Je suis Juif: An American Jew in France on the Terrorist Attacks

By M. Expat, who lives near Paris

This past summer my family and I moved to France, not far from Paris, for work. I’m an American Jew and heard the stories but didn’t worry much. Days after we arrived French Muslims rioted, chanting “Death to the Jews” and destroying Jewish buildings. OK – they’re worked up about Gaza and they’ll settle down I thought. My parents told me that 10,000 Jews had left France for Israel and I told them “well, with my arrival they’re only down 9,999.” Up until last week it’s been politically incorrect to point out men burning kosher grocery stores while engaging in the “Quenelle,” a sort-of limp-dick version of the Nazi salute – downward, rather than upward – seem more focused on Jew-hatred than Israel or Zionism.

Everybody was shocked about the murders at Charlie Hebdo, a French born and raised jihadi assault on freedom of speech and expression. But details began to emerge that were equally disquieting. We heard that the murderers wanted to kill Jews. How do we know? Then we heard that the only woman killed at Charlie Hebdo, Elsa Cayat, was also the only Jew who worked there. Dr. Cayat was a Tunisian-born psychiatrist who worked as a columnist. She told her family that before her murder she would frequently receive death threats by phone that nobody took seriously.

Once my French colleagues told me the antiterrorism police were responding to a hostage situation at kosher grocery store it immediately became crystal clear what was happening. This past summer the jihadis burnt down a kosher grocery store: it was obvious their target was neither random and that they weren’t just looking for a some pastrami. Four more Jews soon lay dead, including Yoav Hattab, the 21 year-old son of the Chief Rabbi of Tunis.

At this point it would be natural to think that maybe it’s time to look towards moving back to America, or maybe go on an anti-jihadi rant with vaguely anti-Muslim overtones, or perhaps some type of vaguely anti-Semitic spiel, trying to equate Zionism with worldwide Jewry and to imply the victims deserved this. I’ve seen all three approaches plus one other uniquely American one that blames the violence on the invasion of Iraq or the US torture program. Of course, this is France; the perpetrators were all French and they know France is not involved in any of that. Even deranged French jihadi’s wouldn’t stoop so low as to argue that France is some extension of the US even if Americans, on both the right and left, can’t seem to shake this strange US-centric view of the world. But, I digress…

I blame this violence on opportunistic jihadis who aren’t especially different than any other demagogue who uses religion to gain and maintain wealth and power. These leaders exist in all religions in different forms: vitriolic clergy in the US preaching to pick up guns in a holy war against liberals are different only because their followers, so far, haven’t gone out and actually shot anybody up, which is to say they’re not much different at all. I especially wish the mainstream press would stop using the term Muslim to describe the terrorists and start using the term jihadi or jihadists; there are about 1.7 billion Muslims but very few jihadists, and the jihadists terrorize ordinary Muslims as much or more than they do everybody else.

I purposefully didn’t say an ordinary Muslim because many jihadis, especially foreign-born one’s, don’t even start out Muslim: they convert in order to fight. They seem to be more like the school and theater shooters in the US than genuine holy warriors; these latest three didn’t seem especially religious. Religion is their excuse to murder, not the cause of their violence.

The French response has been substantially stronger than the jingoistic fit we saw Bush and Cheney go on after 9/11. It looks like the government plans to shower them with love while simultaneously sheltering the country. They’re already working hard to find out what switch turns an ordinary person into a jihadi with the purpose of preventing the transformation, rather than trying to identify and kill them. The French are much stronger militarily than Americans give them credit for – we saw tough looking French forces last week – and they will do what is necessary to protect the Republic. But they’ll do this begrudgingly as a last resort, rather than a first: I feel confident in predicting that the world will never see a French Abu Ghraib.

Of course, none of that excuses the violence or doesn’t mean that we are not affected. My wife was about a mile away from the offices of Charlie Hebdo while the murders were taking place and we drove through the village where the two brothers were hiding out; we saw the long convoy of police cars. Our child’s school is on lockdown, as it was in the US after the Sandy Hook, and they’ve indefinitely postponed all public meetings, including the school play. I’m not delusional: as an American Jew I’d probably count for double points so I’ll stay relatively quiet (I’ve reluctantly asked Yves to publish this piece anonymously though if anybody wants to reach me they can through her). Still, I won’t be terrorized or cowed or flee. Even though I can barely speak their language I stand firmly with the French: my neighbors, colleagues, grocers, and all the rest, who have welcomed my family and I with warmth and grace and who will watch over us.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has proclaimed that “If 1,000,000 French people of Spanish origin were to leave, I would never say that France is not France anymore. But if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.” Of course this includes immigrants: all those killed were Jewish immigrants and France has an ancient history of attracting Jews. So I’ll do the very best thing that I can for the Republic and to show the terrorists they’re not effective: I’ll stay. For a long time. I’ve never had a difficult time finding work but moving to France for a few years seemed like a fun and exotic idea. But what started out as a job has turned into a mission; as long as France wants this Jew I’m staying, and no amount of terror can do anything to shake my resolve.

Je suis Juif. Viva la République.

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  1. Pepsi

    The term ‘jihadist’ is what the militants would like. It underlines their own assertion that they’re fighting holy war. If you want to engage in rhetorical demeaning, I would call them takfiri militants, something like that, rather than Muslim jihadists.

    Think of what we call evangelical bigots, ‘evangelical bigots’ rather than Christian Holy Warriors.

      1. Paper Mac

        “Takfir” is the act of pronouncing another Muslim to be outside the bounds of Islam. A “takfiri” is someone who engages in takfir. It’s used in a semi-generic way to refer to extremists who tend to justify political violence against other Muslims with pronounciation of takfir- see eg. Qutb’s concept of jahiliya. It’s not necessarily a relevant descriptor for individuals engaged in political violence against non-Muslims.

        1. FederalismForever

          @Paper Mac. Is there a similar way to pronounce certain supposedly Christian groups as outside the bounds of Christianity? If so, that would help remove the taint of a lot of really bad deeds purportedly committed in the name of Christ.

          For example, in the pre-Civil War South, many church leaders taught their (mostly illiterate) congregants that the Bible commanded that the races be kept apart. This included a strict ban on miscegenation. Those of us who have actually read the Bible might observe that it actually contains numerous examples of the dreaded race-mixin’. Moses, for example, married an African woman named Zipporah. Armed with this insight, should we then conclude that those evil Confederate racists were actually outside the bounds of Christianity? Similar to how President Obama has concluded that a group which calls itself Islamic State is not, in fact, actually Islamic?

          1. Paper Mac

            If you’re getting at something specific, it’s not clear to me. The practice of takfir has never been a good way to deal with anything. If you’re confused about why the Islamic State is not, in fact, Islamic, but is rather Islamicate, you should probably read some Marshall Hodgson, I guess.

          2. Pepsi

            HERETIC!!!!!!!! There’s an absolutely fantastic book about how the southern church was forcibly made into an extoller of the pro oligarchy anti african gospel whose name escapes me at the moment. I’m happy to call all of those types heretics. And ironically their theology is so weak that they’re essentially deists.

  2. NikolaT

    “..OK – they’re worked up about Gaza and they’ll settle down I thought”

    What a callous, indifferent and unfeeling statement. With this kind of an attitude mate no one is going to read the rest of your sermon here. This shows how little you know and care about the Israel outrage inflicted on the Palestinian people.

    1. Mattski

      I was troubled by this, too. But I think that the biggest error that the author–like most analysts–makes is not understanding the structural relationship of Muslims to French society, and the degree to which THIS swells hatred. They are the French reserve army of labor, there to wipe French people’s behinds at the best of times and a burden to the welfare rolls when there are no jobs, like now: scapegoats and the people that the enormous apparatus that preys on the poor gets rich off of. French unemployment is at an all time high, according to the BBC, and (of course) it is much higher for Muslims. Sixty percent of the people in French jails are Muslim, SIXTY PERCENT. France tortured people in Algiers for decades, and there widespread racism racism toward Muslims in France. The French right is on the rise. And then, against a people and culture desperate for respect, torn repeatedly by colonialist predation, you publish pictures of their Jesus/God violating young women (etc.) Of course the murderers are execrable; they’re also young people convinced that–for the first time in their lives–they’re doing something in the name of their own people and beliefs.

      The Charlie Hebdo cartoons are much more in the tradition of libertinism than any pursuit of popular liberty–obviously. I will guarantee that most of the editors are middle and upper middle class light middleweight intellects; they are mourned in the moment, but most of France has little regard for them. They certainly haven’t been contributing to the development of understanding between Muslims and the rest of France, let alone helping the Muslim OR French underclass.

      1. Mahesh Mumbaikar

        I see both of you missing the context here. The author makes this statement very much against the backdrop of him receiving threats on account of being a jew. It is the threats and environment that forms the subtext of author’s categorization of threats. Not speaking for or against the statement , just pointing out the context. Outside this, I am not sure the author may even have a whiff of what transpires between jewish state is Israel and the palestinians.
        Ignorance and arrogance are entirely different aspects.
        (Just scoring a few rhetorical brownies with the last line for emphasis).

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          He’s quite aware of what is being done in Palestine and is not a supporter of it. See his remark about the conflation of Jews with Israelis and Zionists. Contrary to what a lot of people here believe, as a result of the power of the AIPAC lobby, many younger Jews do not identify with Israel and do not support its policies. I also know some older American Jews who abandoned their support of Israel after the invasion of Lebanon.

          1. Sunny129

            I recently saw a British documentary ‘ Palestine is STILL the issue’. This was a follow up on the same subject 26 yrs(?) ago! worth watching and brings out some of your observations!

            Many young Israeli Jews are acutely aware of ‘state terrorism’ on Palestine people! 500 young Israeli soldiers refused to serve in occupied territory. Quite a few are pondering the actions of Israeli army are indirectly inciting violent response from those young Palestines whose future is bleak, hopeless and in constant despair! there very poignant observations and statement from both side on the issue.

            Bottom line Jews either in Israel or elsewhere will NOT have PEACE till there is justice to Palestine society!

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Why are Jews who do not support Israel’s policies towards Palestine deemed to be guilty? There are Israelis who object (Haaretz readers) and ones who even demonstrate, and of late, protestors have been beaten up.

