Maîtres mots

  • Il y a longtemps que notre pays est beau mais rude.

       --Newspaper editor Olivier Séguret, 25 January 2012

    The USA are entirely the creation of the accursed race, the French.

       --Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), writing to Nancy Mitford, 22 May 1957

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French Freedom of Speech

Today the cheminots are:

  • "À nous de vous faire préférer le train!"
    "Voyager autrement"
    "Avec le SNCF, tout est possible"
      --Former ad slogans of the SNCF (French national trains), each in turn quickly dropped

Fun French words

  • ouistiti

    (literally: marmoset)
    Etymology: onomatopoeia from the sound a marmoset makes. Actual meaning: this is what you say in France when you want people to smile for the camera.

    Selon une étude réalisée par le fabricant d’appareils photo Nikon, le « ouistiti » utilisé en France au moment de se faire prendre en photo est le petit mot le plus efficace pour s’assurer un joli sourire.

Who's en colère today?

  • Private sector

    First strike in 43 years at an aeronautics company in Toulouse, Latécoère

    Public sector

    The SNCF (toujours eux), regional train employees in the Lyons area guaranteeing unpleasant travel from the 17th-21st December
    Also yet another strike by Sud-Rail, a particularly truculent SNCF union in the south of France, this time five days in January: 6,7, 21, 22 and 23. "We have no choice." Right.

    Marseilles trams on strike until February

Go back to school in Paris!

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« Our bilingual life | Main | The biggest farm in Paris »


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Your comment, "Anti-semitism is a misnomer because Arabs are also Semites; but it's the normal term" is right on. It appalls me that so few people understand this. But, as you have found, colloquial phrasing often couches falsehoods and half-truths.

The more I learn about France, the more I understand the separation of thought between our two cultures.

you write: "To me and to most outside observers, it seems obvious that it was an anti-semitic crime."

How can you conclude this so easily?

Because "un juif, c'est riche."

I don't understand this post and it's comments... :( Read what a Canadian source says about it :
"Toutefois, si les juges d'instruction considèrent le crime comme un acte antisémite, les procureurs et la police soulignent l'absence d'idéologie, religieuse ou politique, chez les accusés."

I've noticed the undercurrent of anti-semitism in France too. I've always attributed it to the general french disdain for all religions, which *can* turn into an ugly intolerance. But I've always thought that I wouldn't want to be Jewish and live there.

"I have heard outrageously anti-Semitic remarks here in Paris".

I guess it probably depends on where you live, and who you hang out with. And sure, this might be the case for ultra-conservative Paris 16eme. And sure, maybe you get to hear this kind of things less often with people you hang out with in the US.

But as far as my experience is concerned, I lived in France for 25 years and never heard any fellow student, friend or coworker say anything about jewish people. Not even a reference. Maybe you should contextualize a bit more what you are saying.

I'm glad that you have never heard this kind of remark, Marco. It's a relief to know there are groups where it is absent. But it's just not the "ultra-conservative Paris 16th" (a lot of cliches about the 16th are not particularly true of people I know) who is making these remarks in my hearing, but just ordinary French people I have met all over the city, grocery story owners and taxi drivers and shop girls talking to each other. I talk to everybody-- and sometimes I don't like what I hear.

I agree with you, Laza, that the motive of the murderers was ordinary. But HOW they chose their victim was influenced by the ordinary anti-semitism they live with.

As someone Jewish, I've been following this story with interest. Here's what I think, even though it is only my opinion. I'd love to hear if you think I'm wrong:

The biggest complaint that my French Jewish friends have is similar to that of the French Muslims: unless one is wealthy and assimilated, minorities have a harder time being accepted as fully French. Clearly, there are many prominent French Jews, but there is pressure to assimilate to "Frenchness." It is not uncommon to be thought of as a Jew, even though you're as French as the next guy. American society is basically an immigrant one. Even with all of the problems in America, your rarely hear the racism or anti-Semitism that I have heard coming from someone French. The way I see it, the French like to hold on to their French ideal. This is what makes French culture so beautiful and interesting to the rest of the world, but it is also prone to be less than hospitable to multi-culturalism, fearing the loss of the uniqueness of France. And Jews are frequently the historical scapegoat, from the Dreyfeuss Case until now -- especially now that there is a large Muslim population that needs to be dealt with using sensitivity.

Murder of French Jew not isolated incident
by Fern Sidman

The gang that kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered Ilan Halimi, 23, had threatened several prominent businessmen, lawyers and a well-known humanitarian activist, a French newspaper reported Saturday. The daily Liberation reported that the group behind the murder, which authorities have linked to anti-Semitism, tried to extort money from a founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders. Also targeted were the director of the Arte TV channel, a Paris lawyer and the head of a supermarket chain, the newspaper reported, citing police officials.

