The Syrian National Coalition issued a statement asking the international community to investigate the use of poison gas by the regime in Harasta. The Western press started again to play the tune of the regime using chemical weapons. Yesterday, the regime and the opposition exchanged accusations about using poison gas in the town of Kfar Zita in the Hama countryside.
Washington has distanced itself from this debate so far. The State Department’s spokesperson, Jennifer Psaki, said yesterday that her country does not have proof of chemical weapons use. The British and the French seem more excited than others to take up the issue. Western diplomatic sources in Paris say that since the failure of the Geneva II conference, the French authorities have been talking about the possibility of the Syrian regime using chemical weapons that are not internationally prohibited and that the international community must act to deter the regime.
The source likened this claim to the audio recording of a secret meeting of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s work team published on March 27 in which they talked about creating a pretext that would allow Turkey to intervene militarily in Syria. But intervention does not seem possible at this point. According to a source close to the regime in Syria, the goal of “this intimidation is twofold. Exonerating the opposition of what it is doing and a desperate attempt to draw red lines in front of the the Syrian army and its allies in their battle in the Damascus countryside so the opposition can make some progress in the north.”
It is sometimes instructive to learn a bit of history to reflect on current events because if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat the tragic history of useless wars. This came to me as I read about the escalating situation in Ukraine, where the US and western countries invested heavily to dislodge the Ukraine (strategically located on the Black Sea) from Russian influence. The coup that toppled the elected government in the capital and Russia’s strong influence in the mostly Russian Speaking Crimean peninsula of the Ukraine threatens to ignite another Crimean war (a prelude to many more European wars).
The Crimean war 1854-1856 was a devastating and useless conflict that was started with a with an incident here in Palestine (then under Ottoman Rule). The British were in the midst of an industrial economic boom (at least for the elites, the workers were essentially enslaved). To fuel this industrial boom, Britain (and to a lesser degree France) were aiming to expand their empires. The weak Ottoman empire seemed a target. Russia’s influence on the religious Holy Places was high. This was understandable considering that most Palestinian Christians at the time and even still today are Orthodox (especially around the holy sites of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem).
Russian intellectuals had gone through a period of Westernization before the 1850s and then grew disillusioned with the west and its hypocrisy. Those who considered themselves Patriotic Russians thus became increasingly oriented towards Czar Nicholas and the Orthodox Church and increasingly opposed to the Western Encroachments on the borders of Russia.
When France instigated a provocation by Catholic supporters challenging long standing Orthodox traditions at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, a fury of high level diplomatic lobbying ensued with threats and counter threats that escalated to the Crimean war. Alyce Mange wrote that “The Crimean War (1854-1856) was a war fought ostensibly for the preservation of the Ottoman Empire but actually for the curtailment of Russian encroachment.”
The war was costly to all sides concerned even though the Russian empire lost to the alliance of the three empires (Britain, France, Ottomans). But the origin of the problem remained here in Palestine where competing Russian, British, and French interests remained until the first draft of the Sykes-Picot agreement (which divided their influences). Russia withdrew and so it remained for Britain and France to divide the spoils of WWI in the “Near East/Middle East” (I prefer the term Western Asia to these colonial terms). In parallel, there was the growth of the world Zionist movement that got from France and Britain the infamous Jules Cambon and Arthur Balfour Declarations (1917) partially as quid pro quo for the Zionists lobbying the US to enter the war.
Fast forward from 1854 to 2014 and we see again the beating of war drums for hegemony with triggers in Palestine. The circumstances differ but I am afraid this could also degenerate into a useless devastating war.
The Zionist movement was unhappy about the lack of progress in their efforts (using others) to destroy the Iran-Syria-Lebanon axis. A big part of their failure to achieve success in pushing for more conflicts (as they did with Iraq) is due to the fact that Russia (and China) refuse to go along and realized that the end-game is total Western hegemony in Western Asia (with Israel assuming even more power over Western foreign policies). The Russians and Chinese also took lessons from the disastrous US attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and NATO attacks on Libya which had terrible consequences (including spreading radicalism and terrorism around the area). They calculated that they must draw a line.
The Zionist movement became involved (as they do frequently) because their key members are in the US State Department and also heavily influential in France and Britain. They thought that we must break Russia’s will to resist encroachment in Western Asia.
Ukraine seemed like an ideal “soft belly” for Russia. It seems possible that reports such as this one on Israelis involved in the protests in Kiev may have some basis. But most Israeli meddling is not done via Israelis but via their now obedient people working for the US government.
It is not a coincidence that protests escalated in Ukraine and Venezuela. I do not know what will happen, but suggest that all wars are useless and counterproductive (to all sides); the history of the 1854 Crimean war should give us pause.
What I suggest is that the talk about democracy by Western leaders like Kerry, Obama, Hollande and company is wearing thin. Most people know that democracy is not achieved by coups against elected governments (whether in Egypt or Ukraine) and certainly not done on behalf of countries who support dictatorships everywhere that are friendly to their interests (see Saudi Arabia as a glaring example).