              1. Mahesh_Mumbaikar

                Let us ponder a bit on Palestinian hopelessness. How do we see the situation ending (or changing , for better or even worse from here) ?
                My sense is – there is nothing on the geopolitical arena which will halt the Israeli state’s stranglehold on Palestine. The only other way I foresee situation changing is “general middle-east turmoil”. Consistently falling oil prices could be the next trigger which could limit the capacity of various established states (albeit some of them theocratic) to maintain a structure and order (again, unfair as the order maybe).
                It sounds bad and hopeless . For both the Palestinians and Israelis (a large chunk of whom incidentally has grown up on state sponsored staple feed of anti-palestinian hatred, None of which is ,incidentally, of their own making).
                Would love to see you (and others) opine on this.

                1. Nathanael

                  The Israeli state will collapse within a couple of months after US support for its puppet evaporates. Just as the Saudi state will collapse within a couple of months after oil is no longer a key commodity in the world market.

                  Trying to predict when either of those events will happen is very, very hard.

          2. Nathanael

            The conflation of Jews with Israelis and of Israelis with Zionists and of Zionists with Likud Party backers…. is an absolutely deliberate strategy by the Likud Party, and the basis of their propaganda campaigns.

            It’s an utterly evil thing to do, extremely dangerous for Jewish people world wide. The Likud Party is, in my opinion, the #1 danger to Jewish people in the entire world.

      2. Dorothy Garabedian

        You’re wrong about most of France having little regard for the cartoonists.Their irreverant work at Charlie Hebdo was only one part of their lives. They have been illustrators for many publications over several decades including childrens books. They were popular television personalities known to generations of French. One of the victims was a psychiatrist and another was a highly respected economist who wrote for the newspaper. This is really terrible.

    2. sharonsj

      People get worked up only when Jews kill Gazans. They don’t get as worked up when Muslims kill other Muslims, Christians and other minorities. Or when Gazans fire thousands of rockets into Israel. Or when Palestinians are encouraged to blow up, kidnap, run over, stab, and otherwise kill ordinary Israeli men, women and children. Or when Hamas kills political opponents and anybody who disagrees with them. Finally, nobody is outraged that Muslims, upset over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are encouraged to blame and kill Jews throughout the world.

      1. Mattski

        Of course murder sucks. But get back to us when the figures , on a given day, don’t show 3 to 12 Palestinians dying for every Israeli, or when the Palestinian per capita income reaches 10 percent of that of Israelis. Etcetera.

        1. vidimi

          the numbers have been historically closer to 60, though this summer it was down to around 40 as the palestinians got better at fighting back.

  3. john dordan

    it is naieve not to see the attacks as blowback for western destruction of the middle east and for israeli creeping genocide on the palestinians. the french were involved in the criminal assault on libya–based by the way on lies about a potential genocide. the french have also participated in the iraq/syria war against isis. unfortunately brown islamic lives don’t matter. scores of innocent muslims will die this month from french bombing raids and american drone attacks. how do you fight back when you are powerless? terrorism.
    the smug tone and definitive analysis of french culture based on not speaking the language doesn’t cut it.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you look at the Wall Street Journal article today, which is an in-depth profile of one of the terrorists, the one who killed four people in a kosher grocery store. The Journal’s summary:

      The man who last week murdered four Jewish hostages in a kosher grocery and shot down a police officer nursed deep resentment against French law enforcement, according to his friends and court documents.

      In 2000, when Amedy Coulibaly was 18, police shot dead a close friend while he was attempting to flee the scene of a robbery, said prosecutors and the deceased man’s lawyer. Courts rejected requests by the victim’s family to review the killing, ruling that the officer acted in legitimate defense.

      That shooting, and the judge’s decision, are crucial details in piecing together the path traveled by a troubled youth toward Islamic radicalization, a friendship with a convicted terrorist and last week’s bloody shooting spree.

      While it is legitimate to attribute attacks against the US as blowback, particularly given the extent of the damage we’ve done to Iraq and continued short-sighted and reckless policies like our casual and reckless policy of murder by drone, you curiously seem to have forgotten that France was highly critical of the US prosecution of the Iraq War. Do you forget US efforts to demonize the French and Europeans generally, such as the childish effort to rebrand French fries as “freedom fries,” the boycotting of French restaurants (I know some in NYC that went out of business as a result) and Rumsfeld’s taunt, “sclerotic Europe”? And contrary to your charge re ISIS, there’s no evidence that the attacks had anything to do with that. That isn’t to say that future attacks might not.

      1. john dordan

        The guy in the kosher market said something to the effect that ISIS sent me. Does that constitute evidence? One of the guys recruited jihadis to fight in Iraq. So yes France opposed the war in Iraq before it lost it’s mind and signed up to American genocidal imperialism. Do you doubt that Muslims in France are not acutely aware of the French government’s involvement in terrorizing Muslims in the Middle East? Muslims are looking at France’s cumulative record toward their population going back to Algeria.

        1. ohmyheck

          France was the main force behind the war on Libya in 2011, not the U.S. The U.S. was happy back them up.
          “On Libya, France Steps Forward”

          “France, Britain pushing for action on Libya”

          “France pushes U.N. council to vote on help for Libya” (help being R2P)

          “Europe, not US, pushed for military force in Libya”

          And it was all about the oil. Libya was a main supplier of oil for France, as well as there were major French oil companies in Libya.
          “France Leads The Charge For Libyan Oil”

          “Sarkozy’s Libyan surprise”

          “French want Total control of Libyan oil”

          “Unseemly Scrabble for Libya’s Post-Gaddafi Oil Assets Underway”

          Oh, and Sarkozy gained some political capital as well:
          As France takes the reins on Libya, Sarkozy triumphs

          So, Yves, though you may think some of us have forgotten about France’s rejection of the Iraq War, you seem to have forgotten about France’s responsibility in the near-complete destruction of the nation of Libya, in 2011.
          Though this is definitely the work of Takfiri, who do not represent Islam, I would not doubt that there are a few Libyans who aren’t very sympthetic to what happened in France last week.

        2. Jef

          Thank you john for holding your ground. No one is rationalizing violence (except for the West when they wish to destroy and kill thousands) Here is a disturbing article detailing other blowback from French lead nato massacre and destruction of Libya;

          ” Now all we need is for Nicolas Sarkozy to come out of retirement and do likewise and then all of the key invaders of Libya in 2011 will have registered their watery-eyed angst with Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based Islamist group that kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok in north-east Nigeria”

          1. Vatch

            Complex events often have complex causes. However, some causes are proximate, and some are more distant. The events in Libya are more distant causes of the murders and kidnappings in Nigeria, and there are undoubtedly numerous other distant causes of these events as well. But at the time of the kidnappings or murders, individual members of Boko Haram made the decision to kill or kidnap. The members of Boko Haram are the ones with the greatest responsibility for these atrocities. They have chosen, and recently they may have murdered up to 2000 people:


            I am not defending Sarkozy, Obama, or Cameron, but they didn’t murder these people. Muslim ideologues who encourage jihad have more responsibility for these crimes than the western leaders do. The members of Boko Haram exercised their free will and committed mass murder. If they don’t have free will (and free will might be an illusion), then neither do Sarkozy, Obama, and Cameron.

            1. ToivoS

              But Western leaders are responsible for killing close to a million Iraqis, destroying the Libyan government thereby unleashing civil war and supporting civil war in Syria. In Libya and Syria western leaders and Gulf monarch allies provides direct military support to the jihadist. Yes “Muslim ideologues” that support the terrorist jihadis are part of the problem, but please do not excuse western leaders.

              1. FederalismForever

                @ToivoS. You fail to grasp Vatch’s distinction between proximate causes and distant causes. The US-led invasion of Iraq (which, note, included some non-Western governments) was the proximate cause of thousands (not a million) Iraqi deaths. In the years that followed, various non-US groups pursuing their own agendas were the proximate cause of thousands of other Iraqi deaths. For example, a Sunni vs. Shia conflict broke out, in which hundreds of suicide bombers killed thousands of Iraqis. The US-led coalition was NOT the proximate cause of those deaths, although it could be viewed as a distant cause. Same for the Big Bang, come to think of it.

                1. Jack

                  I don’t find it to be a meaningful distinction. Just because not every one of those people was killed by a US soldier putting a bullet in them doesn’t mean the US isn’t culpable. Those people (whose numbers range from ‘only’ 100,000 to over a million) wouldn’t be dead if we hadn’t decided to smash their country, which wasn’t a threat to us, to pieces, all based on a lie. Would Saddam, who was an utter monster, have killed many of those people himself in the due course of time? Maybe. But that’s a historical what if. The fact is that the people who did die (and who continue to die) died because we invaded. We could have chosen to not invade. At the very least, having decided to invade, we could have chosen to not make things worse with a whole series of insane decisions in the aftermath of ‘victory’. We could have decided to not disband the Iraqi military and bureaucracy. We could have decided to not support an unrepresentative, shamelessly sectarian government. We could have not thrown billions and billions of dollars into a black hole of contractors and corruption, knowing full well little if any of it would ever actually reach the people who needed help. We could have chosen to not employ literal death squads as part of a short-term strategy to create the illusion of stability for political and propaganda reasons.

                  It’s like, I don’t know, dumping gasoline all over someones house and disbanding the fire department and then claiming you aren’t reasonable when there is inevitably a spark of some kind and the house burns down and everyone inside dies. Yeah, you didn’t technically set the fire, but you still created all of the conditions for an uncontrollable inferno.

            2. hunkerdown

              You must think that we are all duty-bound to suffer bullies gladly.

              I think we’re duty-bound to fix bullies.

              1. Vatch

                I replied a while ago, but I was having internet connectivity issues, so at the risk of a duplicate answer, I’ll try again.

                Jihadists are bullies, and must be opposed. Of course there are other bullies, and the U.S. national security establishment is full of them; they must also be opposed.

      2. Doug Terpstra

        It appears that France’s honorable pacificism re Iraq of 12 years past has undergone a perverse conversion on the road to Damascus and that Hollande’s support of. the FSA (hence ISIS) included a pipeline of jihadis from France and back again. That, I believe, is the most logical, direct path of blowback, corroborated by a suspect’s own video testimony of allegiance to ISIS. I suspect that Afghanistan, Libya , and probably Palestine may be factors as well.

        It’s interesting that Netanyahu inserted himself conspicuously into the grand protest, post-Charlie, in a Sharon-like provocation, against Hollande’s request, and then made a very public invitation for France’s Jews to emigrate to the over-Promised Land. Like Sharon, the yahoo never misses an opportunity to stoke anti-Semitism, a force that serves Likudniks so well. I suspect that French Jews have as much to fear from neo-Nazi’s as from pseudo-Muslim extremists. (Paul Craig Roberts links to some evidence for a false-flag op. Cui bono?)

