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France’s Macron and Saudi Prince in Artful Deception

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 12.12.2017

A week after French President Emmanuel Macron opened the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, a painting attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci went on sale for a record $450 million at an auction in New York City.

It was then reported that the buyer turned out to be none other than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia with whom Macron is said to enjoy a close, personal rapport.

The 500-year-old renaissance portrait of Jesus Christ – entitled ‘Salvator Mundi’ (‘Savior of the World’) – will henceforth go on display in Abu Dhabi’s franchise of the Louvre, presumably on long-term loan from the Saudi monarchy.

The story here is one of the French presidency and the Saudi heir using culture and arts for “soft power” projection – or, less prosaically, as public relations to launder their international image. It also ties in with how Macron is disguising pernicious French meddling in Middle East affairs under the image of being a benign diplomatic broker.

The Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates, is the only one anywhere in the world that is an official affiliate to the famous Paris museum of the same name. It opens after 10 years of construction, for which the UAE reportedly paid France over $500 million in order to be able to use the famous Louvre name.

France, the UAE and the closely aligned Saudi rulers stand to gain much international prestige, especially after the Saudi Crown Prince reportedly purchased the most expensive artwork in the world to date by the renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci’s other celebrated portrait, the Mona Lisa, is displayed in the Paris Louvre. A certain neat symmetry there.

However, beneath the veneer of classic art lies the grubby, sordid world of politics.

Last weekend, the French president hosted a conference in Paris entitled the International Support Group for Lebanon, whose chief guest was Lebanese premier Saad Hariri. Macron reportedly concluded the summit by saying it was “imperative for foreign powers not to interfere in Lebanese internal affairs”. The implication of that statement was fingering Iran as the culprit of interference through its association with Lebanese coalition government member Hezbollah.

The irony here is that if any country in the region has been guilty of brazenly interfering in Lebanese politics it is Saudi Arabia. Hariri tendered his resignation as prime minister on November 4 after he was summoned to Riyadh by the Saudi rulers who sponsor his Sunni Islam-affiliated political movement in Lebanon. In explaining his surprise resignation, Hariri dramatically and provocatively accused Iran and Hezbollah of plotting to assassinate him.

Hariri has since returned safely to Lebanon and has reversed his earlier resignation announcement. Both Iran and Hezbollah have rejected his claims of intended malice as ridiculous. It seems Hariri was trying to project a well-worn Saudi narrative to criminalize Iran and Hezbollah, whom the hardline Sunni (Wahhabi) Saudi rulers view as “Shia heretics” and regional nemesis – especially after recent military victory in Syria.

Evidently, Hariri is still doing the Saudi rulers’ bidding. Last week before the Paris summit, he told Paris Match in an interview that the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad – an ally of Iran and Hezbollah – wants him dead. He reiterated baseless accusations that Syria had been involved in the assassination of his father Rafic in 2005. The Paris summit a few days later then endorsed Hariri’s demand that Hezbollah, and by extension Iran, must “disassociate” from regional influence. France’s Macron publicly backed this demand.

That brings us to the art of deception. Saudi Arabia’s antagonism against Iran, Hezbollah and Syria is being finessed with French diplomatic sophistry. French President Macron and his foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian are subtly lending credence to Saudi attempts at demonizing Iran and Hezbollah, accusing both for regional instability – when in reality Riyadh and Paris are much more to blame.

Lebanon is only one such instance of Saudi meddling, which is being given a respectable cover by French diplomatic posturing. When Lebanon’s Christian President Michel Aoun and many Lebanese citizens were condemning Saudi rulers for “kidnapping” Hariri during his extraordinary two-week sojourn in Riyadh last month following his resignation, it was France’s Macron who deftly diverted attention from Saudi interference by extending a personal invite to Hariri to visit Paris along with his family. That invitation to Paris for Hariri on November 18 let the Saudis off the hook over claims that they were holding the Lebanese politician under duress.

Another instance of egregious Saudi-French meddling is Syria. The country has been ravaged by a nearly seven-year war that was largely sponsored covertly by Saudi Arabia, France and other NATO allies. That war has only been put to an end by the military intervention of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

In Yemen, the Saudi rulers have devastated the poorest country in the Arab region with a nearly three-year war that has been fueled with massive American, British and French weapons exports. A $3.6 billion arms deal that France signed with Lebanon at the end of 2014 for which the Saudis said they would foot the bill has ended up being diverted to Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen, according to L’Observatoire des Armements.

French weapons reportedly include Cougar troop-transport helicopters, Mirage fighter jets, drones, and mid-air refueling tanker planes, which have enabled a Saudi bombing campaign that has been condemned for multiple war crimes from the targeting of thousands of civilians. French weapons also include navy corvettes and patrol boats which have helped enforce the Saudi naval blockade on Yemen. That blockade is inflicting starvation and disease on millions of children.

Given the scope of criminal Saudi-French interference in the region, it is therefore a travesty that these two countries are promoting a narrative seeking to impugn Iran and Hezbollah.

But this travesty is being given credence by an uncritical Western media, and by French President Macron donning an image of a progressive, liberal, cultured politician.

When Macron opened the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi on November 8 he gave a speech in which he eulogized the “beauty of art” being a source of healing power to overcome “discourses of hatred”. He said the museum would “defend beauty, universality, creativity, reason and fraternity”.

This nauseating self-indulgence sounds rather like pretentious French pseudo-philosophy. A load of lofty-sounding cant which seeks to conceal what are brutal French state interests – weapons sales and fueling conflict – as somehow wonderfully benign and enlightened.

The next day, after his “emotive” speech in Abu Dhabi, Macron made a reportedly unscheduled flight to Riyadh to meet the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This was while Lebanese premier Saad Hariri was still in the Saudi capital, apparently being held against his will.

One week later, on November 15, the Da Vinci portrait, ‘Salvator Mundi’, goes on sale at Christie’s auction house in New York. The buyer remained unknown until last week when the New York Times reported that it was Crown Prince MbS who splashed out the $450 million bid. The question is: was the young 32-year-old Saudi despot acting on advice from his cultured French friend Macron, as a way to gain some good international PR? It certainly smacks of orchestration.

Such profligate spending by the Saudi heir comes at an awkward time when he and his ruling clique have arrested some 200 other Saudi royals in a purported crackdown on corruption and graft. The embarrassment seems to have prompted the Saudi rulers to subsequently deny that MbS is the buyer, claiming instead that it was a cousin of the Crown Prince who was acting as an agent for the Louvre in Abu Dhabi to acquire the venerated art piece.

Whatever the truth about the precise buyer of Da Vinci’s ‘Savior of the World’, it seems clear that the French state and the Saudi monarchy are in any case engaged in a cynical image-laundering exercise. They are exploiting high-brow culture and religious sanctity as a way to project an image of civility and beneficence.

Macron in particular is serving as a sophisticated public relations agent for the Saudi rulers, laundering their badly tarnished image. In return, no doubt, Macron is securing lucrative future French arms sales to the Saudis, as well as to the Emiratis. Saudi Arabia is the top export market for France’s weapons industry.

French weapons-dealing with the Saudis is directly responsible for a slaughter of innocents in Yemen and Syria. And at the same time French diplomatic sophistry is covering up for Saudi subversion of Lebanon’s internal affairs. Yet, the Saudis and their French PR President Emmanuel Macron have the audacity to accuse Iran and Hezbollah of regional interference.

That’s the “beauty of art” indeed. The art, that is, of deception.

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

France , Qatar sign deals worth around 12 billion euros: Macron

Press TV – December 7, 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar’s ruling emir have signed contacts worth around 12 billion euros ($14.15 billion) during the French president’s visit to Doha.

“In total, it amounts to nearly 12 billion euros which was signed today and which underlines the closeness of our relations,” Macron said at a press conference with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Thursday.

Macron and Sheikh Tamim agreed on a deal for Qatar to purchase at least a dozen French-made Dassault Rafale fighter jets with the option of buying 36 more. The deal also includes purchase of 490 VBCI armored vehicles from French firm Nexter.

Qatar would additionally buy 50 Airbus twin-engine A321s with the option of buying 30 more.

The small Persian Gulf country also signed a transportation deal with France’s national rail authority to manage and maintain Doha’s planned metro, as well as a light rail system north of Doha.

The French president is traveling with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who in 2015 as defense minister helped negotiate a deal with Qatar buy dozens of Rafale fighter jets.

Macron’s one-day trip comes as Doha faces a continued boycott by some of its Saudi-led Arab neighbors.

In the rare press conference, Qatar’s ruling emir expressed his regret for the boycott and said it was especially disheartening that the crisis erupted in June.

Qatar has been locked in a political standoff with Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries for the past months. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut relations with Qatar in early June

Earlier this week, a Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Kuwait failed to bring the standoff any closer to a resolution.

There has been almost no sign that Qatari authorities would bow to the demands of Saudi Arabia and its allies to restore diplomatic ties.

Among the conditions put forward for a full normalization of ties is the need for Qatar to downgrade its relations with Iran and expel foreign troops, including those from Turkey, from military bases in the country.

Macron visits US, French troops in Qatar

During his visit to Qatar, Macron traveled to the vast al-Udeid air base, which is home to some 10,000 American troops and the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command.

France also has a contingent of several hundred troops in Qatar as part of the 1,200 French forces deployed to the region.

The troops are a part of the US-led coalition, which is purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Speaking to the soldiers, he said the next few months of battle would determine the outcome of the war against Daesh in Iraq in Syria.

“This military win does not signify the end of the operations and the end of our battle because first we need to stabilize and win peace in Iraq and Syria,” he said.

Macron also stressed in his remarks that France wanted to avoid the partitioning of Syria and “avoid the domination of certain international elements whose interests contradict peace.”

The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

The airstrikes, however, have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Hariri’s Resignation and More Plans for War

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | November 21, 2017

Undoubtedly the media’s account of Saad Hariri’s ‘forced’ resignation is not the whole story, but how true or untrue is it? As Hariri is a Saudi-US asset, the ‘forced’ resignation seems more like the sacking of a company executive who has not lived up to expectations. Told to step out of office Hariri did what he was told, following through by issuing a Saudi-scripted statement accusing Hezbollah and Iran of sowing discord across the region, and talking of a plot to assassinate him.

In fact, it was Saudi Arabia sowing discord, by blaming Hezbollah and Iran for Hariri’s resignation, with the apparent aim of throwing Lebanon into chaos. Predictably, Netanyahu jumped in immediately, saying the resignation was a call to the ‘international community’ to take action against Iranian aggression but no-one else bought it, not even Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims. Hezbollah reacted calmly and if anyone came out of it badly it was Saudi Arabia.  In the Iranian view the removal of Hariri was a plot cooked up by Trump and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Hariri himself did not return to Lebanon where he could have defied the Saudis and resumed his position but moved on to France, where he was welcomed by President Macron at the Elysee Palace. Soon after talking to Hariri, Macron was on the phone to Trump, discussing the Iranian ‘threat’ and how to deal with it.  According to Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, Hariri told him he would return to Beirut by Independence Day, November 22, marking the end of the French mandate. The Lebanese parties, including Hezbollah, still regard Hariri as the country’s Prime Minister so how all of this plays after Hariri’s return will be interesting to see.

What lies behind all this?  What is the connection between Hariri’s resignation (forced or otherwise) and the other events running concurrently in Saudi Arabia, namely the arrest of some of the most powerful figures in the kingdom and the confiscation of their assets, estimated at about $800 billion?  One has to assume there is a connection. It seems far too much of a coincidence for there not to be one.

The claim that the purge of the princes was part of an anti-corruption drive is bunk, seeing that corruption is intrinsic to how the Saudi government operates, domestically and in its foreign policy.  If corruption is a cover story, why were these princes removed?  Could it be their opposition to Saudi Arabia’s policy failures, in Syria and Yemen, and their opposition to what is now clearly being moved from the drawing board to implementation, a war on Iran, involving the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia?  They would hardly be alone in seeing Crown Prince Muhamad bin Salman as reckless, foolhardy and lethally dangerous to the stability of the Saudi kingdom: his accession to the throne they would regard, literally, as a crowning act of folly.

