WHY PAJU IS NOT CHARLIE

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By Bruce Katz*

  • Bruce Katz is a founding member and current president of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), a Montreal-based human rights organization. Immediately following upon the heels of the attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris, there were calls from some quarters for Palestinian and Jewish Unity to jump on the bandwagon of the ‘Je suis Charlie’ movement, this as a knee-jerk reaction with no reference to what might be the underlying causes of the attack nor any debate on where liberty and license part. PAJU has chosen to analyse the situation with some circumspect. Hence the delayed response. Nowhere among the Je suis Charlie chorists has there been any expression of concern over cause; the chorus refers only to effect. Had these chorists been more circumspect, they would have  made some reference to the manner in which the neo-cons in Washington have manufactured the rise of Sunni-salafist  (Wahabe) extremism as a geo-political tool for reshaping the Middle East with a view to ensuring U.S. (and Israeli)  hegemony in the Middle East with disastrous results both for the region and for the world at large. The Hersh article refers to the decision taken by the Bush White House (working primarily through the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney) to ally itself with elements of Al Qaeda supported logistically by Saudi Arabia in order to destabilize Syria as the key to weakening the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance, Iran being the principal target. As stated by Hersh:
  • In 2007, the eminent journalist Seymour Hersh published an article in The New Yorker (1) in which he took a close look at a new direction which the then Bush administration had decided to pursue, a direction not entirely unrelated to the theoretical notions put forth by the right-wing think-tank The Plan for the New American Century (1997), the members of whom would acquire positions of power within the Bush administration as of the year 2000.
  • PAJU  has and will continue to denounce all attacks against civilians and acts of terrorism, be they state-sponsored or the acts of individuals or groups. We feel for the victims of the violence and express our sympathies to their families and associates. The attacks against Charlie Hebdo and against the kosher bakery in Paris cannot be justified; no one can claim any moral stance for  killing people in the name of God, no matter what the religion. The question begs asking: ‘What are the root causes of the rise of religious zealotry?’Whence comes the rise of Islamic fundamentalism that has seen the development of the Islamic State for the Levant (ISIS) and a growing zealotry among some youth? This phenomenon is not something that has just popped up out of nowhere; it has had a catalyst.
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         To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. (2)

In other words, the Bush administration made a choice between diplomatic relations with Iran and Saudi-sponsored Sunni extremist elements and decided that it was in U.S. interests to support Al Qaeda as a weapon to be used against Iran. Ironically, Iran has continued to battle Al Qaeda within its own borders while the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Koweit, Turkey and Jordan have been supporting Al Qaeda. (Most of the attacks against American targets in Iraq were undertaken by Sunni militants who hate the Shiites but hate the Americans more). In other words, the Islamic fundamentalist movements in the Middle East and Africa are part of a planned chaos meant to destabilize regions which can then be democratized, and who better to democratize them and look out for their energy and mineral resources than the Western ‘democracies?’

The Saudis did not count on losing control of the situation and now they are staring down the barrel of the gun that they themselves loaded. ( Riyadh hastily removed Prince Bandar, principal architect of the rise of ISIS in Syria, as a first step to dealing with a situation which was now out of their control.) As for the Western ‘democracies,’ it is blowback on a massive scale. The representatives of these pillars of liberty and democracy are now on their way to Saudi Arabia to pay homage to the late King Abdallah. In a statement rich with irony, President Obama called Abdallah ‘a loyal ally in the fight against terrorism.’ Yet , it is clear that Saudi Arabia is the cradle of salafist extremism going back to their support – along with the CIA and the Pakistani Secret Service – for the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan.

As noted above, the seeds of this geo-political scheme were first planted by the neo-cons close to George W. Bush in The Plan for the New American Century. These strategists noted that in order to undertake the ‘restructuring’ of the energy-rich Middle East, a catalyst –a second Pearl Harbor – would be necessary as a pretext to attack and destabilize regimes; otherwise, the American public and the world at large would never accept it. The second Pearl Harbor came along quite conveniently on September 11th, 2001 with the attack on the World Trade Center.

Interestingly. in August of 2001 Israeli intelligence informed the Bush White House that a cell of around 200 jihadists were operating inside the United States and that ‘something big’ was being planned. Yet the Bush administration ignored it. A question of incompetence or rather the recognition that the opportunity for a second Pearl Harbor was on the way? Were U.S. authorities already aware of the impending attack even before Israeli intelligence informed them?

What 9/11 provided the neo-cons in Washington was the justification for the illegal attack on Iraq. Islamapobia – carefully crafted with malice aforethought and with the aid of a supine and indolent corporate media – was the opium needed to shape public opinion, silence critics and bring in draconian legislation which undermined constitutional democracy and the rule of law. Ergo, ’restructuration’ and islamophobia go hand-in-hand The tragic attack on Charlie Hebdo has deep roots; they go all the way back to The Plan for the New American Century and 9/11. Unfortunately,, the Obama adminstration’s foreign policy has simply turned out to be the continuation of the neo-con agenda.

Despite claims to the contrary, operations within Syria and Iraq (using Al Qaeda as proxy ) were meant to partition those two countries into religious and ethnic regions with a two-fold aim: eliminate Syria as an entity thereby weakening Iran for the benefit of Israel and Saudi Arabia and create a bevy of weak, disorganized states ensuring Israel’s continued hegemony in the region. It would also mean unrestricted access to the oil supplies of the Persian Gulf area for the United States. In his article ‘How the West Created ISIS’, Nafeez Ahmed notes that the U.S., Israel and Jordan were quietly ‘backing the mixed bag of some 30 Syrian rebel factions…’ (3) Some of those factions have turned out to be ISIS fighters. (ISIS was originally founded in Iraq in October 2006, but by 2013 it had significantly expanded its operations in Syria working alongside al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra until February 2014, when ISIS was formally denounced by Al-Qaeda).

“Israel acted as a member, along with the US and Jordan, of a support system for rebel groups fighting in southern Syria. Their efforts are coordinated through a war-room which the Pentagon established last year near Amman. The US, Jordanian and Israeli officers manning the facility determine in consultation which rebel factions are provided with reinforcements from the special training camps run for Syrian rebels in Jordan, and which will receive arms. All three governments understand perfectly that, notwithstanding all their precautions, some of their military assistance is bound to percolate to al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is fighting in rebel ranks. Neither Washington or Jerusalem or Amman would be comfortable in admitting they are arming al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in southern Syria.” (4)

What is more, a training center for the Salafist rebels was set up in Jordan and logistical support was provided by Turkish authorities as well as safe passage through Turkey. France helped train the Al Qaeda-linked rebels along with US and British forces in Jordan, ‘Fighters from Europe, Russia, Asian countries and Chechnya are going in large numbers both to Syria and Iraq, crossing from Turkish territory. There is information that at least 1,000 Turkish nationals are helping those foreign fighters sneak into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is allegedly involved’. (5) As well, the Turkish government has been bringing millions into its own coffers by acting as middleman for the sale of oil controlled by ISIS in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq and shipped from Turkish ports.. Further still, Turkey has stood by and watched while ISIS attacks the Kurds in in the north; Erdogan sees ISIS as a tool for destroying the Kurdish independence movement.

The U.S.-NATO led dirty war using proxy salafists in Iraq and Syria has been nothing short of genocidal: millions dead, millions displaced, But if millions of human beings can be considered ‘collateral damage’ by malevolent oligarchs and the political classes who attend them, then how much less significant the deaths of a few individuals in Paris? And if societies throughout the world now turn on each other as the result of the confrontation carefully planned and put into execution by a new Thousand Year Corporate Reich, so what? The racist Right will pick up the slack and immigrants, especially Muslims, will pay for it. The good news is that by 2016, one per cent of the world’s population will possess more wealth than the other ninety-nine per cent of humanity! (6)  That’s what globalization was about from the outset.