        There are two other excellent articles at Counterpunch on the engineered “clash of civilizations related to the Hebdo attack.

        1. susan the other

          I’ve been following PCR on the false flag thesis too. Netanyahu’s strange behavior, defying Hollande, is pretty interesting. As is the Saudi oil price. And just a day or two ago there was a blurb (ZH?) on a deal to consolidate Iranian and Iraqi oil. It makes me wonder what Israel’s real play is in this whole thing. Is Israel fighting to maintain some national interest based on a position they once held to middleman MidEast oil, but now with the consolidation of oil (imo) Israel’s position is tenuous at best. If they do not have a means of manipulating politics and sympathy, what will they do now? Just a thought. It is true that Netanyahu virtually threatened the French not to recognize Palestine. It is nice to read the expat above because he is someone who is not going to be recruited by the likes of Netanyahu.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            It’s a shame that M. Expat and other Jews are put at risk because of the crimes of Netanyahu and his ilk of violent extremists, but it is inevitable and predictable, given that the majority of Israeli Jews apparently support the racist persecution and brutal dispossession of Palestinians. Americans may suffer the same risk soon enough as Israel’s primary sponsors.

            It’s strange how decades of Israeli crimes don’t rate any mention by the MSM as a source of blowback, even when bin Laden and many jihadis have cited the slow genocide of Palestinians repeatedly. Must be a boiling-frog phenomenon. The concerted Orwellian propaganda and willful ignorance on that issue proves how astonishing effective the Ministry of Truth is.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              It won’t be so messy and untrackable, as it seems today.

              There will be definitely, undeniably good guys in the Victor’s History that will be taught to our future school boys and girls.

          2. sharonsj

            A reporter friend told me that both Netanyahu and Obama were asked not to come due to security reasons because they would be targets. Netanyahu decided to come and found that French security wanted to treat him quite differently from the other heads of state and he refused to cooperate. His behavior wasn’t strange but a response to shabby treatment.

          3. vidimi

            a friend of mine posted a false flag CT about the attacks on facebook. the evidence was analysis of the policeman shooting video that purported that because the guy’s head didn’t explode and there was no blood and there was a shockwave in front of him, the shooting wasn’t real. i felt really embarrassed for him for posting it and giving it any credibility. there are some real CTs, but some people see CTs everywhere.

      3. Mattski

        But come on, Yves–France has participated in most every colonialist adventure, and had plenty of its own, going back centuries. The post you comment on is miles off in attributing the issue to the IP issue alone, but the French National Assembly is RIGHT NOW deciding the degree of its continued commitment to sending troops and materiel to combat ISIS.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Please tell me where the French troops were during our Vietnam war. They got the message from the North Vietnamese and got out. I’m suggesting the French may be more capable of learning from their mistakes than the US. But that is very much in play right now. M. Expat thinks the signs are positive that the response will be sensible, but if there are more attacks in the next six months, all bets are off.

          1. Jackrabbit

            M. Expat thinks the signs are positive that the response will be sensible”

            I get the sense that what M. Expat (and probably other French jews) want is that the French government better protect them. The obvious such protection is to simply crack down on the muslims in France – with no regard to any change in French foreign policy.

            As comments below demonstrate, that is exactly what is happening. New actions against anti-semitism, 10,000 soldiers called up (half of which are guarding synagogs), and new militarism (sending more forces to the middle east). So it seems that M. Expat is happy to stay in France because the French are “securing the homeland” like the USA (thanks to this attack).

          2. Ken Nari

            “Please tell me where the French troops were during our Vietnam war.”

            A better question might be: where were the Americans during France’s Vietnam War? The answer is the U.S. was supporting France with the Mutual Assistance Act, letting France do the fighting from 1946-1954 (until the U.S. took over) but with the U.S. helping pay the bill.

            For the Vietnamese it was one long war for independence, the U.S. and France being a tag team.

            The Vietnam War (First Indochina War) began as France’s war — in keeping with what Mattski said above. I believe while peace talk were going on the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu. France handed the Vietnam war over to the U.S., but sent its soldiers to fight alongside the American in Korea. Of course with the U.S. taking over in Vietnam, France was free immediately to turn to fighting another colonial war in Algeria.

            As a historical point, there was no North Vietnam to send France a message. The Geneva Convention only “temporarily” divided Vietnam months after Dien Bien Phu and France had already begun to pull out.

            As a U.S. ally and staunch member of NATO France certainly supported the U.S. war effort in Vietnam even after the French had disengaged from the actual fighting.

            No matter what, to be fair, Mattski said “in most every colonial adventure.” Don’t see how you can take issue with that.

            1. Mel

              Nice comment. I am a bit disappointed by Yves’s comment regarding colonialism, insinuating that the French have learned the “error of their ways”. In no way is France less neoliberial and colonial than other european/american countries, regardless of how we idealize it (as Yves did in comparison to the US). Francis Fanon and other post colonial theorists provide an invaluable insight here. Fanon writes that colonialism is a dehumanizing practice, and that violent resistance against colonial powers provides phycological relief and restores self respect and identity to the subjected. His conclusion that violent resistant is both necessary and justified lead his book to be banned by the French authorities. The Algerian War, from which Fanon wrote and from which the shooters were decedents, was only 50 or so years ago. The imprint of the colonial violence is fresh, and as someone described elsewhere in the comments, France still treats Muslims in the country as second class citizens. I tend to view this event as a mainly a French post colonial event, fueled by (American bred) neoliberialism and the responding ISS threat, and secondarily, an event of Palestine and Israel, which is more important than the author of this peace seems to suggest. On a side note: it’s sadly ironic that searching “paris massacre” on wikipedia redirects to the Paris Massacre of 1961 (which killed 20-400 people), and wikipedia provides a different link on the page to the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

              1. Mattski

                I think that she’s speaking from a little bit of a blind spot on this issue–and defending the OP. But I do think that her stance also betrays some of the limitations of this site, which rarely goes deep enough to illuminate the systematic qualities of either (neogeo)colonialism or the neoliberal capitalism. Super-valuable anyway, especially if you don’t get lost in the minutiae.

              2. Nathanael

                France was one of the worst of the colonial empires, and has never given up the attitude. Only the Dutch, Belgians, and Japanese were worse.

          3. Mattski

            “I’m suggesting the French may be more capable of learning from their mistakes than the US.”

            Your response is illustrative of why, in the end, this site often fails to persuade. Liberals like you tend to believe that if everyone acts better/is more virtuous everything will be fine. I tend to think that we and the French are all part of the same system–capitalism grown from colonialism–of which both we and the French have have been masters. That’s why they and then we (saving their bacon) were in Vietnam, that’s why they and we are in Iraq/Syria.

            Arguments for France’s relative virtue are, well, not going to prove terribly convincing to either French Muslims or those familiar with French history.

      4. Mattski

        On a day when the French General Assembly was debating the degree of its continued involvement in Syria and Iraq, this doesn’t come across as very convincing.

      1. Carolinian

        And Libya? France’s fingerprints are all over that one. I don’t claim to be an expert on this but I’ve read that neocon influence in France is considerable as it is everywhere else.

        1. Inverness

          Thank you. I was thinking I was in some sort of time warp, where France’s neo-colonial adventures somehow ended. Mali, and the Ivory Coast (during the Sarko era), anyone? Hollande is continuing the African adventure.

          Also, let’s look at France’s domestic policy. To many Muslims, the banning of religious headgear is perceived as an attack on their livelihood. Furthermore, Muslims suffer from serious discrimination.

      2. Inverness

        What, did the French learn from Algeria? Only now, under Hollande, did they provide some sort of apology for it! The French continue to get involved in Africa and the Middle East. They have also kept dictatorships happy just up to the Arab Spring. Don’t you remember a prominent French official offering her “expertise” to keep the Arab Spring protesters in line?

        There is a serious lack of understanding of French foreign policy (Mali, Ivory Coast, and Libya — all under the last two presidents) is seriously lacking from the article. Don’t dismiss blowback until you understand the context.

        France is not covered in American papers the way it is in francophone countries, which could explain the gaps in understanding. Finally, anyone would be remiss to not address domestic policy in France itself. The whole fanatical anti-headgear laws in France effectively keep certain observant people from going to work. That creates more than a little tension — it actively threatens peoples’ livelihoods, and increases tension on the street. Also, I’d suggest reading up on the possible future president, Marine Le Pen, much of whose very popularity is rooted in anti-Muslim sentiment.

        1. annie

          it also took france over 50 years to acknowledge, much less apologize for, vel d’hiv and the larger crime of collaboration in the holocaust. it took the death of the left’s hero mitterand (closet collaborator), and, of all people, jacques chirac to make the connection. chirac too was the french president who risked the wrath of the americans and his own wine industry to oppose the iraq debacle, something i can’t see sarkozy or holland having done.

          1. Nathanael

            The Communist analysis would be: Diversion. Anything to keep the attention off of the military-industrial-complex bosses who actually ought to be guillotined.

      3. Mattski

        France has done beaucoups of torturing–see Africa, N. Africa, and Vietnam. And torture–let’s be honest–is never off of the table in any police system. It’s only really a question of the degree to which officialdom disavows it.

    1. Carolinian

      I was gonna say. Many of the CIA’s torture techniques were taken from that conflict. Someone here recommended the classic (available on Criterion) Battle of Algiers. The above correspondent should watch it. Then there’s the behavior of the French–our predecessors–in Vietnam where the locals and particularly non-Catholics were treated as virtual untermenschen. Colonialism may be in the past but it’s not that far in the past. To get fancy one could say that the pentimento shows through in these European countries that exclaim, with the Americans, “why do they hate us?”

      1. Jerry Denim

        During their colonial rule of Indochina the French had not one but two Gitmo type torture prisons on little islands off the south coast of Vietnam. Phu Quoc and Côn Sơn. Very bad things took place there. I too admire the French but its ridiculous to suggest they are spotless lambs compared to the United States brand of imperialism.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Straw man. The bone of contention is whether France is likely to revert to torture. The fact that it did not participate in rendition is an indicator that the French might have learned, unlike the US, that torture is counterproductive. Do you have current evidence to the contrary?

          1. Jerry Denim

            My comment was in response to this- “I feel confident in predicting that the world will never see a French Abu Ghraib.” My straw man seemed apropos and on target to me.

            “…that the French might have learned, unlike the US, that torture is counterproductive. Do you have current evidence to the contrary?”