That another war is on the horizon is clear from all the signals coming out of Israel in the past six months. That not just the US but Saudi Arabia will be part of it is obvious. Intermittently, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing for war on Iran for a decade.  With the US refusing to bite, to the extent of launching an open military attack, Syria was chosen as the next best target: if the government in Damascus could be destroyed, the strategic alliance between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah would collapse at its central arch. This plan B was partly foiled by the refusal of the UN Security Council, thanks to the vetoes of Russia and China, to sanction an aerial war on Syria along the lines of the assault on Libya. Plan C had to come into effect, reliance on a war of attrition fought by takfiri proxies organised, financed and armed mainly by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Britain and France, and coordinated with the assistance of governments ranging from the Balkans to Central Asia.  Seven years later Plan C has now ground to a halt. The ‘axis of reaction’ (the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia) has suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the ‘axis of resistance’ (Iran, Syria and Hezbollah). Russian intervention has been critical, so the victory is Russia’s as well, and a particular humiliation for the US.

This does not end the list of defeats suffered by the ‘axis of reaction.’ Another severe blow has been suffered through the collapse of the Kurdish drive for independence in northern Iraq. Both the US and Israel have assiduously cultivated the Kurds for decades, seeing northern Iraq as a new strategic centre for military and intelligence operations across the Middle East. The US and British ‘no fly’ zone and ‘safe haven’ initiatives of 1990/91 were the first steps in the planned breakup of an Iraq that no longer suited imperial purposes. The invasion of 2003 and the imposition of a constitution dictated by the US, weakening the authority of the central government, led to Kurdish autonomy which, in time, would have been expected to end in independence and a new base for US/Israeli operations across the Middle East.

Even the US was against the referendum called by Masoud Barzani: seeing that it was already getting what it wanted, the referendum would be premature and cause more trouble than it was worth.

This proved to be the case. Turkey and Iran reacted viscerally, ending flights and closing border crossings: the Iraqi army retook Kirkuk and all the territory conquered by the Peshmerga in 2014. Barzani stepped down as president of the KRG: Jalal Talabani, the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), had died only recently, leaving the Kurds leaderless and at each other’s throats over who was responsible for this debacle. Iraq is now being reconstituted as a unitary state. The largely Shia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) has developed into a powerful annex to the regular army. Moreover, the government in Baghdad has a close working relationship with the government of the Islamic Republic in Tehran.

The paradox of these defeats is that they increase to a critical level the danger of a new attack by the ‘axis of reaction’ on the ‘axis of resistance.’ Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah cannot be allowed to get away with these victories.  The Israeli chief of staff, Gabi Eisenkot, hardly needed to say, as he did recently, that there is ‘complete agreement between us and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ on the question of Iran’s spreading influence across the Middle East, or ‘control’ of the region as he put it. Unable to impose its will on one of the poorest countries in the world, Yemen, Saudi Arabia would be of little help on the front line in a war against dangerous targets such as Hezbollah and Iran.  But it has money and according to Hasan Nasrallah, has offered to pay Israel billions of dollars for a new war on Hezbollah.

As Israel always has the next war on the drawing board, the central question is ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ it will be launched. In recent months it has held some of the largest-scale land and air exercises in its recent history in preparation for a new war on Hezbollah, including training for fighting in tunnels. It has warned repeatedly over the years that the next time around the ‘Dahiyeh strategy’ will be applied across Lebanon and is busy selling the propaganda package that there really is no Lebanon any more but only a Hezbollah enclave controlled by Iran.

Dahiyeh, of course, is the largely Shia Beirut suburb and urban HQ of Hezbollah that was pulverised from the air in 2006. Given the huge civilian casualties Israel is willing to inflict in the next war, Iran and Syria would be hard pressed to stay out but the moment they intervene, Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia will have their three primal enemies directly in their line of fire. The refusal of the US to withdraw its forces and dismantle its air bases in Syria now that the Islamic State has been ‘defeated’ (if still being used as an American tool) is probably connected with preparation for the coming conflict.

Israel’s existential struggle in the Middle East since 1948 has now reached the point of crisis. Israel may think it has all the time it needs to completely engorge the West Bank but it does not have such a luxury on the regional front. If Iran is stronger now than before the wars on Iraq and Syria, it will be even stronger in two or three years’ time. It has a large standing army, fought an extremely destructive war against Iraq (1980-89), has been deeply involved at the planning and combat level in the defence of Syria and has built up a large arsenal of locally developed short and long-range missiles.

By comparison, Israel has not even fought a regular army since 1973: in 2000 it was driven out of Lebanon by a guerrilla force and when it attempted to retrieve lost ground by launching a new war in 2006 its ground troops proved incapable of taking villages even a few kilometres from the armistice line. Its attacks on Gaza have been onslaughts on a largely defenceless civilian population.

Given that since 1948 its security/insecurity situation has ultimately been based not on diplomacy but on full spectrum military domination from the possession of nuclear weapons down to conventional warfare, Israel cannot allow the current situation of strengthening enemies to continue. Hostile to any kind of diplomatic settlement that would generate a real peace, Israel must go to war. It says it is much stronger and better prepared than in 2006 but so are Hezbollah and Iran. Hezbollah alone has a large stockpile of missiles able to reach any corner of occupied Palestine: Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system will stop some of them but not all.

If it does go to war Israel is certainly going to suffer civilian casualties unprecedented in its history but the politicians and generals around Netanyahu will argue that its existential situation will demand these sacrifices. The US would come in behind Israel, but Russia could not be expected to sit by while its diplomatic alliances and strategic assets in the Middle East are destroyed. The commentator Abd al Bari Atwan has warned that such a war would be the most destructive in the region’s history, developing into a global conflict, and has raised the question of whether Israel, having started it, could survive it. This is a truly apocalyptic scenario.

As usual the Palestinians find themselves caught in the middle. Mahmud Abbas is being told to go along with the Trump-Kushner-Israel ‘peace initiative’ or else, even by Saudi Arabia. This would involve Abbas publicly sharing the anti-Iranian, anti-Hezbollah and anti-Shia views of the Saudis at a time he is engaged in a reconciliation process with Hamas, which has refused to take a stand against Hezbollah. Furthermore, several of its senior leaders have recently been in Tehran.  For the moment all eyes are on Hariri as he returns to Beirut: how will he explain himself, will he resume his position as Prime Minister and on what terms?

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

France’s Macron Covers for Saudi Aggression

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 20.11.2017

France’s invitation to beleaguered Lebanese premier Saad Hariri for him and his family to spend “a few days in Paris” has been viewed as French President Emmanuel Macron stepping in with deft soft power to resolve tensions between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Less charitably, what Macron is really doing is giving cynical cover to the Saudi rulers for their extraordinary acts of aggression towards Lebanon and their violation of that country’s sovereignty.

Two of Hariri’s children were left in Saudi capital Riyadh while he visited France over the weekend. Were they being used as hostages by the Saudis to ensure that Hariri maintains the Saudi spin on events? Certainly, the arrangement raises suspicions, but the French president sought instead to affect a “normal” nothing-is-unusual appearance.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun last week publicly accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri in Riyadh against his will. Aoun said the Saudi rulers were violating international law by detaining Hariri and forcing his resignation as prime minister of Lebanon. Such acts were tantamount to aggression, said President Aoun.

Yet Macron has said nothing about Saudi interference. He has instead turned reality on its head by censuring Iran for regional “aggression” and thereby backing Saudi claims that Iran is supplying ballistic missiles to Yemen. Iran swiftly condemned Macron for “stoking regional tensions”.

Credit goes to President Aoun for speaking out plainly, telling it like it is and expressing what many Lebanese citizens and many other observers around the world have concluded. The whole debacle is an outrageous affront to Lebanon and international law by the Saudi rulers, when it is taken into consideration Hariri’s hasty summoning to Saudi capital Riyadh earlier this month, his subsequent televised resignation speech on Saudi TV, and his long-delayed sojourn in that country. What is even more despicable is that the Saudi interference in the sovereign affairs of Lebanon is threatening to re-ignite a civil war within the small Mediterranean country, and, possibly worse, a war across the region with Iran.

Hariri has claimed in a later media interview, held in Saudi Arabia, and in reported communications with family and friends who are back in Lebanon that he was not under duress while staying in Saudi Arabia. That claim beggars belief given the bizarre circumstances of Hariri’s sudden departure and his protracted nearly two-week stay in Saudi Arabia.

In any case, the president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, has concluded that something is badly amiss in the saga, and he has explicitly accused Saudi rulers of violating his country’s sovereignty.

Therefore, if there were any principle or adherence to international law, the actions of Saudi Arabia should be condemned categorically by the international community, the UN, the European Union and France in particular owing to its historic relations with Lebanon as the former colonial power before independence in 1943.

But no. What we have instead are either shameful silence from Washington, or mealy-mouthed statements from the EU. The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a vague statement warning against “foreign interference” in the affairs of Lebanon. What kind of cowardly circumlocution is that?

Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri was, in effect, detained by Saudi Arabia and forced to tender his resignation from public office as a matter of ultimatum. It has been reliably reported that the Wahhabi Saudi rulers were exasperated with the Shia group Hezbollah being part of the coalition government in Beirut. Hariri is a Saudi-sponsored Sunni politician who is antagonistic to Hezbollah and by extension, Iran. But apparently, he was not sufficiently hostile, in the view of his Saudi backers. Hence, Hariri was summoned to Riyadh and ordered to resign on November 4. (The defeat of the Saudi-sponsored covert terror war in Syria no doubt was a factor too in the timing.)

France’s President Macron is playing a particularly slippery game of pandering and expedience towards the Saudi despots.

As the Washington Post’s WorldView briefing reported last week: “French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that it was important to dispel the implication that Hariri was a Saudi prisoner.”

The newspaper goes on to quote Macron saying rather vacuously: “We need to have leaders who are free to express themselves. It’s important that [Hariri] is able to advance the political process in his country in the coming days and weeks.”

The question should be asked: why is it important for Macron to “dispel the implication that Hariri was a Saudi prisoner”?

From virtually all accounts, including that of Lebanese President Michel Aoun whose view should surely be paramount here, that is exactly what Hariri was made by the Saudis – a prisoner.

Three days before his summoning to Riyadh and his scripted resignation speech on November 4 – in which Hariri claimed with incredible drama that he was in danger of an assassination plot by Hezbollah and its ally Iran – it was reported that Hariri was having dinner with the French culture minister in Beirut. During their meal, he received a phone call. His demeanor darkened, and he immediately departed from the table for a flight to Riyadh. Without the company of aides, Hariri was met on his arrival by Saudi officials who took his mobile phone from him. He was not greeted by senior Saudi rulers like Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would have been customary diplomatic protocol.

Everything about the next two weeks of Hariri’s stay in Saudi Arabia signals a de facto detention against his will. Admittedly, he made a brief flight to the United Arab Emirates during the time period, which was claimed by the Saudis to be proof of his free movement. The UAE rulers are closely aligned with the House of Saud, and besides Hariri was soon back in his Riyadh residence, from where he continued to tweet to friends that he was “fine”.

This is nothing but a sham. The stark facts are that Saudi Arabia has brazenly interfered in the internal affairs of Lebanon, trying to force its prime minister to step down. Furthermore, the Saudi rulers have accused Lebanon of “acts of war” by allegedly supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen; the Saudis have also ordered their nationals to leave Lebanon; and there are reports emerging of the Saudis now pushing to suspend Beirut from the Arab League. This is reckless incendiary behavior by the Saudi rulers.

Should we be surprised though? Saudi Arabia has shown absolute criminal disregard for international law over its bombing and genocidal blockade of Yemen, where humanitarian aid groups have warned that 50,000 children may die this year due to enforced deprivation from the nearly three-year American and British-backed Saudi war on Yemen.

The absolute Saudi monarchy has also gone on an internal rampage of arresting its own government ministers and other businessmen in an audacious power-grab under the guise of “an anti-corruption drive”. Moreover, Saudi rulers have been instrumental in organizing a legally dubious trade and diplomatic blockade of Qatar over trumped claims that the latter is a stooge for Iran and singularly supporting terrorists (this from the Saudis who have bankrolled terrorist proxies to overthrow the government in Syria.)

The criminality and rogue conduct of Saudi Arabia is legion and brazenly in your face.

That is why the so-called “international community”, the UN, Washington, the European Union, and France in particular are deserving of withering censure. Their mealy-mouthed muted statements on Saudi misconduct towards Lebanon are a disgrace. They are complicit in wanton lawlessness by their pandering to Saudi despots.