Police investigating the murder of Halimi earlier this month have made several arrests. The suspected gang leader, was arrested Wednesday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and France is seeking his extradition. Fourteen people have been placed under investigation - a step short of being charged - in the case, and two more people were detained Friday for questioning.

Ilan Halimi was abducted on January 21 after a woman came into the mobile phone store where he worked and charmed him into a dinner date. The first break in the case came after the police released an Identikit image of the woman suspected of "baiting" Halimi. After turning herself in our of fears that neighbors would identify her, the woman claimed that she was indeed asked to seduce a number of young men, but was unaware of the act's purpose. She identified the apartment where Halimi had been kept.

Halimi was found on February 13, tied to a tree, naked, wounded, handcuffed, gagged and covered with burn and cut marks on 80 percent of his body. Authorities found Halimi near railroad tracks in the Essonne region south of Paris a few days after the kidnappers ended contact with Halimmi's family. He died en route to a hospital.

"They acted with indescribable cruelty," the judiciary police chief leading the investigation said. "They kept him naked and tied up for weeks. They cut him and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him alight."

Halimi's family received a series of ransom demands - starting with one for nearly $537,000. Ilan Halimi's mother revealed to the Haaretz newspaper that the police told the family to ignore the gang's attempts to contact them for five critical days, after which Ilan was found near death outside the city. "Five days before Ilan was found, the police told us, 'Don't answer the phone, don't repond to text messages.' We saw dozens of calls and ignored them. On Thursday they found Ilan dead."

"We think there is anti-Semitism in this affair," Rafi Halimi, Ilan's uncle, told the press.

"First, because the killers tried to kidnap at least two other Jews, and second, because of what they said on the phone," Rafi Halimi added. "When we said we didn't have 500,000 euros to give them they told us to go to the synagogue and get it," Rafi said. "They also recited verses from the Koran."

Under questioning by investigators, one of the suspects "made it clear that he had attacked Ilan Halimi 'because he was Jewish, and Jews are rich".

"If Ilan hadn't been Jewish, he wouldn't have been murdered," Ilan's mom said. She accuses the police of ignoring the anti-Semitic motivation in the case in order not to alienate Muslims, Haaretz reported.

According to a recent article on this subject by Caroline Glick, she states, "It appears that Ilan Halimi's murderers had some connection to Hamas. Tuesday, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said that police found propaganda published by the Palestinian Charity Committee or the CBSP at the home of one of the suspects. The European Jewish Press reported this week that Israel has alleged that the organization is a front group for Palestinian terrorists and that in August 2003 the US government froze the organization's US bank accounts, accusing it of links with Hamas."

It is clear that the French authorities remain callous and indifferent when it comes to Jews being murdered on their soil or anywhere else. This attitude was evidenced in their initial denial that anti-Semitism played a role in this murder and their expressed policy of ignoring any evidence of anti-Semitism.

This may be the first act of Hamas terrorism directed against a Jew outside of Israel, but clearly it won't be the last. Everyday, we are being saturated with the anti-Semitic diatribes of an Iranian President named Ahmadnajed, of Hamas leaders and leading intellectuals. We can no longer deny it. Anti-Semitism is in full swing. It can only get worse.

When I read Fern Sidman contribution I understand that the sole fact to question if this murder was antisemitic is antisemitic. Okay be it !

The fact that the "gang of barbarians" tried to abduct ther people (not all of them jewish) and tried to obtain money from rich and important people by threatening them (not all of them jewish) should be taken into consideration (sorry for my english).

These "barbarians" have antisemtic prejudice, that's true but they would have killed and tortured anybody just for the fun of it. If their victim would have been christian, I'm not sure Chirac would have attend the funerals, is that fair ?

"If their victim would have been christian, I'm not sure Chirac would have attend the funerals, is that fair?"

You're probably right that Chirac wouldn't have gone if the person was Christian. Christians aren't a minority in France. With the increase in anti-semitism, it is good when a leader makes a public record of being against it. In the States, this month is Black History Month. We don't have a White History Month because that's the already the norm. Fair? Not really. But important as a educational and societal tool.

thanks for this post

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Today's quotation

  • In Paris, the purest virtue is the object of the filthiest slander.

      –Honoré Balzac (1799-1850), in Scènes de la vie privée

    À Paris, la vertu la plus pure est l'objet des plus sales calomnies.

Le petit aperçu d'Ailleurs

  • Annual Geminids meteor shower (shooting stars!) coming this weekend, if it's not too cloudy out at night.

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