I meant to watch “Never Again. Fear and Faith in Paris” last night, but unfortunately I fell asleep.
Never mind. I watched it this morning on iPlayer.
It started promisingly. The first part included rather sympathetic treatment of the current wave of antisemitism in France, seen from the perspective of French Jews.
Professor Andrew Hussey, author of “The French Intifada” was featured as the film’s resident expert.
I hadn’t heard of Prof. Hussey so I searched for a few reviews of his book. The Guardian’s critic David A Bell, didn’t seem too keen. For example, here:
“.........Hussey has written so carelessly, and in so needlessly inflammatory a manner. He repeatedly makes large, highly questionable generalisations without anything resembling evidence. "For most French people," he asserts, "Tunisians … had the same supposed racial and cultural defects of all North Africans, ranging from stupidity, criminality and a taste for violence." Most French people? How does he know?
and also here:
More serious a problem is his inflammatory style when discussing violence. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that when he describes violence committed by the French, he mostly gives quick, summary accounts, but when he turns to violence committed by Muslims, he cannot resist lurid detail.
One passage seemed out of kilter with the default Guardianista view:
So focused is Hussey on the legacy of colonialism that he pays little systematic attention to what is, in fact, one of the book's most striking and disturbing themes: Muslim antisemitism. As he notes, hatred of Jews now runs deep in Muslim populations, including in France and North Africa. In France, the worst examples of individual violence committed by alienated Muslim youth have been against Jews, notably the torture and killing of the mobile phone salesman Ilan Halimi outside Paris in 2006, and the shooting of four Jews, including three children, in front of a Hebrew school in Toulouse in 2012.
However, Bell continues in a more predictable fashion:
The role of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the formation of contemporary Muslim identities, and the way that Jews have come to stand, in much of the Muslim world, for the worst tendencies of the "west", and even of modernity, deserve more analysis than Hussey provides.
So, although this particular critique largely follows the Guardian’s default position, it deviates a little, actually mentioning “Muslim antisemitism” but swiftly reverts to type in implying that this is primarily attributable to “Israel”.
The Telegraph’s review by Rupert Edis makes no mention of antisemitism whatsoever. Although the term 'Intifada' is usually associated with violent Palestinian uprisings against Israelis, here the “French” intifada is interpreted solely as an uprising against French society by Muslim immigrants, (mostly) from Algeria.
“Hussey blames France’s tortured relations with “its” Arabs on its colonial history in the Maghreb, which started in earnest with the invasion of Algeria in 1830.”
The Telegraph critic describes Hussey as a regular contributor to the Guardian and the New Statesman.
“With this provocatively titled book, he joins the increasing number of respected authors from the liberal Left who are shocked at some of the effects of mass non-European immigration on Western European countries and cultures.”
So, that’s sort of where Prof Hussey is coming from. I imagine his views have influenced the filmmakers.
At the start of this film, Hussey addresses antisemitism, as does the female narrator, who pronounces antisemitic “anti-semetic” throughout. Emetic: (“causes vomiting”.)
We’re told that many French Jews have left France for Israel; others came to London, initially intending to return to their beloved France, but due to ever increasing antisemitism, currently plan to stay in the UK.
“Antisemitism used to come from the far right, but now it’s coming from a different group, a small minority of French Muslims”
said the narrator.
The footage turned to images of impoverished suburban neighbourhoods, the Banlieues, mostly populated by Muslim immigrants, There are ‘no jobs’ and no hope.
“Radical Islam offers you a way out”
The film now appears to be accusing French secularism of driving Muslims towards extremism. Antisemitism within Islam is mentioned in passing, but played down, as in this passage:
“Muslim extremists recruiting in the suburbs often use derogatory passages from the Koran”
says the narrator,
“out of context, most Muslims would say, to further their own anti-semetic (sic) ideology”
|Professor Andrew Hussey|
“It’s conflation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, but it’s also conflation of that old historical shibboleth - the conspiracy theory - that the Jews control everything.”
“They need someone to blame”.
In London, Jonathan Sacerdoti recounts incidents of anti-Jew ‘hate’.
"Unlike French schools", the narrator continues, "UK schools teach children about religion, all faiths, to improve understanding. " (This could not happen in France because of its secularism.)
To illustrate the correct approach to multiculturalism and diversity - you couldn’t make it up - we’re off to Bradford.
Bradford has worked hard to promote interfaith understanding. A class of Muslim children are shown visiting a Hindu temple.
“They’re learning about diversity” says the Hindu lady.
Prof. Hussey suggests the answer to this difficult problem lies in interfaith understanding, though he realises this hasn’t quite worked so far.
In Bradford Jewish numbers have dwindled down to nearly nothing, we learn, but we’re reassured by the fact that some Muslims have donated funds to repair the synagogue roof, and even better, a prominent Muslim is on the synagogue council.
The blurb on the website mentions Lassana Bathily,
“We hear from the families most affected and explore the reasons behind the rise in anti-Semitism. With insight from those who live in the notorious Paris suburbs, often accused of being a breeding ground for anti-Semitism, and from Lassana Bathily, a Muslim from the suburbs who saved Jewish lives during the kosher supermarket attack in 2015. “
which puts a somewhat positive spin on the fact that Bathily didn’t actually assist the terrorists, as the filmmakers might (patronisingly) assume your average black Muslim would be culturally inclined to do.
A rosy picture of Bradford, and a moving picture of antisemitism in France which studiously avoids the core issue. The antisemitism that is part and parcel of Islam.