The text of this article was presented in Berlin on the 30th of July during the international conference « A Transatlantic Wave of Antisemitism: Jew hatred in Europe and the Unites States ». To quote, please contact the author.
Case study: Text analysis
Today I will give a concrete example of the functioning of this discourse which will show how these antisemitic and antizionist ideas are conveyed and received. The terrorists who committed murders of Jews in France since 2015 contacted official media to justify and legitimize their acts. These young people were all French, grown up and educated in France. Three of them, Mohammed Merah, Mehdi Nemmouch and Amedi Koulibaly contacted the media before the massacre and explained the motives of their acts. Mohammed Merah has left four hours of recording, 183 pages of transcript published by Libération.
Libération on the 12th of July 2012
- MOHAMMED: < prénom négociateur DCRI > regarde [mot arabe] ce qu’il se passe en PALESTINE, t’as vu. Tu vois tous les enfants qui sont tués? Des, des bébés, des nouveaux-nés, des femmes, des pères, à, à, à longueur de journée. Que, en plus la plupart du temps, y en a ils ont même pas d’armes t’as vu. Tu vois des enfants. Et tu trouves pas ça légitime que, que je les I attaque moi ici sur le sol français, je les ai att-, moi j’ai attaqué sur le sol français parce que je suis Français, j’aurais été Américain, j’aurais fait la même chose en AMÉRIQUE t’as vu.
- Speaking to the representative of the General Directorate for Internal Security: Look, (the name of the negotiator) what happens in Palestine, did you see that. Do you see kids who are getting killed? Babies, new-born, women, fathers: from the morning till the evening. And most of the time they are not even armed. You see, kids, and you find that it is not just (legitimate) that I attack them here on the French soil? I did attack them here on the French soil because I am French. If I were an American, I would do it in America.
- MOHAMMED: [mot arabe] Tu sais que j’ai raison. Heu. Je ne m’en suis pas pris aux civils même si ALLAH me l’autorise. J’avais un message à faire passer, c’était de combattre. Là hamdulillah ils pourront pas dire que j’ai combattu des gens innocents ou quoi, j’ai tué des juifs comme, comme ces j-, ces mêmes juifs-là qui tuent mes, mes petits frères et mes petites soeurs en PALESTINE. J’ai tué des militaires et ces militaires tuent, tuent en AFGHANISTAN et voilà c’est, hamdulillah je sais que tu le sais que j’ai raison et que, que, voilà tu vois, c’est si tu t’obstines à dire que c’est faux et ben, soit qu’ALLAH te guide, soit qu’ALLAH te, te fasse rejoindre les(mot arabe) éternellement (…) tu vois, c’est lui qui décidera inch’allah.
You know that I am right, don’t you? I didn’t attack civilians even if Allah authorized me to do so. I had a message to deliver! Hamdullilah, they won’t say that I killed innocent people or something like that, I killed Jews because these Jews kill my little brothers and sisters in Palestine. I killed soldiers because these soldiers kill, they kill in Afghanistan and now I know that you know that I am right and if you insist that it is wrong, then either Allah guides you, or Allah make you join (word in Arabic). That’s him who will decide.
- « J’aurais jamais tué des enfants si vous aurez… si vous aurez pas tué nos enfants. J’ai tué des enfants juifs, parce que mes petites sœurs, mes petits frères musulmans se font tuer. Donc heu, heu. Donc moi je savais qu’en tuant que des militaires, des juifs, tout ça, le message passerait mieux. Parce que si j’aurais tué des civils, la population française aurait dit que, heu voilà, c’est un fou d’Al-Qaeda, c’est juste un terroriste, il tue des civils. Même si j’ai le droit, mais le message, il est différent. Là j’ai tué des militaires et des juifs. Les juifs, ils tuent en Palestine. Les militaires, ils sont engagés en Afghanistan. Ils peuvent rien dire, c’est de la défense. Je tue les militaires en France parce qu’en Afghanistan, ils tuent mes frères. Je tue des juifs en France, parce que ces mêmes juifs-là… heu tuent des innocents en Palestine. Donc voilà, c’est… J’avais un but précis. Dans mes choix de victimes. »
I would have never killed children if you hadn’t been killing our kids. I killed Jewish kids because my little Muslim brothers and sisters are getting killed. So, I knew that if I killed soldiers and Jews, the message would come across. Because if I had killed civilians, the French people would say, here is a madman from Al Qaeda, just a terrorist, he kills civilians. Even If I do have the right to do it, the message is different. Here I killed soldiers and Jews. The Jews they kill in Palestine, the soldiers kill in Afghanistan. No one can say anything. I kill the soldiers in France because in Afghanistan they kill my brothers. I kill Jews in France, because the same Jews kill innocent people in Palestine. So, I had a precise aim in choosing my victims.