Few observers trace the links in the chain leading from globalization to increased militarism, religious zealotry and the rise of the security-surveillance state. The conditionality imposed on governments by way of the World Bank’s usury arm, the International Monetary Fund, is at the root of the austerity measures which have impoverished countries across the globe. This in turn creates a situation where the social fabric of society unravels, where there is consequently civil unrest and organized movements to unseat unpopular and often authoritarian regimes from power. This in turn creates the need on the part of ruling elites to increase and arm security forces resulting in greater police powers and draconian anti-democratic legislation, all of which tends to add fuel to the fire. Defending the nation against terrorism – created by the economic and social conditions spurred by globalization – is the necessary component to win popular assent for the security-surveillance state.

People wonder how it is that Israel, for example, can continue to practise its state-sponsored terrorism and systematic expropriation of Palestinian land with such impunity while the so-called ‘international community’ looks on with tacit complicity. It is often argued that this is entirely due to the influence of the Israel lobby on legislators – AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in the United States, for example. This is true to some degree. How then, does one explain support (or tacit complicity) on the part of nations where the Israel lobby is not significant? The answer is found in the fact that Israel is a major exporter of weapons systems and security services. Ruling elites require these weapons and security services for the reasons just mentioned. Israel provides training for numerous police forces in the world; Israel provides security systems for airports. An Israeli company will be overseeing security arrangements for Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Games, this to keep the favelas quiet. The ruling class doesn’t want those poor people disrupting the party! In effect, those poor Brazilians living in the favelas are being ‘Palestinianized.’ The police force has been ‘Israelized.’

As Israel has constructed a separation wall to isolate Palestinians and expropriate their most fertile agricultural terrains, it is now exporting the same technology to build fortress walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. In another version of the maquiladoras, poorly-paid Mexican workers will manufacture the components of the surveillance maximum-security system which will resemble Israel’s apartheid wall. (7) Gaza and the West Bank have provided the laboratory.  That is how Israel exports the Occupation.

Why is it that giants like China and India do no more than offer rhetoric rather than sanctions when it comes to Israel? The fact of the matter is that Israel – the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world – is the second largest exporter of weaponry to China and India after Russia. Beyond Israel’s tech industry, it has three main industries: diamonds (including blood diamonds from West Africa), arms sales and exporting security systems and services. This is what really wags the dog. In that respect, as Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions has expressed it, Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories is also a resource, the necessary tool to enable Israel’s military-industrial complex to keep on keeping-on and even to expand; the Occupation also provides a laboratory for Israel’s new weaponry to be tested on helpless Palestinian civilians as was the case in Gaza during the summer of 2014. You won’t see any of that satirized in Charlie Hebdo.. War crimes? Yes, they are. But it’s easy enough to accuse entire civilian populations of being terrorists when you have a servile mainstream media to make the claim a fait accompli.

As for Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Wahabe fundamentalism (which has nothing to do with mainstream Islam and for whom all other Muslims are apostate), it receives massive military aid from the United States. The United Kingdom sells some 1.6 billion dollars worth of arms to the Saudis and there are approximately 200 British companies sharing in joint-venture projects worth some 17 billion dollars with Saudi Arabia. Canada’s Harper government– the same government that trumpets its concern for human rights and democracy, the same government that exploits islamaphobia for political ends, the same government which lends support for Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks on Palestinian civilians, the same government of hypocrites who shouted Je suis Charlie in unison with the other chorists, the same government which is about to introduce anti-terrorism legislation in Parliament – has approved export permits for the shipment of 15 billion dollars worth of Canadian-manufactured military equipment to the Saudi regime, one of the most repressive and obscurantist regimes on the face of the earth. Then there is France, Germany and the other European ‘democracies,’ all part of the same malevolent game. Why does terrorism exist? Because the West has helped create it, nurtured it and built repressive security systems on its back.

France’s 9/11

Bernard Fischer has referred to the attack on Charlie Hebdo as France’s own 9/11. (8) Fischer calls it the manifestation of a war of civilisations, two camps, each with its fanatics and martyrs. He notes that the source of the escalation of violence goes back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the war in Syria and almost 70 years of the (illegal) occupation of Palestinian lands. He warns with some foreboding that if this situation continues,’ attacks such as the one in Paris will take place in cities in the West and all the demonstrations of national unity, numerous though they be, will change nothing.’ In this respect, adds Fischer, ‘We are not Charlie; we are Gaza, Ramallah, Bagdad, Mossoul, Erbil, Alep, Kobané, Rakka, Yarmouk and Damascus’. Fischer also points to the failure of French security and intelligence to intercept the attackers and draws the parallel between their failure and that of U.S. authorities to head off the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Indeed, there are troubling anomalies concerning the Charlie Hebdo attack. It followed on the heels of the French National Assembly recognizing the principle of a Palestinian state and François Hollande’s call for lifting European restrictions against Russia. As noted, one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world appears to have had no knowledge of the impending attack. Were it not for the very fortunate fact that one of the attackers conveniently (perhaps too conveniently?) left his passport in the backseat of his car after changing his clothes, French authorities would not have been able to trace the Kouachi brothers to an international watch list. It reminds one of the very fortunate circumstance of finding Mohammed Atta’s passport at Ground Zero in 2001, still intact when everything else around it had been burnt to a crisp when the twin towers fell to the ground

Whether or not one believes the attack to have been carried out by militant islamists or to have been a false flag operation undertaken by a foreign secret service, one thing is certain, the attack on Charlie Hebdo has caused a rise in popularity in the polls for François Hollande and the French government is likely to bring in draconian security measures in the wake of the attack. The Harper government in Canada has already announced that it will introduce a law in parliament increasing police powers as a result of an earlier attack by a lone gunman at the Canadian parliament and now the attack in Paris. This will be followed by governments elsewhere.

One can go all the way back to Rome when the triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus turned the revolt of the gladiators ( who were forced to turn back toward Rome when they discovered that the ship they had been expecting to take them to freedom in Africa had sailed away: Crassus had paid the captain handsomely so that he would depart with the ship) into an opportunity to terrorize the Roman population. The gladiators under Spartacus fled toward Rome, driven in that direction by Roman troops. In advance of the gladiators, agents provocateurs in Rome spread the word that the gladiators were advancing on Rome in order to destroy it. The Roman army subsequently disposed of the gladiators, Caesar, Pompey and Crassus were hailed as heroes and that marked the last nail in the coffin of the Roman republic.

There was the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 – blamed on the communists and Jews – which provided Hitler with the pretext for suspending Germany’s constitution and bringing in the draconian and xenophobic anti-Semitic laws which followed on the heels of the Reichstag incident. Terror is a useful tool in the hands of some politicians it would seem and sometimes one is left to wonder just who the terrorists really are.

These are good times for the military-industrial complex everywhere. Austerity will continue to provoke violence, violence will provide the context for increased security and the State will crack down on all forms of dissent which will be denounced as inciting to acts of terrorism. Fully militarized police will be called out to deal with the ‘insurgents.’ Or as Georges Bernanos wrote:

So it is that the Revolution has always been accomplished through the people though the people have rarely gained any profit by it. The Counter-Revolution will always be waged against them because they are unhappy and sometimes desperate. Desperation is contagious. Society accommodates its poor well enough as long as it can absorb its malcontents either in hospitals or in prisons. When the proportion of malcontents rises to a dangerous level, society calls on its police and opens its cemeteries. (9)

Liberty or License?

Should freedom of expression be considered an absolute, or must we impose constraints on it in those instances when it is construed as promoting hatred or being the expression of calumny? Certainly no one and no institution is beyond reproach and it is in the interests of the citizenry to see to it that their right to dissent and to criticize – which in our own country of Canada is enshrined in the Constitution – is not undermined by pressure groups, or by government for that matter. Nevertheless, under Sections 319 (1) and 319 (2) of the Criminal Code of Canada one can be charged with the dissemination of hate propaganda. (10). A similar restriction exists under U.S. law.

