French politicians and celebrities signed a manifesto blaming French Muslims for anti-semitism in France. Yasser Louati addresses the hypocrisy in France’s human-rights discourse
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. In France, 300 prominent figures, including intellectuals, celebrities, and former prime ministers such as Nicolas Sarkozy, have all signed a manifesto claiming that French Jewish, or Jews, have fallen victim to a form of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by radical Islamists. This without much criticism from the ruling party. The manifesto is a direct attack on Islam, accusing Muslims of fomenting anti-Jewish, anti-Christian hate just because of their religion. The manifesto says that France has become the theater of murderous anti-Semitism, with 11 Jews having been assassinated because of their religion since 2006, it says.
The manifesto’s publication is timed to coincide with the campaign of French Jews criticizing the French government for not offering enough protection to the Jewish community of France, and going as far as describing the state of the Jewish community in France as undergoing a quiet ethnic cleansing. Is racism, including racism towards Jews, something which Muslims brought to France? Or is it already a longstanding part of French colonial history? Here to discuss this with me is Yasser Louati. Yasser is a French human rights advocate and civil liberties advocate. Thank you for joining us, Yasser.
YASSER LOUATI: Thank you for having me.
SHARMINI PERIES: So , Yasser, let’s start off with why this kind of manifesto is being signed by so many so-called dignitaries, and what is this fundamentally about?
YASSER LOUATI: Well, the manifesto itself was, you know, brought forward by the people who actually supported the invasion of Iraq, and then the war, and who actually got France involved in the destruction of Libya. Philippe Val, for example, is the former managing editor of Charlie Hebdo, who constantly supported the war in Iraq and all the, the multiple wars being carried by France. And, surprisingly, Nicolas Sarkozy, who also got involved directly in Libya. So both countries that saw the rise of Daesh, both in Iraq and Libya.
So if you want now to speak about the very content of the manifesto, one shouldn’t forget that has been a multiple-year long campaign to whitewash French anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism in France is as French as wine and cheese. This is the country that actually theorized the [inaudible] of Jews, which was in return applied in Nazi Germany. So today with this, they are trying to put it on the back of Muslims by saying that they are the new anti-Semites. And the trick is, because Muslims are perceived as the natural allies or the natural supporters of Palestinians, now there is a campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. And since this is, opposition to Israel is, you know, rightfully or wrongfully supposed to be carried by Muslims, you have to put all of that on the back of Muslims by saying they are the new anti-Semites.
If you want to speak about Israel, for example, the elites of this country, France, were collaborating with the Nazis and shaking his hand, and applying his rules to first have [fired] all French Jews, and then deport them to the Nazi Germany. The Muslim soldiers from the colonies, Algeria, Senegal, or Morocco or Tunisia, were actually fighting against Nazi Germany. And when France collapsed and they needed new labor to rebuild itself, it was again Muslims.
What also needs to be remembered is that while France was rounding up Jews to send them to the death camps elsewhere in Europe, the Grand Mosque of Paris was offering them fake IDs saying that they were Muslims and therefore avoiding them deportation. So today what’s happening is that to whitewash this guilt of having sold their own fellow countrymen and women, they are now putting this on the back of Muslims in the name of anti-Semitism.
As a reminder, those who signed the manifesto, Nicolas Sarkozy , Philippe Val, Manuel Valls, the former prime minister, and the likes of what we call the secular fundamentalists, after the January 2015 attacks they imposed the Je Suis Charlie slogan, and refusing to use Je Suis Juif, saying that I am Jewish. In my humble opinion, Jews were killed for being Jews. And to me that was the worst that could have happened, because they were killed for being who they are. French elites, among those who signed the manifesto, saying I am Jewish, they prefer to say Je Suis Charlie, sending the message that what matters the most is the racist ideology of Charlie Hebdo, and not Jewish lives.
But what actually causes even further, how can I say, resentment coming from some people, is that even the Grand Rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, signed the manifesto, and is lining up with those who are actually feeding anti-Semitism and the conspiracy theories surrounding our Jewish fellow countrymen and women. He should have been a little bit more brave and say, hold on a second. You refused to say ‘I am Jewish’ when Jews were killed in 2015, but today you asked me to sign a manifesto to single out another community that these victims of racism, the same way Jews are victims of racism. And to finish, if Jews were truly part of French culture and the French landscape, why are they constantly being referred to as Jews first and French second?
SHARMINI PERIES: Yasser, here in the United States we have Jewish Voices for Peace and other Jewish organizations that are working in collaboration with the Muslim community in order to provide a united front. Is there such thing happening in France? And tell us more about that.
YASSER LOUATI: The progressive Jews in France are doing tremendous work. We have what we call the Jewish , the French Jewish Union for Peace, which is both singled out by the hardcore Zionist supporters in France, and also the French government. They have worked with respite organizations for multiple years. But unfortunately for us in France we are way behind from what is going on in the U.S. For example, when you have the Jewish Voices for Peace, you know, joining rallies with Black Lives Matter, or rallies against Islamophobia, and standing up to all forms of bigotry.
