Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘en français’ Category

Je recommande la lecture de cette fascinante, étonnante et gratifiante série en six volets, intitulée “Sarajevo-Jérusalem” et publiée dans Le Monde du 13 au 19 août, sur la communauté juive de Sarajevo, présent et passé, de son histoire de bonne entente avec les musulmans bosniaques de la ville – ville où il n’y a jamais eu de ghetto et où l’antisémitisme était quasi inexistant. Il y a eu une douzaine de milliers de juifs à Sarajevo avant la Deuxième guerre mondiale – 20% de sa population, majoritairement séfarade – dont plus de 80% ont été exterminés pendant l’occupation nazie, avec le concours des Oustachis croates. Un certain nombre des rescapés est parti en Israël après 1948, et surtout pendant le siège de Sarajevo par l’armée yougoslave serbe (1992-95) – quoique les juifs de Bosnie-Herzégovine étaient, dans leur majorité, peu pratiquant et pas très sioniste.

Ce qui reste aujourd’hui est une vibrante communauté d’un millier d’âmes qui fait partie intégrante de la ville. L’expérience sarajévienne réfute-t-elle la notion d’une Bosnie historiquement divisée en communautés vivant à couteaux tirés – et s’inscrit en faux plus généralement contre le nationalisme ambiant de notre époque. Comme on peut lire dans le sixième volet, “contrairement au mythe brandi par les nationalistes des trois dernières décennies, la coexistence ne fut pas limitée à une Yougoslavie de Tito condamnée à disparaître après sa mort, mais qu’elle fut ancrée dans l’histoire de la ville durant des siècles, répondant à un sincère besoin de bon voisinage et d’humanité des Sarajéviens.”

L’expérience sarajévienne allait au-delà du bon voisinage. Il y a eu une véritable solidarité entre juifs et musulmans (avec des mariages mixtes). À ce titre, le Jérusalem d’aujourd’hui – l’exacte contraire du vivre-ensemble, où une communauté (en l’occurrence, juive) domine les autres par la force – est implicitement posé en contre-modèle, et pour cause.

L’auteur de cette remarquable série, Rémy Ourdan, connait bien le sujet. Grand reporter au journal Le Monde, il a couvert le siège de Sarajevo durant quatre ans (et a co-réalisé un documentaire dessus) et a fait maints reportages en Israël-Palestine au fil des années.

Voilà les volets de la série:

  1. Juifs de Sarajevo: les héros ordinaires de la ‘Jérusalem de l’Europe’. —— A travers l’histoire des juifs de Sarajevo, voyage dans ces deux villes en quête d’universalité, symboles des peuples du Livre, épicentres des conflits modernes, sur les traces d’une certaine idée, réelle ou imaginaire, de la coexistence…
  2. La saga du sauvetage de la Haggadah de Sarajevo, le manuscrit sépharade le plus précieux au monde. —— Convoité par les nazis en 1942 puis menacé pendant la guerre de Bosnie, le fameux manuscrit enluminé du XIVe siècle a dû être caché à plusieurs reprises.
  3. Les mousquetaires juifs du siège de Sarajevo. —— La communauté juive a, pendant la guerre de Bosnie, lancé une incroyable opération humanitaire, organisant l’évacuation de 2 500 Sarajéviens et portant assistance aux assiégés. Israël a de son côté vu débarquer des centaines de ‘juifs sarajéviens’ très peu juifs…
  4. Les étonnantes coutumes des rabbins sarajéviens. —— A l’instar du dernier rabbin yougoslave, Cadik Danon, c’est toute une lignée de religieux, représentée aujourd’hui par Eliezer Papo et Igor Kozemjakin, qui prend des libertés avec les lois et traditions juives. Une vision du judaïsme proche de l’esprit de Sarajevo.
  5. De l’’éducation sarajévienne’ à la cause palestinienne. —— Fille d’une survivante sarajévienne de Bergen-Belsen, Amira Hass vit depuis vingt-cinq ans en Cisjordanie. Cette reporter et éditorialiste au quotidien ‘Haaretz’ défend sans relâche la cause palestinienne dans les colonnes de son journal.
  6. Sarajevo-Jérusalem, deux villes, deux destins. —— Contrairement à Sarajevo, qui a résisté avec l’énergie du désespoir à la division ethnique de la ville, les habitants de Jérusalem vivent aujourd’hui séparés et la ville sainte est plus fracturée que jamais.

Here’s a related article in Haaretz, dated 19 July 2017, by Sarajevo-based journalist Kate Bartlett: “Why Sarajevo’s tiny Jewish community believes it’s in the safest place in Europe for Jews: In a country where ethnic hatreds run deep, the Jewish community in the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans’ says it is not subject to anti-Semitic acts and is even enjoying a ‘baby boom’.”

Read Full Post »

[update below]

There have been the expected slew of documentaries and reportages since last Sunday on the new president of the republic, which, taken together, offer a more than positive image of him. The one on TF1 Monday night, “Emmanuel Macron: les coulisses d’une victoire,” is really worth seeing. TF1’s description:

De secrétaire général adjoint à l’Elysée à candidat à la présidence de la République, le novice en politique est passé de l’ombre à la lumière en très peu de temps. Durant 200 jours, nos caméras l’ont suivi dans les coulisses de sa campagne et dans son ascension exceptionnelle. Durant huit mois, nous avons été les seuls à être autorisés à suivre le candidat Emmanuel Macron avec notre caméra dans les coulisses de cette campagne exceptionnelle. De l’annonce de sa candidature jusqu’à son élection le 7 mai, nous vous proposons un documentaire exclusif vous permettant de vivre de l’intérieur la campagne d’Emmanuel Macron à la manière d’un thriller politique.

Seeing Emmanuel Macron behind the scenes, one cannot help but like him. He’s always smiling, in a buoyant, positive mood—avenant is the word in French—and that clearly rubs off on those around him. Contrast this with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, with his perpetual tête des mauvais jours, always scowling and trash-talking (and his spokespersons—Alexis Corbière, Éric Coquerel et al—are no different). Thank god that S.O.B. didn’t make the 2nd round.

France 3 also aired a most interesting documentary Monday night, “Ainsi soit Macron.” The description:

La trajectoire fulgurante d’Emmanuel Macron l’a fait passer en trois ans du quasi anonymat à la présidence de la République. Et pourtant, même si les médias l’ont suivi jour après jour durant sa campagne, personne ne le connaît vraiment. Le politique s’est exprimé, progressiste, social et libéral en même temps, mais l’homme reste une énigme. Derrière le story-telling officiel, quelle est la véritable personnalité de celui qui va diriger la France ? Quelles sont ses forces, ses faiblesses ? Grâce à des images inédites et des témoignages exclusifs, dont celui de son épouse Brigitte, ce film raconte les moments charnières de la trajectoire du nouveau Président et révèle les motivations profondes qui l’animent. Enquête sur un météore devenu Président.

And France 2’s Envoyé Spécial on Thursday had the inevitable reportage, “En marche vers l’Elysée.”

Qui pouvait imaginer qu’en créant son mouvement En marche ! en avril 2016, Emmanuel Macron deviendrait président de la République ? Ce pari, longtemps moqué par le sérail politique et médiatique, est l’objet de ce film. Grâce aux interviews exclusives du candidat et à l’accès aux séances de travail dans les coulisses de son QG, ce document raconte la stratégie de campagne mise en place par Emmanuel Macron pour conquérir l’Elysée.

For some reading—not watching—see this interview with Macron on his apprenticeship in philosophy. C’est une tête celui-là.

UPDATE: For more reading on Macron’s “tête,” see the lengthy piece in Mediapart by Joseph Confavreux and Mathieu Magnaudeix, “Dans la tête d’Emmanuel Macron.”

Read Full Post »

Emmanuel Macron, Paris, April 17th (photo: Le Temps)

PREFACE: This post was largely written before last night’s terrorist attack on the Champs-Elysées, which is naturally dominating the news today and leading to all sorts of speculation as to the consequences for Sunday’s vote, and with nervous nellies—mainly non-French—fretting that it could boost Marine Le Pen’s chances. The only thing to say about this is that France has experienced numerous terrorist attacks over the past three decades and with none moving the polls in one direction or another. E.g. the Mohamed Merah killings in Montauban and Toulouse in March 2012—one month before the 1st round of the 2012 presidential election—had no effect on the race—and, moreover, did not even cause a momentary uptick in tough guy President Sarkozy’s numbers. The 2015 regional elections may be a partial exception to this, with political scientist Pascal Perrineau saying at the time that the November 13th atrocity three/four weeks earlier increased the Front National’s score by up to three points. But November 13th was a huge attack and that traumatized the entire French nation, regional councils are mostly powerless bodies that the vast majority of citizens never think about, and elections to them are low participation affairs—50% in the 2015 1st round and 59% in the 2nd—and outlets for throw-away protest votes against the incumbent party at the national level. And in 2015, the FN’s historic score in the 1st round provoked a mobilization of anti-FN voters in the 2nd, resulting in the party not winning a single council. Last night’s attack does play into themes that Marine Le Pen has been hammering away at and could possibly move some voters she’s been losing over the past month back into her column. If any candidate does benefit from the attack—and I emphasize if—it will, however, more likely be François Fillon. But that’s idle speculation and that I will engage in no more of. On verra dimanche soir.

