France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

February 25, 2008

Guy de Maupassant, anti-Semite? Notes from a hook-nosed Jew

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 9:13 am

“We Must Save the Jews” was the subject of the second and final installment of a program on the Resistance on France 2 last week. I almost avoided it out of (very) latent resentment that for many in French officialdom during the Occupation the guiding principal seemed to be “we must deport the Jews” or at least “we must localize the Jews so the Germans can deport them.” But in fact, the program did not ignore this (it even educated me to the fact that while France deported some 72,000 Jews, including 11,000 children, it also didn’t deport 250,000, thanks in no small part to righteous gentiles). French acceptance of the deportation was courted by propaganda which included the local equivalent of the ‘Degenerate Art” exhibition in Berlin in 1938, an exhibition on famous degenerate Jews, all of whom seemed to have ‘hooked noses,’ which brings us to Guy de Maupassant, whose stories will themselves be featured on France television next month.

Commencing his “Mademoiselle Fifi” yesterday, I came upon this description of one of five demoiselles Germans occupying a Normand chateau procure for a fete: “a Jew in whom the hitched nose confirmed the rule that all Jews have curved beaks.”

If the German Occupation wakened a resistance to the deportation of Jews, in finding the one country whose officials not just acquiesced in but helped organize the deportations, it counted on a latent anti-Semitism to grease the chute.


February 18, 2008

Childhood Traumas or, How not to bouscule a country

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 10:54 am

Continuing to bouscule France in ways it finds uncomfortable but which an outsider can’t help admire, President Sarkozy last week proposed — at a dinner of religious leaders no less — that each 10-year-old child adapt one of the 11,000 children Vichy France deported to the German death camps during World War II. Having been weaned on “I never saw another butterfly,” the mythic book of poems and art by children who perished in Terezin, I thought this was a brilliant idea. But a cacophony of teachers, childhood psychologists, and even Holocaust survivor and politician Simone Weil immediately went into hysterics because a) The children would be traumatized and b) Moslem and Christian children might feel left out (or something like that). Having worked with children, I think the psychologists underestimate them and, unfortunately, in the desire to protect them may actually leave them more vulnerable, i.e. to the mental consequences of unguided and unmitigated exposure to the Holocaust and to their country’s complicity in it. Unfortunately, Sarkozy has apparently already capitulated, the proposal being scaled down to each class adapting a deportee. Conversely, the president also called last week for the instillation of ‘moral’ education in the classroom. It seems to me that the two are not unrelated.

Meanwhile, while France was going overboard in the desire to protect its children, the United States was going the other way, as yet another deranged young person opened fire on his classmates, killing several of them. As reported in France, this story terminated with the natural question, Why is it so easy for people to get guns in America? As reported in the U.S., it terminated, as it always does, with Why did he do it? He did it because he was crazy. He was able to do it because no matter how many times this happens, the politicians are afraid to change the gun laws and the U.S. media is not asking the right question.

February 13, 2008

The News goes on strike to save commercials

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 8:59 am

If you arrived for the first time in France today from the United States, and switched on the television tonight to watch Plus Belle la Vie, you’d probably never guess that the French network which broadcasts this nightly soap opera (to which I’m addicted) set in Marseille is a public one. It’s kind of like if PBS, the U.S. public television network, suddenly started showing Friends every night. You’d have even more difficulty distinguishing another public network, France 2, from the private chain TF1, whose programming is more or less of the same genre, except that France 2 broadcasts Cold Case where TF1 boasts Star Academy. The other big distinction is that unlike PBS, these stations are not in perpetual funding crises and not perpetually battling the government for their livelihood. Until now.

I didn’t realize all this until the French president, during a major press conference in January, tried to divert media attention from the loss of purchase power (when a reporter asked the previously self-proclaimed president of purchase power what steps he’d take to reduce the loss, he answered crisply, “How can I do anything when the cash register is empty?”) by announcing he wanted to see the elimination of commercials on public television. “What public television?” I thought, before realizing that notwithstanding showing the same car commercials as the private stations, France 2 and France 3 are exactly that. ‘Well, I thought, if they’re going to get rid of the commercials — tant mieux!” No, not tant mieux because where would these stations — not to mention public radio stations some of which allow some (mostly insurance) if not as many commercials as their t.v. brethren — get the money to replace the gadzillions of Euros brought in by the commercials (about 850 million in the case of the t.v. networks).

All of which is a long prelude to explain why this morning on France Culture, some of the news segments were replaced by very bad pop music, as the newscasters and many other broadcasters, in public radio and television, are on strike. Just as long as it ends by 20h20 tonight, I’m tranquil. C’est plus belle la vie, non?

February 7, 2008

Unveiling the veil law

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 4:32 pm

One of the dangers of the blog is hinted at in the rhythm of the nomenclature: BLOG. As in, “He’ll blog just about anything.” Say ‘blog’ like you’d say ‘say’ in the same sentence and you’ll get the idea. Or even just say ‘BLOG’ with the same mouth and upper body movement you’d use making a ‘BURP.’ Or, in French, ‘N’importe quoi.’ Enhancing this tendency is that anyone thinks they can write a blog — no journalistic training needed.

You’d think that as a trained journalist of 30 years experience I’d be less likely to BLOG/BURP N’importe quoi but I just did it in my previous entry, The road to jihad is paved with veils. Fortunately, as a trained journalist with 30 years experience, I actually know some other journalists who often know better than me. One of these, a colleague who not only is Turkish but actually lives in Turkey, sends this corrective:

“I just read your writing. I wanted to tell you my side. Currently the Turkish government is trying to make a law that basically lets the people who wear a veil study at the universities with their veils. Currently in Turkey the people who wear these veils enter the university with a wig or they just open their heads while they are at school and wear it when they leave.

