Intifada francesa

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Como a França se está a transformar num estado sem lei.

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A French Intifada

by Nidra Poller
Middle East Quarterly
Winter 2011, pp. 25-36 (view PDF)

A process described by some as the Islamization of Europe, by others as the failure of Europeans to integrate Muslim immigrants, has reached a breaking point in France. One of the most troubling manifestations of this discord is the development of a particular type of violence that is more than the sum of its parts. A sampling of this year's news reports reads like a catalogue of stomping, stabbing, shooting, torching, and sacking; attacks on teachers, policemen, firemen, old ladies, and modest retirees; turf wars, tribal fights, murder over women, over attitude, over nothing; dead youths, murderous youths, bodies scattered across a national battlefield.

Is there a connection between the endless series of seemingly disparate criminal incidents and markers openly displayed in insurrectional riots and demonstrations—kaffiyeh face masks, Hezbollah flags, intifada slogans, Islamic chants? A general French tendency to withhold information and a deliberate decision to avoid ethnic and religious symbols leads to white noise coverage of criminality. Names, photos, and background information about perpetrators, suspects, and victims are usually suppressed, especially those that might create a negative image of Muslims.

Yet there is ample evidence that immigration has brought specifically Islamic antipathy to Jews, contempt for Western values, and other antisocial attitudes reinforced by religious zeal and aggravated by the clash between an authoritarian family structure and permissive French society. Many second and third generation, French-born Muslims, anxious to separate themselves from a "French" identity they reject, are no less vulnerable to these influences than recent immigrants.
it is
more like Algiers, Jenin, or Bamako.

Gaza on the Seine

"We don't want to import the Mideast conflict." These soothing words were repeated by officials from Left to Right every time Muslim rage over supposed Zionist persecution of Palestinians was "avenged" by violence against Jews in France, notably the countless attacks against Jews tallied since the outbreak in September 2000 of the "al-Aqsa intifada." Initially dismissed as "insults and bullying," the worst wave of anti-Jewish aggression since World War II was subsequently attributed to the quirky import of a "foreign bug" that troubled harmonious relations between local Jewish and Muslim communities. Meanwhile, the media were importing the conflict with all their might, pro-Palestinian nongovernmental organizations were agitating, and peace marches against the Iraq war blossomed into punitive actions against Jews.

Though ethnic and religious statistics are prohibited in France, it is estimated to have the largest populations of Muslims, anywhere from five to ten million, and Jews, around 550,000, in Western Europe. Over half of the Jewish population is Sephardic, mainly refugees from North Africa. The Muslim population, most of which arrived since the early 1970s, is primarily from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa with large contingents from Turkey, smaller communities from the rest of the Muslim world, and a growing number of converts.

The ethnic or religious identities and underlying motives of individuals who attack Jews in France are no more mysterious than those of jihadists who strike elsewhere, from the smooth World Trade Center terrorists to the bungling Times Square bomber, and tens of thousands of the same stripe. A French Muslim thug does not bash the head of a French Jew because he cannot vent his rage against an Israeli: His feet, fists, iron bar, and knife, in fact, slash the false distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

In May 2004, tens of thousands of mostly Jewish marchers protesting terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and assaults on Jews in France chanted "Synagogues brûlées, République en danger [torched synagogues, endangered republic]."[1] Today, when the situation of French Jews has jelled into an uneasy truce—with a slow but steady decrease in population, sustained immigration to Israel, and avoidance when possible of heavily Muslim neighborhoods—the French republic is in danger as the anti-Jewish thuggery has been extended to the general population, the "dirty Frenchies" and "filthy whities."

France's politique arabe (pro-Arab policy) has been unwittingly transposed to the domestic scene. The twisted logic and adulterated ethics devised to blame Israel for failing to bring peace on earth has come back to haunt the French. A compassionate discourse that excuses Palestinian atrocities against Israeli civilians as a reaction to "injustice" also excuses French domestic criminality as payback for colonization, discrimination, exclusion, unemployment, and police harassment. Confusion between avowed genocidal intentions and elusive legitimate aspirations—a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel—breeds confusion at home between insurrectional thugs and frustrated but law-abiding immigrants. The "disproportionate reaction" accusation played like the ace of spades against Israel turns into a joker when riot police are portrayed as Robocops oppressing a "Palestinized" immigrant population. Having expropriated the moral high ground by rough riding over the heads of Israeli soldiers, French authorities are disarmed in confrontations with homegrown shabab or youths.

So Palestinian terrorists are called "militants," Gaza Flotilla jihadists are presented as "humanitarians," and the young French criminals are "youths." This deceivingly generic term used to mask the identity of local Maghrebi and African thugs is a paradoxical translation of the Arabic shabab. Indeed, it is not rare to read of a "36-year-old adult youth" involved in a rumble or suspected of murder.

