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Marine Le Pen Is What Happens When You Try to Meet Racism in the Middle April 25, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Europe, France, Nazi / Fascist, Racism, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It’s curious.  The notion of “appeasement” is widely misused to justify all kinds of illegal military invasions.  Chamberlain “appeased” Hitler, so now for all time forward it is legitimate to attack anyone we don’t like.  They must not be “appeased.”  Saddam must not be appeased, Gaddafi must not be appeased, Iran must not be appeased, North Korea must not be appeased, Assad must not be appeased, etc. etc. etc.

(This doctrine, curiously, was not applied to South African Apartheid, to Chile’s Pinochet, Cuba’s Batista, Haiti’s Duvalier and a host of other tyrannical rulers.  Nor is it applied today to Egypt’s Sisi or Turkey’s Erdogan or the Saudis, etc. etc. etc.  Not to mention Israel’s Netanyahu.  Curious.)

But where do we appease when we shouldn’t?  We do we lack the courage or the moral fibre to confront such cancerous social phenomenon as racism?  Read on.

marine-le-pen-france-election-1493045458-article-header Photo: Aurore Marechal/Sipa/AP

SHAME ON THEM all. French leaders from across the political spectrum could not prevent a far-right candidate who has denied the role played by her country’s wartime Vichy government in the Nazi Holocaust from reaching the second and final round of the presidential election.

On Sunday, Marine Le Pen became only the second National Front candidate in French history to make it through to the second round — the first was her Holocaust-denying father, FN founder Jean Marie Le Pen, in 2002 — where she will face independent centrist Emmanuel Macron on May 7. Never before in the history of the French Fifth Republic have both the Socialist and the Republican candidates failed to reach the presidential run-off. This is nothing less than a political cataclysm.

So who is to blame for the rise and rise of Le Pen and the FN? The conventional wisdom says that mainstream French politicians allowed the far right to win votes by letting them monopolize the issue of immigration. The reverse is, in fact, the case: Over the past four decades, both the center-right Republicans and center-left Socialists went out of their way to try and co-opt the xenophobic rhetoric and policies of the Le Pens, which only emboldened — and normalized — both father and daughter.

Go back to September 1984, when the Socialist prime minister, Laurent Fabius, told a TV interviewer that the elder Le Pen, a card-carrying racist and neo-fascist, was posing the right questions but giving the wrong answers. A few years later, the Socialist president, Francois Mitterrand, declared that France had reached a “threshold of tolerance” in terms of the impact of immigrants.

In 1991, after clashes broke out between French police and youths of Arab and North African descent, politicians from the left, right, and center fell over one another to denounce immigration and bash French Muslims. In June of that year, for example, it wasn’t the elder Le Pen who decried an “overdose” of immigrants who brought to France “three or four wives, some 20 children,” plus “noise” and “smell.” It was former center-right prime minister (and later president) Jacques Chirac. A month later, it wasn’t Le Pen who announced that the French government would charter planes to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants. It was then-Prime Minister Edith Cresson, a Socialist. Just a few months later, in September 1991, it wasn’t Le Pen who warned of an “invasion” of immigrants and called for French citizenship to be based on “the right by blood.” It was former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

Every time the established politicians and parties hardened their stance on immigration, or on Islam, the FN became less fringe, more mainstream. Perhaps the biggest boost to the LePenization of French politics came from Nicolas Sarkozy. As president of France between 2007 and 2012, he actively courted FN voters and helped dismantle the “Republican pact,” under which the two main parties had pledged to work together to defeat the FN at a national and local level. Remember: It was Sarkozy who launched the “Great Debate on National Identity” in 2009; who ordered the ban on the face veil, worn by only 2,000 out of the roughly 2 million adult Muslim women in France, in 2010; who absurdly declared halal meat to be the “issue which most preoccupies the French” in 2012. And it was Sarkozy who called the FN “a democratic party” and deemed its values “compatible with the Republic.”

The French left, however, also has a lot to answer for. Manuel Valls, Socialist prime minister between 2014 and 2016, defended a ban on the burkini and said the “most important thing” is not unemployment but “the identity battle, the cultural battle.” Marine Le Pen herself could not have said it better. Valls’ Socialist colleague Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister for women’s rights, compared Muslim women who choose to wear the headscarf to “American negroes who were in favor of slavery.” And the far left presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came fourth on Sunday, condemned the candidacy of a headscarf-wearing female Muslim candidate in the local elections of 2010.

These are the moral depths to which French socialism has fallen.

With enemies like these, who needs friends? Should we be surprised then that Marine Le Pen has pulled off an unashamedly cynical policy of dédiabolisation (or de-demonization) in recent years, based on playing down the FN’s (unpopular) anti-Semitism while playing up its (more popular) Islamophobia? Without much resistance, she has framed the party’s hard-line stance on immigration as a liberal defense of French laicité, or secularism, against fanatical and illiberal Muslims at home and abroad.

Islamophobia long ago united French public figures from across the spectrum. “That anti-Muslim rhetoric can be used from the far left to the far right … illustrates the convergence of points of views about Muslims,” Yasser Louati, a French human rights activist, tells me. “They can disagree on everything but not Islamophobia.”

To fight the FN, he says, there has to be a recognition of the role that endemic racism and religious discrimination still plays in French society, from the boardrooms to the banlieues. A former colonial power like France, argues Louati, has “racism enshrined in its DNA.” The official statistics on rising hate crimes, like Sunday’s election result, seem to back him up.

Nevertheless, to also be fair to the French, the latest polling suggests around two out of three of them will vote against Le Pen and in favor of Macron in the run-off next month. Macron is on course to win a resounding victory — but Le Pen has made clear she is here to stay. Le Pen and her fascist friends will be back in 2022 to fight again, enthused and energized, not to mention legitimized, by achieving such success in 2017 — and by forcing both left and right to dance to their bigoted tunes.

So it’s time for a reckoning. The French elites’ strategy of trying to defeat the Le Pens by aping their rhetoric, stealing their policies, and pandering to their voters has been a political and moral failure. As Gary Younge wrote in The Guardian after Jean-Marie Le Pen’s shock victory in the first round in 2002, “Every step you make in the direction of a racist agenda does not ‘neutralize’ racists but emboldens them.”

Fifteen years on, nothing has changed. You cannot appease fascism by meeting it in the middle; you cannot beat racism by indulging or excusing it. Perhaps French politicians should re-read their national motto. Fighting for égalité and fraternité, regardless of race or religion, is the only way forward.

Top photo: Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen addresses activists at the Espace Francois Mitterrand in Henin-Beaumont, north of France, on April 23, 2017.

Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is an award-winning British columnist, broadcaster, and author based in Washington, D.C. He hosts UpFront on Al Jazeera English and has interviewed, among others, Edward Snowden, Hamid Karzai, Ehud Olmert, and Gen. Michael Flynn. He is also the author of two books — a biography of former U.K. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband and an e-book on the financial crisis and austerity economics. Mehdi has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, and the Times of London, among others, and is the former political director of the Huffington Post U.K. and a contributing editor to the New Statesman. He has been included in the annual list of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world and named as one of the 100 most influential Britons on Twitter.
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Iran’s Nuclear Scientists are not being Assassinated. They are Being Murdered January 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iran, War on Terror.
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Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

Killing our Enemies Abroad is Just State-sponsored Terror – Whatever Euphemism Western Leaders Like to Use

  by  Mehdi Hasan

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

© 2012 The Guardian

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Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman and a former news and current affairs editor at Channel 4. His New Statesman blog is here