Op-Ed: "The French Intifada", Coming Soon to Your Area
"The French Intifada" is the most frightening non-fiction book I have ever read.
Andrew Hussey builds a convincing case that jihadist Islamists seethe with ugly fury for impious Western civilization. Ruthless violence is the tool of preferred choice to mete out revenge to their oppressors, and deconstruct Western society.
Hussey concludes that their world, whether they are living in the banlieue, Paris slums, or rural villages in North Africa, is prepared for a long war with the West. The West either pathologically ignores this reality, or is to too arrogant to accept it. Citizen of the French Republic first, Muslim second, is what they naively expect.
The hallmarks of French colonialism were cultural arrogance, avarice, and racism that inflamed Arab nationalism. Terror, brutality, and fear against colons and innocents became Islamist trademarks in rebellions across Morocco, Tunisia, and most gruesomely in Algeria.
"The French Intifada" reads like a novel, but is true to its sources. Footnotes are plentiful drawing on historical research texts, official documents, personal journals, and anecdotes. Stories from Hussey’s own travels add color. Hussey weaves a picture of a lustful nation wanna-be empire peeking over its shoulder to spot Brits crossing the Channel. Martinet, facile governors, and French elitists enforced colonial policy.
The book has three themes. First, France’s invasion of North Africa protected Catholics and their holy sites in Muslim countries. Catholics and Muslims had to be protected from British evangelists. (The French witnessed their disastrous impact on the Chinese in the 1850’s (read "God’s Chinese Son" by Jonathan D. Spence).
France “controlled their colonies by pursuing the ‘civilizing mission’,“ remaking their subjects “culturally French.” France felt and still feels a sense of ownership of the Arab world. While plundering the colonies, they spread their “Frenchness” through “peaceful penetration.” French writers, musicians, and artists found the Casbah, Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Algiers, dark and exotic. Orientalism influenced their art and literature. “French poets dreamed of an East that they saw as sensual, sexual and outside the everyday demands of the capitalist world.”
Hussey’s second theme describes the Islamist “long war” against Western civilization. The banlieues of Paris, Lyons, and Marseille are soldiers in the French intifada. The nation “itself is still under attack from the angry and dispossessed heirs of the French colonial project.”
Many of the 5 million living in France are first Muslims and citizens of the Republic second. To the French this is impossible. In their country ‘difference’ is sectarianism and a threat to the Republic. To many religious Muslims, civilization means acculturation and assimilation. Their memory keepers educate young Muslims about life under the yoke of colonialism, the massacres of Arabs by French military, and the glory for God in wins like the battle for Algiers. Current French army forays in Somalia and Mali are seen as attacks on Islamist God worshipers. The Muslims do not want reforms of French society, “They are looking for revenge,” writes Hussey.
The French Intifada paints a picture of ruthless Arabs imbued with feral evil disposition for violence. Muslim ranks are swelling with converts from the West and Black Africa. Novitiates often collaborate in the ferocious Fourth World War, as Hussey describes it.
The battlefield is without borders. French soldiers milling around off duty, Jewish children in a Tolouse school, and visitors in the Brussels Jewish Museum, are legitimate targets for Islamist French citizens. In 2006, French Muslims targeted a Jewish young man. Calling themselves the Barbarians, they kidnapped him, starved and tortured him for six weeks, mutilated and burned his body, and left him dead tied to a tree. Neighbors in Muslim slums hearing the screams did nothing.
Hussey does not relent in describing in gory detail how Islamist freedom fighters committed mass murder of Muslim and foreign civilians, collaborators, and French colonialists. They cut throats and beheaded them for Allah and national resistance. Hussey describes this madness over hundreds of pages. Readers are worn down with stories to the point of ravelment (and this is before IS).
Hussey does not ignore dreadful French atrocities and ethnic cleansing. They exploded a bomb in a house in Casbah killing seventy Muslims. The French army threw enemies out of helicopters, feet encased in concrete, into the port of Algiers to terrorize the population in glacial horror. Nevertheless, there is an imbalance that at times leaves the reader the impression the French were merely reacting to Arab terrorism.
The third theme is, everybody hates the Jews. Attacks on Jews in North Africa long preceded events of 1948 and 1967. Jews were “guests” of their Muslim rulers. In Algiers, for instance, Jews were lower in society than Bedouins, Berbers, and Black African slaves. Jews were made to walk barefoot passing a mosque, forbidden to drink from a well in front of a Muslim, forced to be public executioners, and “Their wives were often violated in their own houses, in full view of the family.”
During the Holocaust, a Tunisian secluded a Jewish woman for much of the war. Khaled Abdul-Wahab is the only Arab ever nominated by the Israelis as a Righteous Among Nations for non-Jews who saved the lives Jews.
The Europeans brought their own ancient religious hatred of the Jews to North Africa. It was inter alia French anti-Semitism that gave gravitas to Jew hatred among Arabs. Hussey illustrates this with a fascinating not well-known story on the heels of the Dreyfus Affair. Doctor Mauchamp was murdered by an Arab mob in Marrakesh. The Arabs labeled him an agent of the French there to control the local population through the use of new technology. Rather than confront the Moroccans directly, the French Foreign Ministry blamed the murder on a German Jew, Judah Holzmann, an employee of the local pasha. A convenient scapegoat, since everybody hates the Jews.
The last chapter is “Muslims in Prison.” This is a huge challenge for the French government. The guards describe them as, “a secret army, working against you. You can never know what they’re thinking, but you know they hate you…. They constantly threaten us and swear revenge.”
Hussey makes no predictions, Recent election of right wing parties to the EU Parliament reflect how deeply French people despise and are fearful of Muslims.
Le Pen is demanding tightening border controls, housing jihadists in segregated prisons, and stripping them of French citizenship.
The “blowback” to all that Hussey describes may be coming sooner than imagined.
THE FRENCH INTIFADA, The Long War Between France and Its Arabs by Andrew Hussey, Granta Books, 2014. Hussey is Dean of the University of London Institute in Paris. Hussey was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 2011 for advancing cultural relations between the UK and France. Harold Goldmeier is a former Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard University and a recent immigrant to Israel.