But France’s Emmanuel Macron has emerged as the prime disgrace. His invitation to Saad Hariri and his family to come to France is a cynical move to give cover to the Saudi despots. Tellingly, on the announcement of the invitation, Macron said that “it was not an offer of exile”. That’s Macron making it all sugary nice as pie.

On Friday, the day before Hariri arrived in Paris, Macron actually accused Iran of “aggression” and has called for sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile defense program. So, Macron, sneakily, is giving the Saudi narrative succor, and blaming Iran, instead of condemning Riyadh for its flagrant interference and aggression.

Again, by inviting Hariri to Paris, Macron is indulging the Saudi-Hariri charade that all is “normal” – when in reality the sordid shenanigans over the past two weeks amount to an outrageous and very grave violation of international law and of a neighboring country’s sovereignty by the Saudis.

With this kind of cynical “diplomacy”, Macron is showing that France is far from capable of having any leadership role or moral authority in the Middle East or the world.

Of course, France’s vested economic interests with the Saudi despots, from arms sales to energy and infrastructure projects, are central to Macron’s expedient calculations.

Macron’s ambitions of engendering some kind of renaissance of France as a global power are futile and nothing but sheer vanity. The cowardice of the French president in the face of Saudi aggression towards Lebanon shows that Macron and his pretensions of “global power” are a puff of cheap cosmetic powder.

November 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Battle of Algiers: Memoir of a Woman Freedom Fighter – Book Review

Reviewed by Vacy Vlazna | Palestine Chronicle | November 9, 2017

(Inside the Battle of Algiers: Memoir of a Woman Freedom Fighter, Zohra Drif, Just World Books, 2017)

“Colonialism creates the patriotism of the colonized. Kept at the level of a beast by an oppressive system, the natives are given no rights, not even the right to live. Their condition worsens daily. And when a people has no choice but how it will die; when a people has received from its oppressors only the gift of despair, what does it have to lose? A people’s misfortune will become its courage; it will make, of its endless rejection by colonialism, the absolute rejection of colonization.”  –  Albert Memmi

Stylishly dressed in a lavender blue summer dress with small stripes, Algerian student Zohra Drif, 22, in a state of surreal disassociation yet guided by ‘absolute necessity, the sacred duty to succeed in my mission so that my people would not despair’, planted a bomb concealed in a beach bag to be set off 6.25 pm in the Milk Bar cafe on the elegant Rue d’Isly, a 10 minute walk from the Muslim Casbah held captive under the oppressive French military siege.

Across town, on the same sunny afternoon of September 30, 1956, Zohra’s friends, Samia Lakhdari and her mother, Mama Zhor, successfully targeted the Cafeteria on Rue Michelet and Djamila Bouhired planted a faulty bomb in the Air France agency in the Mauritania building.

As an activist for Palestine, I was eager to understand the mind, soul and motive of a young freedom fighter. Zohra Drif’s profoundly personal and nationalistic autobiography is a precise holographic sliver of the whole 1954-1962 Algerian struggle for independence from 130 years of France’s brutal colonization; a struggle that claimed over 1,000,000 Algerian lives.

Daughter of Qadi Ahmed and Saadi Drif, Zohra’s destiny from childhood in rural Tiaret to schoolgirl and university law student in Algiers and her dogged determination to join the National Liberation Front (FLN) in the Algiers Autonomous Zone 5, to her stressful clandestine life, subsequent arrest and imprisonment is a compelling read.

Its power lies in a tense dramatic immediacy, intriguingly heightened by the voice of the young Zohra, not the 82-year-old Zohra, the author who splices Algeria’s tragic saga underscored by French colonial privileged racism with the idealism and valiant acts of young revolutionaries….

And herein lies the rationale and honor of the revolutionary identity:

“Perhaps the reader of today expects me to regret having placed bombs in public places frequented by European civilians. I do not. To do so would be to obscure the central problem of settler colonialism by trying to pass off the European civilians of the day for (at best) mere tourists visiting Algeria or (at worst) the ‘natural’ inheritors of our land in place of its legitimate children. I will not adopt this position because I hate lies and their corollary, revisionism, whatever they are and wherever they come from. Samia and I did not regret our actions in 1956 or 1957, nor do we today, nor will we ever. I speak here in my own name and on behalf of my friend and sister Samia Lakhdari, who died in the summer of 2012. What’s more, if today, God forbid, my country were to be attacked and occupied by a foreign force, I know that even at my advanced age, propped up on a cane, I would be with all those (and I know there are many of them, in Algeria and elsewhere) who would offer their lives to liberate our land and its people. In declaring this, I seek neither to boast nor to challenge anyone. I am simply trying to convey an idea, a simple conviction related to the concept of responsibility.

“As for the civilians who perished during the war of national liberation, if they are Algerian, I would propose that they go to the ALN fighters and ask them, “Why did we die?” I know that the ALN will reply, ‘You are dead because your lives were part of the price we had to pay for our country to be free and independent.’ And if they are French, I would propose that they go see the French authorities and ask, ‘Why did we die?’ I do not know what the French authorities would say, but I would propose to them the one real truth there is: ‘You died because you were among the hundreds of thousands of Europeans that we used to subjugate and occupy a foreign country, Algeria, so that we could make it our settler colony.’ In any case, this will not make me forget all the French who chose justice and the values of freedom and dignity (of which their own homeland boasted) and joined our camp.”

The rightness and justice bolted to Zohra’s vindication of her mission intensifies when you consider the barbarities that the French regime perpetrated against Algerians – whole scale massacres and napalm bombing in Setif, Kherrata, North Constantinos, the massacre of thousands of men in the Skikda stadium, collective punishment, humiliations, lynchings, impalings, collective rape, annihilation of villages and their occupants, mass arrests, disappearances, concentration camps, tens of thousands of summary executions, bombings of trade unions, terrible tortures in prisons and in homes in front of the family, curfews, checkpoints, rampant raids, looting, psychological warfare, blowing up homes, the relentless incitement fear and terror, military courts replaced civil courts, decapitation by guillotine, the Paris massacre of 300 Algerian protestors – all executed with merciless French arrogance and indifference to the humanity of the ‘natives’. An arrogance that masks the moral inferiority of the colonist.

French colonial sadism exists to this day thus explaining why since 1947, Presidents from Auriol to Macron ( with the exception of Pompidou and d’Estaing) have enthusiastically supported the savage colonialism of their Israeli frères d’armes:

Auriol: approved Partition Plan, voted for the Israel’s membership to the UN.

Coty: France and Israel cooperated “in research and production of nuclear weapons,” and build Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor.

de Gaulle: “I raise my glass to Israel, our friend and our ally.”

(Pompidou and d’Estaing)

Mitterrand: “Indeed, the French nation is a friend to the nation of Israel.”

Chirac: “France is determined to strengthen Israel and I say that it is important that the process move forward towards full development and assure full security for the people of Israel.”

Sarkozy: “On behalf of France, we would like to declare our love for Israel – we love you! “

Hollande “I will always remain a friend of Israel”

Macron – “French law prohibits … boycotting [Israel]. There is no question of changing that law and no question of acting indulgently on this. For me, these [BDS protests] are anti-Zionist moves, thus profoundly anti-Semitic … I condemn this approach both legally and politically.”

The timeless universality of Zohra’s insurrectionary call to dignity and freedom has invaluable resonance for Palestinian resistance. Reading Zohra’s memoir is Palestine’s story and the lessons are electrifying:

1. Maintain focus on the occupiers fault lines:

“First, France was not invincible. Not only had she not resisted the German occupation but, even worse, over 80 percent of the French parliament had voted for the armistice – France’s abdication to Germany – and what’s more, the majority of the French elite had even collaborated with the occupiers, supporting the Vichy regime and its Marshal Philippe Petain. We were well aware that without Britain and the United States, France would never have been liberated.” Also France had been defeated in WWI and later defeated in Franco-Thai War and the Indochina War.”

Israel, for all its army, navy, airforce, vast cache of nuclear and high tech military hardware ( France ties with Germany in arms exports to Israel) is not invincible. Its European Jewish immigrants, apart from the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, like the French submitted to the Nazis. The 1973 Yom Kippur War resulted in the Israeli return of its Sinai gains to Egypt, and in the 2006 Lebanon War Israel failed to destroy Hezbollah. Israel’s three wars on Gaza, 2009/10, 2011 and 2014 have incrementally caused heavy losses to Israel’s credibility and fabricated victim reputation. In 2014, without an army, navy, airforce, Hamas inflicted 67 ZOF deaths and wounded 468.

2. Resistance is justice and a right.

“We are not killers. We are fighters for a just cause, moved by the most sacred of duties: to liberate our land and our people. It is the colonial regime that kills -torturing, oppressing, and repressing to perpetuate its system of occupation on our land and our people, trying to convince everyone that Algeria is French. That is why each of our attacks, each of our ambushes, each of our lives sacrificed must serve to unmask France before the world, to show that our people are at war against a foreign power occupying us by force.”

The Zionist occupier also tries to convince the world that Palestine is Israel via western media and lackey governments spreading its false propaganda: that its daily war crimes in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention are acts of defense, that its daily theft of Palestinian land, livelihood and dignity was decreed by a god, that Palestinian legitimate armed and BDS resistance to foreign domination is ‘terrorism’ and ‘antisemitic’.

In Algeria, all settlers had to “know that Algeria was at war and understand that they could no longer sit back and enjoy life while watching us die.”

In historic Palestine, according to Miko Peled, all Israelis are settlers. At arms length from their inflicted suffering on indigenous Palestinians, the settlers move freely on apartheid roads sans 500 plus checkpoints, many live in coersively vacated Palestinian homes, they enjoy cafes with views of beaches that the majority of Palestinians have never seen. In their illegal settlements, they bathe in private swimming pools while Palestinians are rationed water for necessities. Colonists enjoy first class medical care while at a stone’s throw away, desperately ill Gazans are denied access to dialysis and cancer treatment.

3. Against great odds, independence can be achieved.

“Knowing that ‘We all knew that each day we lived was a victory over a possible arrest or a probable death,’ the poorly armed Algerian guerrilla resistance movement was up against ‘an army of nearly half a million highly equipped men’ and despite lethal internal divisions between the FLN and the MNA and collaborators such as the Harkis and Bachagha Ait Ali who ‘was notorious for his public condemnation of our national liberation struggle and for his participation in France’s fierce repression against our people’, Algeria achieved independence in 1962 and many of its fighters went on to serve Algeria in government. Zohra became the Vice-President of the Algerian Senate.”

Palestine too has its Bachagha Ait Ali in Mahmoud Abbas and his Zionist PA/PLO band of traitors to Palestinian resistance who uphold, “The security relationship [with Israel]… security coordination is sacred, is sacred. And we’ll continue it whether we disagree or agree over policy.”

Zohra shares the upheaval of betrayal by a comrade:

“Safi’s obvious, devastating betrayal stood out for its violent clarity, like the flash of a bomb. I shuddered. A new pain that I had never experienced until then wracked my insides: the very unique pain of betrayal. Not only is its intensity particular, but also its extent and the way it destabilizes you and your whole world. Suffering a betrayal destroys your points of references, the certainties necessary for life and for trust in the human race, including in yourself.”

She realizes that betrayal as a tool of the oppressor is intended “to annihilate our humanity.” However, she states that judging a victim of torture as a traitor would exonerate “his torturers and the colonial system” and that “would be the true betrayal.” Self-serving betrayal was rabidly punished after independence.

Ultimately, France’s tactics of disproportionate violent repression, racism, lies, deception, defiant abuse of the rule of law and international law courted defeat by raising the bar of Algerian resistance.

And so it is with Israel. Every Israeli war augments international support for Palestine’s legitimate right to sovereignty and independence. Israel’s settlement expansion is ironically the wrecking ball destroying the Zionist dream of Eretz Israel, the occupation’s strangulation of Palestinian society has birthed the counterinsurgency of BDS worldwide.

Decades of Israeli cruel repression have never made a dent in Palestinian sumoud- the resilient soul of Palestine and her children:

This is my rendition of an anthem to be sung
I will rise and soar above your matrix of control
With the strength of my will your walls will fall
And this concrete that segregates us will be used to rebuild homes
Your bulldozers and tanks will dissolve into the earth
The sap will run in the olive trees
The gates will open wide for the refugees
We will be free
I will be your equal
And only then you will be mine
My other self
My fellow human being. (Samah Sabawi)

As with French colonialism, Israel is imploding under the violent pressure of Zionism. The death of Zionism will inevitably herald what Svirsky calls ‘the noble ‘one state’ of equal partnership.’

 – Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters and editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.

November 16, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

UAE buys new weapons worth $684 million from US firm

Press TV – November 14, 2017

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed a new deal with an American arms manufacturer under which the firm would supply the small Persian Gulf country with laser-guided bombs, authorities say.

The deal, announced Tuesday at the Dubai Airshow and worth 2.5 billion dirhams ($684.4 million), would see the American missile maker Raytheon Co. sell GBU-10 and GBU-12 Paveway laser-guided bomb kits to Abu Dhabi, among other weapons.

UAE authorities also signed arms deals with Germany’s Rheinmetall to buy artillery from the company. The contract will also enable Rheinmetall to support Etihad Airways with transportation equipment.

The purchase of weapons comes amid the UAE’s involvement in a deadly campaign, led by Saudi Arabia, against Yemen. More than 10,000 people have been killed and over two million have been displaced since March 2015, when the regime in Riyadh began the campaign.

Abu Dhabi has also announced plans for buying 75 Mirage 2000-9 aircraft from the French multinational company Dassault and Thales to upgrade its air force fleet. That comes despite increasing calls for a halt to the UAE’s contribution to the devastating Saudi-led airstrikes on civilian areas in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are two major recipients in the Persian Gulf of weapons from the United States and other Western countries. Other countries in the region have accused the two of sparking an arms race by their excessive purchase of modern weaponry from the West.

Reports over the past few years have indicated that much of the UAE’s modern weaponry have found their way into the hands of militants in Libya, where Abu Dhabi supports an administration opposed to Tripoli’s internationally-recognized government.

November 14, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

French Minister of Defense: “French Citizens who Joined Jihad Should Die on the Battlefield”

By Peter Koenig | Dissident Voice | October 23, 2017

AP reported in The New York Post of 21 October 2017, that during ISIS heydays, it is estimated that about 30,000 citizens from around the world traveled to the Middle East, mostly Syria and Iraq, to join ISIS/Daesh as jihadi fighters.  This included an estimated 6,000 Europeans, mostly from France, Germany and Britain, many with immigrant backgrounds. A study found that less than 10% converted to Islam.

After ISIS’ defeat in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa, the former ISIS stronghold and artificial capital of the Islamic State’s Caliphate, about a third of the European jihadists have returned home, where many are awaiting trial in prison. Others are free and under surveillance. They are easy fodder for western secret services to blow themselves up, as jihadists, leaving always an ID behind; False Flag acts of ‘terror’, immediately claimed by ISIS, through the Islamic State’s news agency, Amaq. No surprise, though, in case they were contracted by CIA, Mossad, MI6 et al, to do so.

Other European jihadi fighters are still left on defeated battlefields, hiding in Raqqa’s ruins, some captured – and facing immediate death by execution. They are not wanted back in their European home countries. These countries had then and have now no time, nor interest to care for these people, their desperate, rudderless citizens. “Let them die on the battlefield” we don’t want them back.

While most European Governments didn’t dare express it in such blunt words, the French Minister of Defense, Florence Parly, told Europe 1 radio last week, “If the [French] jihadis perish in this fight, I would say that’s for the best.”

US orders were similar, “Our mission is to make sure that any foreign fighter who is here, who joined ISIS from a foreign country and came into Syria, they will die here in Syria,” said Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy for the anti-IS coalition, in an interview with Dubai-based Al-Aan television. “So, if they’re in Raqqa, they’re going to die in Raqqa,” he said. This is as much as saying, no prisoners are taken, they are all to be neutralized, a euphemism for murdered.

Imagine, this comes from the very countries that have created, trained and funded ISIS. Then they have nurtured ISIS for their purposes of spreading destruction, chaos, and assassination throughout the Middle east with focus on Syria and Iraq. These are the NATO governments who have left their young rudderless people without hope, seeking a ‘raison d’être’, a purpose in life.

Desperate without hope and guidance, many with zero income, zero chance in our western ultra-competitive merciless society – that’s what they were then, when they joined the Jihad and that’s what they are today – at the point of being slaughtered with the permission of their governments who created the army they volunteered to fight for – out of despair.

These European governments were and are in the first place interested in NATO, war and in pleasing their masters in Washington, but not in providing jobs or social safety nets for the young, the jobless, the desperate. These governments must destroy the world as a priority for their own elite’s greed and satisfaction, for the war industry’s profit. They do not care for the generations of young people either killed or without a future in Syria, Iraq, or even at home – and now they are ordering, yes, literally ordering to kill their own citizens, who left because their warmongering neoliberal – neofascist – economies had no space and interest in helping their hapless and hopeless citizens finding a purpose in life, a decent job, a roof over their head – and most important, inclusion in society. Feeling as outcasts, they felt inspired by the western initiated jihad propaganda – and left to fight a purposeless horrible western financed war.

This is the same Europe – directed by a nucleus of unelected white-collar criminals in Brussels, called the European Commission, the same Europeans, rather than caring for the well-being on their home-turf, they are colluding with their transatlantic financial mafia pals of Wall Street, FED, the Bretton Woods Institutions, planning on how to rob more poor countries of their natural resources, by indebting and blackmailing them into austerity and privatization of their public services. The same NATO-chained Europe with hundreds of years of history of brutal colonialism throughout the world.

Madame Parly’s statement must have been approved by president Macron, who stayed silent at the condemnation to death of French jihadi citizens by his Minister of Defense. Macron has just managed to put a ‘permanent state of emergency’ – basically Martial Law – into the French Constitution, entering into effect on 1 November 2017 – the first European country to do so.

The State of Emergency was in effect in France – permanent police and military surveillance throughout France – since the Charlie Hebdo murders in January 2015. Despite this law, 43 terror attacks causing hundreds of deaths, occurred in France to this day. – No doubt other EU countries will follow Macron’s lead. There is clearly no space for French ex-jihadists in France.

An anonymous Kurdish YPG official said, foreigners who fight until the end will be ‘eliminated’. In other words, we don’t take prisoners – following the dictate of the French Minister of Defense, and the US envoy, McGurk. The YPG is a powerful Kurdish secessionist militia, financed and supported by Washington.

The anonymous source also said that for the few prisoners they had captured, they, the Kurds, tried to reach out to the prisoners’ home countries, “We try to hand them in. But many would not want to take their (detainees).” He added these were sensitive issues not to be discussed with reporters.

“The general sentiment in northern Europe is we don’t want these people back, but I don’t think anyone has thought about the alternatives,” said Pieter Van Ostaeyen, an expert on the Belgian jihadists. He insinuates the complications on prosecuting the returnees, and how to track them if and when they leave custody.

“You can see why almost the preferred resolution is that they don’t return,” said Bruce Hoffman, head of Georgetown University’s security studies program and author of “Inside Terrorism.” – What worries me is I think it’s wishful thinking that they’re all going to be killed off,” he added.

Wishful thinking or not, French Minister Parly said it’s the best outcome.

“We cannot do anything to prevent their return besides neutralize the maximum number of jihadis in this combat,” she said.

Shamefully, all sense of Human Rights, of the Geneva Convention of War Prisoners, has been erased from the witless, immoral brains of western politicians.

No country openly admits refusing to let citizens who joined the Islamic State return, including women and children. Germany and Russia are exceptions to this sinister rule. German diplomats state that all German citizens “are entitled to consular assistance”.

Russia actually goes out of its way to repatriate its citizens who want to come home, with a special effort on orphaned children and wives of killed Russian jihadists. It is again just wonderful to see the difference in human approach between the east and the decadent west. In his final words at the closing ceremony of the Sochi Youth Festival, Mr. Putin warned that worse than nuclear bombs are the loss of ethics and moral values in society.


Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media (China), TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

October 24, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Tomorrow Belongs to the Corporatocracy

By C.J. Hopkins • Unz Review • October 20, 2017

Back in October of 2016, I wrote a somewhat divisive essay in which I suggested that political dissent is being systematically pathologized. In fact, this process has been ongoing for decades, but it has been significantly accelerated since the Brexit referendum and the Rise of Trump (or, rather, the Fall of Hillary Clinton, as it was Americans’ lack of enthusiasm for eight more years of corporatocracy with a sugar coating of identity politics, and not their enthusiasm for Trump, that mostly put the clown in office.)

In the twelve months since I wrote that piece, we have been subjected to a concerted campaign of corporate media propaganda for which there is no historical precedent. Virtually every major organ of the Western media apparatus (the most powerful propaganda machine in the annals of powerful propaganda machines) has been relentlessly churning out variations on a new official ideological narrative designed to generate and enforce conformity. The gist of this propaganda campaign is that “Western democracy” is under attack by a confederacy of Russians and white supremacists, as well as “the terrorists” and other “extremists” it’s been under attack by for the last sixteen years.

I’ve been writing about this campaign for a year now, so I’m not going to rehash all the details. Suffice to say we’ve gone from Russian operatives hacking the American elections to “Russia-linked” persons “apparently” setting up “illegitimate” Facebook accounts, “likely operated out of Russia,” and publishing ads that are “indistinguishable from legitimate political speech” on the Internet. This is what the corporate media is presenting as evidence of “an unprecedented foreign invasion of American democracy,” a handful of political ads on Facebook. In addition to the Russian hacker propaganda, since August, we have also been treated to relentless white supremacist hysteria and daily reminders from the corporate media that “white nationalism is destroying the West.” The negligible American neo-Nazi subculture has been blown up into a biblical Behemoth inexorably slouching its way towards the White House to officially launch the Trumpian Reich.

At the same time, government and corporate entities have been aggressively restricting (and in many cases eliminating) fundamental civil liberties such as freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right of assembly, the right to privacy, and the right to due process under the law. The justification for this curtailment of rights (which started in earnest in 2001, following the September 11 attacks) is protecting the public from the threat of “terrorism,” which apparently shows no signs of abating. As of now, the United States has been in a State of Emergency for over sixteen years. The UK is in a virtual State of Emergency. France is now in the process of enshrining its permanent State of Emergency into law. Draconian counter-terrorism measures have been implemented throughout the EU. Not just the notorious American police but police throughout the West have been militarized. Every other day we learn of some new emergency security measure designed to keep us safe from “the terrorists,” the “lone wolf shooters,” and other “extremists.”

Conveniently, since the Brexit referendum and unexpected election of Trump (which is when the capitalist ruling classes first recognized that they had a widespread nationalist backlash on their hands), the definition of “terrorism” (or, more broadly, “extremism”) has been expanded to include not just Al Qaeda, or ISIS, or whoever we’re calling “the terrorists” these days, but anyone else the ruling classes decide they need to label “extremists.” The FBI has designated Black Lives Matter “Black Identity Extremists.” The FBI and the DHS have designated Antifa “domestic terrorists.” Hosting corporations have shut down several white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites, along with their access to online fundraising. Google is algorithmically burying leftist news and opinion sources such as Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News, and Truthout, among others. Twitter, Facebook, and Google have teamed up to cleanse the Internet of “extremist content,” “hate speech,” and whatever else they arbitrarily decide is inappropriate. YouTube, with assistance from the ADL (which deems pro-Palestinian activists and other critics of Israel “extremists”) is censoring “extremist” and “controversial” videos, in an effort to “fight terrorist content online.” Facebook is also collaborating with Israel to thwart “extremism,” “incitement of violence,” and whatever else Israel decides is “inflammatory.” In the UK, simply reading “terrorist content” is punishable by fifteen years in prison. Over three thousand people were arrested last year for publishing “offensive” and “menacing” material.

