The Culture of Critique in France: A review of Anne Kling’s books on Jewish influence, Part 2
What are the LICRA and the CRIF?
The CRIF is an explicit Jewish ethnic lobby made up of organizations officially representing 100,000 Jews (one in six French Jews or 0.1% of the French population). Esther Benbass, a Franco-Turko-Israeli historian and member of the pro-Palestinian Greens, has said of the CRIF:
What is the CRIF other than an endogamous micro-group [groupuscule] which puts on airs of a little independent State, acting as it wishes, making people bend the knee, as much through self-censorship, sensitive for many journalists who rightly fear being suspected of anti-Semitism as soon as they dare criticize Israeli policy, as by the exploitation of the guilt of the Shoah internalized by the political class?
The CRIF’s influence is acknowledged by all. In 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie both said on separate occasions: “The CRIF is an essential interlocutor of the State.” Also that year, CRIF President Richard Prasquier declared: “We can be proud to be in a country where the demands we present and the worries we express are genuinely listened to.”
The CRIF has gotten more shameless in its activism over the years. In 1983, the then-president, Théo Klein said “the CRIF is not a subsidiary of the Israeli embassy,” while in 2010 Prasquier said: “I want to make the CRIF the master asset of Israel in France.” Various Jewish observers, both of the “liberal” center-left and the “neoreactionary” right, have expressed concern that the CRIF’s activism, essentially openly professing loyalty to Israel, would stoke anti-Semitism.
The LICRA in contrast is officially an anti-racist organization rather than an explicitly Jewish one. However, its leadership is largely Jewish and features no people of color. The LICRA quite obviously is motivated by Jewish ethnic interests, with senior managers seamlessly circulating between it and the CRIF. The novelist Marc-Édouard Nabe memorably and infamously said on national television in February 1985: “The people of the LICRA use Auschwitz’s heaps of corpses to fructify their fortune upon the manure.”
The LICRA is a masterpiece of branding and networking. An incredible panoply of political and media figures across the spectrum are or have been members of the group (a common technique being inviting senior figures to become members of the honorary committee), including presidents (François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac), senior ministers (Alain Juppé, Laurent Fabius, Lionel Jospin, André Malraux, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jacques Delors, Philippe Séguin, Bernard Kouchner, Jacques Lang, etc.), business leaders, media figures and pundits (advertising giant Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, Alain Finkielkraut, Jacques Attali, Bernard-Henri Lévy, etc.). Kling notes that the LICRA has a “strong osmosis with the world of the media, who played a decisive role.” LICRA is nothing if not ensconced among French elites.
The LICRA objectively serves as an organization to judicially harass French nationalists, who in some respects threaten both Jewish and non-Jewish bourgeois and corporate interests. The organization can then be seen as a collaboration between French and Jewish elites against the native French population and in particular against the most underprivileged (because they cannot easily escape multiculturalism’s effects on criminality and education, nor unemployment and reduction of wages through neoliberal policies favoring offshoring and low-wage immigration). The LICRA also explicitly opposes the representatives of the most ethnocentric and underprivileged portion of the French people: The Front National.
Is the French bourgeoisie using Jews to better exploit and oppress its native population, like the Ottomans sultans and Polish kings of old? Or are Jews leading a coalition with French bourgeois elites aimed at promoting policies that are inimical to the interests of the traditional French nation but that dovetail quite well with Jewish ethnic interests — policies that are pursued by the organized Jewish community throughout the diaspora in the West? One indeed wonders who is taking advantage of whom in this Judeo-bourgeois partnership, this liberticidal and anti-nationalist symbiosis. In any case, it is clear that the Jews involved in LICRA are actively pursuing these policies rather than being passively manipulated.
The two organizations have constantly shown their often hysterical, ethnocentrism and hypocrisy in their various statements over the years. The LICRA’s Droit de Vivre (“Right to Life” or DDV) publication declared in 1990 on the occasion of the desecration of a Jewish cemetery (known as the Carpentras affair) that it was “the most barbarous act that France has known since the agonies of the German occupation” — never mind the terrorist attacks and murders that have taken place in France since 1945. Incidentally, the media and ruling Socialists effectively framed the Front National for the Carpentras affair.
The LICRA’s president declared in 1991: “I have the impression we are in 1934 or 38. They tell me I exaggerate, like they did back then.” One is amused to see these organizations constantly warning that anti-Semitism is on the rise — not unlike Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu who never tires of claiming, as he has for two decades, that Iran will get a nuclear weapon within a few years. The CRIF argued in February 2009, as it could have declared at any time over the past 30 years, that censorship is justified “in this time of a resurgence in our countries and in all of Europe of a both structural and conjunctural anti-Semitism.” This constant fear-mongering is self-interested and practical as it naturally drives Jews to “rally around the flag,” deferring to the community’s more ethnocentric leaders, while it disarms the naïve general public into thinking that there really is a crisis that can only be solved by restriction of civil liberties.
The most obvious concrete influence of these organizations and their presence in political-media life is twofold: Firstly, the Front National’s marginalization and the de facto ban on the center-right parties (such as the Rassemblement pour la République [RPR] or Union pour un mouvement populaire [UMP]) from making any formal alliances with the FN; secondly, the marginalization of any pro-Palestinian politicians in the senior ranks of the center-left (these, while popular with the leftist and significantly Afro-Muslim base, gradually get weeded out as they rise to the top).