On the race, the final polls are coming in and all show stability, with Emmanuel Macron narrowly in first, Marine Le Pen a close second—but losing ground—and François Fillon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon on her heels and tied for third, and all four within the margin of error. This thing could go any which way—with six possible configurations, three of which are calamitous—and with any prediction at this stage a crap shoot in view of the exceptional number of undecideds and uncertainty over the participation rate. Everyone is fretting, nervous, or downright worried. Speaking for myself, by tomorrow night I’ll probably be in a state of terror contemplating the prospect of one of the three calamitous configurations materializing the next day.

As for those calamitous configurations, they are the 2nd round match-ups that do not include Emmanuel Macron.

Macron had his big Paris rally on Monday afternoon (Easter Monday, so a public holiday) and which I attended. It was at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy—formally branded the AccorHotels Arena—which is the largest indoor arena in the city. The turnout was impressive. My friend and I wanted to be in the fosse (standing-room pit in front of the stage), so we could walk around and take photos, but after waiting in line for almost an hour, were turned away, informed that the fosse was reserved for En Marche! activists (wearing orange bracelets), so we had to sit in the upper deck, making it difficult to take good photos (particularly with my not terrific Galaxy A5) and my friend, who has a high-end camera (with telephoto lens and all), was not allowed to bring it in—security at Bercy is draconian—which was a disappointment. So no photo album for this rally. Just this one pic, taken a couple of minutes after Macron mounted the stage and with the audience on its feet.

Some observations on the rally, which crystallized much of the Macron campaign: It was stage-managed to a far higher degree than any other such political event I’ve attended in this country. First, the mere fact that the fosse was reserved for activists, and who were, moreover, seated, so no fluidity or moving about. And the lower decks, which were mainly occupied by activists wearing En Marche! t-shirts, and roughly grouped by color (yellow, orange, blue). It looked good from a distance, and no doubt on television. Cf. the Benoît Hamon rally a month ago, which was more laid back. There were also more people at Hamon’s rally, as Macron’s had a much larger stage and in the middle of the fosse—with four teleprompters, so he could move about while doing his televangelist-like act—thereby reducing the number of people who could get in there (I’d say 17,000 people were in the arena, compared to 20K for Hamon).

Second, Macron arrived at precisely 5:00 and spoke for precisely an hour-and-a-half. Impeccably choreographed. The crowd was enthusiastic, as one could expect, but, from my vantage point at least, I didn’t find the overall atmosphere as electric as the Hamon rally. As for the audience, it was in the image of Macron: that portion of France that is educated and part of the global economy—and for the young people there, who will soon be part of that economy. That’s Macron’s base. I tried to determine, in the audience reactions during his speech, if they were politically more to the left or right. As his oblique references to Fillon and Le Pen aroused the loudest boos—and particularly his dig at Sens Commun—this would suggest that his hardcore fans are not, in their majority, habitual voters of the LR party. Indirect references to Hamon and Mélenchon—e.g. the line about turning France into a “Venezuela without oil” and “Cuba without the sun”—did not provoke the same negativity from the crowd.

As for Macron’s speech, the first half of it was vaporous. He’s a good enough speaker—though I will rank him below Mélenchon and Hamon—but can talk for minutes on end without saying anything in particular, or nothing that anyone remembers. The second half of the speech, which focused on his vision for France, was better (for the whole thing, go here). He thankfully did not present a laundry list of policy proposals but rather sought to give an idea of what one could expect with him in power. It was classic Macron: un coup à droite, un coup à gauche. Numerous phrases contained buzzwords appealing to right and left alike, e.g. “entreprise” and “réussite” (success) to impress the right—and  “equality” and “solidarity” to reassure the left. And all in the same sentence. And invoking De Gaulle and Mitterrand, and in the same breath, as great leaders of the past and from whom he draws inspiration (which is actually not reassuring, but that’s another matter).

I’ve been wanting to like Macron, as I desperately hope he is elected on May 7th—There Is No Alternative: it’s him or the deluge—but it’s not always easy. His youth, political inexperience, and incessant triangulating—of trying to be too many things to too many people—causes him to make avoidable mistakes. E.g. saying in his JDD interview two weeks ago that he would reform the Code du Travail by ordonnance (i.e. modify the labor code by, in effect, executive decree). This is both bad policy and terrible politics. The Code du Travail is one of the hottest potatoes in the French political system and any reform of it needs to be preceded by a public debate—however conflictual that may be—and a vote in parliament. Changing it by presidential ukase will cause the left to hate him, and Macron needs as much of the left as he can possibly get. But enraging the unions—even those otherwise well-disposed toward him (CFDT, CFTC)—and voters on the left will win him nothing on the right, as not a single Fillon voter is going to defect to him on account of this alone. It was a stupid rookie error and that he has had to partially walk back. And he said nothing about it in his Bercy speech.

There are other problems with Macron—notably in the (Gaullist/Mitterrandian) way he says he will govern—which I’ll take up next week (assuming he qualifies for the 2nd round). But there are some very positive, compelling features of his candidacy and which counteract the drawbacks, one being his sunny optimism for France and its future. Macron’s discourse is devoid of demagoguery, dark pessimism, or apocalyptic depictions of present-day France and the world (cf. the other three top contenders). If Barack Obama had not trademarked “Yes we can!,” it would be the ideal motto for the Macron campaign. Macron projects positivity, and smiles while he’s at it. Macron believes in France and its ability to prosper and thrive in a globalized world.  And, as one knows, he is the most pro-Europe candidate and whose election will thrill France’s EU partners. Among many other things, a President Macron will surely increase French influence in the European Council. Macron represents change—a rejuvenation of the French political class, which voters say they want—but without wreaking havoc. C’est-à-dire, il ne va pas foutre le bordel. Again, cf. the other three contenders.

Leaving the Bercy arena, my friend—sociologist Didier Le Saout, who is on the left and not a Macron fan de la première heure—said to me, “Can you imagine what this presidential race would be if Macron weren’t there?” We would have nothing but awful choices. Hamon would no doubt be higher in the polls but, as the candidate of the discredited PS, would have no chance. And it’s not clear that François Bayrou on a fourth try would have generated the same dynamic that Macron has. So alhamdulillah الحَمْد لله for Emmanuel Macron.

Didier Le Saout has sent me his reflections on the rally and the Macron phenomenon. Le voici:

 Le projet social-libéral d’Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron veut définitivement casser l’image partagée dans les représentations politiques françaises du libéralisme emprunt de valeurs de droite. En déclarant en 2015 que le « libéralisme est une valeur de gauche », il se montre préoccupé de voir son projet légitimé par la gauche. De son point de vue, cette dernière porte le mieux la dimension culturelle ou sociétale du libéralisme pour défendre et étendre les droits et libertés des individus. A cet égard, la reconnaissance du « mariage pour tous » sous la présidence de François Hollande s’accorde parfaitement avec son projet d’émanciper les individus du joug de la tradition et de la religion. Ces mêmes valeurs libérales de la vie en société sont revendiquées haut et fort par ses partisans. Lorsque dans son grand meeting parisien du 17 avril 2017, deux hommes puis deux femmes vêtus du teeshirt du mouvement En marche sont filmés en s’embrassant sur les grands écrans de la salle, ils sont applaudis sous les hourras des 20 000 participants.

Mais Macron n’entend pas cantonner son projet à un univers de représentations perçues comme de gauche. La référence faite au libéralisme culturel et sociétal ancré à gauche lui permet de faire un pont avec un modèle de « société libérale avancée » tel que prôné par d’autres courants de la droite. Ceci lui vaut d’être dénoncé par la gauche comme ne proposant qu’un relooking de la politique menée par l’ancien président Valéry Giscard d’Estaing qui dans les années 1970 avait abaissé l’âge de la majorité de 21 à 18 ans, légalisé l’avortement et permis de divorcer par consentement mutuel. Ne critiquant pas le capitalisme, le projet de Macron montrerait alors ses limites selon ses détracteurs.

Revendiquant un libéralisme politique articulé sur des dimensions culturelles et sociales, Macron en appelle alors à la morale pour se distinguer du libéralisme thatchérien. Il ne se prive pas de mettre en garde des patrons d’entreprises publiques et privées contre les excès de leurs rémunérations montrant ainsi que l’Etat peut indiquer aux entrepreneurs le juste chemin à suivre. De la même façon, il met en garde des risques d’exclusion que pourrait induire le libéralisme. Ce n’est encore pas un hasard si durant ce même meeting parisien du 17 avril il fait référence à Philippe Séguin, l’inspirateur du fameux discours de Jacques Chirac durant sa campagne électorale de 1995 sur la « fracture sociale ». Si personne ne doit rester sur le bord de la route, il n’importe pas selon Macron de renforcer les dispositifs d’aides sociales mais de permettre à chacun de pouvoir bénéficier d’une formation tout au long de la vie. La nécessité de parvenir par la loi à une « moralisation de la vie publique » et au renouvellement des élus prolonge encore ces exigences morales dans le système politique.

En bref, Macron défend un libéralisme politique articulé sur des dimensions culturelles et sociales pour encadrer la vertu créatrice et l’envie de réussir tout en ne remettant pas en question le rôle de l’Etat et encore moins du capitalisme. En cela, son projet peut résolument être considéré comme social-libéral.