Whatever your opinion of these organizations and “extremist” persons is beside the point. I’m not a big fan of neo-Nazis, personally, but neither am I a fan of Antifa. I don’t have much use for conspiracy theories, or a lot of the nonsense one finds on the Internet, but I consume a fair amount of alternative media, and I publish in CounterPunch, The Unz Review, ColdType, and other non-corporate journals. I consider myself a leftist, basically, but my political essays are often reposted by right-wing and, yes, even pro-Russia blogs. I get mail from former Sanders supporters, Trump supporters, anarchists, socialists, former 1960s radicals, anti-Semites, and other human beings, some of whom I passionately agree with, others of whom I passionately disagree with. As far as I can tell from the emails, none of these readers voted for Clinton, or Macron, or supported the TPP, or the debt-enslavement and looting of Greece, or the ongoing restructuring of the Greater Middle East (and all the lovely knock-on effects that has brought us), or believe that Trump is a Russian operative, or that Obama is Martin Luther Jesus-on-a-stick. What they share, despite their opposing views, is a general awareness that the locus of power in our post-Cold War age is primarily corporate, or global capitalist, and neoliberal in nature. They also recognize that they are being subjected to a massive propaganda campaign designed to lump them all together (again, despite their opposing views) into an intentionally vague and undefinable category comprising anyone and everyone, everywhere, opposing the hegemony of global capitalism, and its non-ideological ideology (the nature of which I’ll get into in a moment).

As I wrote in that essay a year ago, “a line is being drawn in the ideological sand.” This line cuts across both Left and Right, dividing what the capitalist ruling classes designate “normal” from what they label “extremist.” The traditional ideological paradigm, Left versus Right, is disappearing (except as a kind of minstrel show), and is being replaced, or overwritten, by a pathological paradigm based upon the concept of “extremism.”

* * *

Although the term has been around since the Fifth Century BC, the concept of “extremism” as we know it today developed in the late Twentieth Century and has come into vogue in the last three decades. During the Cold War, the preferred exonymics were “subversive,” “radical,” or just plain old “communist,” all of which terms referred to an actual ideological adversary. In the early 1990s, as the U.S.S.R. disintegrated, and globalized Western capitalism became the unrivaled global-hegemonic ideological system that it is today, a new concept was needed to represent the official enemy and its ideology. The concept of “extremism” does that perfectly, as it connotes, not an external enemy with a definable ideological goal, but rather, a deviation from the norm. The nature of the deviation (e.g., right-wing, left-wing, faith-based, and so on) is secondary, almost incidental. The deviation itself is the point. The “terrorist,” the “extremist,” the “white supremacist,” the “religious fanatic,” the “violent anarchist” … these figures are not rational actors whose ideas we need to intellectually engage with in order to debate or debunk. They are pathological deviations, mutant cells within the body of “normality,” which we need to identify and eliminate, not for ideological reasons, but purely in order to maintain “security.”

A truly global-hegemonic system like contemporary global capitalism (the first of this kind in human history), technically, has no ideology. “Normality” is its ideology … an ideology which erases itself and substitutes the concept of what’s “normal,” or, in other words, “just the way it is.” The specific characteristics of “normality,” although not quite arbitrary, are ever-changing. In the West, for example, thirty years ago, smoking was normal. Now, it’s abnormal. Being gay was abnormal. Now, it’s normal. Being transgender is becoming normal, although we’re still in the early stages of the process. Racism has become abnormal. Body hair is currently abnormal. Walking down the street in a semi-fugue state robotically thumbing the screen of a smartphone that you just finished thumbing a minute ago is “normal.” Capitalism has no qualms with these constant revisions to what is considered normal, because none of them are threats to capitalism. On the contrary, as far as values are concerned, the more flexible and commodifiable the better.

See, despite what intersectionalists will tell you, capitalism has no interest in racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, or any other despotic values (though it has no problem working with these values when they serve its broader strategic purposes). Capitalism is an economic system, which we have elevated to a social system. It only has one fundamental value, exchange value, which isn’t much of a value, at least not in terms of organizing society or maintaining any sort of human culture or reverence for the natural world it exists in. In capitalist society, everything, everyone, every object and sentient being, every concept and human emotion, is worth exactly what the market will bear … no more, no less, than its market price. There is no other measure of value.

Yes, we all want there to be other values, and we pretend there are, but there aren’t, not really. Although we’re free to enjoy parochial subcultures based on alternative values (i.e., religious bodies, the arts, and so on), these subcultures operate within capitalist society, and ultimately conform to its rules. In the arts, for example, works are either commercial products, like any other commodity, or they are subsidized by what could be called “the simulated aristocracy,” the ivy league-educated leisure classes (and lower class artists aspiring thereto) who need to pretend that they still have “culture” in order to feel superior to the masses. In the latter case, this feeling of superiority is the upscale product being sold. In the former, it is entertainment, distraction from the depressing realities of living, not in a society at all, but in a marketplace with no real human values. (In the absence of any real cultural values, there is no qualitative difference between Gerhard Richter and Adam Sandler, for example. They’re both successful capitalist artists. They’re just selling their products in different markets.)

The fact that it has no human values is the evil genius of global capitalist society. Unlike the despotic societies it replaced, it has no allegiance to any cultural identities, or traditions, or anything other than money. It can accommodate any form of government, as long as it plays ball with global capitalism. Thus, the window dressing of “normality” is markedly different from country to country, but the essence of “normality” remains the same. Even in countries with state religions (like Iran) or state ideologies (like China), the governments play by the rules of global capitalism like everyone else. If they don’t, they can expect to receive a visit from global capitalism’s Regime Change Department (i.e., the US military and its assorted partners).

Which is why, despite the “Russiagate” hysteria the media have been barraging us with, the West is not going to war with Russia. Nor are we going to war with China. Russia and China are developed countries, whose economies are entirely dependent on global capitalism, as are Western economies. The economies of every developed nation on the planet are inextricably linked. This is the nature of the global hegemony I’ve been referring to throughout this essay. Not American hegemony, but global capitalist hegemony. Systemic, supranational hegemony (which I like to refer to as “the Corporatocracy,” as it sounds more poetic and less post-structural).

We haven’t really got our minds around it yet, because we’re still in the early stages of it, but we have entered an epoch in which historical events are primarily being driven, and societies reshaped, not by sovereign nation states acting in their national interests but by supranational corporations acting in their corporate interests. Paramount among these corporate interests is the maintenance and expansion of global capitalism, and the elimination of any impediments thereto. Forget about the United States (i.e., the actual nation state) for a moment, and look at what’s been happening since the early 1990s. The US military’s “disastrous misadventures” in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, and the former Yugoslavia, among other exotic places (which have obviously had nothing to do with the welfare or security of any actual Americans), begin to make a lot more sense. Global capitalism, since the end of the Cold War (i.e, immediately after the end of the Cold War), has been conducting a global clean-up operation, eliminating actual and potential insurgencies, mostly in the Middle East, but also in its Western markets. Having won the last ideological war, like any other victorious force, it has been “clear-and-holding” the conquered territory, which in this case happens to be the whole planet. Just for fun, get out a map, and look at the history of invasions, bombings, and other “interventions” conducted by the West and its assorted client states since 1990. Also, once you’re done with that, consider how, over the last fifteen years, most Western societies have been militarized, their citizens placed under constant surveillance, and an overall atmosphere of “emergency” fostered, and paranoia about “the threat of extremism” propagated by the corporate media.

I’m not suggesting there’s a bunch of capitalists sitting around in a room somewhere in their shiny black top hats planning all of this. I’m talking about systemic development, which is a little more complex than that, and much more difficult to intelligently discuss because we’re used to perceiving historico-political events in the context of competing nation states, rather than competing ideological systems … or non-competing ideological systems, for capitalism has no competition. What it has, instead, is a variety of insurgencies, the faith-based Islamic fundamentalist insurgency and the neo-nationalist insurgency chief among them. There will certainly be others throughout the near future as global capitalism consolidates control and restructures societies according to its values. None of these insurgencies will be successful.

Short some sort of cataclysm, like an asteroid strike or the zombie apocalypse, or, you know, violent revolution, global capitalism will continue to restructure the planet to conform to its ruthless interests. The world will become increasingly “normal.” The scourge of “extremism” and “terrorism” will persist, as will the general atmosphere of “emergency.” There will be no more Trumps, Brexit referendums, revolts against the banks, and so on. Identity politics will continue to flourish, providing a forum for leftist activist types (and others with an unhealthy interest in politics), who otherwise might become a nuisance, but any and all forms of actual dissent from global capitalist ideology will be systematically marginalized and pathologized.

This won’t happen right away, of course. Things are liable to get ugly first (as if they weren’t ugly enough already), but probably not in the way we’re expecting, or being trained to expect by the corporate media. Look, I’ll give you a dollar if it turns out I’m wrong, and the Russians, terrorists, white supremacists, and other “extremists” do bring down “democracy” and launch their Islamic, white supremacist, Russo-Nazi Reich, or whatever, but from where I sit it looks pretty clear … tomorrow belongs to the Corporatocracy.

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

International Electoral Observers Validate Venezuela Regional Vote as US, France Reject Results

By Lucas Koerner | Venezuelanalysis | October 16, 2017

Caracas – The Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) has confirmed that Sunday’s vote in Venezuelan gubernatorial elections was clean and transparent.

“The vote took place peacefully and without problems… the vote reflects the will of [Venezuelan] citizens,” declared CEELA President Nicanor Moscoso during a press conference Monday morning.

The CEELA delegation was comprised of 1300 international observers, including former Colombian Electoral Court President Guillermo Reyes, ex-president of the Honduran Supreme Electoral Court, Augusto Aguilar, and former Peruvian electoral magistrate Gastón Soto.

According to the body’s report, the vote was held under conditions of “total normality” and the right to a secret ballot was “guaranteed”.

Sunday’s elections pitted President Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela against the right-wing MUD coalition, with the former scoring a surprise win in 17 of the nation’s 23 states.

The results have, however, been rejected by the MUD, which has alleged “fraud” and called on its supporters to take to the streets in protest.

The MUD has accused the National Electoral Council of attempting to suppress opposition turnout by relocating 334 voting centers previously targeted by anti-government violence during July 30’s National Constituent Assembly Elections.

Announced several weeks ago, the relocations were concentrated in the states of Anzoátegui, Aragua, Carabobo, Lara, Merida, Miranda, and Tachira. Nonetheless, in Merida and Tachira, the MUD emerged triumphant, despite there being 58 and 42 changes in voting centers, respectively.

For its part, CEELA has reported that it has yet to receive any formal denunciations from the opposition, which has issued its fraud allegations via the media.

President Maduro has requested a 100 percent audit of Sunday’s elections, a call that was subsequently echoed by the MUD.

Nothewstanding CEELA’s certification of the outcome, Venezuela’s regional elections have come under fire from Washington and Paris.

“We condemn the lack of free and fair elections yesterday in Venezuela. The voice of the Venezuelan people was not heard,” declared US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

The diplomat did not, however, offer specific evidence explaining her government’s disavowal of the election result.

In recent months, the Trump administration has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against the Maduro government, imposing economic sanctions, decreeing a travel ban on Venezuelan officials, as well as threatening military intervention and an embargo.

France’s Foreign Ministry likewise issued a communique Monday in which it alleged “serious irregularities” and “lack of transparency in the verification and tabulation process”

“France deplores this situation and is working with its EU partners to examine appropriate measures to help resolve the serious crisis affecting the country,” the French government continued.

France’s newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, has become an increasingly vocal critic of the Maduro government Caracas.

In September, the French leader met with senior Venezuelan opposition politicians during a tour by the MUD to drum up support for EU sanctions against Venezuela.

The European Parliament voted last month to explore the option of sanctioning top Venezuelan officials, following the lead of Washington and Ottawa.

In response to the statement by Paris, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza took to Twitter Monday, lambasting European interference in his country’s internal affairs.

“The EU and some of its member states (subordinate to Trump) question the will of the Venezuelan people,” he stated.

“In Europe, they’d only wish to have a real democracy, where their peoples can freely choose between two truly contrasting projects,” Arreaza added.

October 17, 2017 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Almost Half of Germans, French, Poles Think US Interferes in Foreign Elections

Sputnik – October 12, 2017

The majority of the educated European public think it is the US which exerts influence on the elections in other countries, according to Sputnik’s public poll, which has been conducted by the leading French pollster Ifop.

Sputnik asked French pollster Ifop (French Institute of Public Opinion), a renowned international market researcher that has been gathering public opinion for large companies and political parties worldwide since 1938, to discover what Europeans think about the issue of interference in foreign elections in the wake of the accusations of Russia of meddling in voting in other countries.

Russia has been accused by the US of interfering in foreign parliamentary and presidential elections, with the allegations leading to a new round of anti-Russian sanctions levied by Washington.