            Nope, I don’t thankfully, but the nineteen fifties and sixties weren’t really that long ago. France has its share of bigots and sociopaths just like everywhere else. LePen senior placed second in the 2002 French presidential elections ahead of the socialist candidate and just behind the incumbent Gaullist Chirac. A few more high profile Islamic terror attacks on French soil might bring back all sorts of nasty behavior people would rather believe the French have left in their past. Its been threatening to bubble to the surface for years.

            1. vidimi

              the best evidence in favour of your argument is that france never did bring anyone to justice for the warcrimes committed in its name, not that long ago. i personally know someone whose father was a torturer in algeria who got to grow old comfortably. any society that doesn’t come to terms with its past cannot fully avoid repeating it.

        1. auskalo

          I’m talking about the father.
          He said proudly that the tortures gave them a lot of info, to avoid more killings.
          Of course!

        2. auskalo

          I forgot to say that you just follow the origins of the mass-media bosses in the documentary.
          Most of them are not Palestinian or Algerian, nor French!

  4. proximity1

    “Even though I can barely speak their language I stand firmly with the French”

    — no mean feat, that, since “the French” stand pretty much all over the map–like the populations of much of the rest of the so-called modern western industrialized world. Charlie Hedbo, which I read, bought and cherished for its wickedly clever humor, has always been very resolutely anti-religion–all organized religion and especially opposed to the leading monotheisms–Islam, Christianity and Judaism–mainly as such important vehicles of obscurantism.

    What most revolted me about the mass rally of Sunday in Paris was the way that the mainstream press, in full agents-of-the-establishment capacity, both in France and the rest of the first-world, made it, by their presentations of it, into a cheap and slobberingly superficial multicultural love-in where people who, I’d wager, never read or bought a copy of Charlie Hebdo instrumentalised this public occasion of mournful protest to vaunt their own religious membership and ostentatiously demonstrate its “openess”, its “tolerance” for all.

    Many of these people were sufficiently confused to aver that, while they objected to Charlie Hebdo for its being routinely and wantonly offensive to what they apparently thought are virtually all Muslims’ religious sensibilities–since, it is assumed, all Muslims should and do object to the graphic potrayal of their prophet, Mohammed, when, it seems in fact that it is more particularly the Sunni sect which are so emphatic about this–they claimed all the same that they were “Charlie.” Others, it is true, stated emphatically that they weren’t “Charlie” but they’d turn out to join a rally in which they could, at least, join whole-heartedly in opposition to ‘revenge’-killings.

    France, not to mention Europe as a whole and the United States, too, are, on so many counts, deeply confused and deeply in trouble with regard to understanding the circumstances of this set of socio-political-religious struggle and strife.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      IMHO, the French efforts to force Muslim conformism, like banning the wearing of headscarves in public schools, have done more to create resentment of French authority than is commonly recognized. Here in NYC, I see women working in Jewish-owned businesses wearing headscarves, and hear stories of women in Queens wearing Santa caps in December over their headscarves. Not that the US is any model of tolerance, we aren’t, but the fact that even we are less bad on some day-to-day aspects says that French desire to keep religious display down has created deep resentment among the devout, and that helps create a breeding ground for radicalization.

      1. proximity1

        “. Not that the US is any model of tolerance, we aren’t” …

        Precisely my point. The United States of America are easily the most irrationally religious of any of the world’s “modern” industrial powers–a fervently religious bunch of people, taking the society as a whole. France, in contrast, had been, until loopy American “multiculturalism” infested it, one of the leading or the hands-down leading example of a modern secular (sort of, sometimes, somewhat) democratic state. Religion was and was understood as rightly supposed to be the province of the individual or the family in their homes, churches, and, more recently–since the late 18th or early 19th century– mosques or synagogues. In public society, while long tolerated up to a point, open, ostentatious, displays through dress or other indications, are by no means any point of Republican pride nor are people used to waxing enthusiastic about their religious opinions in public and, especially not in front of strangers. French culture and custom, since the end of the war of 1939-45 has been markedly tolerant in direct proportion to the way that it has similarly been markedly secular, unreligious and, for many people, irreligious. That is, the more or less the virtual inverse of U.S. social tendencies.

        If given their own hearts’ desire to determine it would the French Muslim community protect and preserve that feature of French culture or would they, if free to do so safey, quietly and annonymously, be pleased to see it reversed in favor of a society that more resembles Beirut or Cairo or Rabat? Honestly, ask and answer for yourself which you think is the case.

      2. susan the other

        There was a comment last nite on the France24 debate revolving around religious tolerance. The point was made that France is a dedicated secular society which seeks to preserve politics above all religions and does so with less respect for religion than we secularists do here in the US. Here, by contrast, we try to avoid being offensive and practice a live and let live tolerance. We are somewhat more respectful of religion. Charlie Hebdo had been relentless in its satire of Muslims. We don’t really do that here. Altho I think Charlie Hebdo was very funny and in-your-face, it made itself a sitting duck for whoever (nobody yet knows who) attacked it.

    2. JustAnObserver

      I think that Charlie Hebdo’s apparent anti-religion stance is really speaking to a deep lying, long standing, strand of French anti-clericalism dating from at least the Revolution, if not before. It’s not the religous they mock so much as the power-grabbing priests/rabbis/imams. Its not for nothing that the quote

      “Only when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest will man be truly free”

      is attributed to (variously) Emil Zola or Denis Diderot.

      1. ToivoS

        In Europe, the secular power of Kings, Priests and Popes have been vanquished well over a century ago. Good riddance. Satire and blasphemy were some of the tools to do that. Those revolutionaries beginning in the reformation deserve our respect. This Charlie movement, on the other hand, is a case of the powerful majority ridiculing powerless Muslims. It is no different than Christians attacking Jews in Europe in the early 20th century or whites “satirizing” black culture in the US over the last 150 years.

  5. Phalaenopsis

    “The circumstances that attract young men and women to these groups are creations of the Western world that they inhabit – which is itself a result of long years of colonial rule in the countries of their forebears. We know that the Parisian brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi were long-haired inhalers of marijuana and other substances until (like the 7 July bombers in this country) they saw footage of the Iraq war and, in particular, of the torture taking place in Abu Ghraib and the cold-blooded killings of Iraqi citizens in Fallujah.

    They sought comfort in the mosque. Here they were radicalised by waiting hardliners for whom the West’s war on terror had become a golden opportunity to recruit and hegemonise the young, both in the Muslim world and in the ghettoes of Europe and North America. Sent first to Iraq to kill Americans and more recently to Syria (with the connivance of the French state?) to topple Assad, such young men were taught how to use weapons effectively. Back home they got ready to deploy this knowledge against those who they believed were tormenting them in difficult times. They were the persecuted. Charlie Hebdo represented their persecutors. The horror should not blind us to this reality.”
    -Tariq Ali

    May need to rethink your analysis a bit methinks. Just Sayin’.

    1. anon1

      Can you make you comment clear? Who needs to re-think their analysis – Yves Smith or Tariq Ali or someone else?

    1. sleepy

      Yes, there seemed to be an underlying theme in this article that French imperialism was was preferable to US imperialism. I also don’t think most people would be particularly surprised at the operations of the French military in large parts of Africa.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        So you are conversely are telling me that being an ex imperialist is tantamount to being a current imperialist?

        BTW the irony is that Jews were prominent in the resistance movement against the Algerian war, and the French police that cracked down on them had many former member of the police under the Vichy regime, which included collaborators with the Gestapo. Followers of Jean-Marine Le Pen demonized the resistance movement with the cry, “Sales Juifs! A la Seine! Mort aux fellaghas!” (Dirty Jews! Into the Seine (river)! Death to the (Algerian) rebels!).

        1. IAmAlsoHuman

          Ex? But they are still… As others have said, Libya is just one case. The banning of headscarves, etc. are another factor. While Jews are cruely, unfairly, and definitely anti-semeticly targeted, why can we not recognize the larger context of even more violence being inflicted on the Middle East?

          Thats the ‘problem’ with this piece. I don’t understand the author’s choice to chide the people who take wars, and our own atrocities like Abu ghhraib, into account. I also don’t hold it against him. But we cannot myopically attribute one cause to this atrocity, or we will never end this horrible back and forth of violence/prevent future pain.

          Thanks for listening… Much love to all.

        2. sleepy

          I assume that you and most of the readership know that France is as we speak involved in GWOT military ops in its old colonial stomping grounds in Africa, had been one of the prime movers behind Nato intervention in Libya, and has supported the western against the Syrian government.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        The torture during the Algerian war was decades ago. The French did not participate in the US rendition, as in torture. program, unlike virtually every country in Europe.

        France is no longer an empire. The US is. We are two generations beyond the Algerian war. The US is a completely different place than it was in the 1960s and France is too.

        To talk about the Algerian war as evidence of current behavior is a logical fail. If you can provide current evidence, that’s a different story.

        1. annie

          was it you or lambert who linked two days ago to the robt fisk piece in the independent explicitly tying french muslim resentment to the algerian war. fisk’s point is that that horror remains extremely pertinent since so many french muslims are algerian.

    2. diptherio

      After watching the excellent “Battle of Algiers” the other day, on the suggestion of people here, I stumbled across this CIA documentary covering the same events:

      At around the 7:30 mark there’s a montage of French soldiers gunning down unarmed Algerians with their hands up in the universal sign of “oh sh*t, oh sh*t, oh sh*t.” The narrator assures us that they are being “caught in the cross-fire,” but the images show no crossing of fire, just outright, cold-blooded murder. And you just have to love the nonchalant way the narrator mentions that the French put a bunch of the local in camps, where their movements could be more easily monitored. Not concentration camps, of course, just…you know…camps…

  6. Jim Haygood

    France sent as many as 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, losing 88 soldiers. France wasn’t involved in Iraq in 2003, but it is now. Yesterday the French parliament voted to extend airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq:

    “France is at war with terrorism, jihadism and radical Islamism,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the National Assembly to thundering applause ahead of the vote.”

    At war with a tactic and a deviant ideology … yeah, that should keep the French MIC in biz for awhile.

    France is a pleasant place to live (was there on an assignment myself). But getting baited into the GWOT is only going to mire it in endless blowback, both abroad and domestically. Letting a couple of violent crimes dictate foreign policy is nuts. Enjoy the setting sun in Paris!

    1. MRW

      Yesterday the French parliament voted to extend airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.

