Sarkozy backs Finkielkraut over Muslim riot commentsVia Uriasposten and Peaktalk. Read the whole article and you will note that Sarkozy’s comments are seen as a full frontal assault on France’s left-wing elites. This certainly helps to set the stage for a very interesting battle over Chirac’s legacy in 2007, where De Villepin for now appears to be the frontrunner:
Sarkozy backs Finkielkraut over Muslim riot comments
The storm aroused by French-Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut refuses to subside. On Sunday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy threw his full weight behind the beleaguered philosopher, who has been forced to remain cloistered at home following the sharp reactions to an interview he gave to Haaretz. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Sarkozy said: "Monsieur Finkielkraut is an intellectual who brings honor and pride to French wisdom ... If there is so much criticism of him, it might be because he says things that are correct." The minister was asked about Finkielkraut because several reporters saw similarities between the conservative views the philosopher expressed about the recent riots in France and the tough stance the minister took in dealing with the agitators who took to the street night after night. The liberal weekly Nouvel Observateur devoted its cover story to what it called "the new neo-reactionaries." Alongside Finkielkraut's picture on the cover was a title stating that Finkielkraut and his colleagues had worsened the social chasms in the country. Others mentioned as supporters of similar ideas were Sarkozy, philosopher Andre Gluksman and historian Pierre-Andre Taguieff (who coined the phrase Judeophobia). They are described as belonging to a right-wing wave that is now prominent in France.
Sarkozy appeared ready to take on the media. He had been following the attacks on Finkielkraut for two weeks and was waiting for a suitable opportunity. "What do you want of him?" he asked the media representatives. "M. Finkielkraut does not consider himself obliged to follow the monolithic thinking of many intellectuals, which led to Le Pen winning 24 percent in the elections. The philosophers who frequent the salons and live between Cafe de Flor and Boulevard St. Germain suddenly find that France no longer bears a resemblance to them." This is an unprecedented attack on the left wing by the very person who is seen by many French as being the only one capable of preventing the disintegration of the republic. While interviewees stressed his intellectual acumen, they almost all felt Finkielkraut had slipped up by mentioning the ethnic identity of the rioters - he had described them as blacks, Arabs and Muslims. Nevertheless, to date, all the organizations and bodies that threatened to sue him for racism have changed their minds.
"When an Arab torches a school, it's rebellion. When a white guy does it, it's fascism."
Finkielkraut: "In France, they would like very much to reduce these riots to their social dimension, to see them as a revolt of youths from the suburbs against their situation, against the discrimination they suffer from, against the unemployment. The problem is that most of these youths are blacks or Arabs, with a Muslim identity. Look, in France there are also other immigrants whose situation is difficult - Chinese, Vietnamese, Portuguese - and they're not taking part in the riots. Therefore, it is clear that this is a revolt with an ethno-religious character. These people were treated like rebels, like revolutionaries. This is the worst thing that could happen to my country. Why? Because the only way to overcome it is to make them feel ashamed. Shame is the starting point of ethics. But instead of making them feel ashamed, we gave them legitimacy. They're `interesting.' They're `the wretched of the earth.' "Imagine for a moment that they were whites, like in Rostock in Germany. Right away, everyone would have said: `Fascism won't be tolerated.' When an Arab torches a school, it's rebellion. When a white guy does it, it's fascism. I'm `color blind.' Evil is evil, no matter what color it is. And this evil, for the Jew that I am, is completely intolerable.
"Moreover, there's a contradiction here. Because if these suburbs were truly in a state of total neglect, there wouldn't be any gymnasiums to torch, there wouldn't be schools and buses. If there are gymnasiums and schools and buses, it's because someone made an effort. Maybe not enough of one, but an effort." I think that the lofty idea of `the war on racism' is gradually turning into a hideously false ideology. And this anti-racism will be for the 21st century what communism was for the 20th century. A source of violence. Today, Jews are attacked in the name of anti-racist discourse: the separation fence, `Zionism is racism.' This is really a bigger problem: We're living in a post-national society in which for everyone the state is just utilitarian, a big insurance company. This is an extremely serious development.