In Canada, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been challenged in court on several occasions on the grounds that it infringes upon the freedom of expression guaranteed in section 2(b) of the Charter.of Rights and Freedoms which is part of Canada’s 1982 amended constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada has consistently ruled in favour of placing some limits on the freedom of expression when it means limiting hate propaganda. The Supreme Court ruled that hate propaganda ‘presents a serious threat to society’ and that in other words, ‘respect for the dignity and equality of the individual, in particular as a member of a particular group, justifies the infringement on the freedom of expression…(11)

Norman Finkelstein has written a timely piece in which he states that Charlie Hebdo is sadism, not satire. Finkelstein draws a parallel between the caricatures of Muslims in Charlie Hebdo and that of Jews in Der Stürmer, a weekly German newspaper run by Julius Streicher in the 1930s known for its rabid, anti-Semitic portrayals of Jews and for its open support of the persecution of Jews in Germany. (Julius Streicher was tried at the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials, and was hanged because of the anti-Semitic cartoons he had published which were found to have incited crimes against humanity).

   What the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad achieved was “not satire,” and what they provoked was not “ideas,” Finkelstein said.

Satire is when one directs it either at oneself, causes his or her people to think twice about what they are doing and saying, or directs it at people who have power and privilege, he said.

“But when somebody is down and out, desperate, destitute, when you mock them, when you mock a homeless person, that is not satire,’’ Finkelstein said.

Finkelstein added that ‘some might argue that they have the right to mock even desperate and destitute people, and they probably have this right…But you also have the right to say ‘I don’t want to put it in my magazine … When you put it in, you are taking responsibility for it.” (12)

No one would argue that the staff at Charlie Hebdo deserved to die because they had maligned Muslims or had published derogatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, as Finkelstein notes. Streicher probably should not have been executed despite the nature of his cartoons. There were far worse culprits and a certain number of them – the crème de la crème of society, including some in the United States and Canada – played a key role in filling the coffers of Hitler’s NDSAP in the Thirties when their wish was to support a fascist bulwark against Soviet expansion and communism. To my knowledge, none of them were tried at Nürnberg. The fact remains, however, that the judgement against Streicher was a condemnation of the sardonic nature of his racist, violence-provoking cartoons. There is a difference between satire and demonization.

Charlie Hebdo does not choose to satirize but rather to demonize. It does so on the same basis of the republican racism (13) that marked the attitudes and behaviour of France’s imperial regime to North Africans and still reflects modern-day attitudes in France. (Perhaps we should remind people of what happened in Algeria under French rule.) Social and economic alienation does not make for good neighbours. No one likes to be spat upon with regularity.

There was an incident of self-censure at Charlie Hebdo in 2008, a rather interesting one in light of the call on the part of its staff and that of the Je suis Charlie chorists for freedom of expression as an absolute. In 2008 one of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, Maurice Sinet (known by the pen name of Siné ) was fired by the director (no longer at Charlie Hebdo) of Charlie Hebdo accused of having written an anti-Semitic statement.. (14) ( Siné, an avowed atheist,was none too kind in his cartoons toward any religion whether it be a question of the Christian, Jewish or Muslim religion. He did not pick his spots).

Siné had commented on a court appearance by Jean Sarkozy, son of Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been accused of leaving the scene of a traffic accident in which he had been involved. Jean Sarkozy was absolved by the court .It was a biting comment:

Jean Sarkozy, his father’s worthy son and already general advisor to the UMP, left (the court) almost to accolades following his trial for leaving the scene of an accident involving his scooter…It should be noted that the plaintiff is an Arab. That’s not all: he has declared that he wishes to convert to Judaism before marrying his fiancée, who is Jewish, and heiress to the founders of Darty. He’ll go far in life, that one! (15)

Philippe Val, then director of Charlie Febdo, fired Siné, stating that the cartoonist’s statement could be interpreted as being anti-Semitic in nature and that Charlie Hebdo did not want to be associated with anti-Semitism. There also seemed to be the possibility of the Sarkozy family suing Charlie Hebdo ( which was never confirmed). Siné took Charlie Hebdo to court for having been unjustifiably dismissed, won his trial and also triumphed over the appeal of Charlie Hebdo in court.. On November 10th, 2010 the French appeals court found Charlie Hebdo’s publisher guilty of abusive dismissal and awarded Siné 40, 000 euros in damages and compensation as a result of having been fired because of his article in the July 2nd, 2008 issue of Charlie Hebdo. (16)

In 2013, a former contributor to Charlie Hebdo by the name of Olivier Cyran, addressed a scathing letter condemning Charlie Hebdo for having become nothing more than an anti-Muslim rag. I include an excerpt from the letter because of its importance in respect to the question of the freedom of expression chanted by the Je suis Charlie chorists:

Racist? Charlie Hebdo was certainly no such thing at the time when I worked there. In any case, the idea that the mag would expose itself to such an accusation would have never occurred to me. There had, of course been some Francocentrism, as well as the editorials of Philippe Val. These latter were subject to a disturbing fixation, which worsened over the years, on the “Arabic-Muslim world”. This was depicted as an ocean of barbarism threatening, at any moment, to submerge the little island of high culture and democratic refinement that was, for him, Israel. But the boss’s obsessions remained confined to his column on page 3, and overflowed only rarely into the heart of the journal which, in those years, it seemed me, throbbed with reasonably well-oxygenated blood.

Scarcely had I walked out, wearied by the dictatorial behaviour and corrupt promotion practices of the employer, than the Twin Towers fell and Caroline Fourest arrived in your editorial team. This double catastrophe set off a process of ideological reformatting which would drive off your former readers and attract new ones – a cleaner readership, more interested in a light-hearted version of the “war on terror”  than the soft anarchy of [cartoonist] Gébé. Little by little, the wholesale denunciation of “beards”, veiled women and their imaginary accomplices became a central axis of your journalistic and satirical production. “Investigations” began to appear which accepted the wildest rumours as fact, like the so-called infiltration of the League of Human Rights (LDH) or European Social Forum (FSE) by a horde of bloodthirsty Salafists. The new impulse underway required the magazine to renounce the unruly attitude which had been its backbone up to then, and to form alliances with the most corrupt figures of the intellectual jet-set, such as Bernard-Henri Lévy or Antoine Sfeir, cosignatories in Charlie Hebdo of a grotesque “Manifesto of the Twelve against the New Islamic Totalitarianism”. Whoever could not see themselves in a worldview which opposed the civilized (Europeans) to obscurantists (Muslims) saw themselves quickly slapped with the label of “useful idiots” or “Islamo-leftists”. (17)

It would seem then that Charlie Hebdo, believes in total freedom of expression…except in certain circumstances. In effect, this apparent dichotomy mirrors the same pattern the government of François Hollande has chosen in its own interpretation of what constitutes the freedom of expression and the right to assembly in France. The French government had attempted to prosecute the president of the organization CAPJPO-EuroPalestine who had put a video on line showing a boycott action targeting Israel which had taken place. Under pressure from France’s pro-Israel lobby, the French government tried to use the court system to quash BDS in France. Olivia Zemor eventually won her case against the government but in the interval Olivia Zemor was attacked by members of France’s Jewish Defence league, a terrorist organization which is nevertheless perfectly legal in France (the JDL is listed as a terrorist organization by the FBI in Washington). She had been quietly seated at a café drinking a coffee when she was attacked, doused with a corrosive agent and then taken to hospital. A month later in July of 2012, the French writer Jacob Cohen, who has denounced the Mossad’s recruiting methods in France, was also attacked by JDL terrorists. (18) To my knowledge, no action was taken by the government of France against the JDL.

Not only is the JDL legal in France, but it is legal in Canada as well. As a matter of fact, a well-known member of the terrorist organization was part of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s entourage when Harper visited Israel last year. He was accompanied by some 208 people including cabinet ministers, members of parliament, officials from Jewish groups such as the B’nai Brith of Canada and evangelical Christians (Harper is himself an evangelical Christian). The group nicely reflects core elements of the coalition that Harper has built with the intention of placing him in power and keeping him there. Key to the religious wing of that coalition is a collection of socially conservative evangelicals, Jews and conservative Catholics. Progressive Jews and Catholics and mainline Protestants were not represented on the junket.’ (19) Julius Suraski, the events coordinator for the Jewish Defence League of Canada, was listed as being in the Prime Minister’s entourage as well.