The Macron rally over (at 6:40), Didier and I took the metro to Porte de Pantin, to Marine Le Pen’s rally at the Zénith, which was scheduled to begin at 8:00.

The above photo, taken by me, is of the end of MLP’s speech, with all the FN’s heavyweights (Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Gilbert Collard et al) on the stage, and in what was the one festive-like moment of the rally. Otherwise, it was a horror show, by far the darkest—both figuratively and literally (the lighting in the arena was somber)—political event I have witnessed in France, indeed anywhere. I attended Marine’s rally in 2012—five years prior to the day—also at the Zénith, which I had a post on and with dozens of pics. The Zénith is not the largest arena in Paris—seating 6,300 and with no fosse—so the mere fact that MLP held her rally there, despite flying high in the polls, signified that the FN didn’t think it could fill a larger hall. And it didn’t even this one: whereas it as was full to capacity in 2012, this time there were empty seats in the upper rows. The turnout was likely on the order of 5,500. Not terrific for a candidate who, it has been assumed until lately, is a shoo-in for the 2nd round.

I thought the 2012 rally was a success for Marine and that she gave a good speech. Not this time. First, the production values of the event were poor: In addition to the somber lighting, there was no music before things got going and the two warm-up speakers were duds (one I hadn’t even heard of—I didn’t catch his name—and campaign spokesman and Fréjus mayor David Rachline, who’s 29-years-old but looks and acts like he’s 50). As for Marine’s speech, it was an hour-and-forty-minute diatribe and from the get go: against immigration, migrants, terrorism, radical Islam (when not just Islam tout court), crime, globalization, global financiers… in short, against all the FN’s boogeymen and everything it fears and/or hates. Adding to this were her vituperative attacks on Fillon, Macron, and Mélenchon, all referred to by name and with the hall booing loudly. It was an orgy of red meat thrown to the crowd, which devoured it all. There were moments when the entire hall was in a frenzy. It was an unpleasant ambiance. A Turkish Kurdish activist friend of Didier’s, who’s settled in France and wanted to see an FN rally with his own eyes, came along with us; he was visibly uncomfortable throughout—and not at all reassured by a man sitting near us who continually bellowed “Islam hors de France!” (Islam out of France!), and another who, likely observing that we were not applauding—and were maybe journalists, another target of FN hate—tried to goad us at a couple of points (we ignored him). As Didier was allowed to bring in his camera, he took photos—which are a lot better than mine—some of which he put into an album that may be viewed here.

At the 2012 rally, Marine flashed smiles at the crowd; this time she was febrile, indeed tense. As for an explanation as to why she was on edge, her campaign has been preoccupied, even alarmed, of late by her loss of five to seven points in the polls over the past month and Mélenchon’s sudden surge, at least some of which is coming at her expense. And also by Fillon’s doggedness and the hard right lurch of his campaign. It has gone without saying that Marine would qualify for the 2nd round but that is now not looking 100% certain. An IFOP-Fiducial-JDD-Sud Radio poll taken earlier this month showed that FN voters are concerned above all with immigration, terrorism, and crime—the FN’s historic stock-in-trade—and less so with Europe and the euro (which MLP largely ignored in her speech). Thus Marine’s virulence on Monday night. The return to fundamentals. She was whipping up the base. And so much for de-demonization. During her diatribe, I leaned over to Didier and said “Je la trouve particulièrement facho ce soir” (I’m finding her particularly fascistic this evening). The reaction in the media the next day—plus a Facebook exchange with Time Magazine’s Vivienne Walt, who was also at the rally—indicated that I was not alone in my sentiment.

So it’s definitive: It’s the same old Front National. The FN has not changed at all. And it never will. It will thus not rule France: not this year, or in 2022, or ever.

Another party that, beginning next month, won’t be in power for a long time—if ever again—is the Parti Socialiste. Benoît Hamon had his final Paris rally on Wednesday, at the Place de la République. The event started at 5:00, with speeches by a panoply of high-profile Hamon supporters (e.g. Thomas Piketty and other stars), a keynote by Hamon, and then a concert with various groups scheduled to go to midnight.

I arrived at 7:30, while Hamon was speaking. There were several thousand people in the square, who were enthusiastic enough, but the square was not full. It was, in effect, Hamon’s farewell speech. I feel for him, as no one anticipated the plunge in the polls—and into the single digits no less—and particularly after the success of his March 19th Bercy rally. And he faces humiliation on Sunday. He finished the speech at 8:00, after which most of the crowd left the square, with not too many remaining for the music. I found some friends there and, as it was quite cold—in the 40s F/8°C and windy—we took refuge in a nearby bar. I wonder if the event didn’t end early. Triste fin de campagne. Didier Le Saout was there and took a few photos, which may be viewed here.

I’ll have an election eve post tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

Le CEVIPOF de Sciences Po a développé, en partenariat avec le quotidien 20 Minutes, une boussole présidentielle, qui permet aux citoyens de tester leurs convictions politiques par rapport à celles des onze candidats à l’élection présidentielle. Le test est bien conçu à mon avis—comme le Politest, qui a été crée en 2006 par des étudiants à Sciences Po (et actualisé en 2012). Pour accéder à la boussole, allez ici.

France 24, pour sa part, a créé une boussole électorale aussi, qui n’est pas mal. And it may be taken in English.

To take the Politest—”the test to see where you are situated politically”—in English, go here.

My results for the two “boussoles” are below (screen shots). I am closest to Benoît Hamon, not surprisingly, though just a little to his right 😉

According to the France 24 one, the candidate whose positions I am in the most agreement with is… Nathalie Arthaud. Allez savoir…

As for how I will be casting my ballot on April 23rd, I am still undecided between Hamon and Emmanuel Macron, and will likely remain so until the day of the vote…

Read Full Post »

Capture-decran-2015-11-20-a-16

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

Yesterday I had a brief post on the victims of the November 13th attacks. Today it’s on the perpetrators. If one hasn’t seen it, Olivier Roy has the best analysis so far of the terrorists, in a full-page tribune in Le Monde dated November 25th, “Le djihadisme est une révolte générationnelle et nihiliste” (also here). In reading Roy’s essay in hard copy, I underlined noteworthy passages to quote. But as almost the entire thing got underlined, I’ll just let you, the reader, read it in its entirety. If the essay is eventually published in English, I’ll link to it.

One key line by Roy: What we’re facing here is not a radicalization of Islam but rather an Islamization of radicalism.

Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group, who has spent much of the past two decades living in Iraq and Syria, weighs in on the Paris terrorists in a must-read post, dated November 26th, in Orient XXI, “Tuer les autres, se tuer soi-même.” Again, if this one is published in English—which, in view of Harling’s bilingualism, is possible—I’ll link to it in an update.

The excellent Farhad Khosrokhavar, who knows more about jihadism in Europe than any other social scientist, is interviewed in L’Obs (November 26th) on the question post-Paris, “Moins ils connaissent l’islam, plus ils sont attirés par le djihad.” Translation: the less they know about Islam, the more they are attracted by jihad.

Also interviewed on the Paris attacks (November 26h) is the well-known Islamologist Gilles Kepel, in the Lausanne daily Le Temps, “Le 13 novembre? Le résultat d’une faillite des élites politiques françaises.” Kepel—who unhabitually lets loose in the interview—has some interesting observations on, entre autres, Saudi Arabia, as well as on the Al-Qaida/IS grand penseur Abu Musab al-Suri. (BTW, on al-Suri see Adam Shatz’s 2008 review essay in the LRB, “Laptop jihadi“).

EHESS doctoral candidate Adam Baczko has a tribune (November 26th) in Libération, “L’objectif de l’Etat islamique est de provoquer une politique de réaction identitaire.”

À suivre, évidemment.

UPDATE: Olivier Roy, at a conference in Germany on international terrorism ten days ago, gave a speech entitled “What is the driving force behind jihadist terrorism? – A scientific perspective on the causes/circumstances of joining the scene,” which is pretty much an English version of his Le Monde essay. It is linked to in PDF in the first comment below (thanks to Rich Kaplan—crack sociologist and personal friend—for finding it).

2nd UPDATE: If one didn’t see it, French journalist Nicolas Hénin has an op-ed in The Guardian (November 16th), “I was held hostage by Isis [for ten months in 2013-14]. They fear our unity more than our airstrikes.” The lede: “In Syria I learned that Islamic State longs to provoke retaliation. We should not fall into the trap.” Pour l’info, Hénin has a book out, Jihad Academy, published by Fayard this past February.

Omer Aziz, a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School who recently worked for the UN Special Envoy to Syria, has a piece in TNR (November 17th), “The soul of a jihadist: The radical evil behind the terrorist attacks on Paris.”

And ICYMI, the NYR Daily has two posts dated November 16th: “Paris: The war ISIS wants,” by Franco-American anthropologist Scott Atran—who has written extensively on radical Islamism—and UCL doctoral student Nafees Hamid; and “From Mumbai to Paris,” by the well-known Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid.

3rd UPDATE: The Swiss RTS had a twenty-minute interview with Olivier Roy on November 27th (listen here), in which he said, entre autres, that trying to deradicalize jihadists is “absurd.”