For the good people of Ukraine (both in the East and the West), do not let your country be used for power politics again. But also I suggest that they remember who their neighbors for the next few hundred years will be (hint it is not Israel or the US or England). But even those countries will not remain immune from destabilization and change if they do not learn to share this planet earth and respect other people. Remember might does not make right and even great empires fell before. This brings me back to the point I always emphasize” READ HISTORY (objectively and not tribally).
A report says France covered up the extent of the nuclear fallout from its first atomic bomb test in North Africa.
The report published by the French daily Le Parisien was based on a recently declassified military map regarding the fallout from the detonation of the Gerbouise Bleue bomb in the Algerian desert in 1960.
The map revealed that radioactive particles reached the Italian island of Sicily and the southern Spanish coast on the 13th day after the blast.
Lawyer Fatima Benbraham, who represents dozens of cases in Algeria, said the map shows that Algeria and practically the whole Saharan region was contaminated following the atomic test.
The documents were declassified last year following a ten-year legal battle, in which the French government fought long and hard to prevent the documents from becoming public, according to Bruno Barrillot, a member of the pressure group Observatoire des Armaments.
The pressure group along with others battled through court to have the documents released in a bid to bring compensation to people whose health has been allegedly affected by the radioactive fallout.
Human rights activists say civilians were not warned of the danger of the 17 blasts that took place in North Africa in 1960-66.
France admitted in 2009 that a small-populated area has been affected by the fallout.
Barrillot said he hopes the newly declassified maps would force the administration of French President Francois Hollande to admit that more people could have been affected by the fallout.
“They did not do these tests under the Eiffel Tower,” said Barrillot. “No, they went far away from France and then lied about the true impact.”
France conducted a total of 210 tests in Algeria and then in French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean from 1960 to 1996.
As the Central African Republic descends into a charnel house of mass killing, hunger and fleeing refugees, one country bears full responsibility for the catastrophe – France.
This week, France’s defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had the brass neck to tour the former French colony where hundreds of people – mainly Muslims – have been lynched in the streets in recent weeks, their corpses left to rot along the roadsides.
Thousands more have been burnt out of their homes and have fled to the jungles for refuge from inter-communal clashes. A Muslim man happened to fall off a truck ferrying refugees from the violence. He was then beaten, hacked to death by a frenzied mob on the street below.
An entire country has been turned upside down, and that chaos and suffering is all down to French imperialist meddling.
Le Drian had the nerve to claim that the dispatch of French troops to the Central African Republic in early December “had prevented even more deaths from occurring”. How dare the French minister distort the facts and exonerate his country from the cold-blooded mass murder and an unfolding humanitarian crisis that it – and it alone – has triggered.
The upsurge in killings in the CAR’s capital, Bangui, and the surrounding countryside began promptly on December 5. This was three days after France began sending hundreds of its soldiers to that country, supposedly with the remit of “humanitarian protection”.
It was only after France dispatched its troops to this country that the United Nations Security Council – railroaded by French diplomats – authorized the intervention with a mandate. The French military intervention is therefore illegal and its hastiness reveals what the hidden agenda for French meddling in Central Africa is really all about.
Prior to the arrival of the French military, there were only unconfirmed reports of sporadic fighting between the mainly Muslim rebel group known as Seleka and the Christian-based paramilitaries called Anti-Balaka. The Seleka ousted the French-backed Christian president Francois Bozizé in March 2013. Bozizé had been installed by a French-backed military coup in 2003. His ouster can be seen as a setback to French political and economic interests in the CAR. However, it was only after French so-called peacekeepers arrived in the CAR on December 2 that mass killings erupted in the African country.
Two major factors for the ensuing violence are that the French from the outset showed flagrant bias against the Seleka rebels, ordering their unilateral disarmament at gunpoint. Meanwhile, the Anti-Balaka factions were allowed by the French to retain their weapons. This one-sided policy by the French emboldened the Christian militias to see themselves as having a free hand to attack Muslim communities.
The French defence minister admitted so this week. Speaking to French media from Bangui, Le Drian said that French disarmament practices had up to now been focused solely on the Seleka rebels. “Now we must focus on the Anti-Balaka,” he added.
But it’s too late for supposed remedial action. Already, thousands of people, mainly Muslims, have been slaughtered across the Central African Republic. Thousands more have fled their homes for the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Families are living in makeshift shelters with no food or medicines.
The ethnic cleansing of an entire community has already happened, and for the French government to now say that it is taking remedial action is beneath contempt. France has already overseen the slaughter. The second factor for the sudden massive bloodletting in the CAR is that several weeks before the dispatch of French soldiers, the Paris government was making very public announcements to the international media, warning that the African country “was on the brink of genocide”. Foreign minister Laurent Fabius was one of the main voices issuing those blood-curdling predictions.
These dire alarms were being made recklessly by France without any evidence to support such claims and at a time when, as noted, there were only unconfirmed reports of sporadic violence. In addition, the French media spin was directed against the Muslim Seleka rebels, which had ousted France’s puppet and corrupt proxy leader, Bozizé.