In other words, the governments of France and Canada are quite comfortable with the presence of a terrorist organization as long as it is a ‘friendly’ one. There would likely be no great outburst if, say, a JDL member killed a Muslim. None of the politicians who shouted Je suis Charlie with such vigour would have done the same for a Muslim victim. That’s simply how it is.

I don’t remember hearing or seeing even one of these great humanists and advocates of the Rights of Man come forward to chant Je suis Gaza/ I am Gaza when Israel bombarded Gaza day after day during the summer of 2014 – in a manner which reminds one of the bombing of Guernica in 1936 – killing 2, 000 Palestinians, 70% of whom were defenceless civilians including hundreds of women and children. Gaza was left in ruins and even now the Gazans face inhuman living conditions brought on by a blockade which has lasted for almost eight years.

What was the response of these admirable politicians? Hamas are terrorists. It was necessary to destroy the tunnels. Israel has the right to defend itself. Apparently, the Palestinians have no such right even though international law recognizes that a civilian population under military occupation has the right to defend itself by the use of arms against the occupying military force (though not against a civilian population). Admirable humanists and defenders of freedom and the rule of law, our politicians in the West? Hardly, quite the opposite as a matter of fact.

What of the massacre of Rohinga Muslims by fanatical Buddhists in Myanmar? (20) The rise of Hindu fundamentalism? Nothing to say about Obama’s courting of the Hindu fundamentalist Prime Minister Modi of India? Modi, the chief minister of Gujara at the time,, was refused a visa to visit the United States in 2005 over allegations he had turned a blind eye or worse to deadly anti-Muslim riots in India’s western state three years earlier. But that’s alright now that the U.S. intends to forge a mutual security agreement with once non-aligned India in what must necessarily be viewed as an affront to China and Russia. Dangerous politics to say the least and certainly not a wise choice of foreign policy. (On the other hand, the decision to pursue diplomatic negotiations with Iran is a wise choice).

Nothing to say about right-wing Christian evangelicals and the belief in Creationism and the literal interpretation of the Parousia (the Second Coming)? How many Creationists does the Harper government harbour in its ranks? How about the Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Moishe Feiglin’s call to place the Palestinians in Gaza into internment camps so as to’ concentrate and exterminate’ them, this a crime under the Convention on Genocide? (21) Not one head of government anywhere in the West said one word about it.

Does anybody remember the vile act of hatred on the part of the American Pastor, Terry Jones who, in a very public fashion, burned the Koran and touched off a spate of killings including the killing of UN staff in Afghanistan in April of 2011, despite pleas by Barack Obama and NATO commander General David Petraeus who warned that such an action would endanger lives, particularly American lives in Afghanistan. (22)

Jones exercised his ‘freedom of expression’ and burned the Koran anyway. To my knowledge there was no serious outcry from any Western leaders. No one took to the streets to denounce Christian fundamentalism, especially not Stephen Harper. Not the same as Charlie Hebdo? Perhaps. Certainly far more ‘in your face’ as far as provocation goes, but the hatred in the Charlie Hebdo cartoon is also palpable and was just as liable to touch off the type of violence sparked by the action of Terry Jones. Freedom of expression comes with a caveat and that caveat comes in the form of the old biblical adage: As ye sow, so shall ye reap. The problem is that it is often innocent people who reap what malevolent individuals have sown, especially when those malevolent individuals hold positions of power. Charlie Hebdo is not an isolated incident: it is Iraq, Syria, Libya, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, drones that kill a wedding party or an entire family gathered for a family meal. As Bernard Fischer has suggested: the chickens are coming home to roost; they will continue to come home to roost, not for weeks, not for months, but for years to come.

State fascism versus clerical fascism

The truth of the matter is that there are no ‘good guys’ in this story. The malevolence of Western imperial aims in the Middle East, riding as it does on the back of globalization and islamophobia, has stoked the fires of the clerical fascism which looks back at it from the mirror. For what we have here is State fascism versus clerical fascism; it is a dialectic of evil but a dialectic nonetheless. The attack on democratic institutions, the intention to reinvent the State on the basis of a rigidly hierarchical fascist notion of society is what drives the one or two percent of the population that dictates government policy in the West. This is the corporate agenda with its mask off. It involves the amalgam of the power of the State and the power of the corporation (as Benito Mussolini planned it to be).. That is what drives globalization. As for doing away with democracy, that is not as difficult as it may seem provided one has a’ Second Pearl Harbour’ with which to launch a movement meant to do away with democracy altogether. Hermann Goering said as much to Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking psychologist, at the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials which took place at the end of World War Two:

Why of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. (23)

 

It is for all the reasons stipulated above that PAJU will not join the Je suis Charlie chorists. We will not be kin to an enormous lie, depravity disguised as a ‘civilizing mission.’ We at PAJU state emphatically: PAJU is not Charlie!

Bruce Katz

January 31st   2015

http://www.pajumontreal.org

 

 

1.Seymour M. Hersh, ‘The Redirection,’ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection

 2.Ibid.

3.Nafeez Ahmed, ‘How the West Created ISIS’

4.Ibid.

5.Ibid.

  1. http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-         own-more-all-rest-2016
  2. *http://www.alternet.org/world/how-israeli-high-tech-firms-are-turning-us-mexico-border-new-kind-hell
  3. Bernard Fischer, http://www.fischer02003.over-blog.com/2015/01/le-onze-septembre-francais.html
  4. Georges Bernanos, « Les grands cimetières sous la lune » Librairie Plon, 1938, nouvelle impression par Novoprint, mai 1995, n0. 25378-2. The passage translated by the author of this paper reads as such in the original French :

« Ainsi la Révolution s’est toujours faite avec les pauvres, bien que les pauvres en aient rarement tire grand profit. La contre-révolution se fera toujours contre eux, parce que’ils sont malcontents, et parfois même déespérés. Or le désespoir est contagieux. La Scoiété s’accommode assez bien de ses pauvres, auusi  longtemps  qu’elle peut absorber les malcontents soit dans les hôpitaux, soit dans les prisons. Lorsque la proportion des malcontents s’augmente dangereusement elle appelle ses gendarmes et ouvre en plein ses cimetières.»  (page 175)

  1. See http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2010-31-e.htm
  2. Ibid.
  3. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40766.htm
  4. See Pierre Tévanien, Le racisme républicain, réflexions sur le modèle français de discrimination, l’Esprit Frappeur, 75020, Paris, 2001.
  5. Siné viré, Charlie Hebdo en deuil, Philippe Val dans la tourmente : http://rue89.nouvelobs.com/2008/07/17/sine-vire-charlie-hebdo-en-deuil-philippe-val-dans-la-tourmente
  6. 15.
  7. http://archives-lepost.huffingtonpost.fr/article/2011/01/15/2372075_sine-gagne-ses-proces-eric-ciotti-nie-avec-cynisme-le-role-du-juge-jean-louis-nadal-s-exprime
  8. ‘Charlie Hebdo not racist? If you say so…’ http://posthypnotic.randomstatic.net/charliehebdo/Charlie_Hebdo_article%2011.htm
  9. http://oumma.com/13341/olivia-zemor-presidente-de-capjpo-europalestine-agress
  10. http://www.dennisgruending.ca/2014/01/stephen-harper-in-israel-politics-and-flawed-principle/
  11. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/un-dozens-of-rohingya-muslims-massacred-by-buddhists-in-rakhine-burma/
  12. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/concentrate-and-exterminate-israel-parliament-deputy-speakers-gaza-genocide-plan
  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/02/pastor-terry-jones-burning-koran
  1. http://www.snopes.com/quotes/goering.asp

 