Ifop interviewed 3,228 respondents over 18 years of age in the UK, France, Germany and Poland, asking them, “Taking into account its political and economic influence and the capabilities of its special forces, which country exerts more influence on the elections in other countries?”

Among the suggested countries were the US, Russia and the EU bloc, other options suggested another country or none.

One-third of the UK residents think it is the US which exerts influence on the elections in other countries. However the percentage is higher in Germany and France (over 40%), the countries, which this year voted in federal and presidential elections correspondingly.

In Poland, which voted in parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015, 43% also think that it is the US.

21% of the UK residents and less than 30% of continental Europeans, however, believe that Russia has an influence on the voting in other countries.

The number of those who think that the EU interferes in the elections of other countries is almost twice as high in the UK (18%), than in France, Germany or Poland.

Age seemed to have an important influence on the answers, with the tech-savvy under 35’s showing less faith in the impartiality of the US political machine than the older generation.

In all four countries, the poll showed that education also played a factor, with those possessing a higher education choosing the US as the main culprit, in comparison to their less-educated peers.

With regards to their political preferences, in France, more supporters of the left (50%) think that the US is meddling in voting in other countries, than those who support the National Front and those who support the Democratic Movement party.

As for Germany, more Eastern Germans support the idea that the US interferes (46%), versus 39% of the Western Germans polled. Meanwhile, 31% of Westerners think the same about Russia, versus 18% in Eastern Germany.

In the UK, people residing outside the capital think the US interferes more, while about 30% of Londoners support this point of view.

In Poland, it is more the right (44%) and centrists (43%) who blame the US, while 38% of the left are of the same opinion.

October 12, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

UNHRC Yemen Inquiry is Doomed to Fail Magnanimously

By Salman Rafi Sheikh | New Eastern Outlook | 09.10.2017 

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) seems to have finally awakened up to the brazen human rights violations that the Saudia led Arab coalition forces have been blamed to have committed in the conflict in Yemen that has been going on for more than two years now, and has consumed thousands of lives, and destroyed the country, its polity and economy alike. While UNHRC has resolved to find out the atrocities that have been committed, the question that remains unanswered is if this ‘fact-finding’ mission would lead to an end of the war, let alone punish the antagonists?A compromise has been achieved from the very beginning, which will allow the House of Saud to not only to manipulate or dispute the results, but also escape any consequences whatsoever. As a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia was able to steer things to a course of its own advantage by simply altering the original resolution adopted by the Council, making the UNHRC look like a meaningless and worthless house of cards.

Let’s consider what the original resolution had called for and what is actually going to happen now. The original resolution had called for the establishment of an independent inquiry commission. However, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s intense lobbying and coercive diplomacy, the amended version is now restricted only to sending some “eminent experts”. According to reports, Riyadh had threatened to restrict and even cut trade and diplomatic ties with the council members which had backed the much more robust version. The House of Saud also publicly appreciated the UK, US and France for their cooperation in securing a compromise on resolution. The three countries also support Saudi Arabia’s deadly military aggression against the impoverished Yemen. The UK and the US had no reason to criminalize Saudi Arabia not only because they are allies but also because the US is itself a party to destroying Yemen.

This is evident from the way the US president Donald Trump has almost doubled the number of covert US airstrikes in Yemen. According to the data compiled by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has carried out about 100 strikes in Yemen in 2017. While the official narrative is that these strikes target Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), there are evidences that suggest that the US has been equally targeting the Houthis as well. Nothing perhaps could illustrate this ‘US vs Houthis’ phenomenon more than the fact that a US drone was attacked and shot down by the Houthis in western Yemen as recently as October 2, 2017. While the US officials said that the matter was under investigation, the Houthi-controled Defense Ministry announced that it had downed an American drone in the outskirts of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, thus rejecting the US claim that it was mainly involved in non-combatant missions in the aid of the Arab coalition.

On the other hand, what really explains the reason for the Trump administration’s decision to increase drone attacks is the policy of isolating and defeating Iran that the US and Saudi Arabia are following. Interestingly enough, perusal of this policy has caused political tension in the UK as well, where the parliament’s joint committee on human rights has raised strong concerns about the UK’s involvement in the US targeted killing programme, noting that the UK’s intelligence agencies work “hand in glove” with the US.

Given the extent of co-operation between the West and its key ally in the Middle East, an independent inquiry into war atrocities committed by the self-declared regional hegemon is unlikely to take place ever, let alone punish the wrongdoers. Besides the current UNHRC debacle, this is also evident from the way the House of Saud was able, back in July 2016, to turn upside down a UN report that had blacklisted the country after it found out that the Kingdom was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 deaths of children in Yemen in 2015. A few days later, however, the world body announced that the Riyadh regime would be scratched off the list, pending a joint review with the Arab kingdom. Sounds like really independent and impartial!

Once again Riyadh has been able to manipulate inquiry into atrocities by radically altering the resolution that had called for an independent inquiry. Could there be a greater irony than the fact that the new resolution that decided to set up a committee of experts had been set up by Riyadh itself? How can an accused set up, or even influence, a committee to investigate into his own crimes? Can such a body be expected to be impartial and truly reveal what the Arab coalition has done in Yemen?

Answers to all of these questions have, unfortunately, to be in the negative. It is not that we are expressing pessimism, there are certainly concrete basis for what we have said. Besides the above given arguments with regard to the co-operation between the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia, the fact remains that not even the EU, the so-called champion of human rights, is able to leave a decisive impact on the situation and turn things against Saudia. For instance, the European human rights organisation had to face a lot of ridicule when, despite its earlier statement that had confirmed that airstrikes carried out by the Arab coalition in the past two months had killed 39 civilians, including 26 children, the resolution was amended and the bid for constituting an independent inquiry was replaced by a committee of “experts.” Not only were their reports and arguments not accepted, but their demand that the matter be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) was squarely rejected, thanks again to the Saudi lobbying and the help it received from its key allies in the West i.e., the US and UK and France and the way it coerced countries into backing down on this demand.

According to a Reuters report, in a letter seen by one of the diplomats, Saudi Arabia – the world’s biggest oil exporter – had warned some states of possible consequences should they support the Dutch resolution, submitted jointly with Canada, calling for a full commission. This lobbying was the perfectly echoed by French diplomatic source who was reported to have said that “there is room to satisfy everybody.”

It appears that no other party is more satisfied now than the House of Saud, the principal accused in the scene. The accused stands vindicated as it is well “satisfied” with the way things have ended in the UNHRC session and the way things will proceed in the future. It is possible that by the time the committee of experts is constituted, does its investigation and submits its report in a year from now on, the Arab coalition, which believes that airstrikes killing civilians are legally justifiable, might end up killing thousands of innocent people. Who will then the UNHRC blame for the loss?

October 9, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Under the French Hate Speech Laws

By Lawrence G. Proulx • Unz Review • October 4, 2017

The term “hate speech” is employed more and more these days, and Internet companies and government agencies are being urged to suppress it. So it might be worthwhile to consider how countries without a First Amendment treat the types of speech that are likely to fall within the ever-expanding definition of the term.

I can report on one such country, France, which may be representative of European countries generally. I worked there as an (English-language) newspaper copyeditor from 1999 to 2016. While I am not competent to describe precisely how its complex legal system works, I believe I can offer an informative overview. To do this well, many thousands of words are necessary, but I have divided them into sections and invite you to jump ahead to the next whenever you might feel bogged down.

The United States is often described as a litigious society, even as the litigious society. This view has been shared by the French at least since the publication of “Democracy in America,” in 1835, in which Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.”

Today, however, an American observing French public life is likely to be surprised by the frequency with which the courts are asked to punish people for things written or said. A legal tradition different from our own, to which have been added a number of specific criminal laws, has produced a regulatory system in which fines, damage payments and prison sentences (almost always suspended) are imposed for violations.

In the United States, punishment for saying or writing things that others find objectionable is sometimes imposed by private entities, such as employers, and in the past few decades many businesses, institutions and organizations have established restrictions on expression. But the means of engaging the judiciary in this enterprise are severely limited. In this the United States differs not only from France but also from many other European countries as well as the developing legal structure of the European Union.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution and confirmed explicitly in 1958 in the preamble to the constitution of the Fifth Republic, states: “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.”

It would be simplistic to say that the difference between the two systems lies primarily in the “but” clause of the latter. But even if the American amendment has inevitably been moderated by court decisions through the years, it does make every abridgment fight for its life, as it were, whereas the French formulation takes the inevitability of exceptions as a matter of course.

What infractions must a speaker or writer or editor or publisher avoid in order to stay within the law in France? Here are the basics, as discussed in the manual “Droits des journalistes et liberté d’expression” by Bernard Dapogny and Marion Dapogny:

  • False news, “made in bad faith, that disturbs the public order or is capable of disturbing it.”
  • Use of a false document in reporting.
  • Attempt to harm the discipline or morale of the armed forces or to hinder a war effort.
  • Defamation.
  • Insult. [The distinction between this and the preceding is that defamation must assert something specific, whereas insult can be merely an offensive word.]
  • Attempt to harm a person’s honor or reputation.
  • Defamation of or insult to the judiciary, the military services, various other public bodies including “junior high schools, high schools, universities, the Legion of Honor” as well as “local administrations, the police, hospitals, penitentiaries.”
  • Defamation of or insult to persons acting in a position of public authority, including “representatives and senators, ministers and Secretaries of State” as well as “police personnel, magistrates, teachers.”
  • Defamation or insult based on race, religion or belonging to an ethnic group or a nation.
  • Defamation or insult based on sex, sexual orientation or handicap.
  • Defamation of or insult to deceased persons, where the offense touches on the honor of the heirs or close survivors.
  • Provocation to the commission of a crime which leads to the crime.
  • Provocation to the commission of a crime which doesn’t lead to the crime.
  • Indirect provocation (apology), that is, stating that certain crimes were justified, including “war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes in collaboration with the enemy.”
  • Provocation to hate, violence or discrimination, which could be based on a person’s “origin, sex, family situation, state of pregnancy, physical appearance, family name, state of health, handicap, genetic characteristics, morals, sexual orientation, age, opinions, politics, labor union activity, belonging or not belonging, real or supposed to a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion.”
  • Provocation to or apology for terrorism.
  • Contesting “the existence of one or several crimes against humanity as defined by Article 6 of the charter of the International Military Tribunal [the Nuremberg Tribunal] annexed to the London Agreement of August 6, 1945, and which were committed by the members of an organization declared criminal in application of Article 9 of the said charter, by a person recognized as guilty of such crimes by a French jurisdiction or by an international one.” Enacted in July 1990 and called the Gayssot Law.
  • Offending the president of the Republic. [This law was repealed in 2013.]

Many of these laws are seldom invoked; others are used frequently. To put flesh on the matter, I offer you a list of cases from 2013 that I put together in 2014 for an article that never found a publisher. (Sorry, but the work of assembling it was too tedious for me to undertake it again, and I think the general impression given by more recent cases would not be different.) Although details of the offensive language are frequently omitted in the news reports from which this list is compiled, a quick look will give a sense of how routine the cases are.

One thing should be mentioned first. An anti-racism law passed in July 1972, commonly called the Pleven Law, strengthened the restrictions on speech and granted to private associations dedicated to fighting racism the right to participate in the prosecution of criminal cases and to claim damages as well. Amendments to the law empowered additional categories of associations, for example, associations working “to defend the moral interests and the honor of veterans and victims of war and of those who died for France” or “to defend the memory of slaves and the honor of their descendants.” Such associations are frequently the first to blow the whistle on remarks they consider violative, and because they have the standing to file complaints even when no particular person is targeted by the contested remarks, their legal recognition is an important factor in the number of cases brought before the courts today.

2013 in Review

January

Marie-Josée Roig, the mayor of Avignon, files a complaint for public insults contained in a book purporting to be fiction (“Le Monarque, son fils, son fief”) by Marie-Célie Guillaume in which a character who resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, demands a quick sexual “present” from a woman who resembles Roig.

Daniel Boyer, the mayor of Châteaubernard, files a complaint for public insults after a wave of graffiti attacking him and various acts of vandalism.

Frédéric Haziza, a Jewish journalist, files a complaint for public insult and public insult committed against a person because of his religion, after being attacked on the website of Alain Soral, a self-described anti-Zionist activist. Haziza had refused to invite Soral onto his show to discuss Soral’s book “Comprendre l’empire” because of Soral’s “clearly antisemitic” views.