It is important to understand the logic of this discourse that I can present as following.
- The designation of the couple Victim /Persecutor (Jews, Palestinians)
- Identification of the murderer with designated victims (my “Palestinian brothers and sisters”)
- Identification of the murder victims with the persecutor (the murdered children are Jewish and the Jews kill Palestinian children, the Jewish children are thus identified to the persecutors)
- Absence of responsibility for the murderers: ‘I would have never killed children if… ». The Jews are responsible for these murders. Here is the process of inversion: the victims are responsible for what happened to them.
This type of message with its presuppositions (“to kill the Jews because they kill in Palestine”, expressed several times in the interview) is fueled by the media and by certain intellectuals, and implicitly refer to these discourses. (See previous article about the antisemitismin France)
As we saw, the topic of innocent Palestinian children killed by cruel Israelis is largely present in the media mainstream discourse since 2000. Here is an example:
Israel kills a Palestinian child every three days in a general indifference.
De plus, le meurtre et les blessures d’enfants palestiniens par des tireurs d’élite israéliens au Grand retour traduisent une volonté de mutilation directe de la génération capable de poursuivre la lutte anticoloniale.
« The murder and the wounding of the Palestinians by Israeli snipers during the “Great March of return” are a clear expression of the will to mutilate the generation capable to pursue the anticolonial struggle”.
Two phenomena are exploited here:
- The ancient representation of the Jews killing Christian children in order to get their blood for the Matza, (traditional unleavened bread eaten on Passover), known as “blood libel”.
- The extermination of Jewish children by Nazis by gassing or shooting them during the World War Two.
Result: The main narrative adds to the “blood libel” that continue to exist the reversal of the extermination by Nazis. The perversity of this mechanism lies in the fact that through accusation of Israelis all the Jews are targeted. We can see this in the text from Mediapart that attributes intentional murder of Palestinian children to the Israelis .That is to say, the media attribute to Israel (people and state) a criminal character. Those who read Mein Kampf will recognize the accusation of “criminal heredity” of Jews developed by the Nazi ideology. Now it is used by the extreme left media who constantly shows the repulsive figure of the Israeli soldier.
The logical construction of these discourses transfers the responsibility for murderous deeds to the victims of the murder and requests empathy for the murderers. This model is transmitted by the media dominant story-telling. The AFP (French Press Agency) recommends to journalists who cover the IP conflict not to use the word “terrorist” when speaking about Palestinians.
Working on a quite important French media corpus, I can only confirm this recommendation. In no murder of Israelis the word “terrorist” should be used. Only the word “Palestinian” as a noun or as an epithet to “man” “woman” or “adolescent”. When the Jews, or more rarely non-Jews are attacked in France, in most cases the attackers who are almost always Muslims are called “mentally disturbed” or “unbalanced individuals”. That explains what Mohammed Merah said: if I kill Jews, the message is clearer, because if I kill civilians, I’ll be called a terrorist.”
Indeed, when attacks against Jews are committed in France, the media regularly speak about the “mentally unstable persons”. When the same media focus their permanent and unflagging attention to what happens in Israel, the labels change.
The word “mental disorder” is never employed, the Palestinian murderers are called “young Palestinian”, “Palestinian adolescent” or event “martyr” (some articles in the extreme left media use this term without quotation marks as it is done in the Hamas or Palestinian press).
The logic of labeling is different, because it follows a different argumentative scheme: the media narrative has constructed the character of a Palestinian resistant who struggles against the Jewish settlers and is innocent by nature.
This myth is also spread by left anti-Zionist intellectuals whose influence is very important in the formation of intellectual elite. Alain Badiou and Eric Hazan don’t hesitate to write in their book L’Antisémitisme partout… (Antisemitism everywhere…)
« L’hostilité de ces jeunes envers les Juifs est fondamentalement liée à ce qui se passe en Palestine. Ils savent que là-bas, des Israéliens juifs oppriment les Palestiniens, qu’ils considèrent pour des raisons historiques évidentes comme leurs frères » (Badiou, Hazan (2011 : 18-19)
« The hostility of these young people (Muslims born in France) towards the Jews is fundamentally tied to what happens in Palestine. They know that there (in Palestine) the Israeli Jews oppress the Palestinians who these young people consider their brothers for evident historical reasons”.
We see how the words “Zionism”, “settler”, “Jewish settler”, “Israeli colony” “occupied territories” are used as fixed syntactic groups. They have been purged from their initial sense. The denotation has been replaced by the negative connotation. That’s how the making of an anti-Zionist story-telling incorporated very ancient stereotypes: murder of innocent children (kids in Gaza), hatred for the humankind (the communalism and the loyalty of French Jews to Israel make them suspicious in the eyes of the post-national universalists.)
Special thanks to Tanya Marsh and Jean Szlamowicz for their suggestions and their attentive reading.