Have French youngsters become savages? Do they steal handbags from elderly women and kill a man who will not give them a cigarette? Are these the same youths who join peace marches, live ecologically, hate religion, and worship diversity? Are French youth running the drug traffic while studying for the baccalaureate exam? Do they break into schools to kill rival dealers or stab uppity teachers? Are the French youth who sit in cafes with their iPhones and sunbathe naked on beaches the same ones that gang up twenty to one on a man who looked twice at their girlfriends or complained when cut in front of in line at an amusement park? What about the youthful French boy couples strolling hand in hand on rue (street) Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie in the Marais? Do they meet rivals for knife fights at Paris's north station? Hardly.

During the 2005 uprising, when rioting Muslim youths torched cars and public buildings in housing projects throughout the country and clashed with the security forces trying to restore law and order, Parisians believed they were safe inside invisible walls as fires burned on the other side of the ring road. "It's just the banlieue [working class suburb]," they said. A second round of discourse about the urgent need to improve housing, infrastructure, transportation, and job opportunities circumscribed the problem. Before the year was out, flames were rising in the center of the city and the banlieue problems spread like wildfire.[2]

Naked Eye and Media Eyes

Five years later, as France is being rocked by another, if more diffuse and elusive, wave of violence, the discourse is similarly sterile. Newspapers string out a litany of violent incidents in a repetition of stock phrases and opaque vocabulary. Honey-voiced newscasters warble little tunes of tribal violence as if turf wars and fatal stabbings in retaliation for a look, an attitude, or a woman were all in a day's work. Bucolic place names redolent with memories of Impressionist boating parties are now the sites of bloody murder. Fatal stabbings in schools named after resistance heroes are attributed to the influence of video games and a hunger for consumer products stimulated by capitalism. A small sample paints the grim picture:

  • January 14, 2010: Adrien, an 18-year-old from Sannois (Val d'Oise) is savagely murdered by a gang of youths armed with sticks, knives, golf clubs, and a Japanese saber. He tried to find refuge in a car repair shop, but the manager, who was ordered out, stood by helplessly as the youths beat and stabbed Adrien to death. Subsequent reports reveal that the murder was the last act in a day of fights between two groups. The victim's distraught mother berates the youths for making trouble and giving the neighborhood a bad name, yet blames their aggression on police harassment.[3]

  • January 23: A "26-year-old young man" stabbed to death is found in the street in the Orgemont project at Epinay-sur-Seine (Seine Saint-Denis). A suspect turned himself in, yet the circumstances have not been elucidated. That same day, four people are wounded by BB guns, in a fight in Tremblay en France (Seine Saint-Denis), again without elucidation.[4] And a 16 year-old girl in Saint Gratien (Val d'Oise) is severely beaten by her two brothers and strict Muslim parents for chatting on the Internet; doctors fear she will lose an eye.[5]

  • February 21: In Conteville (Seine-Maritime), a 73-year-old man visiting a friend, a retired scrap iron dealer, is killed by robbers who broke into the home.[9]

What happened next? Were the circumstances elucidated? The perpetrators apprehended? Convicted? We may never know. Convinced that the identity of culprits is withheld for ideological reasons, readers do the detective work with telltale clues and exasperating similarities. Youths, knives, the banlieue? Twenty against one? Drug wars? Turf wars? Gang fights? The puzzled citizen situates each incident somewhere on a line traced from the intimidating rowdiness observed in public to mass revolts seen on television:

  • March 10: Four masked youths armed with knives and a fake gun sneak through the handicapped entrance into an amphitheater at the University of Paris XIII-Villetaneuse (Seine Saint-Denis) and steal a total of nine cell phones and €40 from the students and professor.[12]

  • April 3: Fifteen youths are kicked off the tramway in the center of Grenoble. Three young men and a woman get off at the same stop. The youths harass them, ask the woman for a cigarette; she says she does not have any more. They knock over one of the young men, stomp his head, bash him senseless, stab him, perforating his lung, and run, leaving the victim, a 24-year-old cartographer identified as Martin, hovering between life and death.[13]

  • April 30: A man wearing a yarmulke was attacked in the center of Strasbourg by two Muslims who knocked him down with a heavy iron bar and stabbed him twice in the back.[14]

  • July 14, Nantes: A 52-year-old handicapped man is beaten to death by four "African type" youths scrounging for cigarettes and a few euros. The police are looking for witnesses.[15]

  • August 4: A 64-year-old man was kidnapped by three youths in front of his house, forced into a car, taken to a secluded place, beaten, and tortured until he told them where he hid his savings—a few thousand euros. The victim was hospitalized in serious condition, his face slashed, a piece of a finger chopped off.[16]

Low Intensity Warfare

Wherever punk jihadists decide to stake out a territory—a street corner, a park bench, a place in line, or a housing project—they punish intruders with merciless violence.