WHY PAJU IS NOT CHARLIE

By

Bruce Katz*

  • Bruce Katz is a founding member and current president of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), a Montreal-based human rights organizationImmediately following upon the heels of the attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris, there were calls from some quarters for Palestinian and Jewish Unity to jump on the bandwagon of the ‘Je suis Charlie’ movement, this as a knee-jerk reaction with no reference to what might be the underlying causes of the attack nor any debate on where liberty and license part. PAJU has chosen to analyse the situation with some circumspect. Hence the delayed response.Nowhere among the Je suis Charlie chorists has there been any expression of concern over cause; the chorus refers only to effect. Had these chorists been more circumspect, they would have  made some reference to the manner in which the neo-cons in Washington have manufactured the rise of Sunni-salafist  (Wahabe) extremism as a geo-political tool for reshaping the Middle East with a view to ensuring U.S.(and Israeli)  hegemony in the Middle East with disastrous results both for the region and for the world at large.The Hersh article refers to the decision taken by the Bush White House (working primarily through the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney) to ally itself with elements of Al Qaeda supported logistically by Saudi Arabia in order to destabilize Syria as the key to weakening the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance, Iran being the principal target. As stated by Hersh:
  • In 2007, the eminent journalist Seymour Hersh published an article in The New Yorker (1) in which he took a close look at a new direction which the then Bush administration had decided to pursue, a direction not entirely unrelated to the theoretical notions put forth by the right-wing think-tank The Plan for the New American Century (1997), the members of whom would acquire positions of power within the Bush administration as of the year 2000.
  • PAJU  has and will continue to denounce all attacks against civilians and acts of terrorism, be they state-sponsored or the acts of individuals or groups. We feel for the victims of the violence and express our sympathies to their families and associates. The attacks against Charlie Hebdo and against the kosher bakery in Paris cannot be justified; no one can claim any moral stance for  killing people in the name of God, no matter what the religion. The question begs asking: ‘What are the root causes of the rise of religious zealotry?’Whence comes the rise of Islamic fundamentalism that has seen the development of the Islamic State for the Levant (ISIS) and a growing zealotry among some youth? This phenomenon is not something that has just popped up out of nowhere; it has had a catalyst.
  •  

         To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda. (2)

In other words, the Bush administration made a choice between diplomatic relations with Iran and Saudi-sponsored Sunni extremist elements and decided that it was in U.S. interests to support Al Qaeda as a weapon to be used against Iran. Ironically, Iran has continued to battle Al Qaeda within its own borders while the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Koweit, Turkey and Jordan have been supporting Al Qaeda. (Most of the attacks against American targets in Iraq were undertaken by Sunni militants who hate the Shiites but hate the Americans more). In other words, the Islamic fundamentalist movements in the Middle East and Africa are part of a planned chaos meant to destabilize regions which can then be democratized, and who better to democratize them and look out for their energy and mineral resources than the Western ‘democracies?’

The Saudis did not count on losing control of the situation and now they are staring down the barrel of the gun that they themselves loaded. ( Riyadh hastily removed Prince Bandar, principal architect of the rise of ISIS in Syria, as a first step to dealing with a situation which was now out of their control.) As for the Western ‘democracies,’ it is blowback on a massive scale. The representatives of these pillars of liberty and democracy are now on their way to Saudi Arabia to pay homage to the late King Abdallah. In a statement rich with irony, President Obama called Abdallah ‘a loyal ally in the fight against terrorism.’ Yet , it is clear that Saudi Arabia is the cradle of salafist extremism going back to their support – along with the CIA and the Pakistani Secret Service – for the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan.

As noted above, the seeds of this geo-political scheme were first planted by the neo-cons close to George W. Bush in The Plan for the New American Century. These strategists noted that in order to undertake the ‘restructuring’ of the energy-rich Middle East, a catalyst –a second Pearl Harbor – would be necessary as a pretext to attack and destabilize regimes; otherwise, the American public and the world at large would never accept it. The second Pearl Harbor came along quite conveniently on September 11th, 2001 with the attack on the World Trade Center.

Interestingly. in August of 2001 Israeli intelligence informed the Bush White House that a cell of around 200 jihadists were operating inside the United States and that ‘something big’ was being planned. Yet the Bush administration ignored it. A question of incompetence or rather the recognition that the opportunity for a second Pearl Harbor was on the way? Were U.S. authorities already aware of the impending attack even before Israeli intelligence informed them?

What 9/11 provided the neo-cons in Washington was the justification for the illegal attack on Iraq. Islamapobia – carefully crafted with malice aforethought and with the aid of a supine and indolent corporate media – was the opium needed to shape public opinion, silence critics and bring in draconian legislation which undermined constitutional democracy and the rule of law. Ergo, ’restructuration’ and islamophobia go hand-in-hand The tragic attack on Charlie Hebdo has deep roots; they go all the way back to The Plan for the New American Century and 9/11. Unfortunately,, the Obama adminstration’s foreign policy has simply turned out to be the continuation of the neo-con agenda.

Despite claims to the contrary, operations within Syria and Iraq (using Al Qaeda as proxy ) were meant to partition those two countries into religious and ethnic regions with a two-fold aim: eliminate Syria as an entity thereby weakening Iran for the benefit of Israel and Saudi Arabia and create a bevy of weak, disorganized states ensuring Israel’s continued hegemony in the region. It would also mean unrestricted access to the oil supplies of the Persian Gulf area for the United States. In his article ‘How the West Created ISIS’, Nafeez Ahmed notes that the U.S., Israel and Jordan were quietly ‘backing the mixed bag of some 30 Syrian rebel factions…’ (3) Some of those factions have turned out to be ISIS fighters. (ISIS was originally founded in Iraq in October 2006, but by 2013 it had significantly expanded its operations in Syria working alongside al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra until February 2014, when ISIS was formally denounced by Al-Qaeda).

“Israel acted as a member, along with the US and Jordan, of a support system for rebel groups fighting in southern Syria. Their efforts are coordinated through a war-room which the Pentagon established last year near Amman. The US, Jordanian and Israeli officers manning the facility determine in consultation which rebel factions are provided with reinforcements from the special training camps run for Syrian rebels in Jordan, and which will receive arms. All three governments understand perfectly that, notwithstanding all their precautions, some of their military assistance is bound to percolate to al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is fighting in rebel ranks. Neither Washington or Jerusalem or Amman would be comfortable in admitting they are arming al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in southern Syria.” (4)

What is more, a training center for the Salafist rebels was set up in Jordan and logistical support was provided by Turkish authorities as well as safe passage through Turkey. France helped train the Al Qaeda-linked rebels along with US and British forces in Jordan, ‘Fighters from Europe, Russia, Asian countries and Chechnya are going in large numbers both to Syria and Iraq, crossing from Turkish territory. There is information that at least 1,000 Turkish nationals are helping those foreign fighters sneak into Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is allegedly involved’. (5) As well, the Turkish government has been bringing millions into its own coffers by acting as middleman for the sale of oil controlled by ISIS in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq and shipped from Turkish ports.. Further still, Turkey has stood by and watched while ISIS attacks the Kurds in in the north; Erdogan sees ISIS as a tool for destroying the Kurdish independence movement.

The U.S.-NATO led dirty war using proxy salafists in Iraq and Syria has been nothing short of genocidal: millions dead, millions displaced, But if millions of human beings can be considered ‘collateral damage’ by malevolent oligarchs and the political classes who attend them, then how much less significant the deaths of a few individuals in Paris? And if societies throughout the world now turn on each other as the result of the confrontation carefully planned and put into execution by a new Thousand Year Corporate Reich, so what? The racist Right will pick up the slack and immigrants, especially Muslims, will pay for it. The good news is that by 2016, one per cent of the world’s population will possess more wealth than the other ninety-nine per cent of humanity! (6)  That’s what globalization was about from the outset.

