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The Martyrdom of an Anti-Zionist French Official By: Nidra Poller
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 03, 2008

A high ranking French official publishes an anti-Zionist diatribe on a French Muslim website and gets sacked. He wasn’t violating a taboo, just disgracing his uniform.

French citizens do not enjoy the same broad freedom of speech granted to Americans, but when it comes to criticizing Zionists and the State of Israel the difference is hardly visible to the naked eye. The abrupt dismissal of sous-préfet [vice-magistrate] Bruno Guigue, author of a text that compares Israel to the Third Reich, is not strictly speaking a free speech issue. As a high-ranking civil servant, i.e. in the service of the State, Guigue is expected to refrain from the public expression of extreme statements, opinions, or affiliations.

Nothing Guigue wrote in the controversial article posted on the French Muslim website www.oumma.com violates current "standards" of discourse on the subject. He might have been sued 6 or 7 years ago for claiming that Israel is the only country whose snipers take shots at Palestinian girls coming out of school, but authors of such statements are rarely taken to court these days. The high-profile hate speech conviction of Edgar Morin, Sami Naïr, and Danièle Sallenave, authors of a comparable diatribe published in the snooty newspaper Le Monde in 2002, was overturned on appeal.

Bruno Guigue is an « énarque, » a graduate of the prestigious national school of administration, breeding ground of almost all French politicians Left and Right—with the notable exception of Nicolas Sarkozy--which accounts for the monotonous similarity of their mindset and operating methods. Guigue, who considers himself a specialist on the Middle East conflict, is the author of several books and countless articles in the same vein as the incriminated specimen.

He is just as much at home in highbrow intellectual circles as in the Islamic expanses of oumma.com. A January 2007 Monde Diplomatique article, “What Hamas really wants" by Paul Delmotte draws on Guige’s research to argue in favor of accepting Hamas as a respectable political force, unjustly accused of refusing to recognize Israel and planning to establish shari’a in “Palestine.”

Guigue blames international opinion for focusing unduly on the Hamas charter instead of recognizing Hamas’ constructive evolution as illustrated by its proposals for a national union government. Delmotte quotes Guigue with ill-concealed delight: “The international community must finally show that its resolutions are serious, after 40 years of conniving with Israel.”

Guige’s dismissal from his current post—but not from public service-- inspires floods of sympathy from readers of a wide range of print and online media. Seemingly endless threads string out near-unanimous support for the gentleman who dares to ignore the taboo and tell the truth about Israel. Lurid accusations of Israeli atrocities alternate with imprecations against this country of France where no one has the right to…tell the truth about Israel. Guigue’s fans blame Sarkozy for this sorry state of affairs. The upstart French president has betrayed his country’s natural—Arab-Muslim—allies and lined up behind the USA and Israel.  You can’t say a word against the Zionists without being accused of antisemitism, complain readers, who go on to huff and puff about the undue representation of Jews in the upper echelons of French society.

MRAP, an anti-racist association that has become so cozy with Islam that it is hard to remember it was founded to combat racism and antisemitism, deplores a troubling change in France’s Middle East policy, and denounces government intimidation of Bruno Guigue, proof, once again, that criticizing Israel is taboo.

In a lengthy article posted on the webzine Rue 89 (hangout for journalists from the freewheeling daily Libération), Professor Esther Benbassa calmly analyzes Guigue’s text and the circumstances in which it was written.  She describes a sort of intellectual cycle of violence, initiated by a cluster of primarily Jewish intellectuals who published an op-ed denouncing the UN’s propensity to condemn Israel. Bruno Guigue retaliated, defending the UN, justifying its systematic condemnation of Israel, and adding a few plums of his own. Well, not exactly his own, or so it seems to Professor Benbassa’s practiced eye. The bit about snipers taking out girls as they skip home from school was borrowed, she thinks, from Amira Hass (Correspondante à Ramallah, La Fabrique, 2004) while the snide remark about religious Israeli jailers interrupting torture sessions for Shabbat refers most likely to footnote 17, page 94 of Les Emmurés (la Découverte 2005) by Le Monde journalist Sylvain Cypel. Reminding readers that the original authors of those shocking insults are Jews, Esther Benbassa, who is also Jewish, excludes the very possibility of antisemitic motives…which is rather strange coming from a history professor.

As for censorship and taboos, nothing stopped the publication of those above-cited harsh words in France, in black & white, on paper, before they wriggled into the sous-préfet’s oumma.com text. Hass is a star over at La Fabrique, the résistant-publisher who exposed in-your-face photos of Palestinian suffering at the recent Paris Book Fair where Israel was the guest of honor.

Gently reminding the sous-préfet that it might have been wiser to name his sources, the good professor ends by placing the blame for the excesses of his discourse on…those excited Zionists who pounce on anyone who dares to tell the truth or give an opinion or—why not—spread a nasty rumor about their promised land. She engraves Guige’s name on a long list of martyrs, beginning with “France 2 journalist Charles Enderlin…harassed because he broadcast images of young Mohamed al Dura, targeted by the Israeli army.”  

There’s something strange about these martyrs, from Walt & Mearsheimer to semi-literate talkbackers, who begin every riff with the same lamento—you’re not allowed to criticize Israel—and wind up their speeches, op-eds, TV appearances, and pseudo-academic books with a moan and a groan about the powerful forces that prevent them from telling the truth about Israel. They are free to pour out floods of accusations that could drown the State of Israel ten times over, and they know it, and they keep doing it. So why are they crying in their beer?  

It’s because there’s always someone to stand up and answer them back. That’s not a taboo, it’s fair play.

To see a real taboo, click onto the black screen at Liveleak where Geert Wilder’s Fitna—which can’t be shown in movie theaters, in private auditoriums, on television--lasted less than 24 hours on the Net before the provider shut it down in the face of serious threats. As Robert Spencer says, “If you say Islam isn’t a religion of peace, they’ll kill you.”

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