March

A judge, Jean-Michel Gentil, files a complaint for contempt and insult against Henri Guaino, a deputy in Parliament, for having said that the judge “dishonored the [state] institutions and justice” after Sarkozy was interrogated on suspicion of abusing the weakness of a rich aged widow.

Bloc Identitaire, a nationalist group, announces its intention to file a complaint for public insult against Yann Galut, a deputy from the Cher department, for having called the members of the bloc “casseurs” (protesters who destroy property) in a Twitter message.

April

Rama Yade, a former secretary of state for human rights and for sports, is found guilty of defamation and insult for eight of twenty-eight contested statements posted on her blog about a political opponent, Manuel Aeschlimann, after she was challenged over her domicile status in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

May

Yvan Benedetti and Alexandre Gabriac, right-wing activists, file a complaint against Jean-François Carenco, the prefect of Lyon, and Albert Doutre, director of public security, for “hateful” public insults (such as “imbecilities” and “thugs”) made during the containment of a nationalist youth protest in front of the Socialist Party local headquarters.

June

The city of Angers files suit against a shopkeeper for public insult in the form of signs he put up to protest a proposed tax on businesses that serve clients on the sidewalk, which followed among other things a police check of whether he was serving alcohol without the proper license.

Pierre Dubois, the mayor of Roubaix, and the Human Rights League file a complaint against an unnamed man who, during the course of a heated discussion at a public meeting, suggested that the Roma (Gypsies) be sent to Auschwitz.

July

Sylvie Goy-Chavent, a senator of the Ain department who prepared a report on the security of meat production in France, files a complaint against a website, Internet JSSNews.com, which describes itself as a webzine of Israeli opinion, for calling her such things as “bitch” and “little shit” and writing, among other things, “Goy, she wears her name well.”

September

The Union of Jewish Students of France says it will file a complaint against the weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles for provocation of racial or religious discrimination, hatred or violence. The group describes the cover of the magazine’s Sept. 26 issue, which shows a white bust of a woman representing France wearing a black Islamic veil and bearing the title “Naturalized: The Invasion They’re Hiding,” as “racist” and “hateful.” The magazine says in return that it will file a complaint against the group for calumnious denunciation, defamation and attack on freedom of expression.

The Foundation for the Memorial of the Black Slave Trade, along with the Federation of African Associations, the National Union of Overseas France, and other organizations and individual citizens file a complaint against Jean-Sebastien Vialatte, a deputy in Parliament, for public insult, defamation and incitement of racial hatred and racial discrimination, for his remarks after vandalism occurred during a celebration of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team. He had sent a Twitter message in which he said sardonically that “the people who vandalize are surely descendants of slaves, they have excuses[.] #Taubira [the justice minister] will give them some compensation!”

October

The League for the Judicial Defense of Muslims files a complaint against the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo for its July 10 cover which had a cartoon captioned in large letters with “The Koran, it’s shit; it doesn’t stop bullets”; against the magazine Valeurs Actuelles for its Sept. 26 cover; against the website Riposte Laïque for various articles; and against Manuel Valls, the secretary of the interior, for provocation of discrimination and hate, for saying, “Within ten years we will show, we are in the process of showing, there is a will, that Islam is compatible [sic] with the Republic.”

Bruno Gilles, a senator in the Union for a Popular Movement, files a complaint against a socialist, Patrick Mennucci, for “defamation and public insults.” “He called me a racist and xenophobe,” the senator said.

France-El Djazaïr, a Franco-Algerian friendship association, announces that it will file a complaint against a police officer in the city of Alès for “insults and incitement to xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred”; the officer had put on his Facebook profile page a photo-montage representing the Algerian flag over which was written “I hate Algeria,” attached to an image of a man wiping his bottom with the flag.

Bachir Bouhmadou, adjunct general secretary of Citizen Resistance, and Ali Saab, president of the Association of Muslims of the Territory of Belfort, file a complaint against Christine Tasin, a militant with the group Republican Resistance, for videotaped comments opposing ritual Islamic butchery and criticizing Islam.

Abdellah Zekri, the president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, says he will file a complaint after his house was defaced with swastikas and graffiti saying “Islam Out” and “Heit [sic] Hitler.”

The National Front says it will file a complaint against Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, for public insult for having described the party’s way of thinking as “deadly and murderous” and summarizing it thus: “It’s the blacks in the branches of the trees, the Arabs in the sea, the homosexuals in the Seine, the Jews in the oven and so forth.”

November

A 65-year-old man is found guilty of insulting Claudine Ledoux, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, on his website, l’Union-l’Ardennais, in a manner described by a regional newspaper as “menacing, racist and sexist,” in relation to her being made a knight in the Legion of Honor; he is ordered to pay a fine of one thousand euros and damages for mental distress of the same amount to Ledoux.

The association SOS Racisme says it will file a complaint for incitation to racial hatred against Minute, a 16-page rightist weekly, for its cover with a photo of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is a native of French Guiana, and for the title “Clever Like a Monkey, Taubira Finds the Banana Again,” which combines two common French expressions; to have the banana (or the peach) means to be full of energy.

A player files a complaint for racial insult after a rough soccer game (three red cards) between the second-stringers of the Sablé and Lude clubs. A player explained: “This attacker called me a dirty white. I called him a dirty black.”

The Movement Against Racism and for the Amity of Peoples files a complaint for provocation of racial hatred against Manuel Valls, minister of the interior, for comments about the Gypsies including, “The Gypsies should stay in Romania or return there.” The case will be dismissed in December 2013.

Bob Dylan is put under formal investigation for insult and provocation of racial hatred after the Representative Council of the Croatian Community and Institutions of France files a complaint against both him and the magazine Rolling Stone, the French version of which republished an interview in which he said, “If you’ve got a slave master or the Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. … Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.” The case will be dismissed in April 2014.

December

The comedian Nicolas Bedos testifies after being accused of complicity in making a public racial insult in an article in the magazine Marianne as well as on its website; among the phrases he used were “Negro bugger,” “island indolence” and “lazy natives.”

Gérard Huet, the mayor of Loudéac, is sued by the Human Rights League for comments about Gypsies he made at a meeting to discuss expenditures to renovate the area where the Gypsies were living. “They’ve stolen all our plumbing,” he says, and he later objects to the comment of another member of the city council with, “You’re defending thieves?” He sues the league in return for harassment.

The comedian Dieudonné files a defamation complaint after Alain Jakubowicz, the president of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, describes the “quenelle,” a gesture used by the comedian and his fans, as “corresponding to an inverted Nazi salute signifying the sodomizing of the victims of the Holocaust.” Dieudonné also says he will sue Le Monde, Le Figaro, BFMTV, France 2 and Manuel Valls, the interior minister.

The imam Hicham El Barkani files a complaint for insult after a protest described as islamophobic against the opening of a mosque in Papeete.

Historians on Trial

Some cases have greater import than those listed above, as when historians are attacked for their work.

The Columbia University historian Bernard Lewis gave an interview to Le Monde on November 16, 1993, in which he discussed the killings of Armenians by Turks during the First World War. In the course of it he said, “If one speaks of genocide, that implies that there was a deliberate policy, a decision, to systematically annihilate the Armenian nation. That is quite doubtful. Turkish documents prove a will of deportation, not of extermination.” On January 1, 1994, in response to strong objections to his remarks, he published a further explanation of his position, again in Le Monde, ending with a repetition of his main point, that “no serious proof exists of a decision and a plan by the Ottoman government aiming at exterminating the Armenian nation.” He was sued by the Forum of Armenian Associations of France and the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism on the claim that he had “gravely hurt the memory and respect of the survivors and of their families.” The civil court of Paris ruled that Lewis had “failed to meet his duty of objectivity and prudence in expressing himself without nuance on so sensitive a subject” and ordered him to pay a franc each to the two associations as well as the cost of publishing the decision. Lewis was also the defendant in other civil cases and one criminal one on the same subject, all of which were dismissed.

In 2001, the French Parliament “publicly recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915,” and in 2012 the Parliament passed a law instituting a punishment of imprisonment for one year and a fine of 45,000 euros of anyone who “contests or minimizes in an outrageous fashion” genocides recognized as such by French law, but the Constitutional Council ruled the latter law unconstitutional a month later. Both of the main candidates for president that year, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, soon announced that they would seek a new law to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, and in January 2017 a law took effect providing for a year of prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for those who denied, belittled or “banalized in an outrageous way” recognized genocides, crimes against humanity, and enslavement or exploitation of an enslaved person.

In 2001 Parliament also passed a law recognizing “that the trans-Atlantic trade in Negroes as well as the trade in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the slavery perpetrated starting in the 15th Century, in the Americas and the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe against the Africans, Amerindians, Madagascans and Indians constitute a crime against humanity.” Four years later this law was invoked against Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, a professor at the University of Southern Brittany. In the course of an interview given on June 12, 2005, in relation to his book “Les traites négrières” (The Negro Slave Trades), which had won many awards including the Senate History Book Prize, Pétré-Grenouilleau rejected a comparison of the slave trades to the Jewish Holocaust: “The slave trades are not genocides. The slave trade didn’t have the goal of exterminating a people. The slave was a good that had a market value that one wanted to make work as much as possible.” An association representing people of the Caribbean, French Guiana and Réunion filed a complaint against him for denying a crime against humanity and demanded that he be “suspended from his university functions for revisionism.” In the vehement debate that ensued, Pétré-Grenouilleau was strongly supported by many prominent historians, and in February 2006, acknowledging this opposition, the association withdrew its complaint.

Shortly before the Pétré-Grenouilleau affair erupted, another “memorial” law had been passed, in January 2005, aimed generally at recognizing the suffering of those French citizens who had been repatriated from North Africa at the end of the Algerian War. This law had itself evoked controversy, by requiring that “school programs recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa.” A year later the law was emended and the “positive role” removed.

Real Prison Sentences

I know of only three writers who have recently been given sentences that were “fermes,” as the French say, that is, that were not suspended as soon as pronounced. Vincent Reynouard is a Frenchman born in 1969 and trained as a chemical engineer who has argued that the Nazis had no plan to exterminate the Jews and that gas chambers were not used to kill people. Among the many videos he has placed on the Internet, there is one in which he expresses his admiration for Hitler; he says, “I think that Hitler was a man too good for the 20th Century, too honest, too straightforward.” A month after being arrested in Belgium, Reynouard was extradited to France in August 2010 and served seven and a half months in prison for contesting a crime against humanity. He has continued to produce writings and Internet videos, and in February 2015 he was convicted of contestation of crimes against humanity and sentenced to two years in prison. In November 2016 he was given a five-months sentence for publishing two videos in which he stated that he would offer 5,000 euros to “anyone who can show me, in free, candid and courteous debate, that the homicidal Hitlerian gas chambers are not a myth of history.” To avoid a return to prison, he is said to be living in England.

Hervé Ryssen, according to Wikipedia, has been sentenced several times for his writings about Jews on counts, among others, of racial insult, racial defamation, defamation against a group of persons because of their belonging to a certain race, and incitation to racial hatred; and Boris Le Lay, who is living in Japan, has been sentenced in absentia many times, most recently in July this year to serve 32 months in prison and to pay 31,500 euros to the groups representing the supposed victims, for his writings judged to constitute incitement to discrimination and to racial hatred and violence, and to contain public racial insults. Among the recent charges against Le Lay was one of making death threats against activists of the Human Rights League; I have not been able to determine if he was convicted of this; if he was, he appears in that instance to be an exception to the other cases discussed in this article, which involve no violence or threat thereof.

Politicians on Trial

Although many speech cases involve politicians, two in particular deserve mention because they arguably played a role in the presidential election of 2007.

The first round of the previous election, in 2002, had stunned the country as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, edged out Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate, for a place in the second round. Le Pen’s share of the first-round vote was only 16.9 percent, but Jospin was handicapped by an abundance of rivals on the left who split the vote. Before the second round, a broad denunciatory publicity campaign to block Le Pen took place, and his opponent, Jacques Chirac, the incumbent, refused to debate him. Chirac was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote.

Before the next election, in 2007, both Le Pen and the party’s second-ranking member, Bruno Gollnisch, would be defendants in high-profile cases over things they said.