Read Full Post »

Ansongo, Mali, 29 January 2013 (photo: Kambou Siakmbou Sia/AFP/Getty Images)

Ansongo, Mali, 29 January 2013 (photo: Kambou Siakmbou Sia/AFP/Getty Images)

That’s the title (in English) of an op-ed in Le Monde (issue dated 11-12 October), by Sciences Po international relations professor Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer, and with which I entirely agree. For those too lazy to click on the link, here’s the full text, with notable passages on the Libya intervention in bold (a subject on which I have periodic contradictory exchanges) [UPDATE: Jeangène Vilmer has a piece with Olivier Schmitt—who teaches political science at the University of Southern Denmark—dated 14 October on the War on the Rocks blog, “Frogs of War: Explaining the new French military interventionism.”]

Avec le chaos en Libye, l’emprise de Daech en Irak et en Syrie, et la progression des talibans en Afghanistan, il est de bon ton de s’en prendre à l’interventionnisme occidental des quinze dernières années, dont les crises actuelles ne seraient que les contrecoups. Il est certainement nécessaire de tirer les leçons de nos échecs, mais il faut le faire sans céder à la simplification.

Premièrement, cet examen de conscience ne doit pas être une excuse pour amalgamer des interventions plus ou moins légales et légitimes : l’invasion de l’Irak (2003) reste un cas à part, une guerre de choix non autorisée par le Conseil de sécurité, contrairement aux autres.

Comparer, pour la décrédibiliser, l’intervention en Libye (2011) à cette agression illégale est faire fi de la résolution 1973 qui, contrairement à un préjugé répandu, n’a pas été dévoyée. Elle n’autorisait certes pas le changement de (more…)

Read Full Post »

Kamel Daoud (photo credit: AFP/Bertrand Langlois)

Kamel Daoud (photo credit: AFP/Bertrand Langlois)

[update below]

Kamel Daoud, the excellent Algerian commentator and author—whose latest novel was a finalist for the 2014 Prix Goncourt—, has been hit with a fatwa by salafi imam Abdelfatah Hamadache (a.k.a. Shaykh Abd al-Fatah al-Jaza’iry)—who preaches in salafi Algiers mosques and leads a micro-political party (not recognized by the Algerian state) called the Islamic Sahwa Front—, calling Daoud a “Zionized…apostate” who insults “Allah” and the Qu’ran, and who would, if Algeria were governed by Shari’a law, be put to death for “apostasy” and “heresy” (the good imam published the fatwa yesterday on his Facebook page; the post begins with this: دعوة لتطبيق الحد عليه). Here is Daoud’s brilliant riposte, published on his FB page. It merits translation into English and other languages

 50 nuances de haine

Question fascinante: d’où vient que certains se sentent menacés dans leur identité, dans leur conviction religieuse, dans leur conception de l’histoire et dans leur mémoire dès que quelqu’un pense autrement qu’eux ? La peur d’être dans l’erreur les poussant donc à imposer l’unanimité et combattre la différence ? De la fragilité des convictions intimes ? De la haine de soi qui passe par la haine de l’Autre ? De toute une histoire d’échecs, de frustrations, d’amour sans issue ? De la chute de Grenade ? De la colonisation ? Labyrinthe. Mais c’est étrange: ceux qui défendent l’islam comme pensée unique le font souvent avec haine et violence. Ceux qui se sentent et se proclament Arabes de souche ont cette tendance à en faire un fanatisme plutôt qu’une identité heureuse ou un choix de racine capable de récoltes. Ceux qui vous parlent de constantes nationales, de nationalisme et de religion sont souvent agressifs, violents, haineux, ternes, infréquentables et myopes: ils ne voient le monde que comme attaques, complots, manipulations et ruses de l’Occident. Le regard tourné vers ce Nord qui les écrase, les fascine, les rend jaunes de jalousie. Le dos tourné à l’Afrique où l’on meurt quand cela ne les concerne pas: Dieu a créé l’Occident et eux comme couple du monde, le reste c’est des déchets. Il y a des cheikhs et des fatwas pour chaque femme en jupe, mais pas un seul pour nourrir la faim en Somalie. L’abbé Pierre n’est pas un emploi de musulman ?

Laissons de côté. Gardons l’œil sur la mécanique: de quoi est-elle le sens ? Pourquoi l’identité est morbidité ? Pourquoi la mémoire est un hurlement par un conte paisible ? Pourquoi la foi est méfiance ? Mais que défendent ces gens-là qui vous attaquent chaque fois que vous pensez différemment votre nationalité, votre présent ou vos convictions religieuses ? Pourquoi réagissent-ils comme des propriétaires bafoués, des maquereaux ? Pourquoi se sentent-ils menacés autant par la voix des autres ? Etrange. C’est que le fanatique n’est même pas capable de voir ce qu’il a sous les yeux: un pays faible, un monde «arabe» pauvre et ruiné, une religion réduite à des rites et des fatwas nécrophages après avoir accouché, autrefois, d’Ibn Arabi et un culte de l’identité qui ressemble à de la jaunisse.

C’est qu’il ne s’agit même pas de distinctions idéologiques, linguistiques ou religieuses: l’imbécile identitaire peut tout aussi être francophone chez nous, arabophone, croyant ou passant. Un ami expliqua au chroniqueur que la version cheikh Chemssou laïc existe aussi: avec la même bêtise, aigreur, imbécillité et ridicule. L’un parle au nom de Dieu, l’autre au nom des années 70 et de sa conscience politique douloureuse et l’autre au nom de la lutte impérialiste démodée ou du berbérisme exclusif. Passons, revenons à la mécanique: de quoi cela est-il le signe ? Du déni: rues sales, immeubles hideux, dinar à genoux, Président malade, une dizaine de migrants tués dans un bus sur la route du rapatriement, dépendance au pétrole et au prêche, niveau scolaire misérable, armée faiblarde du Golfe à l’océan, délinquances et comités de surveillance du croissant, corruption, viols, émeutes. Rien de tout cela ne gêne. Sauf le genou de la femme, l’avis de Kamel Daoud, le film «l’Oranais», dénoncer la solidarité assise et couchée avec la Palestine, l’Occident en général, le bikini en particulier et l’affirmation que je suis Algérien ou le cas d’Israël comme structure des imaginaires morbides.

Pourquoi cela existe ? Pourquoi l’âme algérienne est-elle encerclée par une meute de chiens aigus et des ogres pulpeux ?

A petition has been launched in Algeria expressing solidarity with Kamel Daoud and calling on the Ministry of Justice there to prosecute Abdelfatah Hamadache for his call to murder. Très bien.

UPDATE: A well-known Algerian journalist and blogger informs me that Abdelfatah Hamadache is “nothing other than a pawn in the hands of the security services” (n’est rien d’autre qu’un jouet aux mains des services). And Éditions La Découverte’s engagé CEO François Gèze—a longtime critic of the Algerian regime—has a post (December 21st) on his Mediapart blog in which he informs the reader that Hamadache is indeed an agent of the DRS. Perhaps. Algerians will always tell you that so and so is in the pay of the DRS and offer all sorts of evidence (or “evidence”) to back it up. On en prend acte, c’est tout.

solidarité avec kamel daoud

Read Full Post »

(image credit: BFMTV.com)

(image credit: BFMTV.com)

[update below]

What a miserable affair. Worse than pathetic. One can hardly believe that French politics has descended to this level. And with everything else happening in France and the world, that this is the talk of the town. I, for one, refuse to read Valérie Trierweiler’s book. I won’t even pick it up. I have learned as much as I need to know about it from the media coverage, plus these choice morsels published in Les Inrocks. Now I have no sympathy with François Hollande in this sentimental psychodrama, as I made clear in my posts of last January when the thing first broke (here and here), but now have even less for Valérie T., who, in her manic—and likely successful—effort to politically assassinate her ex-companion and permanently sully his character, has only further discredited herself—and sullied the institutions of the Republic in the process.

This does indeed seem to be the consensus at least among journalists. E.g. Ariane Bonzon—whom I know for her excellent enquêtes on Turkey—has a good commentary in Slate.fr on “La triple faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” which thus begins

Lors de l’affaire DSK, un de mes amis, qui n’avait pourtant rien à voir directement avec cette histoire, m’avait dit qu’il se sentait lui aussi touché: «J’ai honte à trois titres: en tant qu’homme, en tant que juif et en tant que libertin.» Chacune de ces identités impliquant chez mon ami une certaine exigence, éthique. Comme si l’opinion qu’il avait de lui-même avait été bafouée par DSK, homme, juif et libertin.

En lisant le livre de Valérie Trierweiler, j’ai ressenti le même sentiment que cet ami: ce livre me fait honte en tant que femme, en tant que citoyenne et en tant que journaliste.

Renaud Dély of Le Nouvel Obs had a similarly entitled commentary on Thursday, “La faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” in which he asserted that

Le livre de l’ex-Première dame n’est pas seulement un brûlot anti-Hollande, c’est une attaque contre l’esprit civique et une menace pour les institutions.

Rue 89’s Pierre Haski was on the same longueur d’onde in his commentaire à chaud, “Grand déballage de Trierweiler : la vengeance est mauvaise conseillère.” For his part, France Inter political editorialist Thomas Legrand—who is one of the smartest, most insightful analysts of French politics around—, in speaking of VT’s book, deplored “L’arlequinisation de la vie politique” in his commentary the day before yesterday. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in an interview on Europe 1, called VT’s book a “moral suicide” of the ex-première dame, and in which he quoted from an editorial by La République des Pyrénées’s Jean-Marcel Bouguereau, who observed that

L’image que son “ex” donne de François Hollande est terrible au point qu’on se demande comment elle a pu rester une décennie avec personnage qui apparaît sous sa plume comme menteur, arrogant, infidèle, veule, lâche et surtout cynique.

Indeed. Mme Trierweiler does not smell like a rose in all this. Loin s’en faut.

One thing I need to assert—and that I have been doing since Wednesday—is that I do not believe for a split second that Hollande uttered the bit about “les sans-dents” in the first degree, i.e. in a literal sense. If he indeed said such a thing about poor people, there was certainly a context, or he was being ironic about someone else who may have said it, or something like that. As Libé’s Laurent Joffrin said on France Inter this morning, no one who has known Hollande personally over the years and spent time with him—as has Joffrin and so many other journalists, politicians, and public personalities—gives the slightest credence to VT on this. For this smear alone, she deserves permanent banishment from public life—and certainly from the journalistic profession.

If all this is not the coup de grâce to Hollande’s presidency, it’s not far from it. I don’t know how he and his entourage at the Elysée will pick up the pieces from this but they’ll no doubt soldier on nonetheless, as Hollande will certainly not resign. Unless he commits a crime or misdemeanor, or some really gross indiscretion, there is no reason for him to do so. He just won’t do it. And almost no one outside the Front National wishes for him to, or for him to dissolve the National Assembly at the present time. As the latest TNS-Sofres baromètre reveals, every political party in this country—including the FN—is presently judged negatively by public opinion. C’est du jamais vu. And the latest baromètre of L’Observatoire Politique CSA shows only two national political personalities—Alain Juppé and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem—to have higher positive than negative numbers with those polled. I mentioned this in my post last week on Valls II and it’s being confirmed with every poll that’s coming out. If neither the PS nor UMP has an interest in going to early elections, then they won’t happen. Period. Moreover, alarm at the damage to the political system and institutions of the Republic is sure to be expressed by increasing numbers on both left and right, as has Sophie de Menthon in a tribune in the right-leaning webzine Atlantico, in which she calls for a “Halte au feu! Pourquoi il faut sauver le soldat Hollande malgré lui.” As she puts it

A trop critiquer François Hollande, nous contribuons à mettre plus bas que terre la fonction de président de la République, ce qui finit par être mauvais pour la croissance et le moral de la France.

If one hasn’t seen it, Art Goldhammer had an incisive analysis yesterday of this weeks’s events (and in which he offered a tidbit about me, which I clarified in the comments thread).

Triste France, c’est tout c’que j’ai à dire.

UPDATE: Magistrate Philippe Bilger—whose political views are solidly on the right—has read Valérie Trierweiler’s book and written a commentary on it, entitled “François Hollande en compagne!,” on his Justice au Singulier blog (September 6th). On “les sans-dents” business, which right-wingers are going to town with on social media, he has this to say

La version de VT est-elle d’ailleurs exacte? L’Elysée dément et conteste ces allégations. On comprend que François Hollande soit «atterré»: on le serait à moins, sans que cela valide en quoi que ce soit les coups ciblés de VT.

Même si elle a mis en lumière les ambiguïtés de l’histoire amoureuse et politique entre Ségolène Royal et François Hollande, j’attache cependant infiniment plus de crédibilité à celle qui a été sa compagne durant longtemps, la mère de ses enfants et qui est autant imprégnée d’humanisme que la journaliste. Ségolène Royal a formellement contredit cette image d’un François Hollande sarcastique et dédaigneux des affres de la misère en se fondant sur l’expérience qu’elle a eue de l’homme et du politique.

Bilger’s review is interesting and well worth the read.

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

Read Full Post »

putin rides bear

Here’s the latest in my occasional series of links to interesting articles on the ex-Soviet Union (the last one in April), this prompted by David Remnick’s report in the August 11th issue of The New Yorker, “Watching the eclipse,” on the political evolution of Russia—and eclipse of democracy there—since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency. The lede: Russia’s President sees himself as the leader of a new anti-Western, conservative axis, and his actions in Ukraine have made him a hero at home… Remnick’s narrative is framed by the experience of his friend Michael McFaul, political scientist and Russia specialist at Stanford, who was US ambassador to Moscow from January 2012 until resigning this past February. At some 11,500 words the piece is long but well worth the read.

While I’m at it, one good article I’ve saved, that dates from April 18th but is not time sensitive, is a special report by Reuters journalists David Rohde and Arshad Mohammed on “How the U.S. made its Putin problem worse.”

Here’s a 52-minute documentary that first aired on French public television in December 2013, “Russie, au cœur du goulag moderne.”

And in May M6 had a 1 hour 18 minute “enquête exclusive” entitled “Moscou au cœur de tous les extrêmes,” which may be viewed here.

Read Full Post »

Gaza, July 9 2014 (photo:  Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gaza, July 9 2014 (photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

More links to worthwhile analyses and commentaries I’ve read of late.

Mouin Rabbani, senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut and co-editor of Jadaliyya—and who previously worked for the ICG in the Palestinian territories—, has a piece in the LRB (July 18th) on “Israel mow[ing] the lawn.” For those not in the know, the expression “mowing the lawn” in the Israel-Palestine context refers to Israel militarily intervening in Gaza every two or three years to degrade the military capacity that Hamas had built up since the previous intervention. Whacking the mole, as it were, except with the mole popping up in the same place.

Probably the most sophisticated exposition of the Palestinian position in the latest flare-up by a representative of the Palestinian Authority that one is likely to hear is PA ambassador to the EU Leila Shahid’s July 10th interview on France 24 (here, en français).

And here’s one of the more powerful TV reportages I’ve seen from Gaza, “‘Why did they destroy a hospital’?,” from Great Britain’s Channel 4 News (July 18th).

On why Hamas has adopted the strategy that it has in this war, Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the East Jerusalem think tank Passia, explained it well in an interview in Libération (July 10th), “«Pour le Hamas, il n’y a pas d’autre option que la fuite en avant».”

À propos, here’s a quote by University of California-Irvine historian and MENA specialist Mark LeVine—who is engagé, très gauchiste, and 100% pro-Pal—that he posted on July 11th on one of his FB comments threads

… I’ve been [to Gaza] many times. I’ve spoken with many activists over 15 years, and Hamas members too. I’ve been told by senior Hamas members as far back as the late 90s that “we are addicted to violence. We know it doesn’t work but we don’t know how to stop using it.”…

On Hamas rebuilding since the 2012 flare-up, journalist and columnist Shlomi Eldar explains in Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse (July 23rd) that “Hamas [has become] the first Palestinian army,” i.e. that it has built itself in a short period of time into the most formidable Palestinian army—not ragtag Fedayeen—that Israel has ever had to contend with. Eldar’s conclusion: Hamas is sufficiently dangerous for Israel that it needs to be smashed no matter what, even if ISIS-style jihadists take its place—and who would not pose a greater threat to Israel in any case.

The very smart GWU political science prof and MENA specialist Nathan J. Brown has an op-ed in WaPo (July 18th) on the “Five myths about Hamas.”

Jeroen Gunning, Executive Director of the Durham Global Security Institute, has an analysis on the BBC News website (July 18th) asking—and then trying to answer—”What drove Hamas to take on Israel?

I found the analysis by Avi Issacharoff (July 19th), The Times of Israel’s Middle East analyst, “Euphoric Hamas needs to hear that Israel will oust it from Gaza if necessary,” to be quite interesting. Even 100% pro-Pal FB friends agreed on this score (on the analysis’s interest, if not its conclusions).

Also in TOI is an analysis (July 17th) by its political correspondent Haviv Rettig Gur, “The tragic self-delusion behind the Hamas war.” The lede: In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, weakness is power, and power—well, it’s complicated.

Yes, complicated indeed. More next time.

Read Full Post »

PS rally, Lyon, May 23 2014

PS rally, Lyon, May 23 2014

I turned on LCP last night, to see what was on, and caught live coverage of the Socialists’s final election rally, in Lyon, with party bigwigs in the front row and Martin Schulz the guest of honor. Manuel Valls had just started his speech, which I watched to the end. He was good! both on form and substance. The focus was on Europe. To watch it, go here and scroll down. After Valls’s speech LCP went live to Jean-François Copé’s UMP rally in Evreux. What a contrast. Whereas Valls was uplifting and Europe-focused—and with frequent references to Martin Schulz and the importance of him being elected the next president of the Commission—, Copé spoke almost exclusively about national politics, mainly beating up on François Hollande, the PS, and Marine Le Pen. It was a repeat performance of the Thursday night event on France 2 (see previous post). Lamentable partisan hackery. He mentioned Europe only in passing and, unless I missed it, made not a single reference to Jean-Claude Juncker, the presidential candidate of the European Peoples Party—the Europarty of which the UMP is a member. The UMP has not put the speech on its website, though this one from two days earlier looks to have been much the same. The sooner the UMP dumps him as party president—which may well happen sooner rather than later—, the better.

ump_europe_meeting_national_jean-francois_cope_920x318-1030x360

Read Full Post »

invites

This is an extended Tweet, i.e. no deep analysis. “Des paroles et des actes,” France 2’s periodic Thursday evening public affairs show, was devoted last night to the European elections. One+ hour of back-to-back interrogations of reps of the six major formations followed by a one-hour debate with all: Stéphane Le Foll (PS), Jean-François Copé (UMP), François Bayrou (UDI-Modem), Yannick Jadot (EELV), Jean-Luc Mélenchon (FdG), and Marine Le Pen (FN). I was initially not going to watch it—other and better things to do on a Thursday evening, who needs to listen to French political hacks and their demagoguery or langue de bois for the umpteenth time, etc, etc—but couldn’t help myself. If one wants an idea as to the state of the European debate in the French political class, this is where to go. Not brilliant. Loin s’en faut. Stéphane Le Foll—who was, until two years, not a first-tier Socialist—was the best; he impressed, both on form and substance, and strove to stay focused on European issues. The écolo Yannick Janot—unknown to the grand public (and myself)—was honest and solid. François Bayrou was François Bayrou; his well-known and well-worn federalist position on Europe is compelling but will likely fall on deaf ears these days. Mélenchon was also Mélenchon (and with his trademark red necktie), but I thought he was somewhat off form, stumbling over the stupid first question lobbed at him—on why the Front de Gauche isn’t doing better in the polls—, which he should have dismissed as irrelevant and not answered; and he only mentioned in passing his formation’s European presidential candidate, Alexis Tsipras. J-F Copé’s partisan hackery was pathetic and lamentable, as was his using the occasion to beat up on President Hollande and the PS rather that speak to European issues; the UMP—which is all tied up in knots over Europe (Nicolas Sarkozy’s tribune in Le Point being the latest demonstration)—would have been well advised to send someone else—e.g. Alain Juppé or Bruno Le Maire—to represent it in such a debate. But the worst was Marine Le Pen. I don’t know how anyone can bear to listen to that grosse conne and her abject demagoguery. If, par malheur, her party ends up sending 15 or 20 MEPs to Strasbourg, France will get what it will get: ridicule and diminished influence in the halls of European institutions. As José Bové incessantly repeats, a vote for the FN in the European elections is a vote wasted, as FN MEPs, when they even bother to show up in Strasbourg or Brussels, have no interest in European issues, have no idea what they’re talking about when they do try to speak on those issues, and have zero influence.

Here is Thomas Legrand’s commentary on last night’s debate. And here’s his commentary yesterday on Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s discourse on Europe.

The reviews of Sarkozy’s Le Point tribune haven’t been too positive. E.g. Sylvie Goulard, Modem MEP and Européenne du premier plan, takes it apart here and here (at 03:20).

Read Full Post »

#TellEUROPE

EuroDebate

Two weeks ago I posted on the first-ever European presidential debate—for the presidency of the European Commission—, that was held on April 28th in Maastricht. Two nights ago another debate was held, before an audience at the European Parliament in Brussels, this time with all five candidates: Jean-Claude Juncker, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt, Ska Keller, and Alexis Tsipras. The organization was stricter than the previous one, with the candidates limited to one-minute responses to each question. The moderators asked them to speak in English, so as to facilitate the simultaneous translation into the 24 official languages of the European Union, three of whom did (Juncker spoke in French and Tsipras in Greek). It was a pretty good debate. Schulz—who’s my candidate—was okay, Verhofstadt—by the far the best last time—was good, but the one I really liked was Ska Keller. She’s articulate, passionate, politically congenial, and gives an all-around positive impression. But, of course, she has no chance whatever of being chosen by the European Council. À propos, the candidates all made it clear that the successor to José Manuel Barroso will be one of them, that the European Parliament will approve no one other, and that the European Council needs to respect the will of the European electorate on this. Indeed. If David Cameron or some other wanker on the European Council refuses to endorse one of the five and tries to pull someone else out of a hat, it will spawn a crisis in the EU and further undermine the EU in the eyes of tens of millions of Europeans. And it will likely not fly in the end.

Then again, it might. Charles Grant of the top-flight think tank the Centre for European Reform, writing two days ago on “Presidential candidates, European federalism and Tony Giddens,” asserted that the President of the Commission is nominated by the European Council, that this is in the EU treaties, and the said Council may propose any candidate it pleases so long as the results of European elections are “[taken] into account.” On verra bien.

The debate (90 minutes) may watched in its entirely here in English et ici en français.

Voici un commentaire sur le débat par Bernard Guetta, sur les ondes de France Inter hier matin, qui l’a appellé “Le premier pas de la démocratie européenne

Dommage, vraiment dommage, que les grandes chaînes publiques n’aient pas retransmis ce débat d’hier soir. Dommage car c’était un vrai débat sur l’Europe entre les chefs de file des cinq grands courants politiques paneuropéens – gauche, droite, Verts, centristes et gauche de la gauche. Dommage car ces quatre hommes et cette jeune femme, Ska Keller, la chef de file des Verts qui a crevé l’écran par sa fraîcheur et sa cohérence, ont su donner à voir leurs différences sans jamais s’invectiver, pas une seconde, et montrer par là qu’il n’y a pas une mais des politiques européennes.

Dommage car on a vu là qu’aucun de ces grands courants ne prônait la fin de l’Union ou la sortie de l’euro et que ceux qui en sont partisans sont tellement divisés qu’ils n’ont pas pu – raison de leur absence de ce débat – se donner un chef de file transcendant les appartenances nationales. Et dommage, enfin, car on a entendu hier soir, beaucoup de choses importantes et notamment deux.

La première est qu’aucun des chefs de file de ces cinq courants n’imagine plus que le futur président de la Commission puisse ne pas être celui d’entre eux auquel le suffrage universel aura donné une majorité ou qui aura pu constituer une coalition majoritaire dans le futur Parlement. Tous ont dit qu’il y aurait déni de démocratie si les dirigeants des vingt-huit Etats membres tentaient de s’y opposer. Il y a unanimité sur ce point des cinq courants et l’on ne voit en effet plus maintenant comment le futur président de la Commission pourrait continuer à procéder d’un obscur compromis entre dirigeants nationaux et non pas du suffrage universel.

Tout semble bien dire qu’on est à la veille d’un vrai progrès de la démocratie européenne et, par conséquence, d’un rééquilibrage des pouvoirs entre la représentation des Etats et celle de l’Union, entre le Conseil européen, d’une part, où siègent les dirigeants nationaux et qui décide aujourd’hui de tout et, de l’autre, le Parlement et la Commission.

La deuxième chose importante est que l’on sentait bien hier soir, qu’au-delà de leurs différences, les cinq étaient d’accord pour promouvoir une politique sociale européenne, plus ou moins affirmée bien sûr. Le candidat des conservateurs, Jean-Claude Juncker, n’a logiquement pas cessé d’insister sur la nécessité de maintenir les politiques de redressement des comptes publics mais lui-même s’est déclaré partisan de l’instauration d’un salaire minimum européen et de la définition d’un socle social auquel tous les Etats devraient se tenir. Pour le reste, ce n’était pas la même chose. La candidate verte voulait la relance par l’investissement dans l’économie verte et les énergies renouvelables.

Martin Schulz, le candidat de la gauche, insistait, lui, sur la chasse à la fraude et l’évasion fiscales qui permettrait, disait-il, de faire l’économie de bien des économies budgétaires. Alexis Tsipras, celui de la gauche radicale, appelait à l’effacement de tout ou partie des dettes publiques. On retrouvait là tous les éléments d’identité politique de ces courants mais on comprenait aussi qu’aucun ne voulait poursuivre avec la seule rigueur et ce débat aura marqué, en un mot, les tout premiers pas d’une démocratie européenne.

Et voici un commentaire de Jean Quatremer, correspondant à Bruxelles de Libération

Les mastodontes télévisuels français (TF1, F2 et F3) sont passés à côté de l’événement de ce début de siècle : la naissance de la démocratie européenne, l’émergence d’un espace public européen, la fin de l’Europe opaque des Etats. Le débat entre les cinq candidats à la présidence de la Commission, une première dans l’histoire de la construction communautaire, a montré où se situaient les vrais enjeux, non plus au niveau national, mais au niveau fédéral. En dépit du format contraignant imposé (trop de questions, des réponses limitées à une minute, l’interprétation), une véritable émotion est passée, celle de l’Europe en train de se faire. Deux Allemands, un Luxembourgeois, un Belge et un Grec ont débattu entre eux en anglais, en français et en grec de questions dont on a pu s’apercevoir qu’elles n’étaient plus nationales, mais transnationales : l’euro, l’immigration, les budgets, la croissance, le chômage, la solidarité, les valeurs, la laïcité, etc.

On a pu voir l’histoire en train de se faire lorsque les cinq, en cœur, ont affirmé que les chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement n’avaient plus d’autre choix que de choisir l’un d’entre eux au lendemain du 25 mai : la dynamique démocratique lancée par les partis politiques européens, lorsqu’ils ont décidé de désigner des candidats à la présidence de la Commission, est telle que rien ne pourra l’arrêter. Angela Merkel peut bien être réticente, David Cameron agiter un droit de veto qu’il n’a plus depuis longtemps, on ne voit pas comment le Conseil européen pourra ignorer le choix des électeurs et sortir de son chapeau un sixième homme ou femme qui n’a pas concouru. Le Parlement européen a pris le pouvoir et les citoyens doivent en prendre conscience.

Ce qui m’a aussi frappé, c’est l’absence de débat artificiel entre les candidats, style«faut-il sortir de l’euro»«faut-il quitter l’Union» ? Car, en réalité, ce sont des slogans, des artifices, aucun politique ne l’envisageant sérieusement en dehors de l’extrême droite, chacun connaissant le prix à payer. L’enjeu, et Alexis Tsipras de la gauche radicale l’a bien dit, ce sont les politiques menées. Personne n’est locataire de l’Europe, tout le monde en est copropriétaire et le consensus européen et de ne pas mettre le feu à la maison. L’absence ce soir de l’extrême droite et des souverainistes, incapables de s’entendre sur le nom d’un étranger pour les représenter, était de ce point de vue remarquable. Ils sont tonitruants en France ou en Grande-Bretagne, ils sont marginaux en Europe.

Et puisqu’il faut désigner un vainqueur : sans conteste l’écologiste Ska Keller qui a montré que la jeunesse avait faim d’Europe et qui a donné faim d’Europe. Alexis Tsipras a été aussi excellent, montrant que la gauche radicale pouvait ne pas être vociférante.

Le commentaire de Quatremer est suivi par d’autres—journalistes et universitaires—dans Libé.

Interesting that Quatremer found Alexis Tsipras “excellent.” I wasn’t overly impressed with him. And one commentator on the blog of the Centre for European Politics declared outright that “For Tsipras, it’s nulle points“…

RDV le dimanche 25.

eurodebate-thumb-large

Read Full Post »

Paris Bourse, January 1999: celebrating the introduction of the euro (photo: AFP)

Paris Bourse, January 1999: celebrating the introduction of the euro (photo: AFP)

France 2 broadcast a 1 hour 40 minute documentary two nights ago on “Le Roman de l’euro,” produced in cooperation with Le Nouvel Observateur and presented by David Pujadas and the (very smart and excellent) economist Daniel Cohen. Here’s France 2’s summary

La monnaie unique a vu le jour il y a douze ans, redessinant à long terme les contours de l’économie européenne. Michel Rocard, François Fillon, Wolfgang Schauble ou encore José Luis Zapatero, racontent les coulisses «du Roman de l’Euro». Par ailleurs, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, ex-directeur du FMI, s’exprime au cours d’une interview exclusive.

DSK is good here. As for the documentary as a whole, IMO it could have been stronger in detailing the arguments for and against the single currency when the project was elaborated in the early ’90s—I do a more thorough job of it in my class on the EU—, but gets better as it moves into the post-2008 crisis years. For those interested in the topic, the documentary may be seen via YouTube here (en français, évidemment).

In the interests of fairness and balance, here’s a critique of the documentary by the gauchiste economist Jacques Sapir, who calls it “Le roman (noir) de l’euro.”

On the subject of the euro, the Financial Times had a four-part must read series this past week on “How the euro was saved,” authored by FT Brussels correspondent Peter Spiegel. In a short video introducing the series, Spiegel “recounts the moments in 2011 and 2012 when the euro came closest to collapse, and how politicians and bureaucrats battled over the solutions that eventually saved [it].”

In part 1 of the series—”‘It was the point where the eurozone could have exploded'”—”on the year [2011] that forever changed Europe, Peter Spiegel recreates the three bitter days in November when the eurozone crisis hit its lowest moment”

In part 2—”Inside Europe’s Plan Z”—Spiegel “reveals how a secret strategy was developed to contain the firestorm from a Greek exit.”

Part 3—”‘If the euro falls, Europe falls’”—”examines Angela Merkel’s deft political moves that led to the end of the crisis.” One may also add the role President Obama played at a critical moment—and not mentioned in the France 2 documentary—, that obliged Merkel to change her position.

In the conclusion of the series—”The eurozone won the war – now it must win the peace”—Speigel says that “[t]he acute phase of the crisis is over but underlying weaknesses remain.”

As I said, the series is well worth reading. FT non-subscribers will have to register to access it (the free registration option offering eight free articles a month).

Read Full Post »

charb_charlie-hebdo-15012014

Charb, chroniqueur et dessinateur à Charlie Hebdo, et directeur de la publication, a eu une belle chronique dans le numéro du 15 janvier 2014, intitulé “Ras le bol du ping-pong sioniste, antisioniste!” Vu que Charlie Hebdo met très peu de son contenu sur son site web, j’allais transcrire la chronique entière, mais je vois qu’elle a bel et bien été publiée sur son site, le 19 février. Donc la voici. Ça vaut la peine d’être lu.

Par ailleurs, si on cherche une définition véridique du sionisme—ce qui est neutre et ne se prête pas à la polémique—, je recommende la tribune de l’écrivain israëlien A.B. Yehoshua, “Ce que «sioniste» veut dire,” publiée dans Libération le 31 mai 2013.

Read Full Post »

24 jours film affiche

J’ai vu ce film hier. Vu qu’un autre film sur Ilan Halimi et le “gang des barbares” est actuellement en production—’Tout, tout de suite’, réalisé par Richard Berry—, je vais attendre la sortie de celui-là avant de faire un billet de blog sur le film d’Alexandre Arcady (c-à-d, je vais écrire sur les deux ensemble). Entre-temps, voici une critique de spectateur (3-étoiles: pas mal) que j’ai publié aujourd’hui sur Allociné:

J’hésite normalement à voir les films d’Alexandre Arcady, réalisateur très “moyen de gamme” et qui, jusqu’à preuve du contraire, n’a jamais fait un chef d’œuvre, mais vu le sujet de celui-ci, je ne pouvais pas ne pas le voir. Le film est dur à regarder, voire insoutenable, mais nécessaire. Le crime antisémite le plus atroce en France depuis la 2ème guerre mondiale — qui a eu lieu au 21ème siècle et en bande organisée composée de membres de la jeune génération – justifie bien un traitement cinématographique et de ne pas tomber dans l’oubli du grand public. Hormis quelques scènes mélos, Arcady s’en sort assez bien. Ce qu’il montre sur l’enquête policière provient du livre de Ruth Halimi (la mère de la victime) – qui a collaboré avec lui dans le développement du film – donc le point de vue d’un acteur dans le drame. Mais quant à la manière dont Arcady dépeint les conditions de la séquestration d’Ilan Halimi et le comportement du psychopathe Youssouf Fofana et la bande de tarés sous son emprise, celle-ci est 100% juste. Les faits de l’affaire sont avérés. Il n’y a pas de quoi discuter là-dessus. Pour tout ce qui concerne le “gang des barbares” il n’y a pas une seule scène dans le film qui est exagérée.

À ce titre, je suis ulcéré par les commentaires de demi-étoile (‘nul’) des spectateurs Allociné (27% à ce jour), qui s’en prennent, dans leur grande majorité, au côtés prétendument “communautariste” et “clivant” du film, c-à-d, ils sont contrariés par un film dont les protagonistes sont juifs et qui traite d’un crime antisémite commis par une bande de racailles de toutes les couleurs mais menée par des blacks et des beurs. Mais vu que le film montre exactement ce qui s’est passé, où est le problème? Comment Arcady aurait-il pu le faire autrement? Peut-étre ces brillants spectateurs auraient préféré que le film ne soit pas fait du tout, qu’on n’en parle plus de cette histoire d’Ilan Halimi et le “gang de barbares”? Et pourquoi? Parce que l’histoire d’un feuj torturé à mort par des blacks et beurs – et parce que feuj – ça les emmerde. Parce que ces sympathiques spectateurs ont un problème avec les juifs. En effet, je suis sûr et certain qu’un certain nombre – sinon la majorité – de ces détracteurs du film ne l’ont pas vu, que leurs commentaires sont basés sur la bande-annonce, ou d’un commentaire sur le film par Dieudonné (dont ces détracteurs sont très certainement des affidés dans leur quasi-totalité). Voilà, la judéophobie est bel et bien vivante dans une frange de la société française.

MISE AU POINT: Il se peut que je sois allé un peu vite en besogne en laissant entendre que les détracteurs du film étaient dérangé par le côté feuj-beur-black. D’autant que je sache, un grand nombre de ces spectateurs d’Allociné – peut-être même l’écrasante majorité – sont des petits blancs: des Français BBR bien-de-chez-nous. On sait bien que Dieudonné a beaucoup de fans chez les “souchiens”, qui n’aiment pas trop les juifs – c’est une litote – mais qui fustigent tout “communautarisme”. Sauf le leur, évidemment, le communautarisme des Français…

Par ailleurs, j’ai des commentaires sur Dieudonné, qu’on peut lire ici et ici; aussi ici et ici.

Et voici une critique du film d’Alexandre Arcady par Philippe Bilger—le très connu et politiquement droitier magistrat à la retraite—dans son blog, Justice au Singulier.

Mise en page 1

ilan_halimi

Paris,_Jardin_Ilan-Halimi,_Plaque

Read Full Post »

Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Maxppp)

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, European Parliament, Strasbourg (Maxppp)

There has been a torrent of tributes of late to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who has announced that he will not be running for reelection to the European Parliament next month, signaling, in effect, his retirement from electoral politics. I am, needless to say, a big fan of Dany’s, adhering to his political positions 93% of the time and to his values, world-view, and spirit a full 100%. He’s great, c’est tout ce que je peux dire à son sujet (for those on the hard left who despise him—who call him a sell-out, or worse—, they can just go bugger off). Cohn-Bendit has been a fixture in the European Parliament for the past twenty years—elected with the German Die Grünen in 1994 and 2004, with Les Verts/EELV in 1999 and 2009 (his heading the French lists causing their scores to spike)—, the veritable conscience of that body, and a fierce defender of the European project. Le Monde, in an online piece on Wednesday on DCB’s two decades as MEP, linked to videos of some of his more memorable interventions in recent years during plenary sessions in Strasbourg. They’re great. As the LM piece will eventually disappear behind the paywall, here are the vids:

Dany giving his farewell speech on Wednesday.

Dany reprimanding Martin Schulz in 2010 for voting to approve the Barroso Commission—and telling him ta gueule! i.e. STFU, while he was at it (no hard feelings from Schulz, who is a good guy himself).

Dany verbally pummeling Victor Orbán in 2012 and to his face.

Dany giving President Hollande a hard time in 2013, and addressing him in the familiar form.

Dany letting Jean-Marie Le Pen have it in 2011, after the latter’s scandalous reaction to the Utoya massacre in Norway.

Dany in 2012 telling the Earl of Dartmouth—UKIP MEP—a few home truths (and in English).

Daniel Cohn-Bendit is sui generis. As I’ve already said twice, he’s great. Brussels and Strasbourg will be diminished without him.

Read Full Post »

piece-zone-euro_4080504

[update below]

Pascal Riché has an important article in Rue89 on the growing debate in France over quitting the euro and the arguments for and against, and which he advises people to familiarize themselves with—”Entraînez-vous au débat qui déchirera vos dîners dans quelques semaines” he says—, as the debate will no doubt rise to a fever pitch during the election campaign for the European Parliament (May 25th in France). Riché notes that, until recently, most French critics of the ECB’s monetary policy and the SGP nonetheless argued that the euro was a net plus for France and that exiting from it was unthinkable. The only ones arguing otherwise—that France should and must quit the euro—have been the Front National, souverainistes like Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, extreme left groupuscules, and a handful of economists (the usual suspects on this subject, e.g. Jean-Jacques Rosa, Jacques Sapir). But Riché now observes that the arguments for leaving the euro are going mainstream, noting in particular the revirement on the question by the high-profile Keynesian economist Bernard Maris, an irreducible partisan of Europe—he voted ‘oui’ in both the TEU and ECT referendums—, but who has regretfully come to the conclusion that France has no hope of increasing economic growth and lowering unemployment so long as it remains in the single currency dominated as it by Germany. I was indeed surprised to hear Maris—of whom I am a fan—make this argument last Friday in his weekly debate on France Inter with the libéral/free-market economics journalist Dominique Seux, and equally surprised to hear Seux’s tepid counter-argument, in which he conceded many of Maris’s points (listen here). And this morning on France Inter I listened to invited guest Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who argued for six minutes straight why the euro has been disastrous for the French economy and that the only salvation for France is to exit from it. Some of Dupont-Aignan’s points were exaggerated or simplistic but he is exceptionally well-spoken and his argumentation is coherent (listen here); and it will certainly be convincing to many citizens who are otherwise not right-wing Eurosceptics or nostalgics for a Gaullist golden age.

IMHO the arguments for staying in the euro are still stronger than those for leaving—the consequences of which could indeed be calamitous—but my convictions on this are becoming shaky. It is, however, clear that the single currency was an error—and that having it run according to German conditions was a double error. I cannot imagine for a second that President Hollande or any of his credible successors would ever make such a fateful decision to leave the euro. But if the euro remains overvalued and France continues to privilege deficit reduction over economic growth, then the economic and social situation in this country is going to get worse, and with political and social consequences one can only imagine.

À suivre.

UPDATE: French News Online informs me—in the comments below—that they had a story back on Feb. 7th on how “The French want out of the euro.” In other words, FNO scooped me and by a long shot. J’en prends acte.

Read Full Post »

Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo

That’s the title (in English) of a good 80 minute documentary, “Populisme, l’Europe en danger,” that aired last night on ARTE’s weekly news magazine, Thema. It takes up four cases, the first—and the most disquieting, IMO— being Beppe Grillo and his Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) in Italy (which I had a post on a couple of years ago, comparing it to the 1950s Poujadist movement in France). I find the M5S disquieting in view of its electoral strength—25% in the 2012 legislative elections, and whose support is apparently holding steady in the polls—and the real problems this is posing to the Italian political system given the big bloc of seats it has in both chambers of parliament, the dictatorial manner in which Grillo runs the movement, and the manifest anti-democratic—if not downright fascistic—undercurrent in his discourse and general world-view. The parallel with Mussolini was indeed suggested toward the end of the segment.

The second report is on the French Front National, with a focus on its municipal election campaign in Forbach (Moselle), a dying industrial town in the Lorraine and which the FN, via its high-profile mayoral candidate there—the énarque and party vice-president Florian Philippot—, had high hopes of winning (but didn’t). One interesting bit of information in the segment concerns the FN’s decision not to endorse or formally participate in the big anti-gay marriage movement of last spring, despite this being supported by the near totality of its traditional voter base (and with FN voters no doubt taking part in the demos in large numbers; for my one post on the French gay marriage issue, go here). The reason: Marine Le Pen did not want to jeopardize her budding alliance with Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

A report on Wilders follows the one on the FN. He and his party, the PVV—which speaks for some 10-15% of the Dutch electorate—, are a new kind of right-wing populist movement: liberal/libertarian on societal issues (notably on sexuality), economically free-market (though this is being watered down), and aiming its fire at Islam. Wilders’s Islamophobia—a neologism I don’t like but which is apt in his case—is well known and hardly needs explication, except to mention that this has enabled Wilders to avoid formally stigmatizing Muslims qua Muslims or to speak about immigration more generally. A clever sleight of hand. The ARTE report says that Wilders could eventually become prime minister, which I doubt. His latest dérapage probably hasn’t enhanced his prospects here, that’s for sure.

The final report is from Hungary, on the neo-Naziish Jobbik—which received a shocking 20.5% of the vote in last Sunday’s legislative election—and, above all, Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz, which took 44.5% (a drop of 8% from the 2010 election), though with 67% of the national assembly seats. The dérive autoritaire in Hungary has been written about extensively—e.g. see the 5-part series by Princeton University’s Kim Lane Scheppele, published in February on Paul Krugman’s blog. That the European Union has failed to take decisive action against Hungary is an absolute scandal. Then again, the reason for this inaction—as the report makes fairly clear—may have to do with the critical support offered to Orbán inside the EU’s institutions, his Fidesz being a member of the European Parliament’s current majority party, the European People’s Party (EPP), and whose other constituents include the German CDU, the French UMP, and the Spanish PP—not to mention European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s home party, the Portuguese PSD.

This underscores the importance of next month’s elections to the European Parliament, of depriving the EPP of a majority and preventing the establishment of a parliamentary group by an alliance of far right-wing populist parties led by Le Pen and Wilders.

The documentary may be viewed on ARTE’s website here through next Tuesday.

Marine Le Pen & Geert Wilders, The Hague, November 13 2013

Marine Le Pen & Geert Wilders, The Hague, November 13 2013

Read Full Post »

maxresdefault

France 3’s monthly magazine Histoire Immédiate had two documentaries Monday evening on François Hollande, his presidency, and French public opinion, and that are well worth the watch. Here’s the synopsis of the first one, “Que se passe-t-il dans la tête de François Hollande?,” produced and narrated by Franz-Olivier Giesbert

François Hollande est une énigme. Est-il l’homme qu’il faut à la France? Après son élection il avait annoncé que tout allait changer. Rien ne s’est passé comme prévu: le changement n’est que parcellaire et le pays continue de s’enfoncer dans la crise. Alors que la popularité du Président sombre, il garde le sourire. Pour tenter de comprendre ce qui explique cet optimisme, Franz-Olivier Giesbert part à la rencontre de ses proches et leur demande qui est vraiment cet homme que les Français ont élu. Avec eux, il passe en revue son parcours politique, sa vie privée, son action à l’Elysée et brosse un portrait inédit.

The documentary, which runs 1 hour 25 minutes, may be watched on France 3’s website here until next Monday.

And here’s the synopsis of the second reportage, “François Hollande et nous”

François Hollande bat tous les records d’impopularité pour un président sous la Ve République. Comment en est-il arrivé là? Nicolas Sarkozy s’est usé à trop gouverner, François Hollande s’use-t-il à ne pas gouverner assez? Y a-t-il une fatalité, pour un président de la République française, à revenir à un niveau de popularité égal à son score au premier tour des élections présidentielles après quelques mois d’exercice? Aujourd’hui, François Hollande est en dessous de ce seuil. Quelles catégories de population a-t-il perdues? Est-ce lié à sa personnalité ou à sa politique? Sondeurs, observateurs, politologues et spécialistes de la communication donnent leur avis.

This one (55 minutes) may be seen here, also until next Monday.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: