Charlie Hebdo, Saudi Arabia and a Criticism of the U.S. Left

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A criticism of Left emphasis on "hypocrisy" and a call for a campaign against the Kingdom of Horrors

By Stanley Heller

Reading the statement of UNAC and others on the Left about the Paris massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher Supermarket I'm struck by the lack of outrage at the dumb fanatic bastards who did the deed. After a quick "we do not condone" or we "oppose" the killings most of the articles are a denunciation of the hypocrisy of the imperialists. There's a huge focus on Charlie Hebdo and almost no mention of the people in the supermarket who were held hostage and later killed only because they were Jews. There is so much sensitivity about avoiding Islamophobia that there is no real condemnation of the various ultra-right wing Islamist groups and there's rarely a mention of the fountainhead of their cruel practices, the clan running Saudi Arabia. Actually even the imperialist West is let off lightly. From Jimmie Carter to Barack Obama leaders of the empire were not just hypocrites, they were collaborators. They had a major role in creating the mujahedeen/al-Qaeda/IS menace.

Look I get it. Anytime anyone does any attack in the name of the Islam the Christian Right and the Zionists are going to bash the entire Muslim religion. Religious bigotry has always been one of their hottest cards. Islamophobia is real and disgusting and should be fought, but it's not the only thing that has to be fought.

There is a movement of people out there who call themselves Muslim who are nasty bigots, who are women and Jew haters, and who are offended by modern ideas and who will exterminate liberals and the Left wherever they can. I'm talking al-Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic State, Boko Haram and similar groups. I'm uncomfortable with calling them Radical Islamists. "Radical" is an honorable word in the Left tradition. These people are extreme rightists. Whatever the name if we don't see them as an enemy we will rightfully be dismissed as naïve, as fools.

I don't know French, but from what people tell me Charlie Hebdo is a crappy magazine filled with junior high school level humor, very sexist, with long tradition of making crude provocation against religious figures especially against Muslims. They re-printed the stupid Islamophobic cartoons of a Dutch cartoonist. They had a awful cartoon making fun of Egyptian Muslims just as they were being slaughtered by al-Sisi's forces. On the other hand an English Leftist wrote:

The main target of Charlie Hebdo was the Front National and the Le Pen family. Next came crooks of all sorts, including bosses and politicians (incidentally, one of the victims of the bombing was an economist who ran a weekly column on the disasters caused by austerity policies in Greece). Finally, Charlie Hebdo was an opponent of all forms of organized religions, in the old-school anarchist sense: Ni Dieu, ni maître! They ridiculed the pope, orthodox Jews and Muslims in equal measure and with the same biting tone. They took ferocious stances against the bombings of Gaza. Even if their sense of humour was apparently inacceptable to English minds, please take my word for it: it fell well within the French tradition of satire - and after all was only intended for a French audience. It is only by reading or seeing it out of context that some cartoons appear as racist or islamophobic.
Here's a similar comment from a French woman. She explains that the supposedly racist cartoon about Christiane Taubira was actually an attack on the National Front for its racist attack on Taubira. In an important interview about the attack Gibert Achcar said the head of the Charlie Hebdo paper, Stéphane Charbonnier, was "by and standard, on the left" though he could show "arrogant secularism".

It's cheap demagogy to dismiss the paper merely as "racist" or to make Norman Finkelstein's astounding claim that it is "political pornography no different than [the German Nazi paper] Der Stürmer". Doesn't the Left stand up for the right of people to discuss and criticize religion, even harshly? When the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a decree calling for the death of Salman Rushdie for his ribald satire of Mohammad didn't many of us put on "I am Salman Rushdie" buttons? Didn't many on the Left defend museum's exhibiting the artwork "Piss Christ", a photo of a crucifix in urine? Isn't it troubling that thousands will furiously demonstrate over a picture of Mohammed while they do nothing when hundreds of Palestinian children in Gaza are slaughtered?

Yes, condemn Holland and the politicians for their hypocrisy, but don't condemn the justified outrage of millions of French people for what happened in Paris. I see no evidence that the French people came into the streets last week to defend racism or hatred of Muslims even if the leading politicians will try to hijack their anger for just those ends.

There was a very good statement about the murder of the Jews in the supermarket in a statement made by the Bureau National de l'UJFP - The National Bureau of the French Jewish Union for Peace. The group does see a "rise of a formidable anti-Semitism in France", but they put some of the blame on French Jewish leaders who have totally melded Judaism and Zionism in the public mind. They note that "successive French governments, for their part, have continually confused legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Semitism and racism". It is no wonder that angry people with primitive ideas about society will strike out against any Jews.

Now the French Prime Minister vowed a war against "war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islamism". But the empire doesn't really want to destroy these haters. After all it likes to use them from time to time. Jimmie Carter and Brzezinski used them to give the Soviets "their own Vietnam". Ronald Reagan made the Pakistan dictator Zia a U.S. ally even as Zia closed down Pakistani public schools and opened madrassas. Reagan called the Afghan mujahedeen "the equivalent of our founding fathers" and sent them billions in weapons. Obama winked as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar sent all kinds of Islamic rightists into Syria and when Saudi tanks drove into Bahrain to help destroy the democratic movement there.

The only force that can be resolutely relied on to oppose the Islamic Right are the forces of the Left. We should construct our own program that will expose the empire for its collaboration and stand up for democratic forces. We should take advantage of the wide publicity about the monstrous sentence of 1,000 lashes given to the democratic Saudi blogger to demand a break with the kingdom. We should call for a Congressional investigation to expose the whole history of U.S. government support for the Islamic Right, from Zia's Pakistan to present day Syria. We should agree with scholar activist Vijay Prashad's call for BDS against Saudi Arabia as well as Israel.

Slogans


Break with the Kingdom of Horrors. Cancel the U.S./Saudi $60 billion arms deal.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom to Criticize Religion

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity - To Hell with Islamophobia

No to Netanyahu and Nazis who Want Jews to Leave France

Down with the Empire, Down with the Caliphate

Je Suis Raif Badawi - Free the Saudi Blogger

Jew Hatred is the Anti-Zionism of the Fools

Activism


MECC has sponsored an online petition calling for the U.S. to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia after the beheading of Rizanna Rafeek, a Sri Lankan house maid in 2013. To see it click here.

Join in efforts to publicize Saudi regime abuses with letters and op-eds, like this effort

Mock the kingdom in memes and cartoons like these

The Saudi and Israeli missions to the UN are within three blocks of each other in NYC. Picket two for the price of one!