On January 7, 2005, the rightist weekly Rivarol published an interview in which Le Pen said: “In France, at least, the German occupation wasn’t particularly inhumane, even if there were slip-ups, inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers.” He also related a story about a German lieutenant, “crazy with pain” after an attack on a train in which many young soldiers died, who he said would have shot up a village had the Gestapo not intervened. Various groups filed complaints, and in March an investigation was formally opened. In February 2008 he was found guilty of complicity in the contestation of crimes against humanity and complicity in apology for war crimes. In January 2009 the appeals court in Paris confirmed the verdict on the first count but threw out the war-crimes verdict. In April 2011 the Court of Cassation overturned the crimes-against-humanity verdict, and remanded the matter to the appeals court, which again found him guilty in February 2012, a judgment confirmed by the Court of Cassation in June 2013. Le Pen was sentenced to three months in prison (suspended) and assessed a fine of 10,000 euros, and the editor of Rivarol and the interviewer were fined 5,000 euros and 2,000 euros respectively. Three of the complainant groups were awarded damages of 5,000 euros each, and Rivarol was ordered to pay for the publication of the decision in Le Figaro.

In the other case, Gollnisch, a professor of Japanese language and culture at the University of Lyon who at the time was director general of the National Front (before the ascension of Marine Le Pen), was charged with contestation of crimes against humanity for responses to a journalist’s questions at a press conference in October 2004. No electronic recording was made, but he was quoted as saying: “There is no serious historian who accepts completely the conclusions of the Nuremberg Tribunal; I think that the discussion should remain free concerning the drama of the concentration camps. The number of deaths, the manner in which the people died —historians have the right to discuss. … I don’t deny that there were homicidal gas chambers, but the discussion should remain free.” In 2006, before the verdict was rendered, he was suspended from his university post for five years.

During the trial Gollnisch was questioned intensively for hours one day in November 2006 over his true beliefs on the matter, and the attorney examining him, Alain Jakubowicz, representing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, said he would withdraw from the case if Gollnisch would only admit “that the organized extermination of the Jews of Europe by the Nazi regime during the Second World War constitute an incontestable crime against humanity perpetrated notably by the use of gas chambers.” According to Le Monde, Gollnisch appeared surprised and hesitated before giving an answer that might alienate the “hard fringe of his movement.” Gollnisch replied, “Completely.” Asked to repeat his answer, he said: “My answer is affirmative.” He was convicted in January 2007, three months before the first round of the presidential election, and sentenced to serve three months in prison (suspended) and pay a fine of 5,000 euros. An appeals court in February 2008 confirmed the conviction and added fines totaling 39,000 euros to be paid to nine associations devoted to fighting racism or representing people deported from France during World War Two. But in June 2009 the Court of Cassation, judging that his contradictory remarks as presented to the court did not constitute contestation, overturned the verdict without possibility of retrial.

However these cases might be viewed in relation to freedom of speech, they also merit attention from a purely political point of view. In the 2002 election, Jean-Marie Le Pen scored an upset in the first round; in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency by, in the view of many commentators, “borrowing the discourse” and luring the voters of Le Pen’s party. In between, both Le Pen and his righthand man were put on trial, to the accompaniment of much public commentary, on charges that suggested their approbation of Nazi atrocities. Under such circumstances, borrowing and luring may be much easier than would otherwise be the case.

Censored Books

In September 2013 the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism sought an injunction from a court in Bobigny to order the excision of passages from five books republished by Kontre Kulture, a publishing enterprise whose publication director is Alain Soral. David-Olivier Kaminski, an attorney for the league, described Soral as someone known as a “vector of hate” and characterized the re-editions as a “provocation, with the purpose of arousing tensions.” The league also asked for 20,000 euros in damages for each of the five books.

In November the court ordered the withdrawal from sale of one of the books, “L’Anthologie des propos contre les juifs, le judaïsme et le sionisme” by Paul-Eric Blanrue, which had originally been published by another publisher in 2007, and the removal of certain passages from the four others, all of which were reprints of books published long ago: “La France juive” by Edouard Drumont, “Le salut par les juifs” by Léon Bloy, “Le juif international” by Henry Ford, et “La controverse de Sion” by Douglas Reed. The court judged that the works constituted “insult toward a group of persons because of their belonging to a specific religion,” “negation of crimes against humanity,” and “provocation of racial hatred.” Kontre Kulture and Soral were also ordered to pay 8,000 euros each to the league as well as a part of its legal expenses. In December 2014 a court overturned the previous ruling on the “Anthologie” and it was again allowed to be sold.

The media reaction focused principally on the book by Léon Bloy. Bloy’s great-grandchild, Alexis Galpérine, reminded readers in Le Figaro that Bloy was a “philosemite” and that “Le salut par les juifs” had been recommended as a “book against antisemitism” by Franz Kafka. Pierre Glaudes, a professor at the Sorbonne, wrote in the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur : “This decision of justice arouses astonishment and disquiet by attacking a literary work that is 122 years old and has been republished several times without having attracted lightning strikes by justice. … This condemnation sets a dangerous precedent. Why not censor ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by Shakespeare, ‘Gobseck’ by Balzac or ‘Money’ by Zola for their antisemitic statements?”

Stage Show Blocked

The case of the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala merits notice particularly for the legal manner in which the performance of his show “The Wall” in Nantes was forbidden in January 2014.

Dieudonné, the son of a Cameroonian man and a French woman, performed for several years early in his career with a Jewish partner, and their sketches often made fun of racism. Eventually he came to hold Jews responsible in large part for the slave trade, he expressed resentment at the attention given to the Holocaust in comparison with that given to the slavery, and he came to regard Jews not as fellow victims of prejudice but instead as important members of a power structure in which people of the Third World and of Third World origin are kept down. His new acts were sharply criticized, and he responded with provocations such as including Robert Faurisson, notorious as a denier of the Holocaust and gas chambers, in his acts. Dieudonné was found guilty of racial insult or defamation on numerous occasions, for example, for saying that a television host financed the Israeli Army, “which doesn’t hesitate to kill Palestinian children”; for characterizing Holocaust remembrance as “memorial pornography”; for stating that the directors of a pro-Israeli website were trying to paint him as an antisemite and “son of Hitler”; for describing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism as one of the “mafia-like associations that organize censorship, … that deny all concepts of racism except that concerning the Jews. In fact, they are nothing but Israeli agents.”

Largely excluded from television and other standard venues, he has nonetheless maintained an enthusiastic and politically and racially mixed following through his stage shows and videos. In January 2014 his stage show “The Wall” was challenged by the government as a threat to public order and to the dignity of the human person. Its performance in Nantes was banned by the prefecture of the Loire-Atlantic region, which judged that it contained antisemitic remarks that would incite racial hatred and constitute an apology for discriminations, persecutions and exterminations perpetrated in the course of the Second World War. The ban was lifted on the day of the show by the region’s administrative tribunal, which held that the show “could not be regarded as having as its essential purpose an affront at human dignity,” but the tribunal’s ruling was overturned and the ban reinstated later the same day by a judge of the Council of State, the highest court in the administrative-law system, after an urgent request by Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Conclusion

French people in general seem content with the way free speech questions are handled. If in private they will occasionally murmur that “one can’t say anything anymore,” in public there is very little disagreement over the necessity of punishing infractions involving remarks characterized as racist or antisemitic or “negationist.” Prominent cases, such as the many brought against Jean-Marie Le Pen, are approved, explicitly or implicitly, by the vast majority of commentators in the press and on the radio and television. Even publications that push the limits of public tolerance in other ways — for example, with crude or even violently obscene and sacrilegious writings and cartoons — do not defend the targets of anti-racism or anti-contestation laws on general free-speech grounds; quite the contrary.

There is no high-profile organization or figure that publicly espouses the famous words that Voltaire apparently never really said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Over all the attitude is closer to that attributed to the revolutionary Saint-Just, “No liberty for the enemies of liberty.” The slogan of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, one of the organizations most active in denouncing speech offenders, is “Racism is not an opinion but a criminal offense.” Even a group such as Reporters Without Borders, which works to further the freedom of the press throughout the world, generally makes no objection to the laws discussed above, although it did oppose the one criminalizing the denial of legally recognized genocides. In an interview, Antoine Héry, in charge of the group’s activities in the European Union and the Balkans, explained to me: “I think that the problem in France is that there really are racist statements — many. … This climate exists; it isn’t a phantasm. There is, from this point of view, a necessity to regulate a little the domain of speech, because there are abuses. I don’t think that in the United States one finds this sort of mass behavior — because it is massive, it isn’t just one guy in his corner doing his thing.”

There have been dissident voices on the subject of the criminalization of so-called negationism and other “memorial laws.” One of the most prominent is a group called Liberté pour l’Histoire, which was formed in 2005 in response to what seemed about to become a wave of such laws. In a public appeal signed by nineteen historians in December of that year and later by hundreds more, it stated that “in a free state, it is not the business of the parliament nor of the judicial authority to define historical truth” and called for “the abrogation of these legislative measures unworthy of a democratic regime.” But even this unambiguous stand is not so solid as it might appear. In 2010, at the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Amsterdam, the group’s president, Pierre Nora, spoke of the Gayssot Law and stated: “It is now twenty years since the law was voted, and even if we continue to regret it intellectually speaking, the association Liberté pour l’Histoire does not campaign for its suppression and does not wish to challenge it for the simple reason that this legal and official challenge would only be seen in the public eye as authorizing and even encouraging the denial of the Jewish genocide.” There could hardly be a better illustration of the French ambivalence on the matter than this.

This ambivalence derives from an evident fact: the characteristics of the system that make it vicious from a free-speech perspective — the vagueness and elasticity of the definitions of the crimes, the politically selective application of the laws, the tendency of the trials to become examinations of the defendants’ thoughts and beliefs rather than merely of their public statements — are virtues for a system of political repression, and in France there is a general consensus that the “extreme right” needs to be kept down and that expressions of “racism” and “antisemitism” deserve to be squelched. While there are pockets of dissidence — such as the websites Polémia and Boulevard Voltaire, the independent rightist station Radio Courtoisie and the Internet television channel TV Libertés — the assumption remains widespread that anyone arguing that freedom should extend to such speech must have evil motives.

The legal procedures through which speech is restricted do sometimes come under criticism. For instance, the ban on Dieudonné’s show “The Wall” was widely criticized because it imposed a prior restraint, seen as equivalent to censorship in a way that punishing the performer afterward would not be. Jack Lang, who was minister of culture in the Mitterrand administration, said that the Council of State had opened a Pandora’s box of potential abuses; he objected as well to basing the decision on a vague principle of “human dignity” and pointed out that the risk to public order was not credible. Michel Tubiana, a former president of the Human Rights League, which also objected to the ban, told me in an interview that Dieudonné should have been allowed to do his show and then he could have been prosecuted in the normal way. On the league’s website, one reads: “Clearly it is necessary to let nothing pass, to systematically bring prosecutions against the delinquent, to denounce systematically his crimes.”

For the future, there is pressure to increase the surveillance, particularly of the Internet. At its annual dinners, which are grand affairs similar to those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the United States, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France presses the attending government officials hard for ever more stringent restrictions, especially on Internet communications. In March 2016, for example, its president, Roger Cukierman, urged that the state of emergency “should also apply to the Internet,” and this year its new president, Francis Kalifat, called for “zero tolerance” for bloggers “of hateful content.”

In the meantime, France, like the other countries of the European Union, is a party to the Council Framework Decision “on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law,” adopted unanimously by the ministers in the Council of the European Union in November 2008. In a report in January 2014 on the implementation of this decision, the European Commission stated: “Member States must ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable when directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin:

  • publicly inciting to violence or hatred, including by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;
  • publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising
  • crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court; or
  • the crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal appended to the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or one or more of its members.”

And France does its part, by continuing to reinforce its laws. On August 5 of this year it made illegal any “nonpublic” insult or defamation (as, for example, made during a meeting in a company’s offices) “made toward a person or group of persons because of their origin or belonging or not belonging, real or supposed, to an ethnic group, a nation, a putative race or a particular religion; … [or] because of their sex, their sexual orientation or gender identity, or their handicap.”

The law provides for fines of 1,500 euros initially and 3,000 euros for recidivists. It also gives a judge the option of augmenting the punishment with a compulsory course in citizenship.

Lawrence G. Proulx is a retired copy editor who worked for more than 30 years at the Washington Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and International New York Times.

October 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment