WW4 Report on Murdered French Journalists, Left & Right Responses

 [Note: Reprinted below, with permission, are articles from World War 4 Report about the horrendous Paris killings on Jan. 7, growing racism, and anti-immigrant backlash. This morning, additional people were killed and wounded in Paris in a hostage-taking in a Kosher grocery store. I wish to draw attention to the middle article, “Leftist cowardice on Charlie Hebdo,” and to the dangers of increasing right-wing anti-immigrant, anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiment throughout Europe.
Even though we don’t always agree, I find Bill Weinberg to be one of the few consistently principled left journalists, and I recommend that readers subscribe to World War 4 Report. As it describes itself: “World War 4 Report provides concise, comprehensive daily reportage and analysis on U.S. military operations and the “War on Terrorism”; resource wars and autonomy struggles; and dissident-left voices from the Middle East, Latin America and around the world. It has been an ongoing news digest and commentary since the immediate aftermath of 9-11.” See the website at http://ww4report.com – Anne Jaclard, Jan. 9, 2015]

#JeSuisCharlie, #JeSuisMusulman: contradiction?

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Wed, 01/07/2015 – 20:23

By now we’ve all heard. Gunmen today shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, apparently while shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad!” Editor Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier is among the dead; he had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection. Charlie Hebdo’s offices were bombed in 2011, after the magazine released an issue in which the Prophet Muhammed was satirically billed as “guest editor.” The issue included cartoons lampooning Muhammed and was redubbed “Charia Hebdo,” a reference to Shariah law. The new attack is said to be the deadliest in France since 1961, when rightists who opposed Algerian independence bombed a train, killing 28 people. (BBC News, NYT)

The New York Times headline states all too obviously, “Paris Attack Reflects a ‘Dangerous Moment’ for Europe,” quoting Peter Neumann of the UK-based International Center for the Study of Radicalisation: “This is a dangerous moment for European societies. With increasing radicalization among supporters of jihadist organizations and the white working class increasingly feeling disenfranchised and uncoupled from elites, things are coming to a head.” The example is cited of the recent anti-immigrant, anti-Islam rallies in Germany, under the banner of Pegida—Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.

Homa Khaleeli in The Guardian urges us to “resist the clash-of-civilisations narrative”…

[I]n the moments after the news broke about the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I found it impossible to ignore a sinking feeling: the recognition that we were being pulled further into a cycle of distrust and division.

It grew as I read through the responses online. The straightforward reaction from far-right extremists was the hashtag #killallmuslims, which would have been easy to ignore as empty words if it hadn’t reminded me of the firebombing of mosques after the Lee Rigby murder.

Less violent but still divisive was the way the attack was depicted as a battle between Islam and freedom of speech, or between Muslims and satire—a clash-of-civilisations argument that splits the world neatly into “them” and “us”, by ignoring the staggering death toll of terrorist attacks abroad (most recently the massacre of schoolchildren in Pakistan).

There is some important truth here. We have also emphasized that the principal concern of jihadist franchies like ISIS and the various Qaeda affiliates is the struggle within Islam against secularism and internal heresy such as Shia, and only secondarily the jihad against the West. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, contrary to the Western media “narrative.” And indeed patronizing demands on Muslims to repudiate such extremism is a form of stigmatization which is sure to backfire—especially as no such demands are placed on Jews (by mainstream voices, anyway) to repudiate Israeli state terror.

But this also obscures a point: in resisting the “clash-of-civilizations narrative,” we must advocate an analysis that emphasizes the clashes within “civilizations.” There are Muslims, and non-Muslims living within Muslim-majority nations and communities, who oppose the ever-more-reactionary rule of political Islam—just as there are white Europeans who stand up to the current paroxysm of xenophobia and Islamophobia. Thousands of Germans have taken to the streets to repudiate the ugly Pegida. But those in the Middle East and Muslim communities in the West who similarly stand up to the increasingly hegemonic Islamist reaction are too often portrayed by “progressives” as dupes or agents of imperialism.

In previous eruptions of the interminable cartoon controversy, “progressives” have repeatedly raised the absurd fallacy that freedom of speech is a scheme to allow the white male power structure to shout down the rest of us. A case in point this time around is the commentary of one Jacob Canfield on the Hooded Utilitarian blog. His title concedes: “Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism; You can condemn the attacks without embracing the cartoons.” But he doesn’t write like he means it about the “free speech” part. He says Charb “comes across as a racist asshole” for having dared to state, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me… I live under French law. I don’t live under Koranic law.”

As we have noted, an inherent right to blasphemy was precisely the position that progressives took in the controversy over art photographer Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” It’s true that Christians are not oppressed and marginalized in the West as Muslims are—but does that entirely justify the double standard? Would progressives defend intentionally offensive anti-Muslim art in countries where Christians are oppressed and marginalized by Muslim majorities, such as Syria, Iraq, Egypt? How many “progressives” who protest the sophomoric humor of Charlie Hebdo came to the defense of Gillian Gibbons, the British schoolteacher imprisoned in Sudan a few years back for innocently naming a class teddy bear “Mohammed”? How many have opposed the ugly Jew-hating cartoons that appear regularly in the Arab press? No, that is left to be exploited by the Zionists and Islamophobes. And around it goes.

There will be some progress in this world when Jews protest Israeli state terror and Muslims protest Islamist terror—and not in response to condescending demands that they do so, but because it is necessary to oppose atrocities committed in the name of one’s own group identity. The Germans who are protesting Pegida get this. So too did the NRIs (non-resident Indians, presumably including some of Hindu background) who protested Narendra Modi on his much-hyped US tour last year. The dueling Twitter hashtags #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) and #JeSuisMusulman (I am Muslim) suggest a pathological dichotomy: we can extend solidarity both to artists and satirists (no matter how sophomoric) and to Muslims under xenophobic attack.

At the rally this evening in the bitter cold of New York’s Union Square, a crowd of mostly French protesters held matching mass-produced signs reading “Je Suis Charlie.” Amid the crowd was one young man, seemingly of Arab background, who held a hand-written sign that read “I am Charlie” in Arabic.

Leftist cowardice on Charlie Hebdo (surprise)

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 01/08/2015 – 17:18.

Painful but hardly surprising that the left is displaying typical intellectual cowardice on the Paris massacre, even proclaiming “I am not Charlie.” The Jacobin response is predictable, rejecting the word “terrorism” as a “narrative device” (God, how we hate the word “narrative”) and “inherently normative” (huh?), and decrying “solidarity with what is frankly a racist publication.” The writer, Richard Seymour, issues the requisite disavowal of the notion that journalists are “legitimate targets” (gee, thanks), but he offers no critique of political Islam. His argument basically comes down to the notion that CH brought it on themselves, and tough luck.

This is stated even more explicitly on Medium.com, which asserts: “This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech—It Was About War.” We knew that was coming. The inevitable “not about free speech” line. What does that even mean, apart from (stated more honestly) we don’t care about free speech for people we don’t like? The invocation of the word “war” is particularly ironic, given that CH was targeted with actual deadly violence. The writer, Asghar Bukhari, protests that some “white dude” or “Zionist” will accuse him of “justifying” the attack. But if his screed isn’t a justification, what is it? Even if his dubious case that CH is an organ of war propaganda holds up, what can we infer from the assertion that the attack “was nothing to do with free speech” other than the notion that CH was a “legitmate target”?

Contrast the truly courageous editorial from The Forward, a pro-Zionist voice that all us lefties are supposed to hate. Their headline is “Why Charlie Hebdo Must Be Free to Offend All—Even Us,” and they actually reprint various cartoons from CH portraying Israelis as murderous thugs. A compilation of CH cartoons on Gawker clearly demonstrates that Jews and Catholics as well as Muslims were targets of their unsparing pens. The Toronto Star reprints a 2013 statement from the late Charb, “No, Charlie Hebdo isn’t Racist,” in which he reminds readers that the zine’s roots are on the left: “Charlie Hebdo is the child of May ’68, of the spirit of freedom and insolence… The Charlie Hebdo of the 1970s helped to form the critical spirit of a generation. By mocking the powers and the powerful. By laughing, sometimes uproariously, at the ills of the world. And always, always, always by defending the human individual and his universal values…”

OpenDemocracy scoffs: “[I]t is amazing how many Islamophobic and far right people are declaring their love for a magazine that until recently they would criticize as a ‘communist rag’ (after Charlie’s biting satire mocked their own heroes, from Jesus Christ to Marine Le Pen). These are the heroic defenders of free speech, like Geert Wilders, who want to ban the Quran because it incites violence.”

The one unequivocally racist CH cartoon we’ve found is this one, which shows pregnant Boko Haram rape victims demanding their welfare checks. That isn’t poking fun at religious orthodoxy, but the victims thereof. Not kosher. So has CH drifted from its leftist roots to line up with the xenophobe right? While most “leftists” have, in reaction, drifted from their secular roots to line up with the Islamist right? Once again… Are we the only ones who feel like we’re through the looking glass here?

Anti-Muslim backlash in wake of Paris attacks

Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Thu, 01/08/2015 – 19:17.

It is receiving alarmingly little coverage in English, but Raw Story reports a wave of attacks on Muslim targets across France overnight. Three blank grenades were thrown at a mosque shortly after midnight in the city of Le Mans, west of Paris. A bullet hole was also found in a window of the mosque. In the Port-la-Nouvelle district near Narbonne in southern France, several shots were fired in the direction of a Muslim prayer hall shortly after evening prayers. The hall was empty, the local prosecutor said. An explosion at a kebab shop near a mosque in the eastern French town of Villefranche-sur-Saone this morning also left no casualties. Local prosecutors have described it as a “criminal act.”

This comes just months after a wave of attacks on Jewish targets in France. How much overlap will there be in those who protest the current anti-Muslim attacks and those who protested last year’s anti-Jewish attacks? All too little. So few seem to understand what we have repeatedly pointed out: anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are genetically linked phenomena.

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