Few observers trace the links in the chain leading from globalization to increased militarism, religious zealotry and the rise of the security-surveillance state. The conditionality imposed on governments by way of the World Bank’s usury arm, the International Monetary Fund, is at the root of the austerity measures which have impoverished countries across the globe. This in turn creates a situation where the social fabric of society unravels, where there is consequently civil unrest and organized movements to unseat unpopular and often authoritarian regimes from power. This in turn creates the need on the part of ruling elites to increase and arm security forces resulting in greater police powers and draconian anti-democratic legislation, all of which tends to add fuel to the fire. Defending the nation against terrorism – created by the economic and social conditions spurred by globalization – is the necessary component to win popular assent for the security-surveillance state.

People wonder how it is that Israel, for example, can continue to practise its state-sponsored terrorism and systematic expropriation of Palestinian land with such impunity while the so-called ‘international community’ looks on with tacit complicity. It is often argued that this is entirely due to the influence of the Israel lobby on legislators – AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in the United States, for example. This is true to some degree. How then, does one explain support (or tacit complicity) on the part of nations where the Israel lobby is not significant? The answer is found in the fact that Israel is a major exporter of weapons systems and security services. Ruling elites require these weapons and security services for the reasons just mentioned. Israel provides training for numerous police forces in the world; Israel provides security systems for airports. An Israeli company will be overseeing security arrangements for Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Games, this to keep the favelas quiet. The ruling class doesn’t want those poor people disrupting the party! In effect, those poor Brazilians living in the favelas are being ‘Palestinianized.’ The police force has been ‘Israelized.’

As Israel has constructed a separation wall to isolate Palestinians and expropriate their most fertile agricultural terrains, it is now exporting the same technology to build fortress walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. In another version of the maquiladoras, poorly-paid Mexican workers will manufacture the components of the surveillance maximum-security system which will resemble Israel’s apartheid wall. (7) Gaza and the West Bank have provided the laboratory.  That is how Israel exports the Occupation.

Why is it that giants like China and India do no more than offer rhetoric rather than sanctions when it comes to Israel? The fact of the matter is that Israel – the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world – is the second largest exporter of weaponry to China and India after Russia. Beyond Israel’s tech industry, it has three main industries: diamonds (including blood diamonds from West Africa), arms sales and exporting security systems and services. This is what really wags the dog. In that respect, as Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions has expressed it, Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories is also a resource, the necessary tool to enable Israel’s military-industrial complex to keep on keeping-on and even to expand; the Occupation also provides a laboratory for Israel’s new weaponry to be tested on helpless Palestinian civilians as was the case in Gaza during the summer of 2014. You won’t see any of that satirized in Charlie Hebdo.. War crimes? Yes, they are. But it’s easy enough to accuse entire civilian populations of being terrorists when you have a servile mainstream media to make the claim a fait accompli.

As for Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Wahabe fundamentalism (which has nothing to do with mainstream Islam and for whom all other Muslims are apostate), it receives massive military aid from the United States. The United Kingdom sells some 1.6 billion dollars worth of arms to the Saudis and there are approximately 200 British companies sharing in joint-venture projects worth some 17 billion dollars with Saudi Arabia. Canada’s Harper government– the same government that trumpets its concern for human rights and democracy, the same government that exploits islamaphobia for political ends, the same government which lends support for Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks on Palestinian civilians, the same government of hypocrites who shouted Je suis Charlie in unison with the other chorists, the same government which is about to introduce anti-terrorism legislation in Parliament – has approved export permits for the shipment of 15 billion dollars worth of Canadian-manufactured military equipment to the Saudi regime, one of the most repressive and obscurantist regimes on the face of the earth. Then there is France, Germany and the other European ‘democracies,’ all part of the same malevolent game. Why does terrorism exist? Because the West has helped create it, nurtured it and built repressive security systems on its back.

France’s 9/11

Bernard Fischer has referred to the attack on Charlie Hebdo as France’s own 9/11. (8) Fischer calls it the manifestation of a war of civilisations, two camps, each with its fanatics and martyrs. He notes that the source of the escalation of violence goes back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the war in Syria and almost 70 years of the (illegal) occupation of Palestinian lands. He warns with some foreboding that if this situation continues,’ attacks such as the one in Paris will take place in cities in the West and all the demonstrations of national unity, numerous though they be, will change nothing.’ In this respect, adds Fischer, ‘We are not Charlie; we are Gaza, Ramallah, Bagdad, Mossoul, Erbil, Alep, Kobané, Rakka, Yarmouk and Damascus’. Fischer also points to the failure of French security and intelligence to intercept the attackers and draws the parallel between their failure and that of U.S. authorities to head off the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Indeed, there are troubling anomalies concerning the Charlie Hebdo attack. It followed on the heels of the French National Assembly recognizing the principle of a Palestinian state and François Hollande’s call for lifting European restrictions against Russia. As noted, one of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world appears to have had no knowledge of the impending attack. Were it not for the very fortunate fact that one of the attackers conveniently (perhaps too conveniently?) left his passport in the backseat of his car after changing his clothes, French authorities would not have been able to trace the Kouachi brothers to an international watch list. It reminds one of the very fortunate circumstance of finding Mohammed Atta’s passport at Ground Zero in 2001, still intact when everything else around it had been burnt to a crisp when the twin towers fell to the ground

Whether or not one believes the attack to have been carried out by militant islamists or to have been a false flag operation undertaken by a foreign secret service, one thing is certain, the attack on Charlie Hebdo has caused a rise in popularity in the polls for François Hollande and the French government is likely to bring in draconian security measures in the wake of the attack. The Harper government in Canada has already announced that it will introduce a law in parliament increasing police powers as a result of an earlier attack by a lone gunman at the Canadian parliament and now the attack in Paris. This will be followed by governments elsewhere.

One can go all the way back to Rome when the triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus turned the revolt of the gladiators ( who were forced to turn back toward Rome when they discovered that the ship they had been expecting to take them to freedom in Africa had sailed away: Crassus had paid the captain handsomely so that he would depart with the ship) into an opportunity to terrorize the Roman population. The gladiators under Spartacus fled toward Rome, driven in that direction by Roman troops. In advance of the gladiators, agents provocateurs in Rome spread the word that the gladiators were advancing on Rome in order to destroy it. The Roman army subsequently disposed of the gladiators, Caesar, Pompey and Crassus were hailed as heroes and that marked the last nail in the coffin of the Roman republic.

There was the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 – blamed on the communists and Jews – which provided Hitler with the pretext for suspending Germany’s constitution and bringing in the draconian and xenophobic anti-Semitic laws which followed on the heels of the Reichstag incident. Terror is a useful tool in the hands of some politicians it would seem and sometimes one is left to wonder just who the terrorists really are.

These are good times for the military-industrial complex everywhere. Austerity will continue to provoke violence, violence will provide the context for increased security and the State will crack down on all forms of dissent which will be denounced as inciting to acts of terrorism. Fully militarized police will be called out to deal with the ‘insurgents.’ Or as Georges Bernanos wrote:

So it is that the Revolution has always been accomplished through the people though the people have rarely gained any profit by it. The Counter-Revolution will always be waged against them because they are unhappy and sometimes desperate. Desperation is contagious. Society accommodates its poor well enough as long as it can absorb its malcontents either in hospitals or in prisons. When the proportion of malcontents rises to a dangerous level, society calls on its police and opens its cemeteries. (9)

Liberty or License?

Should freedom of expression be considered an absolute, or must we impose constraints on it in those instances when it is construed as promoting hatred or being the expression of calumny? Certainly no one and no institution is beyond reproach and it is in the interests of the citizenry to see to it that their right to dissent and to criticize – which in our own country of Canada is enshrined in the Constitution – is not undermined by pressure groups, or by government for that matter. Nevertheless, under Sections 319 (1) and 319 (2) of the Criminal Code of Canada one can be charged with the dissemination of hate propaganda. (10). A similar restriction exists under U.S. law.

In Canada, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been challenged in court on several occasions on the grounds that it infringes upon the freedom of expression guaranteed in section 2(b) of the Charter.of Rights and Freedoms which is part of Canada’s 1982 amended constitution. The Supreme Court of Canada has consistently ruled in favour of placing some limits on the freedom of expression when it means limiting hate propaganda. The Supreme Court ruled that hate propaganda ‘presents a serious threat to society’ and that in other words, ‘respect for the dignity and equality of the individual, in particular as a member of a particular group, justifies the infringement on the freedom of expression…(11)

Norman Finkelstein has written a timely piece in which he states that Charlie Hebdo is sadism, not satire. Finkelstein draws a parallel between the caricatures of Muslims in Charlie Hebdo and that of Jews in Der Stürmer, a weekly German newspaper run by Julius Streicher in the 1930s known for its rabid, anti-Semitic portrayals of Jews and for its open support of the persecution of Jews in Germany. (Julius Streicher was tried at the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials, and was hanged because of the anti-Semitic cartoons he had published which were found to have incited crimes against humanity).

   What the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad achieved was “not satire,” and what they provoked was not “ideas,” Finkelstein said.

Satire is when one directs it either at oneself, causes his or her people to think twice about what they are doing and saying, or directs it at people who have power and privilege, he said.

“But when somebody is down and out, desperate, destitute, when you mock them, when you mock a homeless person, that is not satire,’’ Finkelstein said.

Finkelstein added that ‘some might argue that they have the right to mock even desperate and destitute people, and they probably have this right…But you also have the right to say ‘I don’t want to put it in my magazine … When you put it in, you are taking responsibility for it.” (12)

No one would argue that the staff at Charlie Hebdo deserved to die because they had maligned Muslims or had published derogatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, as Finkelstein notes. Streicher probably should not have been executed despite the nature of his cartoons. There were far worse culprits and a certain number of them – the crème de la crème of society, including some in the United States and Canada – played a key role in filling the coffers of Hitler’s NDSAP in the Thirties when their wish was to support a fascist bulwark against Soviet expansion and communism. To my knowledge, none of them were tried at Nürnberg. The fact remains, however, that the judgement against Streicher was a condemnation of the sardonic nature of his racist, violence-provoking cartoons. There is a difference between satire and demonization.

Charlie Hebdo does not choose to satirize but rather to demonize. It does so on the same basis of the republican racism (13) that marked the attitudes and behaviour of France’s imperial regime to North Africans and still reflects modern-day attitudes in France. (Perhaps we should remind people of what happened in Algeria under French rule.) Social and economic alienation does not make for good neighbours. No one likes to be spat upon with regularity.

There was an incident of self-censure at Charlie Hebdo in 2008, a rather interesting one in light of the call on the part of its staff and that of the Je suis Charlie chorists for freedom of expression as an absolute. In 2008 one of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, Maurice Sinet (known by the pen name of Siné ) was fired by the director (no longer at Charlie Hebdo) of Charlie Hebdo accused of having written an anti-Semitic statement.. (14) ( Siné, an avowed atheist,was none too kind in his cartoons toward any religion whether it be a question of the Christian, Jewish or Muslim religion. He did not pick his spots).

Siné had commented on a court appearance by Jean Sarkozy, son of Nicolas Sarkozy, who had been accused of leaving the scene of a traffic accident in which he had been involved. Jean Sarkozy was absolved by the court .It was a biting comment:

Jean Sarkozy, his father’s worthy son and already general advisor to the UMP, left (the court) almost to accolades following his trial for leaving the scene of an accident involving his scooter…It should be noted that the plaintiff is an Arab. That’s not all: he has declared that he wishes to convert to Judaism before marrying his fiancée, who is Jewish, and heiress to the founders of Darty. He’ll go far in life, that one! (15)

Philippe Val, then director of Charlie Febdo, fired Siné, stating that the cartoonist’s statement could be interpreted as being anti-Semitic in nature and that Charlie Hebdo did not want to be associated with anti-Semitism. There also seemed to be the possibility of the Sarkozy family suing Charlie Hebdo ( which was never confirmed). Siné took Charlie Hebdo to court for having been unjustifiably dismissed, won his trial and also triumphed over the appeal of Charlie Hebdo in court.. On November 10th, 2010 the French appeals court found Charlie Hebdo’s publisher guilty of abusive dismissal and awarded Siné 40, 000 euros in damages and compensation as a result of having been fired because of his article in the July 2nd, 2008 issue of Charlie Hebdo. (16)

In 2013, a former contributor to Charlie Hebdo by the name of Olivier Cyran, addressed a scathing letter condemning Charlie Hebdo for having become nothing more than an anti-Muslim rag. I include an excerpt from the letter because of its importance in respect to the question of the freedom of expression chanted by the Je suis Charlie chorists:

Racist? Charlie Hebdo was certainly no such thing at the time when I worked there. In any case, the idea that the mag would expose itself to such an accusation would have never occurred to me. There had, of course been some Francocentrism, as well as the editorials of Philippe Val. These latter were subject to a disturbing fixation, which worsened over the years, on the “Arabic-Muslim world”. This was depicted as an ocean of barbarism threatening, at any moment, to submerge the little island of high culture and democratic refinement that was, for him, Israel. But the boss’s obsessions remained confined to his column on page 3, and overflowed only rarely into the heart of the journal which, in those years, it seemed me, throbbed with reasonably well-oxygenated blood.

Scarcely had I walked out, wearied by the dictatorial behaviour and corrupt promotion practices of the employer, than the Twin Towers fell and Caroline Fourest arrived in your editorial team. This double catastrophe set off a process of ideological reformatting which would drive off your former readers and attract new ones – a cleaner readership, more interested in a light-hearted version of the “war on terror”  than the soft anarchy of [cartoonist] Gébé. Little by little, the wholesale denunciation of “beards”, veiled women and their imaginary accomplices became a central axis of your journalistic and satirical production. “Investigations” began to appear which accepted the wildest rumours as fact, like the so-called infiltration of the League of Human Rights (LDH) or European Social Forum (FSE) by a horde of bloodthirsty Salafists. The new impulse underway required the magazine to renounce the unruly attitude which had been its backbone up to then, and to form alliances with the most corrupt figures of the intellectual jet-set, such as Bernard-Henri Lévy or Antoine Sfeir, cosignatories in Charlie Hebdo of a grotesque “Manifesto of the Twelve against the New Islamic Totalitarianism”. Whoever could not see themselves in a worldview which opposed the civilized (Europeans) to obscurantists (Muslims) saw themselves quickly slapped with the label of “useful idiots” or “Islamo-leftists”. (17)

It would seem then that Charlie Hebdo, believes in total freedom of expression…except in certain circumstances. In effect, this apparent dichotomy mirrors the same pattern the government of François Hollande has chosen in its own interpretation of what constitutes the freedom of expression and the right to assembly in France. The French government had attempted to prosecute the president of the organization CAPJPO-EuroPalestine who had put a video on line showing a boycott action targeting Israel which had taken place. Under pressure from France’s pro-Israel lobby, the French government tried to use the court system to quash BDS in France. Olivia Zemor eventually won her case against the government but in the interval Olivia Zemor was attacked by members of France’s Jewish Defence league, a terrorist organization which is nevertheless perfectly legal in France (the JDL is listed as a terrorist organization by the FBI in Washington). She had been quietly seated at a café drinking a coffee when she was attacked, doused with a corrosive agent and then taken to hospital. A month later in July of 2012, the French writer Jacob Cohen, who has denounced the Mossad’s recruiting methods in France, was also attacked by JDL terrorists. (18) To my knowledge, no action was taken by the government of France against the JDL.

Not only is the JDL legal in France, but it is legal in Canada as well. As a matter of fact, a well-known member of the terrorist organization was part of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s entourage when Harper visited Israel last year. He was accompanied by some 208 people including cabinet ministers, members of parliament, officials from Jewish groups such as the B’nai Brith of Canada and evangelical Christians (Harper is himself an evangelical Christian). The group nicely reflects core elements of the coalition that Harper has built with the intention of placing him in power and keeping him there. Key to the religious wing of that coalition is a collection of socially conservative evangelicals, Jews and conservative Catholics. Progressive Jews and Catholics and mainline Protestants were not represented on the junket.’ (19) Julius Suraski, the events coordinator for the Jewish Defence League of Canada, was listed as being in the Prime Minister’s entourage as well.