Thus when French soldiers began arriving in the CAR in early December, the country was primed for a deadly sectarian conflict because of the campaign of misinformation conducted by Paris in the previous weeks. Despicably, the fact is that the Christian and Muslim communities, comprising 60 and 15 per cent of the population, respectively, had always coexisted peacefully prior to this French meddling.
France has played with sectarian fire in Central Africa, and now other people are being horribly burned. The situation has been inflamed so badly by the cynical French that they are not able to control it. Now Paris wants the UN and other EU countries to send more troops to support the already 1,600 French military present in the CAR. The hidden agenda for Paris has always been about securing the rich natural resources of this Central African country. The CAR has super-abundant reserves of gold, diamonds and other precious minerals. It is believed to have vast untapped deposits of oil and gas, and proven copious reserves of uranium ore. The latter is the primary nuclear energy fuel, on which France is heavily dependent for its national electricity production. A new French-owned uranium mining plant began operations in the CAR in 2010 and is due to reach maximum production later this year.
This is the real background for why France felt compelled to intervene in the CAR, especially after its puppet president Francois Bozizé was ousted by the Seleka rebels.
But, paying the price for French criminal machinations, are thousands of innocent people who are being cut down in the streets, children who are orphaned from murdered parents, and impoverished, dispossessed families who are now starving in the jungles of Central Africa.
Truly, the brutal European colonial times of a past century seem to be back in Africa with a vengeance.
And yet the man who bears the responsibility for his country’s criminality in Africa – French president Francois Hollande – was being toasted at a sumptuous dinner in Washington this week by African-American president Barack Obama. Obama, with a glass of expensive wine in one hand, hailed Hollande for his country’s commitment to “security and peacekeeping” in Africa.
A day of reckoning cannot come soon enough. Just because these leaders are deluded does not mean we should ignore them or merely excoriate them. The international community must marshal the case and call for the prosecution of these criminals in high office.
A new political phenomenon, which characterizes the New World Order (NWO) of neoliberal globalization and the parliamentary junta, is the effective abolition of the old political divide – established formally during the French Revolution – between Right and Left. On the Right, were all those political forces that supported the continuation and reproduction of the “establishment”, once represented by the monarchy and later by bourgeois parliamentary “democracy” and the capitalist market economy, while on the Left were those who advocated the overthrow of the establishment in the above sense, ranging from anti-monarchists to Marxists, anarchists, antisystemic ecologists (unlike today’s washed-out Greens) etc. By definition, then, the Right supported “law and order” and whatever that implied in terms of inequality, hierarchy and the privileges of the advantaged social strata, while the Left essentially fought for the overthrow of the “status quo” and ― to varying degrees ― for the equal distribution of political, economic and social power.
The main arena in which the struggle between Left and Right was taking place was the nation-state, even if the Left – particularly the Marxist (but also the libertarian) Left – was traditionally internationalist, until it adopted in practice the strategy of “socialism in one country” because of the objective conditions it faced, although in theory it remained internationalist. However, it is precisely this arena that is being eliminated by the current NWO, which is literally “pulling the rug” from under the traditional Left-Right divide. The consequences are the seismic changes that we see today across the whole political spectrum.
As regards the Left, an undeniable symptom of this phenomenon is the political bankruptcy of the traditional Left, both in the narrow sense of its electoral percentages, and, most importantly, in the broader sense of its traditional conception as the subversive mass movement that mainly attracted the popular strata, and not the privileged “Leftists” of the bourgeoisie who seek minor reforms through the degenerate “Left”, as is the case now. In other words, even though this “Left” continues to survive politically, this does not change the fact that it has been fully integrated into the NWO, as its demands are anything but subversive. On the other hand, the part of it which belongs to the communist Left theoretically makes subversive demands, which however remain theoretical, since they are not accompanied by a transitional programme and subversive political action. And this is true of any party or organization today that defines itself as Left, communist, anarchist, “Green”, etc, if it does not challenge – both in theory and in practice – the NWO itself, i.e. globalization (which can only be neoliberal within the system of a capitalist market economy) and the main international institutions implementing the neoliberal policies, such as the EU, preferring instead to wait for revolution before demanding withdrawal from such institutions and imposing economic self-reliance. That is why this entire “Left” can no longer attract the popular strata – who are the main victims of globalization – on a mass scale.
But seismic changes can also be seen on the Right, as evidenced by the fact that the traditional conservative parties of today have only survived thanks to the social strata which have clearly benefited from globalization and which therefore sustain them, while they have been losing support from the popular strata who were embourgeoised during the period of social democracy but are now getting poorer because of the mass unemployment and poverty that globalization brings! Thus, these increasingly conservative popular strata that are being crushed by globalization are now leaving the established Right but are not crossing over to the degenerate “Left” which has been fully integrated into the NWO either. Crucially, these popular strata are not joining the communist, or the pseudo-libertarian Left forces, who are supposedly fighting for self-management but who “fail” to see the strangulation of the popular strata through globalization, the EU etc going on right under their noses!