      That’s really smart. /sarc

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      About that French MIC thing, they just recently lost the Russian market, so this should help.

      Heaven forfend their GDP should drop because of those recalcitrant Slavs.

  7. MRW

    I think your POV is sanguine, M. Expat. The French government enshrined their full support of Jews qua Individual in the last half of 1789. It’s in the proceedings of the l’Assemblée Nationale, which I don’t have a link for at the moment.

  8. Dana

    >vitriolic clergy in the US preaching to pick up guns in a holy war against liberals are different only because their followers, so far, haven’t gone out and actually shot anybody up<

    So soon we have forgotten Eric Rudolph – never mind the never-identified accomplices who aided his fugitive existence for five years? And because the likes of Jared Loughner and Tim McVeigh didn't claim a religious motivation, we are supposed to believe that the inciters of violence, nearly all of whom in the USA identify as Christian and claim Christian motivations, did not inspire them?

    1. archer

      While I am no expert on the psychology of the US bombers/mass shooters, the US has a long tradition of the celebration of violence. And people who are protesting and risking incarceration and death for religious reasons have a propensity to make sure their motives are known. Wikipedia on Loungher (the detail is extensive) show absolutely no meaningful religious interest:

      So M. Expat’s surmise doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    2. Vatch

      Yes, people of any religion can use their faith as an excuse for violence. That’s why it’s so important to push back against any attempt to impose religious beliefs on society. Whether they are advocating on behalf of sharia law, or prayer in schools, or creationist superstition, we have to stop them.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I was initially shocked to read about warring Buddhist monks in Heian, Japan.

        But I then remember the Shaolin fighting monks.

      2. vidimi

        “That’s why it’s so important to push back against any attempt to impose anything on society.”

        fixed that for you

  9. EmilianoZ

    Even deranged French jihadi’s wouldn’t stoop so low as to argue that France is some extension of the US even if Americans, on both the right and left, can’t seem to shake this strange US-centric view of the world.

    The fact that the French denied President Morales of Bolivia their airspace on account of some rumors that Snowden was on the plane is enough to show that France is de facto an extension of the US.

    1. Jim Haygood

      It’s almost as if the French have engaged George W. Bush as an adviser:

      PARIS (AP) — France ordered prosecutors around the country to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and those glorifying terrorism and announced Wednesday it was sending an aircraft carrier to the Mideast to work more closely with the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants.

      Somewhere Osama is laughing … suckered in another one!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I will never eat French fries again.

        Only Freedom fries from now on…better late than never, I guess.

        1. Carolinian

          Freedom pommes frites.

          An interesting thread this, and thanks as always to NC for being such a smart place. Just as a postscript I should say that I love France which was by far and away my favorite European country. On one trip I even spent a couple of months touring around it by bicycle (much younger then). You can be tooling down some country lane only to hap upon a knock your socks off chateau from centuries ago. “In a world” indeed.

          But they are an extremely middle class country so it is hardly surprising that the lower classes–many of them Muslim–feel discriminated against just as many African Americans do here. What is needed is not more paranoia but more understanding both of other cultures and of ourselves, our zeal to dominate. It’s universal and not just American or French. One can but hope that the world will soon get over it.

          1. vidimi

            all of europe is descended from a proto-scythian tribe that, upon domesticating the horse, found it easier to conquer other tribes and plunder their riches than following migrating herds of animals for food. it’s a parasitic mode of living and, if you’re even part white, it’s in your blood.

            (the mongolians evolved the same lifestyle some 3000-4000 years later, so it’s not just europeans)

    2. Robert dudek

      Logic fail… One friend says to another- hey, can you go to the store and get me some beer. Sure thing, says friend 2. So friend two is an extension of friend 1 because he did him a favor?

  10. vidimi

    Then we heard that the only woman killed at Charlie Hebdo, Elsa Cayat, was also the only Jew who worked there.

    georges wolinski, one of the founding cartoonists, was also a jew (also tunisian-born), albeit an atheist.

    agreed that referring to the attackers as muslims is an insult to the 1.7b muslims in the world.

  11. MikeNY

    I think the broader narrative is of a “Western War on Islam”.

    When I look at the past 100 years or so in Arab world of imperialism, resource confiscation / extraction, military intervention, coups, puppet governments, oppressive regimes supported by the West, and other self-serving Western hi-jinks, I’m not too surprised that the narrative gains a few listeners.

    1. Jim Haygood

      But there’s some good Islamists, like our head-chopping Wahabist buddies the Saudis. Frank Roosevelt realized what good folks they were when he met King ibn Saud in 1945. As Thomas Lippmann summarizes:

      The strongly favorable impression [FDR] had made upon the king limited the damage when war broke out [in Palestine] in 1948.

      Despite his anger at Truman, the king did not revoke the Aramco concession, terminate the U.S. air base agreement, or take any other action to retaliate against the United States.

      Yay! The bombs were a-thumpin’, but the oil kept a-pumpin’!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        When you see a soul mate, you know it.

        “The business of the kingdom is business.”

      2. Nathanael

        The utterly corrupt absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia is the festering sore at the center of the Middle East. It is the primary cause of the vast majority of anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East — it is an obvious example of gross hypocrisy on the part of Western governments. It is no coincidence that it is where bin Laden came from and where al-Qaeda was created and the primary source of funding for “jihadist” terrorism. It’s also heretical to most Muslims, destroying holy sites routinely. And Saudi Arabia exists for one reason only: oil.

        The moment the world economy stops caring about oil, Saudi Arabia will collapse. At that point, everyone in the Middle East will stop focusing on Western intervention and start focusing on their own internal issues. While Western countries will pretty quickly stop intervening, because that was mostly happening due to oil anyway. Western countries may actually start backing democracies once they don’t care about oil (because if you just don’t care about material interests in the area, then why not back the democracy?)

        When will the world economy stop caring about oil? Good question. I think it’s MUCH sooner than most people expect — 20 years, maybe. The growth of solar power and of electric-powered transportation are both on *exponential growth curves*.

  12. EmilianoZ

    Many French (non jihadist) Muslims think Charlie Hebdo got what they deserved:

    Si la majorité des élèves ont été marqués par la violence des tueries, nombreux sont aussi ceux qui « trouvent que Charlie Hebdo l’a bien cherché », témoigne Christophe T., professeur d’anglais dans le nord de Paris. Même discours dans un lycée professionnel lyonnais :« C’est bien fait pour eux, ils n’avaient qu’à ne pas insulter le Prophète », rapporte Alban N., résumant ce qu’il a entendu de la part de certains élèves dans sa classe.

  13. vlade

    “… is some extension of the US even if Americans, on both the right and left, can’t seem to shake this strange US-centric view of the world.” Hallelujah, an American who noticed!

    Otherwise, couldn’t agree more with your post. Muslim policeman killed (“Je suis Ahmed”), Muslim clerk in one of the shops saving Jews etc. etc. It’s not about Islam, it’s about people venting their rage (or wanting to work up an excuse to work off their fantasies).

          1. Jackrabbit

            The writer focuses on “what it means to me”. Reading this, I would think that the attack was on Jews only. But the attack was on France and Western media as much as, if not more than, Jews.

            The writer doesn’t play dumb to the larger issues, he chooses to dismisses any relevance whatsoever by calling it an act of crazy individuals. If that is really so, it is hardly worth discussing, let alone a march of 3 million.

            You may also be interested to read, The Vulnerability of French Jewry which counters a similar deliberately myopic view from a Jew who recently emigrated from France.

            That these individuals are crazy losers is a given. But they are preyed upon/trained/animated by extremists who have a cause(s). And that cause(s) amounts to ‘blowback’ from egregious polices that are done in our name (but which benefit only a tiny minority).

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Did you miss that anti-Semitism is on the rise in France and as he pointed out, 10,000 Jews have already left? The Times made this very issue its lead story two nights ago. It appears like most Americans you can’t relate to being at risk for your personal safety based on your ethnicity. So who is the provincial here?

              1. Jackrabbit


                I am very sympathetic to his person situation. I realize that there is a large muslim population and that jews have been leaving France. To his credit, the writer doesn’t blame muslims and chooses to stay in France.

                When our personal safety and those of our loved one’s is put at risk, then we tend to focus on that and not see the larger issues. But such a narrowed viewpoint detracts from a discussion of wider issues. And I think that is why you are seeing turbulence is the comments.

  14. Steven Greenberg

    “I feel confident in predicting that the world will never see a French Abu Ghraib.”

    Does this expat know anything about the history of France and Algeria and the war that went on between them?

    1. FederalismForever

      @Steven Greenberg. Taking cheap and ill-informed pot shots at USGovt policies is a tribal marker for many who comment here.

      France’s activities in Algeria make Abu Ghraib look positively benign by comparison. France’s generals steadfastly maintained that torture was a crucial weapon in France’s war against the insurgents, and refused to apologize even when put on trial. See:

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The remark is clearly about prospective behavior. France’s torture took place over two generations ago and it did not participate in the US rendition program. The US public also generally supports our torture program. M. Expat’s comment reflects his experience (and that of his family, which are French, not expats) that the French public has much more antipathy towards torture.

      1. Steven Greenberg

        All that I am cautioning about is the thought that any particular cultures, countries, or religions are immune from having some members who are quite willing to torture. That is a very naive understanding of the range of human behavior. The fact that their may be millions of people in that culture, country or religion who adamantly oppose torture does not mean that anybody can rest easy that it will never happen.

        No claim that anyone else has done as much evil is an excuse for doing evil. The point of reminding people that their side, whatever side that is, has done horrible things is only to stop the holier than thou attitude. Plus, I always feel that we need to remember that the most influence we can probably have over people’s actions are over the actions of those on “our” side. That’s a tough enough issue to tackle, that we cannot afford to just blame others for not keeping “their” side under control, when we cannot even keep “our” side under control. Have a little sympathy for people in the world who have no more control over events than we have. These “other” people are no less human because they cannot control events that we wouldn’t be able to control either (and historically have not been able to perfectly control.)

        That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try our best to prevent atrocities. It just means that we should have an understanding from our own histories of just how difficult that task is. In other words, now is the time when a little humility would go a long way.

        1. proximity1

          You do have a good point. But you take it too far, I think. The capacity for shocking brutality and cruelty is in everyone and in every society. Soit. But, though you didn’t say that they were, the “problems” aren’t resumed in that observation.