“If I was a person who was looking from outside and who believes in democracy (in which I strongly do believe) I would think that it is completely unfair for these people to be not let into the universities the way they are. But the situation in Turkey is completely different.

“First, some of these women are being forced to close (we use this term to explain wearing a veil) by their fathers, brothers or husbands. So it is not their opinion but it is forced on to them.

“Second, there is a strong Islamification movement going on in Turkey unfortunately which basically puts a lot of pressure on people. In some areas it is already considered that if you are not closed you are not fully Muslim and you are missing women’s virtues. In those areas people think that a closed lady is much more honorable than an open one.

“And the Islamist government which is currently in power is using all this pressure to build up power and votes. It is the worst government we have ever seen and harming Turkey greatly. Under the table it offers families money and help if they close up the woman in their families. The government gives guys job opportunities if their wife closes. It is unbelievably corrupted.

“And on the other hand now that people like me are not closed they see us as people who don’t have faith.

“So the EU Human Rights Court is completely right when they say that it would be some kind of discrimination if they let the headscarf into universities. You just would not believe how ugly things are here at the moment. People say that they wear these veils for religion and no where in the Quaran is there a comment like this. Quaran says ‘cover up’ but for me this means cover up like human beings. And no where in his comments does the Prophet say ‘women’s heads should be covered.’ And some of these closed women on the other hand are wearing lots of make-up, very sexy coats, coats with deep slits and lace underneath.

“The country is shaking really bad and I’m so happy that some of the other countries are supporting secular people like us and they don’t want the new law to come out.

“Government wants to turn us into Iran and they are doing this very slowly. Basically now in some of the primary schools where the headmaster supports the religious political party, he allows the girls to wear headscarves. If someone had put that scarf on me when I was six, I don’t think that I could take it out when I was 20 even if I didn’t believe in it. It becomes a part of you and you just start to think of it as your honor or even if you don’t think of it that way it becomes a habit.

“I’m really sad and extremely upset about this situation. I have always been very democratic and usually think that the solution is always in discussing but you wouldn’t believe how brainwashed these people are. There is just no way to educate them or discuss anything with them. Turkey is going to shake hugely in the near future and hopefully it is going to get into a better path. And if the only way becomes to go out in the streets, I will participate.

“We can’t be Iran or like other religion-based countries. The mentality which aims to bring the headscarf to the universities also aims that one day women would not be allowed to show any skin out in the street and if they do wherever the skin is showing will be beaten. (Like the way it is now in some Arabic countries.)

“I know that it has been a very long email. I’m sorry. 🙂 It is just that we are in terrible shape currently. They have spread their web everywhere, last night they made sure that even the president of the soccer league is one of their supporters. They are just taking over everywhere. I’m very very sad….”

The road to jihad is paved with veils

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 4:26 pm

Judging by the attention it received this morning on France Culture radio news, you’d think that the Turkish parliament had just voted to allow college students to wear suicide bomb belts to class, when in fact all they’d said is that women could no longer be excluded from school for wearing veils. To Official France, which a couple of years ago decided to exclude girls from public school for wearing the veil, this piece of clothing has come to mean not ‘particularly strict Muslim’ but ‘budding terrorist.’ Indeed, because of an allergy to what many French consider a Muslim state being admitted to the (Christian) European Union, any action which smacks of Muslimification has been used as an argument for blocking Turkey’s membership. (As has a certain chapter in Turkish-Armenian history.)

February 5, 2008

Don’t get hysterical

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 10:07 am
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So this morning on France Culture radio a Germain daily — a German daily — was quoted as describing the effect it feels the American presidential primaries are producing on the American public as ‘collective hysteria.’ Germans accusing Americans of collective hysteria. The French views, if not hypocritical, still revealed how a country which, on the one hand, offered more choices on the far Left in its General Election than Americans will get in total for theirs, on the other hand still often cleaves to sexist and racialist points of view:

**Thus Maria Shriver, who has never adapted her husband’s last name, was called Maria Schwarzenegger by a French newscaster.

**Barak Obama is constantly referred to as ‘Black.’ Never mind that this country thinks it doesn’t see people in racial terms; never mind that Obama is actually Metisse or mixed; never mind — most important — that Obama represents not racialism but post-racialism.

**And a French Socialist representative actually said that the election of a woman would bring a needed serenity to the world stage. (At least he didn’t say she’d be too hysterical.)

February 4, 2008

If it talks like a Constitution….

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 6:20 pm
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Well, it’s done. In what an anti-Referendum Socialist called ‘the cruelest of ironies’ because it took place in Versailles, the French Parliament has just voted to essentially ignore the wishes of the French public which earlier rejected the European Constitution. Perpetuating a myth unfortunately perpetuated by most of the international media, President Sarkozy, fast revealing himself as a master of slight of hand sans pareil, sidestepped the need for another referendum by calling the Constitution a treaty, supposedly ratifiable by a simple vote of parliament, supposedly simplified, supposing that the French public’s primary objection to the Constitution was that it was too long. In fact, the French voted no out of well-placed fear that the Constitution would force France to replace hard-won labor-friendly social protections with those favoring the multi-nationals and conforming to a mean newly lowered by the recent admission to te EU of Eastern European states. (Another myth: The French have nothing against the Polish plumber, they just would have preferred to raise his standards to theirs.)

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