François Fillon, whom I endorsed for reasons I explained here, might have to quit the race for the French presidency because of allegations that he arranged phony jobs for his wife. He was leading in the polls until last week, but no longer. People in the French Republican party are beginning to discuss a Plan B in case Fillon is forced to quit the race. The political defenestration of Fillon would be a shame, because he is the only serious candidate capable of rescuing France from its economic decline.
The other main contenders for the 2017 French presidential election are demagogues and amateurs. The Socialist party recently selected in its primaries Benoît Hamon, a radical whose economic platform makes Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders look sane. Marine Le Pen blames China, globalization and the EU for France’s economic woes, a cheap and easy diversion from the fact that the French state overspends and overtaxes, and hasn’t balanced its books since 1974. Emmanuel Macron is a 39-year-old former banker and Ivy-league graduate who incredibly claims to run against “the system.”
Fillon says that he is the target of a political machination aimed at making it impossible for the French right to win the 2017 presidential election. Ongoing investigations shall determine whether the allegations against him and his wife are substantiated. But the French judiciary is finding itself dragged into political battles –either willingly or reluctantly. The lawsuit against Georges Bensoussan is a case in point.
Bensoussan is a renown French historian who has authored seventeen books on the Holocaust, on Zionism, and on Jewish life in Muslim countries. In 2002, Bensoussan edited (under a pseudonym) a book titled The Lost Territories of the Republic (“Les territoires perdus de la République”) which claimed among other things that anti-Semitism is alive and kicking among young French Muslims. By mentioning Muslim anti-Semitism, Bensoussan touched a raw nerve and attracted many enemies. Far from giving-up, however, Bensoussan has been researching and exposing the phenomenon of Muslim anti-Semitism –thus lengthening the list of his enemies.
In October 2015, Bensoussan claimed on the radio that “We are witnessing the formation of another people within the French nation, a people that is pulling us back from our democratic values.” He then declared that one of the obstacles to the integration of Muslims in France is their anti-Semitism. Bensoussan quoted Algerian sociologist Smain Laacher who openly and bravely condemned popular anti-Semitism in Arab societies. But Laacher denied that he had used the controversial expression referred to by Bensoussan on the radio (namely that Arab mothers feed their babies anti-Semitism while nursing them).
The French Association Against Islamophobia (“Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France”) decided to sue Bensoussan for racism and incitement. It was joined by other French NGOs such as LICRA, SOS Racism, and the League for Human Rights. Following LICRA’s decision, French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut announced that he was quitting the organization of which he had been a member for many years. According to Finkilekraut, Bensoussan is being sued for exposing a politically incorrect yet existing phenomenon: Muslim anti-Semitism. Rather than suing Bensoussan, Finkielkraut says, French Muslims should fight anti-Semitism itself.
The phenomenon of Muslim anti-Semitism in French society was researched by the French think-tank Fondapol and documented in its 2014 report on Anti-Semitism in French Public Opinion (“L’antisémitisme dans l’opinion publique française”). Bensoussan is far from being the only scholar dealing with this issue. The “nursing” expression he used on the radio might have been clumsy, but the NGOs suing Bensoussan are clearly using this expression as an excuse to silence him.
“For the first time in my life” said Bensoussan to the judge who heard his testimony in court “I have been tempted by exile” (i.e. leaving France). If Marine Le Pen wins the 2017 election, Bensoussan’s temptation will surely be boosted.