Here in France the weight of the Zionist lobby is such that they can, for example, organize an annual dinner, and every single representative of the administration goes there and has to pledge allegiance to Zionism and to Israel, per se. We should n ‘t forget that there is now an open alliance between the extreme far right throughout Europe and Zionist organizations. Because now it is not about standing against anti-Semitism as such, but standing for the interests of Israel, which does not care about Jewish lives. Everything has become ever more blatant. But today in France we do lack a more powerful progressive Jewish force. We havethe Jewish Union for Peace. And honestly, I know them personally, and they are going through a lot. They have been physically assaulted. They have been raided by the police. They have been demonized in the media. But nevertheless I do give them my respect for the work they are carrying.
SHARMINI PERIES: Yasser, the manifesto claims that there’s been a number of attacks, so-called assassinations of Jews. Is this being perpetrated by Muslims? What are they talking about when they say 11 people have been assassinated for their religious beliefs in France?
YASSER LOUATI: I mean, we have to be very careful in the way the killing of innocents are used for political ends. Every single time there has been a terrorist attack in France, the terrorists made no difference between Jews, Christians, Muslims, black or white, young and old. There was no difference. Every single time people got killed there was no difference. But the problem is that today when we see criminals, people see Muslims. If we follow this logic, then in that case when George W. Bush bombed Iraq and led to the creation of Daesh, and he did so in the name of Jesus Christ, then we should hold Christians accountable for that. And following the same logic, every single time the state of Israel commits crimes, this is the case right now as we speak in Gaza, then Jews should also be held accountable. This is absolute nonsense.
When people commit acts they commit them on an individual basis. You should not attach them to whatever population they may look like. Otherwise I’m going to hold Nicolas Sarkozy, because he says he’s a devout Christian, and tell him since Nicolas Sarkozy destroyed Libya, then Christians should be held accountable. This is very dangerous rhetoric. And as a matter of fact, Daesh, or so-called ISIS, is playing on that and expecting such rhetoric to maintain the divide between Muslims in Western countries and the rest of the population.
SHARMINI PERIES: Yasser, finally, the Committee for Justice and Liberties For All has just published its report on Islamophobia in France in 2017. You especially focus on the role of President Emmanuel Macron here. He is not a signatory to this new manifesto, but what role does he play in stigmatizing Muslims?
YASSER LOUATI: Well, Emmanuel Macron has been very smart in order to avoid public debates when they get to violent, then speaking a week later and saying the Republic is about the brotherhood and freedom, et cetera. The problem is when he becomes, when he acts like a coward and refuses to take a stand as an elected official, as a matter of fact the president of the Republic, then he’s allowing others to lead the debate. The other part is that Emmanuel Macron, while preaching the constitution or secular law by saying we should stick to the law, he’s got in his own cabinet people who are using the secular law, or what you call laique in France, to actually single out Muslims and use the law to further exclude them from the rest of society. Laws against Muslim women wearing headscarves, interrogating kids on their beliefs, et cetera. Or reporting people because they are devout, or visibly devout Muslims.
But the most important point of the report is that now racist violence targeting Muslims in France is more prevalent coming from the state than coming from individuals. When you have, for example, the state of emergency and the so-called war on terror, everybody agrees 99 percent of the victims of police raids, or house arrests, wiretapping, and deprivation of liberties are people who are perceived to be Muslims. And this is where it becomes highly problematic, when the state itself on the one hand applies drastic security measures to target Muslims, and on the other turns media outlets that continuously single out Muslims, like, for example, Le Figaro, or in other instances Le Monde. When the state gives subsidies to the media, they hold accountable those media outlets to at least not be the sponsors of racism in France.
Unfortunately, that has become the normal under Emmanuel Macron, and he could not, he can no longer pretend to be the white shining knight. It’s not the case.
SHARMINI PERIES: Yasser, the National Front and the Republican , République en Marche of Macron’s party, what is the difference in their political take on this particular manifesto?
YASSER LOUATI: I mean, Emmanuel Macron, the En Marche political party was tailored for Emmanuel Macron himself. Nevertheless, when it comes to implementing highly racist measures, like the law now specifically targeting the refugees, and criminalizing support to refugees, was actually, you know, brought to the Assembly by Emmanuel Macron’s political party, but unfortunately, supported by the National Front. Which means the normalisation of racism has brought together Emmanuel Macron’s political party and the National Front. Now, if one can still believe Emmanuel Macron is above racism, he remains to be called a naive person.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Yasser, so much more to discuss on this topic, and looking forward to having you back in the next little while. Thanks a lot.
YASSER LOUATI: Thank you for having me, thank you very much.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.