French historian in hot water over ‘mother’s milk’ antisemitism

The year 2015 will be remembered as the year when terror came to Paris. If  the January attacks were a reaction to ‘provocation’ by cartoonists and Jews,  the 13 November massacres brought home to most French that restaurant and concert-goers enjoying a night out did not deserve to die. If they had not already done so,  the majority have now realised that they have a serious problem with radicalised Islamist youth. Hence the surge of support for the right-wing, anti-immigrant Front National in the French local elections.

The last redoubt of ‘political correctness’, however, has proven to be France’s intellectual and media elite. They have been quick to hurl accusations of ‘islamophobia’ at anyone who dares tell the truth. Georges Bensoussan, historian and editorial director at the Holocaust Memorial in Paris, is the latest to find himself at the centre of a firestorm accusing him of ‘incitement to racial hatred’.

A group of left-wing intellectuals, including the controversial academic Shlomo Sand, lodged a complaint against Bensoussan with MRAP, a French anti-racist movement. Bensoussan may be called to face a tribunal.

During a TV discussion broadcast on 10 October 2015, Repliques, Bensoussan commented that France cannot hope to integrate its Maghrebi immigrants unless it recognised that these immigrants imbibe antisemitism ‘with their mother’s milk’.

Bensoussan, whose Jewish family comes from Morocco and who authored an 800-page volume on the uprooting of Jews from Arab countries Juifs en pays Arabes: le grand deracinement 1850 – 1975  in  2012, claims that he was paraphrasing the words of a ‘brave’ Algerian sociologist, Smain Laachar. “Everyone knows it but nobody will say it,” Laachar had declared of Arab/Muslim antisemitism.

Laachar has since denied having said or written such ‘ignominy’. He said it was outrageous for Bensoussan to have claimed that antisemitism was transmitted by blood.

Bensoussan has countered that Arab antisemitism was not transmitted biologically but culturally. He accused his critics of ‘intellectual terrorism’.

“These intellectuals have trouble imagining that the ruled can be rulers, racists, antisemites and violent people,” said Bensoussan. He claimed that the Left were still hung up about the ‘colonial ‘ Algerian war, 53 years later: “The war has not ended. We still think we are at war with our immigrants.”

The 13 November attacks in Paris do not seem to have dampened the anti-Bensoussan accusations. Over 60 academics and intellectuals, including Bernard Henri Levy and Pierre-Andre Taguieff, have rallied in support of Bensoussan. On 4 December 2015, they had a letter published  in Le Figaro.

“We affirm our support for Georges Bensoussan, salute his courage and his freedom to express himself,” the letter said. “His defamers avoid addressing the disturbing facts he refers to, preferring instead to accuse, denounce, besmirch and threaten. Jew-hatred is behind such strategies, continually renewed.”

Georges Bensoussan has got into hot water for quoting an Algerian sociologist”s own words. Bensoussan is himself  an acknowledged expert on antisemitism, including the Arab/Muslim variety, yet sections of the intellectual and media elite refuse to face the unvarnished truth: ‘colonised’ peoples too have skeletons in their cupboards –  they also can be guilty of racism and anti-semitism that can lead to violent extremism. Denial of the facts puts everyone at risk.

As the great Algerian-born writer Albert Camus once said: “to fail to call things by their proper names is to add to the world’s misery.”

About the Author
Lyn Julius is a journalist and co-founder of Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa in the UK. She is the author of 'Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab world vanished overnight.' (Vallentine Mitchell)