The Dîner du CRIF: A Barometer of Jewish Power
One of the most striking and visible indicators of Jewish power in France is the annual dîner du CRIF (the CRIF dinner) organized by the ethnic lobby, a truly remarkable event. The sociologist Samuel Ghiles-Meilhac has noted that the CRIF dinner is the only annual gathering, besides the Bastille Day garden party at the Élysée Palace on July 14, to bring together the entirety of the French politico-media elite apparatus: government ministers, party heads, parliamentary group and committee chairmen, the heads of national courts, heads of police, high civil servants, ministerial chiefs of staff, and trade union, business, and media leaders. As Jean-Yves Le Gallou observes, the event is “the place to be” for everybody who’s anybody in the French politico-media class, this Jewish ethnic lobby rivaling the French national day itself in commanding elite attendance.
The dîner du CRIF was first organized in 1985 with the immediate attendance of government ministers and Prime Minister Laurent Fabius. Already at this first dinner the CRIF demanded that proportional representation not be implemented for parliamentary elections as this would “legitimize the Front National.” (The then-Socialist government, though generally very friendly to Jewish interests, did not listen on this occasion, as it wanted to weaken its center-right rivals by splitting the right.)
The gathering has steadily grown in importance since. The President of the Republic regularly attends the event, which is now broadcast on public television on the French equivalent of C-SPAN. The CRIF bills the dinner as “a moment of republican conviviality” — yet another example where narrow tribal interests and ethnic lobbying are celebrated as universal values. In 2010, some 800 members of the official French politico-media elite were in attendance, the crème de la crème.
The ceremony is simple and well-established. The president of the CRIF makes a laundry list of demands to the French President, the government and indeed the entire Establishment. These demands conform to narrow perceived Jewish interests (e.g. more censorship, more Internet surveillance, the fight against anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, marginalization of the Front National, support for Israel, etc.). The President of the Republic then attempts to defend his record of having done enough for the Jews’ self-appointed representatives.
The format naturally leads to ever-worsening outcomes as the CRIF makes ever-more egregious demands and French politicians outdo each other to pander to the lobby. As in the U.S. where Republicans shamelessly pledge fealty to Sheldon Adelson and the rest of the Republican Jewish Coalition (and Democrats do the same with oligarchs like Haim Saban), the pandering at the dîner du CRIF can be disgusting indeed. So it was when President Sarkozy, himself quarter-Jewish and of Hungarian origin (né Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa), was the first sitting president to attend the event in 2008. He used the occasion to declare that every fifth grade child in the country should be paired with a Holocaust deportee and required to remember their name. The backlash against this, effectively an attempt at brainwashing all French children into accepting national guilt and Judeo-centrism from the youngest age, was such that the idea was abandoned.
Pale imitation: Black and Muslim lobbies
The dîner du CRIF also serves as useful symbolic and practical benchmark of the French elite’s deference to non-Jewish ethnic lobbies. The Representative Council of Black Organizations (CRAN), clearly imitating the CRIF, in contrast could only muster 250 attendees at its 2010 dinner, including Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the Socialist Party spokesman and others. Not bad, but nothing like “the place to be” which is the CRIF dinner.
Blacks are more numerous than Jews in France, perhaps three times more so, but their presence among the oligarchy, media and legal profession is negligible. Attendance of the dîner du CRAN is not a manifestation of Black power so much as White guilt. For reasons that have not been fully explained, the Black has an incredible power in the White imagination. White liberals clearly ascribe to Rudyard Kiping’s description of the “half-devil, half-child” native, believing Whites have a special duty to redeem the Black criminal or high school dropout. The White liberal has still not emancipated himself from the colonial-era propaganda, naïve or cynical, of a Jules Ferry or a Leopold II (who justified European colonial empires as part of a mission civilisatrice to raise up the Black race).
In contrast, Muslims and Arabs command no such fascination, and official Muslim lobbies tend to be weaker still than the CRAN, with Islam (unlike Blacks) being considered an enemy by a significant part of the Jewish community. Muslims’ subaltern role in France is suggested by an alleged statement by Sarkozy in 2007 (I cannot confirm its veracity): “I rejected a Muslim CRIF, because it would have been communitarianism.”
As in the U.S., Jewish groups have taken a leading role in trying to organize minorities against the majority culture. A notable example of this was the creation of SOS Racisme in 1984 by Julien Dray, a Sephardic Trotskyite turned Socialist Party politician, with the assistance of the UEJF Jewish students’ group. Given the power imbalance in terms of oligarchs and media-political networks, one can question how much autonomy Black, Muslim and “anti-racist” groups have with regard to their Jewish, party political, or governmental handlers.
The LICRA and CRIF’s extreme Jewish ethnocentrism has often led to conflicts with other minority groups in the competition for victimhood recognition. The DDV asserted in 2000: “Yes, anti-Semitism is the worst racism! … Anti-Semites are not rascals as claim the leaders of the MRAP [a less Jewish anti-racist group]! They are barbarians! The enemies of humanity!” Similarly, the United Nations’ 2001 “World Conference Against Racism” in Durban, South Africa, was shocking for many Jewish groups because the colored and Third World majority of attendees drafted a statement equating Zionism and racism. But as Dray himself claimed at a CRIF event in June 2010: “The modern anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism. It’s unacceptable.” The LICRA and CRIF have also constantly battled against the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement (BDS), claiming it is illegal under French law because it “discriminates” against a nationality (Israeli), an argument they did not voice during South African Apartheid.
The CRIF has also taken the lead in promoting Jewish lobbying at the level of the European Union, with the creation by its president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) in 1986 (now presided over by Moshe Kantor, a Russian-Jewish oligarch). As one senior EJC official said in October 2009: “There was a need for a powerful organization working with the European institutions.”
 Kling, Le CRIF, 19
Kling, La France LICRAtisée, 246.
Kling, Le CRIF, 254.
Kling, La France LICRAtisée, 193.
Kling, Le CRIF, 202.
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