Georges Bensoussan, Une France soumise: les voix du refus (A Submissive France : The Voices of Refusal) (French), Paris: Albin Michel, 2017, 665pp.
The prolific author Georges Bensoussan has written several important books to the situation in France. His recent work, The Hijacking of the History of the Destruction of the Jews of Europe1 is devoted to the Holocaust and postwar antisemitism, while A Submissive France describes the slow disintegration of law and order and the increasing threat of a resident Muslim community which refuses to accept the values of the host country. The latter book is a sequel to his previous anthology, Les Territoires perdus de la République (The Lost Territories of the [French] Republic2), which appeared in 2002, and describes the stark reality of suburbs and neighborhoods of large cities throughout France where the police dare not enter because of fear of violent confrontations. Not surprisingly, these “lost territories,” populated by first, second and third generations of Muslim immigrants from former French North Africa were and continue to be hotbeds of antisemitism. At the time, Bensoussan published under a pseudonym out of fear of reprisals. Today, however, he does not hesitate to publish under his own name. His title is deliberately reminiscent of Soumission (Submission), the provocative novel by Michel Houellebecq,3 published in 2015, that traces the gradual Islamic takeover of France.
Like its predecessor, this wide-ranging survey is a joint effort that includes numerous interviews. A list of Bensoussan’s contributors appears on the cover. That being said, they are afraid of accusations and lawsuits. In fact, the opening statement asks the following question: “Shall we be branded as racists, accused of Islamophobia, of setting the fires we are claiming to douse? … Shall we once again be sued by some association fighting Islamophobia?” (18) Moreover, most of those who are interviewed have chosen to do so under assumed names, thus sadly reflecting the true state of affairs in France. In her brief introduction, well-known French philosopher, historian and author, Elisabeth Badinter, wife of former Justice Minister Robert Badinter, notes the silence of the media and the “denial of reality” – either out of ideological considerations, as is the case of those who are fighting racism and see Islamophobia everywhere, or, more commonly, out of fear. Hence, in order “to be safe, to enjoy the approval of their bosses, or to be reelected in some districts, many leaders give in to demands running contrary to our founding documents, to our values and to our customs.” Mme. Badinter concludes: “Today, in France, one is afraid to speak openly because one is justly afraid of incurring insults, professional reprisals and even physical violence.” (12)
In fact, fear is a recurring theme in the dozens of interviews conducted by Georges Bensoussan and his team over a two-year period. They spoke with elected officials, civil servants, members of the medical profession, educators and members of the police force. As readers proceed through the pages of Une France soumise, they tend to become increasingly depressed. For example, the mayor of a small town near Paris, with less than 15,000 residents, bitterly explains: “It is because we are weak that they are strong.” Confronted with endless requests from the local Muslim association, he remarks “since when [does] being afraid of a real threat constitutes racism?” When he refused to allow a prayer room on municipal premises, he was threatened that “If you refuse, we shall have to buy a property and turn it in a mosque. If there are problems, it will be your fault since we will not be able to take care of security.” While the mayor stood firm, many of his colleagues did not withstand such political pressure. He argues that the real problem is the refusal of many Muslim immigrants and their descendants to be integrated into French society. He is puzzled and states that it is “hard to understand that people choose to come to Europe for more liberties, better education, better work, better medical coverage and then later there are some who try to force unto the host society a rigorous and sometime warlike Islam.” (32)
The book includes an interview with a practicing physician in the Saint Denis department, who wonders: “Where will our generosity bring us?” He left a prosperous practice in Paris to go back to the placid little “commune,” a form of territorial collectivity in France, where he grew up. Today, however, Saint Denis has an immigrant population of 27 percent, the largest in France, even without taking into account the number of children born in France, who are French citizens. According to the doctor, many of them declare their allegiance to Algeria or Tunisia as their true homeland. “They glorify a country where they would not enjoy even a quarter of what they receive in France: education, health, jobs, cultural freedom, freedom to go where they want, freedom of expression” (47-48), and they do not appreciate the medical services that they receive without cost. They treat doctors and nurses with disdain and resort to verbal and, on occasion, to physical violence, for example, when they refuse to have a male physician treat their wives in hospitals. They often receive better treatment than ordinary, tax-paying French citizens. The doctor notes that should he refuse to relate to an unreasonable demand, such as a medical certificate for an unspecified illness in order to travel to one’s country of origin for a vacation, the patient simply will find a more accommodating colleague or make vague threats about alleged racism. Often his ordinary, working-class French patients tell him that they are afraid to speak up, afraid to be called racists or Islamophobes, afraid of being harassed or physically harmed. Furthermore, many of this population are openly antisemitic. The doctor asks why French society accepts those who reject it, do not acknowledge the equality of men and women before the law, and regard ethnicity and Islam above citizenship.
Next comes the statement of a civil servant who requested a position in a southern suburb of Paris. She describes her alienation among a close-knit community of veiled women and bearded men, who refuse to shake hands or to look her in the eye. Most of them are Salafists, who adhere to an extremely strict interpretation of Islam. Women are kept subservient and there are no associations that protect their rights. The men hint that there is a dark Islamophobic conspiracy instigated by Israel and the Mossad. They allege that the latter are responsible for the attacks against Jewish institutions, including the Hyper Cacher supermarket in 2015. They reject the values of the French Republic. However, the authorities remain passive. They do not intervene against the Salafists.
An interview with a social worker reveals that she no longer counts the death threats she receives. For example, a client told her he would kill her if she did not find a suitable home for his family. Although she always files complaints with the police, they do not respond. She also bemoans the laxity of a government that does nothing about the relentless pressure exerted upon the silent majority and about the rejection of modern Western values.
Finally, Bensoussan includes several interviews with police officers. Only one does not use a pseudonym. They tell the same sorry tale of constant insults by the Muslim immigrant population, superiors who give them no support, places where they cannot go and even locations which firemen avoid. Remy Laforet, a former high-ranking police officer, now retired, does not hesitate to use his own name. Summing up the situation, he asserts that the police …” has had to learn to shut up in order to avoid being called racist and has had to accommodate itself to rhetoric and measures which, far from attempting to strengthen the law and institutions, justify and encourage resentment and communitarianism.”(131)
Une France soumise continues in the same vein. Bensoussan presents the following bleak conclusion: “Reading the testimonies accumulated here is difficult. It triggers feelings of stupefaction, anguish, wrath, and hopelessness.” (615) He calls for the silent majority to rise up against the tyrannical minority and its enablers. The fear expressed by the authors in the opening statement is palpable and has had consequences. The CCIF (Collective against Islamophobia), with the backing of the Jewish LICRA (International League against Racism and Antisemitism), sued Georges Bensoussan for his statements on endemic Jew-hatred among Muslims of North African origin in France. On March 8, 2017, the court acquitted Bensoussan of charges of racism. The prosecution, however, appealed the decision. This time, LICRA refused to join the appeal.
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