It is these popular strata which are currently shifting en masse towards nationalist parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP), to the point that even the most authoritative newspaper of the economic elite, the Financial Times, has emphasized that a wind of Euroscepticism, going as far as to raise the demand for withdrawal from the EU, is sweeping across Europe (15.10.2013). Contrary to the malicious propaganda of the transnational elite, which enjoys the support of the entire degenerate Left, this does not mean that the millions of Europeans who are turning against the EU and, indirectly, against globalization itself, have suddenly become Nazis, as though we were living in the 1930s. National socialism and social democracy itself are impossible today, as both flourished during the era of the nation-state which, under globalization is dead and buried. Nor does it mean that the fact that as much as 30 per cent of the new parliament, following next year’s Euro-elections, will comprise eurosceptics, have suddenly become racists. As the FT report stresses, the exptected massive influx of Eurosceptics in the next European Parliament, which even ardent European federalists now concede, will simply mean that the nationalist parties ‘are capitalising on the economic misery and high levels of unemployment that are plaguing the continent’. It is indeed characteristic that the more these parties get rid of racist or extremist right-wing elements in their politics, the more their percentages rise, as the meteoric rise of Le Pen in France showed lately.
At this crucial historical juncture that will determine whether we shall all become subservient to neoliberal globalization and the transnational elite, it is imperative that we create a Popular Front in each country which will include all the victims of globalization among the popular strata, regardless of their current political affiliations. In Greece, in particular, where the popular strata are facing economic disaster, what is needed urgently is not an “antifascist” Front, as proposed by the parties of the parliamentary junta, supported also by the degenerate “Left” (such as SYRIZA, whose leader A. Tsipras is a candidate for the post of the president of the European Commission!) which would unite aggressors and victims. An ‘antifascist’ front would simply disorient the masses and make them incapable of facing the real fascism being imposed on them by the political and economic elites, which constitute the transnational and local elites. Their criminal policies have already led to almost a third of the active population and over 60 percent of the young being unemployed, to Greek disposable income being almost halved and to a huge rise in poverty with thousands of people having committed suicide since the “crisis” began three years ago. Instead, what is needed is a Popular Front that could attract the vast majority of the people who would fight for immediate unilateral withdrawal from the EU – which is managed by the European part of the transnational elite – as well as for economic self-reliance, thus breaking with globalization.
This would allow also a genuine, new form of internationalism to be built from below, while creating the preconditions necessary for the people to decide, democratically, what kind of socio-economic system they would like in order to achieve an authentic form of popular power.
 Joshua Chaffin, “Europe: United by hostility”, Financial Times, 15/10/2013
This is an edited version of an article that was first published (in Greek) in the Athens daily Sunday’s Eleftherotypia, on 20/10/2013
A French appeals court has fined an activist 3,000 euros for publishing documents accessed via an open hyperlink in a Google search. The “hacker” was prosecuted despite the fact that the government agency owning the files didn’t pursue a case against him.
For the French blogger, Olivier Laurelli, nicknamed “Bluetouff,” it all started with a simple Google search. While browsing the web for what he claims was an irrelevant subject, the co-founder of the tech-savvy activist news site Reflets.info came across a link to an online documents archive of the French National Agency for Food Safety, Environment, and Labor (ANSES).
The link led to a trove of 7.7 Gigabytes of files on public health, and Laurelli decided they might be worth looking through. For what he later said was for more convenient reading, the activist downloaded the entire online directory with a common Linux tool, and then transferred them to his desktop.
At the time, the blogger judged that the freely available documents of a public establishment “ought to be” legally available for the public to see, quotes the Ars Technica blog.
But soon after posting some scientific slides from the archives on his website, Laurelli realized that he was wrong.
ANSES discovered their archive was accessed only after the slides on “nano-substances” went public on Reflets.info, French media said. Citing possible “intrusion into a computer system and data theft from a computer,” the agency filed a report with the police, also prompting the French Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) to launch a case.
According to the activist himself, the investigators’ decision to pursue a criminal case against him was fueled by the fact he used a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service that masked his IP address as a Panamanian one. The VPN was actually provided by a security company he owned called Toonux.
Laurelli was then indicted with fraudulently accessing and keeping data, which, according to the French Criminal Code carries up to 2 years in prison and a maximum fine of 30,000 euro (about $41,000).
While testifying, Laurelli admitted he did spot a requirement for login and password at an upper level directory when he tried browsing the ANSES resource further, but there was no explicit indication that the directly accessible files he stumbled on required authorization and were illegal to obtain.
LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande agreed Friday to beef up the two countries’ cooperation in defense, nuclear energy and climate policy.
Britain and France inked the cooperation deals at the UK-France Summit 2014 held in British royal air force station RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire of southeast England.
The two countries issued a communique setting out plans for joint investment in the procurement of defense equipment, joint training of armed forces and continued development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, an Anglo-French joint military training and operation program.
“Britain and France are natural partners for defense cooperation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said, adding that the agreements reached at the summit would enhance the “interoperability” of British and French forces.
According to the agreements, the two countries are set to launch a two-year-long joint feasibility study program with an investment of 120 million pounds (about 197.4 million U.S. dollars) for a future Anglo-French combat air system.