In other words, the governments of France and Canada are quite comfortable with the presence of a terrorist organization as long as it is a ‘friendly’ one. There would likely be no great outburst if, say, a JDL member killed a Muslim. None of the politicians who shouted Je suis Charlie with such vigour would have done the same for a Muslim victim. That’s simply how it is.

I don’t remember hearing or seeing even one of these great humanists and advocates of the Rights of Man come forward to chant Je suis Gaza/ I am Gaza when Israel bombarded Gaza day after day during the summer of 2014 – in a manner which reminds one of the bombing of Guernica in 1936 – killing 2, 000 Palestinians, 70% of whom were defenceless civilians including hundreds of women and children. Gaza was left in ruins and even now the Gazans face inhuman living conditions brought on by a blockade which has lasted for almost eight years.

What was the response of these admirable politicians? Hamas are terrorists. It was necessary to destroy the tunnels. Israel has the right to defend itself. Apparently, the Palestinians have no such right even though international law recognizes that a civilian population under military occupation has the right to defend itself by the use of arms against the occupying military force (though not against a civilian population). Admirable humanists and defenders of freedom and the rule of law, our politicians in the West? Hardly, quite the opposite as a matter of fact.

What of the massacre of Rohinga Muslims by fanatical Buddhists in Myanmar? (20) The rise of Hindu fundamentalism? Nothing to say about Obama’s courting of the Hindu fundamentalist Prime Minister Modi of India? Modi, the chief minister of Gujara at the time,, was refused a visa to visit the United States in 2005 over allegations he had turned a blind eye or worse to deadly anti-Muslim riots in India’s western state three years earlier. But that’s alright now that the U.S. intends to forge a mutual security agreement with once non-aligned India in what must necessarily be viewed as an affront to China and Russia. Dangerous politics to say the least and certainly not a wise choice of foreign policy. (On the other hand, the decision to pursue diplomatic negotiations with Iran is a wise choice).

Nothing to say about right-wing Christian evangelicals and the belief in Creationism and the literal interpretation of the Parousia (the Second Coming)? How many Creationists does the Harper government harbour in its ranks? How about the Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Moishe Feiglin’s call to place the Palestinians in Gaza into internment camps so as to’ concentrate and exterminate’ them, this a crime under the Convention on Genocide? (21) Not one head of government anywhere in the West said one word about it.

Does anybody remember the vile act of hatred on the part of the American Pastor, Terry Jones who, in a very public fashion, burned the Koran and touched off a spate of killings including the killing of UN staff in Afghanistan in April of 2011, despite pleas by Barack Obama and NATO commander General David Petraeus who warned that such an action would endanger lives, particularly American lives in Afghanistan. (22)

Jones exercised his ‘freedom of expression’ and burned the Koran anyway. To my knowledge there was no serious outcry from any Western leaders. No one took to the streets to denounce Christian fundamentalism, especially not Stephen Harper. Not the same as Charlie Hebdo? Perhaps. Certainly far more ‘in your face’ as far as provocation goes, but the hatred in the Charlie Hebdo cartoon is also palpable and was just as liable to touch off the type of violence sparked by the action of Terry Jones. Freedom of expression comes with a caveat and that caveat comes in the form of the old biblical adage: As ye sow, so shall ye reap. The problem is that it is often innocent people who reap what malevolent individuals have sown, especially when those malevolent individuals hold positions of power. Charlie Hebdo is not an isolated incident: it is Iraq, Syria, Libya, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, drones that kill a wedding party or an entire family gathered for a family meal. As Bernard Fischer has suggested: the chickens are coming home to roost; they will continue to come home to roost, not for weeks, not for months, but for years to come.

State fascism versus clerical fascism

The truth of the matter is that there are no ‘good guys’ in this story. The malevolence of Western imperial aims in the Middle East, riding as it does on the back of globalization and islamophobia, has stoked the fires of the clerical fascism which looks back at it from the mirror. For what we have here is State fascism versus clerical fascism; it is a dialectic of evil but a dialectic nonetheless. The attack on democratic institutions, the intention to reinvent the State on the basis of a rigidly hierarchical fascist notion of society is what drives the one or two percent of the population that dictates government policy in the West. This is the corporate agenda with its mask off. It involves the amalgam of the power of the State and the power of the corporation (as Benito Mussolini planned it to be).. That is what drives globalization. As for doing away with democracy, that is not as difficult as it may seem provided one has a’ Second Pearl Harbour’ with which to launch a movement meant to do away with democracy altogether. Hermann Goering said as much to Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking psychologist, at the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials which took place at the end of World War Two:

Why of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. (23)

 

It is for all the reasons stipulated above that PAJU will not join the Je suis Charlie chorists. We will not be kin to an enormous lie, depravity disguised as a ‘civilizing mission.’ We at PAJU state emphatically: PAJU is not Charlie!

Bruce Katz

January 31st   2015

http://www.pajumontreal.org

 

 

1.Seymour M. Hersh, ‘The Redirection,’ http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection

 2.Ibid.

3.Nafeez Ahmed, ‘How the West Created ISIS’

4.Ibid.

5.Ibid.

  1. http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-         own-more-all-rest-2016
  2. *http://www.alternet.org/world/how-israeli-high-tech-firms-are-turning-us-mexico-border-new-kind-hell
  3. Bernard Fischer, http://www.fischer02003.over-blog.com/2015/01/le-onze-septembre-francais.html
  4. Georges Bernanos, « Les grands cimetières sous la lune » Librairie Plon, 1938, nouvelle impression par Novoprint, mai 1995, n0. 25378-2. The passage translated by the author of this paper reads as such in the original French :

« Ainsi la Révolution s’est toujours faite avec les pauvres, bien que les pauvres en aient rarement tire grand profit. La contre-révolution se fera toujours contre eux, parce que’ils sont malcontents, et parfois même déespérés. Or le désespoir est contagieux. La Scoiété s’accommode assez bien de ses pauvres, auusi  longtemps  qu’elle peut absorber les malcontents soit dans les hôpitaux, soit dans les prisons. Lorsque la proportion des malcontents s’augmente dangereusement elle appelle ses gendarmes et ouvre en plein ses cimetières.»  (page 175)

  1. See http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2010-31-e.htm
  2. Ibid.
  3. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40766.htm
  4. See Pierre Tévanien, Le racisme républicain, réflexions sur le modèle français de discrimination, l’Esprit Frappeur, 75020, Paris, 2001.
  5. Siné viré, Charlie Hebdo en deuil, Philippe Val dans la tourmente : http://rue89.nouvelobs.com/2008/07/17/sine-vire-charlie-hebdo-en-deuil-philippe-val-dans-la-tourmente
  6. 15.
  7. http://archives-lepost.huffingtonpost.fr/article/2011/01/15/2372075_sine-gagne-ses-proces-eric-ciotti-nie-avec-cynisme-le-role-du-juge-jean-louis-nadal-s-exprime
  8. ‘Charlie Hebdo not racist? If you say so…’ http://posthypnotic.randomstatic.net/charliehebdo/Charlie_Hebdo_article%2011.htm
  9. http://oumma.com/13341/olivia-zemor-presidente-de-capjpo-europalestine-agress
  10. http://www.dennisgruending.ca/2014/01/stephen-harper-in-israel-politics-and-flawed-principle/
  11. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/un-dozens-of-rohingya-muslims-massacred-by-buddhists-in-rakhine-burma/
  12. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/concentrate-and-exterminate-israel-parliament-deputy-speakers-gaza-genocide-plan
  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/02/pastor-terry-jones-burning-koran
  1. http://www.snopes.com/quotes/goering.asp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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