17 JANUARY 2015

My father, Henry Margolis, was a Broadway producer, industrialist, gourmet and man about town. Instead of wasting time taking me to play ball in the park, we would go each Saturday to an interesting new restaurant.

One afternoon, we went to lunch at a just-opened place on West 55th called “Lucky Pierre.” Pierre told us that he – like it seems almost everyone else in France during the war – had been in the Resistance. In the course of a sharp battle, our Frenchman dove under an ammunition truck during an air attack. It exploded.

Pierre walked away unscathed. Hence his sobriquet, “Lucky Pierre.”

Alas, Pierre’s food, did not equal his luck. The restaurant closed two months later.

Enter Lucky Pierre #2: France’s President Francois Hollande. Two weeks ago, his polls fell below 10%, making Hollande the most unpopular, derided leader of France in memory. Unemployment kept rising, the ruling Socialists can’t seem to cut the bloated budget, and just about everyone in France was angry at the Hollande.

President Holland’s Socialists sank so low that the hard right National Front of Marine le Pen was expected to oust the left in forthcoming elections in 2017. Even the much hated right-wing leader, Nicholas Sarkozy, was coming to look like the savior of France.

The demoralized Hollande even publicly mused about not serving out his term. Then, in one of life’s amazing surprises, everything changed for Lucky Francois.

Two French of Algerian descent, the by now notorious Kouachi brothers, and a black African radical launched two deadly attacks in Paris, massacring the staff of the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo.

The attack on “Charlie” was not a surprise: it and a rightwing Danish newspaper had made their name demeaning and mocking Islam. “Charlie” was reportedly owned or finance by a French Rothschild. No reason has so far been given for the mindless killing of four Jewish shoppers.

France and much of the western world erupted in high moral outrage over the Paris massacre. Defending the sacred right of free speech was declared a holy war. Politicians fell over themselves to join the crusade of the righteous. Even Israel’s Bibi Netanyahu, who had just killed over 2,000 Palestinians, including some 15 journalists.

Hollande went overnight from a fuddled little man to male Joan of Arc and defender of liberty. All France rallied to the embattled president and gave him a new lease of political life.

Hollande and the National Assembly lost no time in announcing that France would increase and intensify its military operations in Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, East Africa, Abu Dhabi, Iraq, Afghanistan (from where French troops have been withdrawing, as well as covert operations in Syria, Lebanon and Somalia.

In fact, Hollande has been advocating French military intervention in Africa and Asia for much of his term. One would think that Socialists would be less militaristic but such is not the case in France. There is long been an anti-Arab/anti-Muslim core in the Socialists and members with imperial ambitions. Interestingly, it was France’s Socialists who secretly provided Israel with is nuclear arsenal.

The mayhem in Paris certainly reminded many of America’s 9/11 ordeal. In both cases, a floundering, lackluster leader was suddenly catapulted into the role of national champion and heroic war lord. Hollande is a decent man but he is milking the Paris massacre for all its worth.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of all the ado about free speech is beginning to sink in. We learn that “Charlie Hebdo” fired one of its cartoonists for mocking the son of Sarkozy’s marriage to a wealthy Jewish heiress. A French-African not very funny comic faced charges of anti-Semitism.

Pro-Palestinian marches in Paris were banned by the free speech government. In France, questioning details of the Holocaust is a crime. The Armenian genocide of World War I is similarly taboo. France has seriously violated its own noble tradition of free speech while hectoring others to observe it.

How all this works out in the end for Hollande’s Socialists remains unclear. A short-term boost for sure. But the far right is on the march. It’s calls to “do something” about France’s 6 million Muslims and bring in draconian laws as America did post 9/11 have much resonance. But do what is the question most French are not yet willing to face.
copyright Eric S. Margolis 2015

This post is in: France

6 Responses to “LUCKY FRANCOIS”

  1. Yes Ben, racism is as alive today as it ever was and likely will remain that way, until the masses get a higher level of education, because that is what is holding back the progress for peace. Ignorant people are beset by fear and fear begets violence.

  2. Today I read Norman Finkelstein`s view on this Hebdo issue. He sure has a good take on it.

  3. The tragic events in Paris were like the final nail in the coffin, there will likely be tough times ahead for the 6 million Muslim community and across most of Europe, where Islam is now officially considered “the problem” by many.
    Immigration to Europe from the Muslim world is unlike immigration to places like Canada, where new comers are thoroughly screened and must qualify under a points system to show education, investment, background searches etc…in essence, they must display they will add value to the system.
    Europe on the other hand does not have an immigration policy designed to attract new comers (aka we are full) and a lot of immigrants from Muslim countries and other parts of the world are war refugees and those seeking asylum who trek it across the joined borders. These are traumatized communities with not even basic language skills and face many assimilation challenges. They are marginalized for the most part and stay within the social norms of their own communities.
    The pope could not have put it better when he said freedom of expression does not mean we provoke religious sentiments, which are needless to say, very high in the Islamic world.
    To Muslims, insulting images and cartoons of their revered prophets is much the same as drawing demeaning cartoons of the holocaust, which lands you in jail in many European countries including Germany; even denying the holocaust is a crime.
    Yelling racial slurs in a black neighborhood is about a funny as the negro cartoons from the 1800s newspapers in North America and not the same as free expression and speech. “If you insult my mother, you can expect I will punch you”.
    There is no justification to violence, but there is also no need to underscore and prove the value of free speech by consistently poking someone in the eye and then yelling aggression when they react.

  4. George Rizk says:

    It is becoming more and more confusing for learned individuals who dispationetely review events around the world, and discover lies and hypocrisies from their governments. It is a bliss to be stupid and Simple person! Who is right, who is wrong, what comes first……That is essentially the reason most people watch sport, and talk sport and avoid POLITICS AND RELIGION.

  5. Some day the French will wake up finding themselves in much the same kind of police state as the people in the US do. With the threat of the USSR gone, Washington is growing a bit too big for its breeches and the idea of being the sole superpower left makes them reckless. I can`t help but think here of Lord Acton, who so accurately penned down his famous quote by saying: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Powerful men are almost always bad men”. And the present US government has proven him right on both scores, although the previous one was every bit as bad, if not worse. This free speech thing is such an emotional issue. Everybody wants it, but with certain exceptions for certain people. Ask the British reporter David Irving, how long his freedom lasted, when he exercised that right of free speech.
    Again I ask, who will slay this modern day Hydra? Heracles, where are you?

  6. France is being exploited by every government in the world almost because it can be used to stoke fear of the Devil Muslims. Why else would all the world’s media almost totally ignore the massacre of 2000 in Nigeria. A ratio of 125 blacks to 1 white person. Makes you wonder how many blacks have to be killed to equal the attention given to one white person.

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