Britain and France also agreed to invest in Britain’s major nuclear weapons base, the Atomic Weapons Establishment, to carry out safe testing of British and French stockpiles and achieve greater sharing of technical and scientific data for joint research.
The two nations pledged to join hands in tackling security issues, such as terrorism and drug and arms trafficking, in north and west Africa, as well as building on international peacekeeping missions in Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.
In addition, the two sides declared their commitment to developing safe nuclear energy, collaborating on new nuclear power stations, combating climate change and pushing for European Commission’s domestic emissions reduction agenda.
“We reiterated our resolve to work together towards achieving an ambitious and legally-binding agreement at the next COP (UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change) in Paris in 2015,” said Edward Davey, British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the country is to expand its military presence in Africa’s Sahel region.
“This redeployment will cover about 3000 troops which we are about to reorganize and re-deploy all over the area,” Le Drian said in an address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. on Friday.
The Sahel spans 5,400 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east.
“I wanted to say all this to you because we think that the intervention in Mali is not enough. We have to go beyond,” he added.
France began a major military intervention in its former colony in January, citing concerns about the growing influence of militants in northern Mali and a rebellion by Tuareg separatists that threatened the French-backed Malian government.
“We have to protect ourselves against different risks, new risks and especially, tomorrow, against the risk of a Libyan chaos,” said the French minister.
The Shoah as State Religion?
Paris – The campaign by the French government, mass media and influential organizations to silence the Franco-Cameroonese humorist Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala continues to expose a radical split in perception within the French population. The official “mobilization” against the standup comedian, first called for by Interior Minister Manuel Valls at a ruling Socialist Party gathering last summer, portrays the entertainer as a dangerous anti-Semitic rabble rouser, whose “quenelle”* gesture is interpreted as a “Nazi salute in reverse”.
For his fans and supporters, those accusations are false and absurd.
The most significant result of the Dieudonné uproar so far is probably the dawning realization, among more and more people, that the “Shoah”, or Holocaust, functions as the semi-official State Religion of France.
On RTL television last January 10, the well-known nonconformist commentator Eric Zemmour (who happens to be Jewish) observed that it was “grotesque and ridiculous” to associate Dieudonné with the Third Reich. Zemmour described Dieudonné as a product of the French left’s multiculturalism. “It’s the left that has taught us since May ’68 that it is prohibited to prohibit, that we must shock the bourgeois. It is the left that has turned the Shoah into the supreme religion of the Republic…”
Zemmour suggested that Dieudonné was provoking “the respectable left-wing bourgeoisie” and that he “reproaches Jews for wanting to conserve the monopoly of suffering and steal primacy in suffering from descendants of slavery”.
There is more than that at stake. Reminders of the Shoah serve indirectly to justify France’s increasingly pro-Israel foreign policy in the Middle East. Dieudonné opposed the war against Libya enough to go there to show his solidarity with the country being bombed by NATO.
Dieudonné began his career as a militant anti-racist. Instead of apologizing for his 2003 sketch mocking an “extreme Zionist settler”, Dieudonné retorted by gradually extending his sphere of humor to cover the Shoah. The campaign against him can be seen as an effort to restore the sacred character of the Shoah by enforcing repression of a contemporary form of blasphemy.
To confirm this impression, on January 9 an “historic” agreement was reached between the Paris Prosecutor’s Office and the French Shoah Memorial that any teenager found guilty of anti-Semitism may be sentenced to undergo a course of “sensitivity to the extermination of the Jews”. Studying genocide is supposed to teach them “republican values of tolerance and respect for others”.
This is perhaps exactly what they don’t need. The Prosecutor’s Office may be unaware of all the young people who are saying that they have had too much, rather than not enough, Shoah education.
An atypical article in Le Monde of January 8 cited opinions anyone can easily hear from French youth, but which are usually ignored. After interviewing ten left-leaning, middle class spectators who denied any anti-Semitism, Soren Seelow quoted Nico, a 22-year-old left-voting law student at the Sorbonne, who adores Dieudonné for “liberating” laughter in what he considers a stuffy conformist society of “good thoughts”. As for the Shoah, Nico complained that “they’ve been telling us about it since elementary school. When I was 12, I saw a film with bulldozers pushing bodies into ditches. We are subjected to a guilt-inducing morality from the earliest age.”
In addition to history courses, teachers organize commemorations of the Shoah and trips to Auschwitz. Media reminders of the Shoah are almost daily. Unique in French history, the so-called Gayssot law provides that any statement denying or minimizing the Shoah can be prosecuted and even lead to prison.
Scores of messages received from French citizens in response to my earlier article as well as private conversations make it clear to me that reminders of the Shoah are widely experienced by people born decades after the defeat of Nazism as invitations to feel guilty or at least uncomfortable for crimes they did not commit. Like many demands for solemnity, the Shoah can be felt as a subject that imposes uneasy silence. Laughter is then felt as liberation.
But for others, such laughter can only be an abomination.
Dieudonné has been fined 8,000 euros for his song “Shoananas”, and further such condemnations are in the offing. Such lawsuits, brought primarily by LICRA (Ligue internationale contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme), also aim to wipe him out financially.
