Who Failed the Test of #JeSuisCharlie?

As I repost this article the terrorists are no longer at large but have been killed after taking hostages at a commercial Printer on the outskirts of Paris.

From Not George Sabra.

Which side are you on?

It’s the most basic question in politics.

After three Al-Qaeda gunmen burst into the editorial board meeting of Charlie Hebdo magazine and executed six of its staffers as well as two policemen guarding them, figuring out which side to take could not be any easier. Cartoonists the world over took up their pens to slam terrorism and masked murderers while the French people poured into the streets with signs proclaiming” we are not afraid” and “we are all Charlie.”

This spontaneous and unmistakably progressive reaction is worlds away from the Islamophobic ‘Draw Muhammad Day’ campaign that erupted in response to Comedy Central censoring an episode of South Park in 2010. When someone ripped a Qu’ran at one of the Paris demonstrations, the crowd turned ugly and booed the provocation, a clear sign that the incendiary polarization strategy Al-Qaeda was counting on to gain recruits and prestige among Western Muslims has failed miserably. Others exploited the popularity of the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag on social media by promoting an alternative hashtag, #JeSuisAhmed, referring to the French Muslim policeman who gave his life defending a magazine that mercilessly mocked Islam.
And yet there were a few who refused to join the broad masses in their mourning, outrage, and solidarity, who failed the test of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. They opted for victim blaming or exploited the tragedy to push their political hobby-horses.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, openly blamed Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier for his own death, writing “had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive.”

Stop the War Coalition leader Lindsey German argued, “The one effective response to such attacks would be to change foreign policy, which has helped to create precisely the terrorism that it now abhors.” In the Lindsey German universe, France helped U.S. president George W. Bush invade and occupy Iraq and should have never, ever done so! Or perhaps she is arguing that France should change its foreign policy of avoiding unjust and unnecessary wars waged on false pretexts?

Patrick Cockburn writing in the Independent responded by arguing that making peace with Bashar al-Assad — a murderous tyrant who sponsored, fostered, and funneled Al-Qaeda into Iraq during the American occupation — would help tamp down terrorism, somehow, some way. Cockburn is becoming more Fisk-like with every new article.

Ali Abuminah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, echoed Bill Donohue’s victim-blaming in the Tweet below (apparently in his view Al-Qaeda is an anti-racist organization or attracts anti-racists).ali

In a blogpost republished on the wretched Jacobin, Richard Seymour managed to write something that brings to mind the old adage “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” First, he questioned the use of the term terrorism in what was unquestionably a terrorist attack. Second, he decried the “enormous pressure” to stand in “solidarity with what is frankly a racist publication” and predicted an “inevitable statist backlash against Muslims, or the ideological charge to defend a fetishized, racialized ‘secularism,’ or concede to the blackmail which forces us into solidarity with a racist institution.” When he got the intense internet blowback that this nonsense deserved, he defensively posted a Charlie Hebdo cartoon as an example of the publication’s racism. He claimed the drawing was about the “Muslamic demographic threat” (a favorite topic of Islamophobes) when it was actually mocking the indignation of the privileged and well-off in France who decried the government’s decision to end benefits for children of the rich, thereby revealing the author’s ignorance and zeal for self-justification.

Mixing up two unrelated issues — Boko Haram’s sex slaves and budget cuts aiming at the 1% in France, using the suffering of the former to ridicule the latter — is one of Charlie Hebdo’s signature methods of being obnoxious, controversial, offensive, and yes, racist. But dwelling on the reactionary aspects of the trash Charlie Hebdo published in the context of today’s political moment does the following:

Enables victim-blaming (he/they ‘deserved’ it).

Ignores how the broad masses have rushed to the defense of Charlie Hebdo without embracing its reactionary aspects or falling into jingoism, racism, or militarism. Their reaction has isolated and minimized the retaliatory violence directed at Muslims and Arabs in France to the political fringes.

Most dangerously, it distracts from the main enemy here — Al Qaeda and its cousin, ISIS.

The three killers are still on the loose in France, wreaking havoc and taking hostages and no amount of useless bleating from (pseudo) left ideologues that Al-Qaeda’s assassination of Charlie Hebdo’s staff is the “bitter fruit of racism and imperialism” is going to stop or slow their crime spree in France, Yemen, Iraq, or Syria.

France’s Left Front (Front de gauche) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon got it exactly right by calling for “respond[ing] with more democracy, more fraternity and tolerance” and for unity among all democrats (which means excluding the likes of the National Front). Almost one year after ISIS nearly assassinated the Syrian revolution’s top cartoonist, Raed Fares, that is exactly what is needed in France, Syria, Yemen, and everywhere else, both within and between all nations.

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