          We might still ask ourselves, “Why is it that the present conditions of Syria, Iraq and Libya aren’t the case just everywhere in the world?” –otherwise, we’re tempted–and many succomb to the temptation– to put it down to something we must simply call “miraculous” that, under Tito, the artificially arranged state(s) amalgam known as Yugoslavia, with their age-old ethnic bitterness and resentment, did not very spectacularly result in daily murderous civil warfare–as happened not very long after the joug of the Soviet’s influence was seen to fall away.

          While we can indeed say that, under the “right” (deplorable) circumstances, practically any and every nation could find its civil society dissolve into widespread murderous chaos, that does not by any means indicate that each and every society is approximately the same “distance,” socially, politically, economically or, moreover, intellectually and philosophically, from such a horror.

          In his book, The Moral Landscape, Sam Harris takes a close and instructive look at just why and how it could be that this is the case–rather than simply retreating into intellectual paralysis as so many people do. We certainly don’t have many clear answers but we do have some damn good critical evidence and the capacity to make much better use of it than has so far been done by most people.

          If you, dear readers, haven’t yet read The Moral Landscape then I recommend that you do so before the current year is out.

          1. vidimi

            yugoslavia did dissolve into bitter fighting after tito was removed just as iraq did when saddam was removed or libya when ghaddafi was removed. none of these multi-ethnic countries were in conflict during their strongman’s rules because there was a credible threat of crackdown at all times. no miraculous explanation required. a ruthless strongman can hold a divided country together, but the country’s inherent division lines are what make it a great target for any colonialist to divide and rule.

            1. Fíréan

              Yugoslavia did not ‘dissolve’ into anything, war and conflict was promoted by outside entities.

  15. Andrew Watts

    The author might want to re-think their decision of staying in that country.

    When misbehaviour reaches the stage of mass perpetration, such general numbness and sophistication may set in that murderers lose all their sense of criminality, and onlookers all their sense of crime.

    This is when the perpetrators begin to show a craftsman’s pride in their accomplishments, express satisfaction for jobs well done, and expect promotions instead of punishment for duties meticulously performed.” -Leopold Kohr, The Breakdown of Nations

    We’ve almost reached the point where the general population of France is at ease with demonizing a religious/ethnic minority and congratulating themselves for doing so. These are dangerous times.

    1. Inverness

      Remember what happened to the Roma population under Sarkozy? They were specifically targeted for expulsion.

      Also, francophones may recall when Sarkozy debated Hollande, and argued for laws restricting immigrant rights on the grounds that these people aren’t “Canadians and Americans.” I guess there are good, and not so good immigrants, although at least Roma are European, and those coming from Maghreb countries like Tunisia and Morocco actually speak French (unlike most North Americans outside of French Canada). But hey, we can all read between the lines. I remember very little controversy at the time, even though that comment is clearly xenophobic.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Remember what happened to the Roma population under Sarkozy?

        Yup, I actually thought I was being clever by posting that quote by Leopold Kohr without spelling out who brought it to mind. The fact is Sarkozy’s election was greeted with enthusiasm by the average person. The reason I was commonly given is that his election would reinvigorate public life.

        Hoo boy!

  16. RudyM031513

    First, can we say the obvious here? Takfiri terrorist networks exist because western powers (and allied forces) have created them. We know that Islamist guerillas/terrorists were used in Afghanistan against the Soviets. We know that takfiris were used by NATO powers to take down Qadafi. We know that takfiris have been used by western forces to attack the Assad regime. Turkey lets them through its border, they have received training in Jordan, and they have received medical care in Israel, and so on. On top of that, we have the statements of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds that al-Zawahiri works for NATO, and that NATO has created jihadi networks to be deployed particularly against Russia and China. Some of these claims has been made by Edmonds under oath during a deposition related to illegal activities of the Turkish lobby in the United States. There is additional corroboration of the state backing of terrorist networks in Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed’s War on Truth. On top of all of that, anyone who has seriously looked at 9/11 with a reasonably open mind knows that it was a false flag operation.

    The alleged killers in the Charlie Hebdo attack are said to have returned back to France after fighting in Syria. They had a previous history of arrests. We are to believe that France would let radicalized Muslims who fought side by side with takfiri groups in Syria, return to France and be given free rein?

    At a minimum, these shootings were allowed to happen.

    Why is the footage of a police officer being shot at the time of the attack an obvious fabrication? The photo ID conveniently left int the car by the masked shooters reminds many of us of the hijacker ID supposedly found on the sidewalk after the attacks on the Twin Towers. Very convenient.


    Valls’s militant philosemitism is part of the problem, in my view, as in this speech when he declares Jews to be the avant-garde of France, while Zionist warmonger Bernard Henri Levy stands behind him:

    From where I stand, it looks like there are massive double standards about free speech in France when it comes to Jewish topics. Charlie Hebdo and the mercenary Ukrainian Femen outfit are embraced by the establishment. Meanwhile the Gayssot Act has been used to prosecute people wearing “Boycott Israel” t-shirts, and people do go to jail for presenting research that questions the official story of the Holocaust.

    Recommended viewing:

    For the record, I don’t support yelling “death to the Jews” or burning down kosher grocery stores, but there seems to be a serious problem with Jewish establishment in France. You are talking about a country in which the JDL works with the French police.

  17. barrisj

    Well, from the comments on this article, it seems there is a basic issue concerning French history and France’s relationship to Arabs pre- and post-colonialism, especially in the Metropole. It would be instructive to recall the so-called “Paris Massacre of 1961”, in which up to two hundred of 30000 peaceful pro-FLN marchers were murdered by the flics and tossed into the Seine, under the orders of the notorious Vichyist Chief of Police Maurice Papon. It only took French officialdom 40yrs to even acknowledge that the event happened, and downgraded severely the number of casualties. I’m not sure how far back a “forgive and forget” approach can be extended to the point that a particular shameful event is effaced from a country’s history, but the Massacre certainly is an important aspect of a narrative regarding police attitudes toward Arab immigrants and Beurs which surely exists today. The “official” French posture is “assimilationism” with regard to those citizens and residents of France of an Arabic origin and who practice Islam, but it surely must be obvious that many organs of the state and “native” French don’t hold to that doctrine. Certainly not those who ally themselves with the National Front, at any rate.

    1. archer

      Not sure you can make general conclusions, which you attempt to do, from that incident, as ugly as it was. This is from Wikipedia:

      According to historian Jean-Luc Einaudi, a specialist in the 17 October 1961 massacre, some of the causes of the violent repression of the 17 October 1961 demonstration can best be understood in terms of the composition of the French police force itself, which still included many former members of the force in place during the World War II Vichy regime which had collaborated with the Gestapo to detain Jews, as for example in the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of 16–17 July 1942.

    2. Jackrabbit

      I think the “basic issue” is the writer’s self-centered, no-nothing viewpoint.

      That US, France, and other Western countries currently or previously have invaded, tortured, murdered, droned, destroyed, stolen, berated, etc. muslims/muslim countries is of no consequence to him. He is concerned only with what happens to him and those in his circle.

      See my comment above for more info.

      1. Jackrabbit

        I’ll briefly add what I noted above: the writer’s focus may be understandable because when one feels threatened its difficult to think of larger issues. Yet the writer’s depiction of the terr0rists as individual crazies, seems to deliberately designed to forestall any discussion of the larger issues. (see more above)

      2. jrs

        Might as well call it left and right for short.

        The “right” believes in evil for sure (although it can never see it in itself, of course, no matter how many mass murders called wars are committed) and that’s what it thinks of the terrorists. It’s hard to argue they aren’t scumbags of course. And it believes in fighting it with extreme violence make no mistake.

        The “left” believes it could only be caused by blowback from vast social forces (Algeria, Libya, Iraq, bad conditions of Muslims in France). They don’t believe in evil.

        I suppose we can study the motivations of these terrorists. Any broader abstraction that doesn’t start with the particulars of studying particular terrorists strikes me as ideology and the left belief is definitely ideology. But even if these terrorists aren’t in any direct way motivated by Algeria, it seems to me like U.S. slavery, it’s never really past and the discrimination is reinforced in the now.

        And the “right” view leads to what? Fight the evildoers! Kill, kill, kill! Double down on the police state. Increases in racism against Muslims. And by the way should any Jew really feel safe about THOSE trends? I’m unconvinced the end game is secular humanism everywhere. And the left view “leads” to …. what ought to be done ANYWAY. Stop the wars. Stop killing for oil and economic and military dominance. The West needs to stop killing, just stop killing. And then will terrorists stop killing? I don’t know. There’s a lot of genies out of bottles at this point due to things like W’s Iraq war.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          “The “left” believes it could only be caused by blowback from vast social forces (Algeria, Libya, Iraq, bad conditions of Muslims in France). They don’t believe in evil.”

          You have never read the comments here have you? Evil is most distinctively and commonly the powerful victimizing and exploiting the weak. Evil is drawn to positions of power, prestige and authority, it is uniquely adapted to attaining and keeping those positions. Evil wears very fine suits, goes to the best schools and enjoys lives of ease and broad public adulation. Evil cuts benefits to the poorest and weakest while deciding which yacht builder to commission and plotting how to profit from the resulting misery. Some poor immigrant with a Kalashnikov and a grudge? That’s strictly the minors.

          1. Nathanael

            Oh, the left knows all about evil. You can see ultimate evil in the face of Dick Cheney, for example. There are sadistic psychopaths in power in many countries. They are pure evil. Appropriate response is to humanely guillotine them.

  18. patrick k

    I keep hearing this blather about how wonderful Islam is with 1.3 billion adherents last year now up to 1.7 this year, lol, but riddle me this among all those religion of peace devotees–why aren’t there any Jews wherever Muslims and sharia prevail. Are all of you absolutely certain that over the coming decades, should Muslims become a majority in France, that Jews will be safe where they aren’t in other Muslim dominated countries? Some of the narrative above eerily sounds familiar, akin to writings in the late 20’s and early 30’s.

    1. FederalismForever

      @patrick k. Exactly! And one might ask the same about other non-Muslim populations in these countries. The Christian and Jewish populations in many Islamic countries have declined dramatically in recent decades, in some cases almost to zero.