One line in the chorus against Dieudonné is that he is “no longer a comedian” but has turned his shows into “anti-Semitic political meetings” which spread “hatred”. Even the distant New Yorker magazine has accused the humorist of making a career out of peddling “hatred”. This raises images of terrible things happening that are totally remote from a Dieudonné show or its consequences.
There was no atmosphere of hatred among the thousands of fans left holding their tickets when Dieudonné’s January 9 show in Nantes was banned at the last minute by France’s highest administrative authority, the Conseil d’Etat. Nobody was complaining of being deprived of a “Nazi rally”. Nobody thought of causing harm to anyone. All said they had come to enjoy the show. They represented a normal cross-section of French youth, largely well-educated middle class. The show was banned on the grounds of “immaterial disturbance of public order”. The disappointed crowd dispersed peacefully. Dieudonné’s shows have never led to any public disorder.
But there is no mistaking the virulent hatred against Dieudonné.
Philippe Tesson, a prominent editor, announced during a recent radio interview that he would “profoundly rejoice” at seeing Dieudonné executed by a firing squad. “He is a filthy beast, so get rid of him!” he exclaimed.
The internet Rabbi Rav Haim Dynovisz, in the course of a theology lesson, acknowledged that Darwin’s theory of evolution, which he rejects, had been proved by Dieudonné to apply to “certain” people, who must have descended from gorillas.
Two 17-year-olds have been permanently expelled from their high school for having made the quenelle gesture, on grounds of “crimes against humanity”. The Franco-Israeli web magazine JSSNews is busily investigating the identities of persons making the quenelle sign in order to try to get them fired from their jobs, boasting that it will “add to unemployment in France”.
The owners of the small Paris theater, “La Main d’Or”, rented by Dieudonné on a lease running until 2019, recently rushed back from Israel expressing their intention to use a technicality to end his lease and throw him out.
The worst thing Dieudonné has ever said during his performances, so far as I am aware, was a personal insult against the radio announcer Patrick Cohen. Cohen has insistently urged that persons he calls “sick brains” such as Dieudonné or Tariq Ramadan be banned from television appearances. In late December, French television (which otherwise has kept Dieudonné off the airwaves) recorded Dieudonné saying that “when I hear Patrick Cohen talking, I think to myself, you know, the gas chambers… Too bad…”
With the anti-Dieudonné campaign already well underway, this offensive comment was seized upon as if it were typical of Dieudonné’s shows. It was an excessively crude reaction by Dieudonné to virulent personal attacks against himself.
Irreverence is a staple for standup comics, like it or not. And Dieudonné’s references to the Holocaust, or Shoah, all fall into the category of irreverence.
On matters other than the Shoah, there is no shortage of irreverence in France.
Traditional religions, as well as prominent individuals, are regularly caricatured in a manner so scatological as to make the quenelle look prudish. In October, 2011, Paris police intervened against traditional Catholics who sought to interrupt a play which included (the apparent) pouring of excrement over the face of Jesus. The political-media establishment vigorously defended the play, unconcerned that it was perceived by some people as “offensive”.
Recently, France gave a big welcome to the Ukrainian group calling itself “Femen”, young women who seem to have studied Gene Sharp’s doctrines of provocation, and use their bare breasts as (ambiguous) statements. These women were rapidly granted residence papers (so hard to get for many immigrant workers) and allowed to set up shop in the midst of the main Muslim neighborhood in Paris, where they immediately attempted to try (unsuccessfully) to provoke the incredulous residents. The blonde Femen leader was even chosen to portray the symbol of the Republic, Marianne, on the current French postage stamp, although she does not speak French.
Last December 20, these “new feminists” invaded the Church of the Madeleine near the Elysée Palace in Paris, acted out “the abortion of Jesus” and then pissed on the high altar. There were no cries of indignation from the French government. The Catholic Church is complaining, but such complaints have a feeble echo in France today.
Why the Shoah Must Be Sacred
When Dieudonné sings lightly of the Shoah, he is believed by some to be denying the Holocaust and calling for its repetition (a contradictory proposition, upon reflection). The sacred nature of the Shoah is defended by the argument that keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust is essential to prevent it from “happening again”. By suggesting the possibility of repetition, it keeps fear alive.
This argument is generally accepted as a sort of law of nature. We must keep commemorating genocide to prevent it from happening again. But is there really any evidence to support this argument?
Nothing proves that repeated reminders of an immense historic event that happened in the past prevent it from happening again. History doesn’t work that way. As for the Shoah, gas chambers and all, it is quite preposterous to imagine that it could happen again considering all the factors that made it happen in the first place. Hitler had a project to confirm the role of Germans as the master “Aryan” race in Europe, and hated the Jews as a dangerous rival elite. Who now has such a project? Certainly not a Franco-African humorist! Hitler is not coming back, nor is Napoleon Bonaparte, nor is Attila the Hun.
