The Sarah Halimi Affair and the Taboo on the “New” Anti-Semitism

The following essay was originally published in French at Le Figaro Vox on July 14, 2017, and is published here by permission. Translated by Russell A. Berman.

In the night of April 4, 2017, in Paris, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman, was savagely killed. Her murderer, Kobili Traoré, a radicalized Muslim with a Malian background and a long police record, assaulted her for forty minutes, first in her living room and then on her balcony. He shouted “Allah Akbar,” while degrading his victim, called her a “fat whore” and a “shaitan” (a demon in Arabic). From their windows and later from the courtyard, several neighbors heard and then witnessed, in disgust, the massacre. In Noémie Halioua’s excellent article in Causeur, she reports the testimony of one of them: “First I was woken by the moans of a creature in suffering. It was torture. First, I thought it was an animal or a baby. But then, lifting the blinds and opening the window, I recognized that it was a woman moaning as she was being beaten. With each blow, I heard a moan; she did not even have the strength to cry out anymore.” Kobili Traoré strikes her so hard that his fist is swollen. When he sees the light of the police flashlights in the courtyard, he yells, “watch out, there is a woman here about to commit suicide,” as he seizes his victim, still alive, by her wrists and throws her over the banister of her balcony. Sarah Halimi lays in the courtyard, dead, covered in blood.

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The Revolt against the Elites, or the New Populist Wave: An Interview

Today, the anti-elitist political concept responds directly and effectively to social demands in Europe and the United States. And this anti-elitist or anti-system concept perfectly encompasses both the left and right, and, of course, the extremists. As different as they are, the new leaders are protesting and transgressive. Their demagoguery is marked by the language of transgression, provocation, and excess, based on the subversion of language or behavior codes: for them, this is a matter of drawing a clear distinction from the standard model policy. They can complain about being demonized by their opponents, while still trying to stay slightly demonized in order to maintain their attractiveness. This is the prerequisite to the seduction that they perform. This differentiates them from formatted and conformist leaders, who pursue respectability, which makes them somewhat watery.

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An Underwhelming Apocalypse: The Islamization of France in Michel Houellebecq’s Submission

Reading the latest novel by Michel Houellebecq, I remembered an essay by Maurice Blanchot that appeared in 1964, entitled “L’Apocalypse déçoit,” roughly translatable as “The Apocalypse Disappoints.” Originally devoted to the intellectual failure on the part of the French intelligentsia to deal with the possibility of nuclear annihilation, the title of that essay seems the perfect commentary to a plot that would sound nothing less than apocalyptic to a very sizable part of contemporary French society: the election of a Muslim president of the French Republic and the Islamization of its civil code. This disastrous occurrence, currently treated in the Western media as nothing less than a catastrophic finis Europae, is narrated by Houellebecq in his increasingly understated voice, now mostly situated halfway between deadpan satire, melancholic brooding, and a touch of occasional melodrama. Gone are the violent Islamic terrorists of Plateforme, the 2001 novel that ended with terrorist attack on European sexual tourists in Thailand. No more spectacular explosions of the 9/11 kind: if the Western way of life will go, it won’t be with a bang, but with a merely audible whimper.

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On the Dialectics of Submission and Autonomy

A miasma of exhaustion and obsolescence pervades Michel Houellebecq’s Submission. It is occasionally punctured by explicit expressions of a pornographic libidinality, but these, in the end, serve only as desperate manifestations of increasingly temporary respites. The end is nigh, if it didn’t already happen. Houellebecq’s universe remains what it has been repeatedly—a universe of male libidinal desire, its intensifying frustrations and anxieties monumentally projected onto the background of the specters of the civilizational decline of the West. Houellebecq is at the tired end of the secular liberal dream of possessive individualism and sexual freedom, or, as the narrator puts it rather succinctly: “In the end, my cock was all I had” (81).

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Charlie Hebdo and Universal History1

The worldwide reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attacks can be seen as a welcome indication of a global consensus concerning freedom of speech, individual rights, and opposition to Islamic fundamentalism. However, left-wing critics such as Noam Chomsky have criticized the worldwide demonstrations against the attacks as hypocritical because they ignore the more serious massacres that have been conducted by Americans with drone strikes and in military activities in Iraq, Serbia, and Syria. As Chomsky writes, “[a]lso ignored in the ‘war against terrorism’ is the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times—Barack Obama’s global assassination campaign targeting people suspected of perhaps intending to harm us some day, and any unfortunates who happen to be nearby. Other unfortunates are also not lacking, such as the 50 civilians reportedly killed in a U.S.-led bombing raid in Syria in December, which was barely reported.” Such an equation of “their terror” with “our terror” is based on an image of a universal history in which all of mankind lives within a unified natural community and there is a single standard of measure that could be the basis of criminal behavior. We see this same approach in a more moderate form in Jack Miles’s similar exhortation that the proper response to ISIS and Al Qaeda is that “[y]ou are criminals and we send criminals to jail” rather than declaring a “war on radical Islam.” For both Chomsky and Miles, terrorist attacks count as criminal activity and should be equally condemned from the universal viewpoint of a peace-loving humanity. By diminishing the difference between criminal violence and war, they illustrate the basic tenet of a version of universal history—that all humans are linked together into a common set of natural laws and that such laws transcend historical and political differences. Every war in this perspective would be just as senseless and unjustified as any other form of murder. Teju Cole and Slavoj Žižek make a similar move when they indicate that there is something hypocritical about the support for Charlie Hebdo when other massacres, such as the one by Boko Haram in Baga, Nigeria, go unnoticed and unmourned.

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The Disappearance of Left and Right Ideologies in Late Twentieth-Century France

As an occasional feature on TELOSscope, we highlight a past Telos article whose critical insights continue to illuminate our thinking and challenge our assumptions. Today, Johanna Schenner looks at Alain de Benoist’s “The End of the Left-Right Dichotomy: The French Case,” from Telos 102 (Winter 1995).

In his article “The End of the Left-Right Dichotomy: The French Case,” Alain de Benoist points to the gradual disappearance of traditional political ideologies in both socialist and conservative parties. In fact, Sofres Polls support this statement: in March 1981, 33% of the population viewed this delineation as outdated; in February 1986, 45% of the population shared this view; in March 1988, this proportion reached a new record level of 48%; and eventually in November 1989, more than half of the French population deemed this ideological antagonism as obsolete (73).

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