      It’s possible to attach any major religion to an oppressive agenda. Looking at history we can find cases where each of the major religions carried out terrorist campaigns at some point, or adhered to extremely inflexible and repressive variations of their creed. But that doesn’t mean that at any given moment in history all religions are equally culpable in the oppression and injustice being carried on in the world at that particular moment. Unfortunately, at this particular moment in history, almost any terrorist group currently operating is doing so under the banner of some form of islamic jihad. And by no means is this limited to the Middle East, or to countries that have been colonized by the West in the past, or to countries that support Israel. Rather, it extends from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Philippines, Chechnya, large sections of Africa, Bosnia, etc. etc. That’s just a fact about the world we live in today. And what’s disturbing, when you look at these various jihadist groups, is that almost all of them want to clear out all other ethnic and religious groups from their area (often including the destruction of any other group’s religious artifacts or areas of worship), impose a very strict version of Sharia law, severely repress women, possibly ban all forms of music, etc. Moreover, there seems to be no logical endpoint for them other than converting, removing or killing everyone else.

      1. Jackrabbit

        Unfortunately, at this particular moment in history, almost any terrorist group currently operating is doing so under the banner of some form of islamic jihad.”

        Many Muslims see US/West/Israel as terr0rists.

        Clearly, you haven’t cared enough to listen. You’re notion of “terr0rist” seems to be limited to what THEY do to US. What THEY see are:

        – lands are taken by fiat;

        – war waged on false pretense;

        – occupation;

        – corruption and cruelty that goes unpunished;

        – bombs/drones killing innocent civilians;

        – support for brutal, non-democratic regimes;

        and more.

        1. Nathanael

          If you actually go by the textbook definition of “Terrorist”, almost everything the US military has done abroad since 2001 constituted terrorist activity.

          Also, practically everything the Israeli “Defense” Forces have ever done is terrorist activity.

    2. Jackrabbit

      I think you are mistaken. Isn’t there a jewish community in Iran? Wasn’t there a jewish community in Baghdad (not sure if it’s still there after the war)?

      The implication is that the separation is due to anti-Semitism. Perhaps there are other reasons? AFAIK, there are few jews in China. Are the chinese anti-semtic?


      We could banter about petty grievances and security threats all day. What about the larger issues? Immigration has been problematic for many Western countries – cui bono? Western belligerence and support for dictators in the Middle East have been problem for many muslims – cui bono? And these two issues have necessitated the creation of a police state – cui bono? What should be done?

      1. FederalismForever

        There never were as many Jews in China to begin with. My broader point stands: recent decades have witnessed a sharp increase in the persecution of non-Muslim groups in majority Muslim countries. See:

        This confirms the other point I made, which is that at any particular moment in history it’s possible that one particular religious group might be suffering through a hyper-fundamentalist phase, typically characterized by an extremely rigid and intolerant interpretation of its belief-system and scriptures, such that areas where that religious group is in power might be uniquely intolerant of other groups, as compared to other religious groups as of that particular moment in history. At this particular moment in history, it is fundamentalist Islam which earns this dubious distinction. Whereas at prior moments in history, Islamic governments were unusually tolerant and accepting of other faiths and ethnicities. It’s silly to think that at any given moment in time, all religions are exactly equal as far as how they treat persons of other faiths.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I came across something a few years ago about ancient Jews in Japan and their descendants today.

        The Hata clan, I think.

      3. Nathanael

        The Jewish community in Iran is active and *safe*.

        The decline in Jewish populations in much of the Middle East is largely due to massive bribes from the government of the modern state of Israel to move to Israel. Most people don’t turn down free money. They should, because the modern state of Israel is a poisoned chalice, but they don’t.

    3. Paper Mac

      You must be joking- Jewish communities have always been present throughout the Muslim world. That there are tensions recently is a function of the creation of Israel, not some kind of historic animosity between Muslims and Jews. Ask any Jewish historian about how Jews fared in Europe versus North Africa or the Levant during the last thousand years or so.

        1. Paper Mac

          Indeed- China’s long been a hospitable place for Abrahamic adherents. The Hui community is another good example.

      1. Nathanael

        In addition to the rising anti-Semitism in the Middle East which was *created* by the state of Israel….

        The secular & Haredi Ashkenazi elites in the modern state of Israel discriminate terribly against Mizrahi Jews — going so far as to deny the existence of their ethnic identity and traditions for decades.

        The modern state of Israel has been a disaster for all Mizrahi Jewish communities. Really awful. Really sad.

    4. hunkerdown

      Ohh, the other CT that Lambert might’ve been warning us about. Don’t forget to take Galicia with you.

  19. Jonathan Revusky

    This is a rather unfortunate article. The author has very little context to understand what is going on. His misunderstanding of the “quenelle” gesture, that originates with the comedian Dieudonné, exemplifies that. The quenelle is simply an “up yours” gesture to the powers that be. The notion that the quenelle is some sort of Nazi salute is just an absurd smear that the author is mindlessly repeating. The smear originates with the French Judaeo-Zionist lobby LICRA which exerts an inordinate power in France, much as the Israel-Zionist lobby does in the U.S.

    Another thing that pervades the article is a lack of reflectiveness or curiosity about why anybody in France would feel resentment towards Jews as a collective. Doubtless, he (as I was also) was indoctrinated from birth with the idea that there is this thing called antisemitism that exists ex nihilo, i.e. emerges from nothing. No reason. Of course, this defies common sense. Nothing comes from nothing. So, for him, antisemitism is something like water or air, it simply exists and requires no explanation. This cannot lead to a very insightful analysis.

    The other big problem is the author’s lack of historical context, in particular the history of Mossad false flag terrorism. Mossad was perfectly willing to create problems in Iraq in the fifties, where before that, for 2500 years, Jews had had no problems. This is well documented in a book by Naeim Giladi, entitled “Ben Gurion’s Scandals”. A French Jew of Moroccan origin, Jacob Cohen, also has spoken about how Zionists operated in Morocco in the same time period. If the author were aware of this history, he would immediately be (as I am) skeptical of the claims that the antisemitic events described were really carried out by Arabs, including this latest one.

    1. Nathanael

      It is very convenient and useful for the Likud Party in Israel, and Netenyahu in particular, to generate worldwide anti-semitism. It allows them to attract immigrants to Israel and collect money. So they do their best to generate anti-semitism.

      I think this is totally evil behavior.

  20. Jim

    JackRabbit at 12:51P.M. above:

    ” That these individuals are crazy losers is a given. But they are preyed upon/trained/animated by extremists who have a cause(s). And that cause(s) amounts to blowback from egregious policies that done in our name(but which benefit only a tiny minority.)”

    Many of the explanations, in this thread, for what has recently gone on in Paris seem content with this type of causal analysis linked to the effects of colonialism, globalization and blowback.

    But is it possible that such forms of causal analysis may sometimes inadvertently serve as rationalizations, that make it seem as if the acts of death and destruction have little to do with the bizarre reasoning of those who actually perpetrated these acts?

    I would argue that if causal analysis is to be performed then it must regard ideology as paramount, because a focus on ideology at least provides a space for reasons that render the actions of an actor intelligible to the actor.

    For example, is there a type of ascetic ideal offered in the ideology of the actors in Paris?

    Would this ascetic ideal be meaning-conferring for the actor?

    Strangely enough if such an ascetic ideal is operable it origins could well be Western–think of Nietzsche and the politics of nihilism.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The ideology I am reminded of goes back further to a time when people believed that those who had more slaughtered sheep to offer to their deity would be granted more wealth (i.e more sheep) than their competitors.

    2. Jackrabbit

      You imply that either the attackers or their ideology are to blame. I would say YES and YES.

      However, as noted above and elsewhere, this extremist ideology didn’t just spring from nowhere – it has been fostered and nourished for decades by governments that find it useful. When you look to root causes, you come the understanding of BLOWBACK.

      Also note that this ‘ideology’ is only obliquely tied to the muslim faith – as the many muslims that denounce such attacks make clear time and time again. But many muslims are no doubt sympathetic as they get such a raw deal from the West (unless they are fabulously wealthy oil Sheiks, of course).

        1. FederalismForever

          @Paper Mac. Thanks for sharing. This is an important topic, since a 2002 Pew survey of Muslims throughout the world found that up to 74% of them (depending on the country) believed that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians are justifiable in defense of Islam. See:

          Alas, the article is terrible – nothing but a long-winded attempt to assign all of the blame for islamic terrorism to (you guessed it) “the West.”

          Choice examples include: “al-Qaida as the product and mirror of the worst of the Enlightenment’s possibilities.” Or: ” . . . the radical Islamists are an expression of the very Westernizing alienation the profess to deny. In a sense, the West hates them because they are more modern than itself.” Excuse me? More modern?? Is that why the society they want to create would ban music? Would deny education to women? Would tolerate slavery (if modern Mauritania is an example)? Rather than try to blame everything on the West, the authors should take a closer look at some of the more radical strains of Wahhibism, which unfortunately have become very prominent in recent decades, as some of their sponsors have been the primary beneficiaries of oil money revenues.

          1. FederalismForever

            @Jackrabbit. The counterpunch article you linked to is correct that “Almost all radical movements in today’s Islam, . . . are tied to Wahhibism . . . which is in control of the political life of Saudi Arabia.” But the article is incorrect in its attempt to conflate the story of Saudi Arabia’s recent relationship with the U.S. and Western oil companies with a broader narrative of Western colonial exploitation.

            The fact is the Saudi ruling clan was quite happy to welcome U.S. oil companies to undertake the costly and technically demanding task of building the massive Saudi oil infrastructure. Certainly Saudi engineers at that time could not have done the same. The arrangement was that the Saudis would split the oil revenue proceeds with the U.S. oil companies – an arrangement that mutually benefitted both parties for a long time, and in no way resembles the usual pattern of colonial exploitation, wherein natural resources are looted by a colonial occupying power by force, such that the host country is materially worse off. (Compare Spain’s looting of silver deposits in Latin America or British looting of ivory in Africa.) To the contrary, from the Saudi perspective, living on land so rich in oil deposits was like winning the lottery, and the Saudi ruling clan became massively wealthy. This included, of course, young Osama Bin Laden.

            Yes, the U.S. did spend billions of dollars assisting Bin Laden and his army when it fought the Soviets. Similarly, the West would again aid, or at least side with, Bin Laden and other Muslim fighters in Bosnia (something many forget – google ‘Osama Bin Laden Bosnia Passport’). Normally, assisting a rebel group with money and arms is a way to make a new friend – consider France’s massive aid in arms, weapons and (eventually) troops to assist the U.S. in its Revolutionary War, and the friendly feelings it engendered among the U.S. rebels towards France. However, Bin Laden and his other fellow believers instead chose to launch terrorist attacks against the U.S. – a surprising result in the sense that the prior history between the U.S. and the Saudis, and with Bin Laden particularly, had actually been quite beneficial to him. This story is not at all similar to the normal imperialist/colonialist patterns, and should therefore be kept analytically distinct.