Constantly recalling the Shoah, in articles, movies, news items, as well as at school, far from preventing anything, can create a morbid fascination with “identities”. It fosters “victim rivalries”. This fascination can lead to unanticipated results. Some 330 schools in Paris bear plaques commemorating the Jewish children who were deported to Nazi concentration camps. How do little Jewish children today react to that? Do they find it reassuring?
This may be useful to the State of Israel, which is currently undertaking a three-year program to encourage more of France’s 600,000 Jews to leave France and go to Israel. In 2013, the number of Aliyah from France rose to more than 3,000, a trend attributed by the European Jewish Press to the “French Jewish community’s increasingly Zionistic mentality, particularly among young French Jews, and a manifestation of efforts by the Jewish Agency, the Israel government, and other non-profits to cultivate Jewish identity in France.”
“If this year we have seen Aliyah from France go from under 2,000 to more than 3,000, I look forward to seeing that number grow to 6,000 and beyond in the near future, as we connect ever more young people to Jewish life and to Israel,” declared Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Surely, one way to encourage Aliyah is to scare Jews with the threat of anti-Semitism, and claiming that Dieudonné’s numerous fans are Nazis in disguise is a good way to do this.
But as for Jews who want to live in France, is it really healthy to keep reminding Jewish children that, if they are not wary, their fellow citizens might one day want to herd them onto freight trains and ship them all to Auschwitz? I have heard people saying privately that this permanent reminder is close to child abuse.
Someone who thinks that way is Jonathan Moadab, a 25-year-old independent journalist who was interviewed by Soren Seelow. Moadab is both anti-Zionist and a practicing Jew. As a child he was taken to tour Auschwitz. He told Seelow that that living with that “victim indoctrination” had engendered a sort of “pre-traumatic stress syndrome”.
“Dieudonné’s jokes about the Shoah, like his song Shoananas, are not aimed at the Shoah itself,” he says, “but at the exploitation of the Holocaust described by the American political writer Norman Finkelstein.”
On January 22, on his web site Agence Info Libre, Jonathan Moadab openly called for “separating the State from the Holocaust religion”. Moadab cites professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz as the first to point out the many ways in which the Holocaust has become the new Jewish religion. If that is so, everyone has the right to practice the religion of the Shoah. But should it be the official religion of France?
French politicians never cease celebrating the “laicité”, the secularism, of the French Republic. Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who proclaims his own devotion to Israel, because his wife is Jewish, recently called the Shoah the “sanctuary that cannot be profaned”. Moadab concludes that if the Shoah is a sanctuary, then the Holocaust is a religion, and the Republic is not secular.
Changes are taking place in the attitude of young people in France. This change is not due to Dieudonné. It is due to the passage of time. The Holocaust became the religion of the West at a time when the generation after World War II was in the mood to blame their parents. Now we are with the grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, of those who lived through that period, and they want to look ahead. No law can stop this.
*As described in my earlier article, the “quenelle” is a vulgar gesture roughly meaning “up yours”, with one hand placed at the top of the other arm stretched down to signify “how far up” this is to be. Using the name of a French dumpling, Dieudonné started using this gesture in a wholly different context years ago, as an expression of defiance, incredulity or indifference.
Diana Johnstone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 23, 2014
The French finally got what they wanted in the restive Central African Republic – regime change.
Interim President Michel Djotodia and his Prime Minister Nicolas Tiengaye have resigned and the former French colony is now set to form a new government under the watchful eye of Paris.
Western media portray French conduct in the Central African Republic (CAR) as a benevolent force. “We are there to save lives,” said French President Francois Hollande recently.
This is like lauding a fox in a hen house. The reality is that violence and suffering have largely stemmed as a direct result of illegal French interference in that African country.
What’s more, we also can say that the violence has been deliberately provoked by the French as a cover for their real objective – regime change.
Djotodia was forced to step down after he was politically ambushed by other Francophile African leaders at a special conference convened at the end of the week in neighboring Chad.
Before the summit, French diplomats had been briefing the media and other African states that Djotodia “had to go”. The French tried to cover their tracks by saying “we are not here to give our thumbs up or down” but that is exactly what they were doing – giving the thumbs down.
French President Francois Hollande and his Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius have been carping about the CAR leader for weeks and undermining his authority. Obviously, the French wanted rid of Djotodia and his administration – and now they have gotten their illicit way. Lest we forget such interference in the sovereign affairs of another state is illegal.
Notably, just before the conference opened on Thursday in Chad, Djotodia rejected rumors of his impending resignation. In less than 24 hours, he then quit, evidently under duress.
Within minutes of Djotodia’s sacking on Friday, and even before he had returned from Chad, French military tanks had surrounded the presidential palace in the CAR capital Bangui. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also issued a call for Djotodia to be “replaced as soon as possible”.
Chadian President Idriss Déby had been one of the most vocal African leaders calling for Djotodia to quit. Déby, who is described as “a strong French ally” (in other words, “puppet”), was doing France’s bidding and giving an African voice to a directive from Paris, a directive which amounts to a coup d’état.
The Western media narrative, led by France, is that Djotodia “had not done enough to curb the violence” gripping the CAR. More than 1,000 people have been killed in recent weeks in sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians. Roughly a quarter of the country’s five million population have been displaced in the fighting.
Djotodia came to power last year after Muslim rebels known as Seleka deposed the Christian president Francois Bozizé in March. Bozizé was notorious for corruption and had come to power through a French-backed military coup 11 years ago.
With major French commercial interests in the resource-rich country, in particular uranium mining, it seems that France was vexed about the new transitional government led by Michel Djotodia – the first Muslim leader of the mainly Christian country.
Djotodia’s interim administration was legally constituted last April and it was overseeing a transition with elections scheduled at the end of this year.
However, that did not seem good enough to allay the French, who wanted to exert tighter control over the political process within the CAR in order to secure favorable conditions for its commercial interests.
This is the real basis for the French military invasion, not the humanitarian pretext that the Hollande government has been trumpeting.
Last month, chaos and violence in the African country surged after France sent in its troops – allegedly to provide “humanitarian protection” in a situation where there had been no serious violence, apart from French government scaremongering of “imminent genocide”.
French military were dispatched to the CAR on December 2, three days before a French-drafted resolution was passed at the United Nations Security Council authorizing the intervention.
More French troops arrived on December 5, 2013, and only since then have the sectarian clashes in Bangui city and across the country escalated.
The conclusion is inescapable. The humanitarian crisis in the CAR was precipitated by French involvement, not prevented. A major factor for the violence is that the French military moved to unilaterally disarm the Seleka rebels while ignoring Christian vigilante groups known as Anti-Balaka.
The latter were, in effect, given a free hand to maraud Muslim communities and businesses with deadly consequences.
It is therefore obtuse and mendacious for the French government and its African clients to blame Michel Djotodia for not controlling security in his country.
The real culprit for the bloodshed and pandemonium that jolted the CAR is French interference in that country– interference that was illegal and was cynically disguised as “humanitarian.”
There are deep fears that violence against Muslim communities will increase further now that Michel Djotodia has been forced from office.
The Christian Anti-Balaka militias will feel emboldened by the French political interference. Many believe that the Anti-Balaka is being orchestrated by the former French puppet Bozizé from his exile in France.
Tragically, this is just the latest episode of misery for the Central African Republic caused by French neo-imperialist predation.
Since gaining so-called independence from France in 1960, the French have launched more covert coups and countercoups in that country than in any other former African colony.
The CAR remains politically and economically underdeveloped – despite its teeming natural wealth – precisely because of systematic French predatory exploitation.
Poverty in the Central African Republic, as in many other African countries, is a direct result of French policy, primarily due to the “franc afrique” monetary system set up at the time of independence.
This systematic poverty enables France to exploit raw materials and the people mercilessly. And when the racket comes a bit unstuck, the French send in their troops to “restore order”.
What the international community, such as the Non-Aligned Movement of over 100 nations, should be doing is to call for the prosecution of France, not applauding this fox in a hen house.
The sale of two intelligence satellites to the UAE by France for nearly a billion dollars could go south after they were found to contain American technology designed to intercept data transmitted to the ground station.
The equipment, costing 3.4 billion dirhams ($930 million), constitutes two high-resolution Pleiades-type Falcon Eye military intelligence satellites, which a top UAE defense source has said contain specific US-made components designed to intercept the satellites’ communications with their accompanying ground station, Defensenews.com said in a report.
“The discovery [of the US-made components] was reported to the deputy supreme commander [Sheikh Mohamm ed Bin Zayed] in September,” an unnamed defense source said. “We have requested the French to change these components and also consulted with the Russian and Chinese firms.”
“If this issue is not resolved, the UAE is willing to scrap the whole deal,” said the source, adding that the incident has seen an increase in talks with Moscow, which – along with Beijing – has also been a frequent defense tech supplier to the Gulf state.
However, it is not clear whether the US equipment can be taken off of the French satellites.
The satellites come courtesy of prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space and payload manufacturer Thales Alenia, neither of whom could be reached for comment.
The system, comprised of satellites and a ground station, will require 20 trained engineers to operate. Under the July 22 deal, signed by Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces, and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, delivery of the satellites and the ground station was to be made sometime in 2018.
A total of 11 international bidders were competing in the Flacon Eye race for more than a decade to ship their technologies to the UAE, which in late 2012 announced that they had chosen to go with the French and the Americans.
According to the source, the French won because of the filters which their rival Americans imposed on the use of the equipment – a policy dubbed “shutter control.” The US government restricts sale of commercial high resolution satellite images from spacecraft it licenses, if they are deemed a threat to its national security.
One French defense specialist found it surprising that France had had US spy technology on board its equipment, especially when France’s use of the Pleiades surveillance system is considered to be of critical importance to its national security.
According to Defensenews, UAE threats to call off the deal are seen by some commentators as a way to secure a better bargain from the French, because “the satellites would be part of a big package deal… it’s not surprising the UAE drives a hard bargain. They’re using it as a layer of power.”
The unnamed defense specialist referred to the possibility that the Emirates may wish to drive the price down for other equipment, such as the Dessault Aviation Rafale fighter jet.