Netanyahu in Paris. ‘Je suis Charlie’

This article is a translation of "Netanyahu in Parijs. ‘Je suis Charlie’"

Everything in Paris yesterday reverberated with the indignation about the assault on Charlie Hebdo. However, there was a wide gulf between the more than two million people in the streets, and the approximately 40 heads of government and other officials who were gathered there. Among the demonstrators there was a mood of fraternization, such as Muslims who handed out white roses and had pictures taken of themselves joining hands with people of Jewish background. The officials on the other hand were conferring, as expected, on how to continue the struggle against presumed Muslim extremism. Can they actually still govern without war? 

The French and British interior secretaries issued a statement in which they demanded that internet and communication companies work more closely with the security services. What Theresa May could not say openly, was expressed in the Sunday Telegraph by her fellow Tory, former defence secretary Liam Fox. The intelligence services must have unrestricted access to the internet, and it should be impossible that newspapers like The Guardian would ever again be allowed to help Edward Snowden to abscond to Moscow ‘with 58,000 files among others of GCHQ’ (British counterpart to the NSA), as it did, so that vital data concerning the fight against terror ended up in the hands of … Russian intelligence.

Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had not been invited but he ignored the request of Hollande to stay away. Not only did he want to make an appeal on the spot to French Jews to migrate to Israel. His presence also had a deeper meaning.
This after all was his moment. Millions of people in the streets to protest against a presumed ‘Islamic’ attack And wasn’t that idea, a War against Terror, launched by Netanyahu and his political friends in the Likud Party?

From the late 1970s the Likud has exerted itself to turn the problem of the unsolvable conflict with the Palestinians in the occupied territories into a problem of the West as a whole. In 1979, two years after he had come to power, prime minister Begin opened a conference in Jerusalem in which the presumed Soviet threat and Muslim terrorism were brought under a common denominator. Thus a rapprochement was sought with the right wings of both the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States. George Bush Sr. was one of the participants.
In 1984 a follow-up conference was held in Washington, D.C., in which secretary of state Shultz, attorney general Meese, Israeli defence minister Rabin of and a series of prominent journalists and scholars participated.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s ambassador with the UN in New York at the time, chaired the conference. In his contribution (he also edited the collected papers of the conference, published in 1986 under the title ‘Terrorism—How the West Can Win’), Netanyahu declared that the world had to face the fact that the greatest danger to democracy consisted of the Soviet threat and Muslim terrorism, headed by the PLO, directed in turn by Moscow.
However, there was no point in running after each plane hijacking separately. Only once a major attack would have happened, an alliance under American leadership could be formed to engage in a struggle with all terrorists and with the regimes harbouring them. The population in the West would greatly suffer too, according to Netanyahu, but in due course it would recognise that only in this way the war against terror could be won.
In the meantime the Cold War seemed on the way out after Gorbachev had taken power, so that the ‘threat’ appeared much less imminent. However, when the major attack came with 9/11, the Netanyahu programme was executed under Bush Jr.
So should he now be absent if an estimated three million people were in the streets to demonstrate against Islamist terror?

Netanyahu, who only a few months ago left 2,500 Palestinians dead in a devastated Gaza Strip, now is Charlie. And among the demonstrating dignitaries we noted . premier Davutoglu of Turkey, the country with the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world, king Abdullah of Jordan, where a Palestinian journalist was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour last year, foreign secretary Shoukry of the Egyptian junta, and so on and so forth (all thanks to investigative work by LSE student Daniel Wickham). All Charlie. Where was this indignation when the neo-Nazi, Breivik, shot dead 77 youngsters on an island near Oslo? Where were the leaders? In the Netherlands politicians fell over each other to assure us that this had nothing to do with Wilders. Or is ‘our freedom’ only at stake when the attack can be attributed to Islam, however incongruous the claim?

The French media are of course also Charlie, and for freedom. Or at least ... business magazine Les Echos is personal property of B. Arnault (richest man of France); the weekly, Le Point, is owned by F. Pinault (no. 3); Le Figaro, by M. Dassault (no. 6); Le Monde and the Nouvel Observateur, by X. Niel (no. 7), Direct Matin and Canal Plus, by V. Bolloré (no. 10), and then we get the ‘less fortunate’ M.Bouygues (TF1 and LCI), J.P. Baudecroux (NRJ), Alain Weill (RMC and BFMTV) and A. Lagardère (Europe 1, Paris Match, Journal du dimanche). What remains are L’Humanité, Le Canard Enchaîné, Le Monde Diplomatique (from which these data are taken) and … Charlie Hebdo.

Marine Le Pen immediately after the attack called for the reintroduction of the death penalty. Her request was approved within a day: all perpetrators were killed by the universally acclaimed sharpshooters, both the Kouachi brothers and the hostage taker in the kosher supermarket. Veterinarians can tranquilize a rhino from five hundred meters, but the anti-terror units cannot disable a suspect so that he can be brought before a magistrate for interrogation. Or would it be preferable not to hear what they have to say? Was there more at stake than just avenging the insult to the Prophet?

Kees van der Pijl

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