            Again, the fundamental point is that all these oil revenues have helped to prop up the Wahhibists, a ruling clan that had not previously had much power at any prior point in Arabian history. Unfortunately, their version of Islam is indeed extremely conservative and reactionary, and they have used their oil wealth to fund like-minded groups throughout the globe. But that is hardly the fault of the U.S. or the West.

            1. Jackrabbit


              1) I agree that the US-Saudi relationship is more symbiotic than the traditional colonial story. It has been a very mutually beneficial relationship. I think the point of the article is that the US/West is comfortable with authoritarian regimes like the Saudi’s to counter the naturally socialist orientation of the people.

              2) I think of Bin Laden’s attack on 9-11 as the initial salvo of a Saudi Civil War. They wanted to sideline the Saudi’s main ally.

              3) You say: “. . . [the Saudi’s] have used their oil wealth to fund like-minded groups throughout the globe. But that is hardly the fault of the U.S. or the West.” Except that for the symbiotic relationship mentioned in #1. Which, for example, resulted in the US accepting the overthrow of the democratically elected President of Egypt. Plus the Saudi’s seem to fund/control/influence some of the extremist groups (while we look the other way). At some point we are tainted by our association with such people. We can argue about where that point is, but I think most would say we are well beyond the point.

          2. MikeNY

            Auden and Dostoyevksy both thought a lot about the question. Auden wrote: those to whom evil is done / do evil in return. We might call this blowback. Dostovesky raged against “environmentalism”, and would not countenance the eradication of freedom, or a man’s choice, in perpetrating evil. Both are right. Man (generically) is neither wholly free, nor wholly determined. So he is culpable when he commits a crime; but when a single race or people or creed shows as sudden and widespread tendency toward acts of violence, we have to ask what has conditioned this — it is not likely to be ‘mere happenstance’. I suggest that there are ‘environmental’ factors in play, and the West (particularly the US, Britain, and France) cannot escape all the blame. As someone above remarked, small acts of jihadist violence are how some of the powerless react against overwhelming power.

        2. Nathanael

          Fundamentalism, whether it be Christian, Muslim (“Salafi”), Jewish (“Haredi”), or Hindu (I don’t know the name, but they destroyed the Babur Mosque), is an essentially MODERN phenomenon — a reactionary one.

          It has no real roots in the traditional religions (whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish); it would not be recognized by anyone from 200 years ago. Instead, fundamentalism uses their holy books and traditions as sticks to beat people with.

      1. Jim

        “this extremist ideology didn’t just spring from nowhere.”

        Couldn’t agree more Would you also agree that there is a connection between National Socialism and Islamic anti-Semitism. I would argue that a strong case could be made that a significant part of Arab anti-Jewish sentiment was primarily a German import. It was Nazi strategic efforts to outflank the British Empire that led them to pursue a pro-Arab politics. in the early 20th century Arab moderates and modernizers had initially welcomed Jewish immigration to Palestine as a positive influence.

        Yet that potential alliance was disrupted by a radicalized anti-Zionist turn explicitly encouraged by Nazi propagandists (think, for example, of Berlin short-wave radio Zeesen which between 1933 and 1945 mingled anti-Semitic propaganda with with quotations from the Koran and Arabic music).

        Would you also agree that the actions of the shooters in Paris had fascist overtones in that there apparent mode of self-cultivation was murder–that by their actions they claimed a right to sovereign impunity by potentially making themselves into martyrs?

        1. vidimi

          the germans began a strategy of radicalising muslims far earlier: in the first world war, they sent propaganda to british-occuppied modern-day afghanistan and pakistan calling them to jihad. it was partially successful.

        2. Jackrabbit

          There are more recent – and more relevant – examples of states manipulating extremism.

          = Mujahadeen in Afghanistan led to Al Queda;

          = Free Syrian Army in Syria led to ISIS.

  21. Emma

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought ‘Je suis Charlie’, aside from representing free speech, was also about the ‘Je suis WE’.
    Perhaps mutual miscomprehension head & shoulders above thought?
    As this is Naked Capitalism, does anyone have any up-to-date global data/stats from reputable sources on racism (not just in France and the US)? I’m intrigued to see what the connections are between race, nationality, (socio-)economics and even a depersonalization of identity (Oh là là)!.
    From close observation, the exclusion of Islam from French society is apparent with ‘les cités’ ie. ghettos on the ‘les périphéries’ of France’s major towns, and which exclude and disfranchise most of the migrants from France’s former North African colonies ie. Arabs and Muslims. These marginalized communities dwell on high unemployment rates within oppressive towers of poverty, and with little chance of experiencing the French ideal of ‘Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité’.
    What laws and policies therefore, aimed at eliminating racial discrimination, are presently in place (not just in FR & the US) with the effect of advancing (ie. acting as significant deterrent) efforts to combat racial discrimination and improve both social and economic life?

  22. barrisj

    I would be curious to know whither the future of all those French Jews that are said to be emigrating to Israel…will they join the “settlers” and make their private war on Palestinian territory against the indigenous occupants, or remain wholly urbanised and retain a sort of Euro-perspective, as opposed to, oh, say Russian Jews, who amongst all the immigrants in the past 50 years or so are the most vocal and vituperatively racialist against both Palestinian and Israeli Arabs.

  23. Dimitri Lascaris

    I too have lived in Paris, and I lived a privileged life there. But I saw first-hand the callousness with which France treats its Muslim citizens, many of whom are consigned to decaying ghettos. I learned too of France’s litany of atrocities in Algeria. Yet the sole mention that you can muster of the oppression of Muslims by the West and its proxies is: “they’re worked up about Gaza and they’ll settle down I thought.” How easily you dismiss the horrors that we witnessed last summer. What happened in Gaza last summer was an Israeli racist onslaught of unspeakable brutality. Moreover, Israel’s atrocities occurred with full Western acquiescence, and against a backdrop of the slaughter of Muslims around the world, and the suppression of Muslims’ democratic rights. None of this history, appalling as it may be, excuses anti-Semitism. But we will never understand the conduct of France’s seething Muslim population if we do not recognize the long list of its legitimate grievances.

  24. Argosy Jones

    vitriolic clergy in the US preaching to pick up guns in a holy war against liberals are different only because their followers, so far, haven’t gone out and actually shot anybody up, which is to say they’re not much different at all.

    That’s a big difference, actually, for those of us who distinguish between fantasy and reality.

    1. vidimi

      you’re missing the point: the difference is in how the followers react. the clerics are interchangeable.

      1. Nathanael

        Here in the US, the followers of extremist Christian clerics commit terrorist murders quite routinely. Look up the endless list of clinic bombings for a start. They shot a sitting Congresswomen. McVeigh bombed a federal office building.

        Do I REALLY HAVE TO GO ON WITH THE LIST? There’s been FAR more Christian terrorism in the US than ANY other sort of terrorism in the US. At least 20 times more per year.

        It just doesn’t get reported as terrorism, because of media bias. Start researching it, you’ll find the terrorist acts. SPLC keeps a decent list.

  25. vidimi

    dear expat,

    i’ve loved my time in france, though it’s changing for the worse. in the future, i can see the policies of austerity erode the rest of the worker rights that contribute towards making france such a great place to live but, for the moment, enjoy it: the quality of life you will get is hard to match anywhere. the food is fantastic and, best of all, it’s mostly natural unless you insist on eating at american fast food chains. wine is good and cheap. when you travel to just about any country in the world, the french are among the most numerous tourists you will encounter because the generous vacation time and reasonable salaries they enjoy permit them the luxury of seeing the world.

    i hope your experience will be as good as mine was.

  26. Eclair

    I just finished reading the comments section, although not with as great attention to detail as it deserves.

    First, let me shower compliments on Yves and Lambert, for their struggles in developing and maintaining a reader base that can carry on a rational discussion on such heated topics as race and religion. And on the commenters here, because they are, mostly, learned and curious and restrained.

    From time to time, I wade through comments sections on other blogs and news sources that are not as carefully nurtured as NC comments are. I am horrified at the racism/religionism (and misogyny) displayed: hateful diatribes on “Pakis”, Jews, Muslims, “brown-skins,” abound. And, they seem to be getting worse. I actually found racist comments on some music Youtube videos a few nights ago. Not popular music either.

    During the holidays, we visited my husband’s cousin, who runs a farm in Pennsylvania where he grows veggies and raises beef cattle and pigs. After a large dinner (served at noon, of course) we were sitting chatting when he received a phone call from one of his workers. The pigs were fighting. He got up to leave, explaining apologetically that they were like children: they got ‘bored’ and needed some distraction.

    I keep seeing us humans as “pigs.” Penned in confined spaces, we turn on each other and say and do unspeakable things. We might wish for a benevolent farmer (or father) to arrive and distract us, but I have to keep hoping that we have the power and the will to recognize our folly and to correct it without intervention. But, that hope is fading with each day of this new year.

  27. Publius Democritus

    It is sad that humans of the modern area are no longer to see what is right in front of them.
    This was JARF (just another Reichstag fire).
    There is really no hope of fighting the coming totalitarian system if people can’t integrate the incredible number of signs that this was an engineered, provacateured or controlled instance of terror meant to brainwash people into increased Islamaphobia, support for the police state & NSA, and Israel.
    The red pill is just too bitter…

  28. GK

    I’m interested to see how many of the comments address and dissect M. Expat’s analysis of the motivations for the attacks. For me, the most important takeaway was solidarity — his experience as a newcomer of ” my neighbors, colleagues, grocers, and all the rest, who have welcomed my family and I with warmth and grace and who will watch over us” and his commitment in turn to stay, “as long as France wants this Jew I’m staying, and no amount of terror can do anything to shake my resolve.” Solidarity is the key. Vive la Republique indeed.

    1. Jackrabbit

      Did you miss the march of over 3 million people? I can’t think of any better expression of solidarity than that.

      There are precious few places like NC were people can discuss the issues behind the news.

  29. Jonathan Revusky

    Though this is a complex question, it just occurred to me that much of it boils down to a question of causality. You have two concurrent phenomena.

    A: You have reports of growing antisemitism in France.

    B. Israel wants the French Jews to emigrate to Israel.

    The author of this piece and pretty much every commentator here assumes that A is the cause of B. Maybe you should also consider alternative hypothesis, that it’s the other way round: B is the cause of A.

Comments are closed.