A young couple living in the center of the southwestern city of Perpignan who dared to protest the ear-splitting noise of motorcycle rodeos under their windows in the middle of the night almost paid with their lives. Fifteen youths shouting, "We're going to kill you," broke into their building, raced up the stairs, and pounded on their door with such force that the adjoining wall started to collapse. They scattered and ran when the police approached.[17]

Youths from l'Essonne punished a family because one of the boys made a remark when they pushed ahead of them in line at the Asterix theme park, thirty kilometers north of Paris. They called in reinforcements, caught up with the family in the parking lot, beat up the boys and hit their mother.[18]

July 13, the eve of French Independence Day, is traditionally celebrated with dancing in the streets. Youths shooting prohibited firecracker missiles caused at least forty-seven fires. A 63-year-old woman died when a missile, shot through an open window, set fire to her modest apartment. The second floor of a nineteenth arrondissement fire station, hit by missiles, went up in flames as people danced on the ground floor.[19]

A minor traffic accident on a highway outside Paris ended in bloody murder because the victim, a young family man named Muhammad, asked the woman responsible for the damage to sign an insurance declaration. "You trying to act French?" she objected, before calling for help from friends from les Mureaux, a nearby project. The youths, identified in one article as "black," arrived in force, shouting, "We're going to kill you in front of your mother," and proceeded to bash the man's head with unrestrained savagery, killing him on the spot, in front of his family, as promised. Two of the killers were identified by name and Senegalese origin on a Senegalese website.[20]

Several weeks later, an American journalist investigating the problems of minorities in French housing projects was assaulted by youths in les Mureaux. Described as a 50-year-old evangelical, he was taken to a nearby hospital, unconscious. He had been given a head bashing and robbed of equipment worth more than $15,000. The circumstances have not yet been elucidated.[21]

Echo Chamber

In a transposition of the Middle East peace process mentality, the failure of integration is blamed on France just as the failure to create a Palestinian state is blamed on Israel. The Palestinian cause is forgiven for sixty years of aggression; delinquent immigrants are acquitted of responsibility for their antisocial behavior and self-destructive strategies. Hamas attacks Israel for years on end; the Israel finally retaliates and gets its nose rubbed in the rubble; housing projects are dilapidated by their own delinquent residents only to be displayed as proof of social injustice. International opinion looks the other way as Hamas imposes Shari'a law in Gaza; the media close their eyes as thugs impose their law in the projects.

Banlieue-Gaza-on-the-Seine for the domestic insurgents, Banlieue-Gaza-open-air-prison for the compassionate choir. No matter how much is done or given, it is never enough; no matter how wild the behavior, it is always explained away. Here, there, and everywhere, ethical boundaries are erased and logic surrenders to magical thinking. When mothers offer their children to die as shahids—martyred murderers—the very horror of their vengeance is held as a measure of the degree of oppression they endure. In France, every form of brutality, including the murder of Ilan Halimi—a young French Jew kidnapped by a banlieue gang in January 2006 and tortured to death over a period of three weeks[22]—is attributed to some form of "exclusion."[23] The unashamed anti-Semitism of gang leader Youssouf Fofana, a rabid Muslim Jew hater, was used to mask the motives of some twenty gang members of varied origins who participated in the crime. Lawyers for the defense organized press conferences and wrote op-eds to deny banlieue anti-Semitism and portray their clients as misguided underprivileged youths.

The same reverse chronology that explained in the first week of the al-Aqsa intifada that Palestinians had gone from throwing stones to shooting guns because Israeli forces overreacted to the initial—justified—"revolt," now explains that banlieue youth have started shooting at the police with automatic weapons because law enforcement has gone quasi-military.

Identification with the Palestinian "resistance" emboldens French-born delinquents. Punk jihadists who drink alcohol, wear sweat suits, hardly ever set foot in a mosque, and cannot read the Qur'an in classic Arabic establish their dominion as if it were a waqf (religious endowment).

No French outlet would touch the "Hamas on the Seine" report by photojournalist Jean-Paul Ney, published by the French-language, Israel-based Metula News Agency on May 31, 2010, describing enraged kaffiyeh-masked, pro-Palestinians chanting, "Zionist sellout media," "Jews to the ovens," "F—k France," "Sarkozy the little Jew," "Obama the Jew's n___r," repeatedly breaking police lines, determined to reach the Israeli embassy and vent their rage over the Gaza flotilla incident. Joined by anarchist "black-blocks," the insurgents destroyed property, threw paving stones at the police, and wreaked havoc for several hours at the Champs Elysées Circle. Ney distinctly heard orders broadcast to the riot police: "Don't try to stop them."[24]

The Marseille Bondy Blog celebrated French Independence Day in its fashion by featuring a T-shirt emblazoned with an Algerian flag in the shape of France—spitting image of a map of Israel covered with a Palestinian flag. "Second or third generation immigrant youths from the Maghreb, Comores, etc.," says a young woman identified as Sonia, "are trying to find themselves." The T-shirt is the answer to their quest. "We really have a double culture; we are both [French and Algerian]."[25]

French media automatically favor the other version of any clash involving Israel. Journalists can write with their eyes closed. Or simply swallow what they are fed from Agence France-Presse dispatches. The story of the clash in August 2010 on Israel's border with Lebanon—when an Israeli officer, three Lebanese soldiers, and one Lebanese journalist were killed when Lebanese forces opened fire on Israel Defense Forces soldiers performing routine maintenance work within Israel—broke in France, of course, with the Lebanese narrative. The falsification was revealed within twenty-four hours and confirmed in full reliable detail,[26] but media alchemists turned the dirty facts into ambiguous gold.[27] Why believe Israeli sources, even when corroborated by U.N. troops on the scene?

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