In a January 2015 post, I had mentioned a very enlightening conversation between a former French Defense minister and a former head of the UCLAT (the French antiterrorism unit) that took place in the studios of public broadcaster France 24, just two weeks after the first terrorist attack that struck Paris this year (1).
Both men were discussing the appropriateness of resorting to preventive incarceration for known Muslim extremists in light of the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath. One of them defined this form of imprisonment, quite similar to the extreme measures taken by FDR against US citizens of Japanese ancestry during WW II (2), and comparable to the treatment the Harkis emigrating to France in the early sixties were subjected to as well (3), as follows : “well, it means we take people likely to [blank], and we tell them : “we’re sorry, but you’re likely to [blank], and therefore we’ll put you in [an army camp] for six months [or so], until things settle down.” […] In other words, their incarceration would be based on the assumption [that they might commit a terrorist act]. It is legally possible, but a state of emergency has to be declared”. Either such a procedure is supervised by a special penal court, or it’s left at the discretion of administrative jurisdictions.
Without ruling it out, should future terrorist attacks occur, they agreed back then it was too early to consider such an explicit reversal of the rule of law, one that would imply some people would no longer be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but presumed guilty without a trial in sight instead.
Eleven months later, in the immediate aftermath of the Friday the 13th mass shootings, one man has revived the option. Not just any man : Arno Klarsfeld, son of Serge and Beate (who both dedicated their lives to making a census of the French Jews who were deported to the concentration camps), is a (not so) distinguished member of France’s highest administrative jurisdiction, known as Conseil d’Etat, where he was appointed by royal decree by the latest republican president.
An outspoken neocon (who, unlike the then-president of the French Republic, supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq that has gotten us where we are now), Klarsfeld Jr. acquired the Israeli nationality after 9/11 in order to enroll with the Israeli Border Police (a.k.a. Magav), which, according to Wikipedia, is more than often “assisting the IDF, and [deployed] for counter-terrorism and law enforcement operations in the West Bank, as well as in Jerusalem” (4), whatever that entails.
Often depicted as a hothead and ridiculed for having “the intellect of a 12-year-old”, he owes his entire career to his father’s political influence, through back-channels such as CRIF, the omnipotent umbrella-organization allegedly representing all Jewish frogs in the country of laïcité.
Yesterday evening, France’s most acclaimed (Saturday night) talk show switched to the special-edition mode, and Klarsfeld was one of the pundits in attendance (5). While every other guest, including mostly dull politicians, tried to refrain from capitalizing on popular emotion too soon, as Paris clearly woke up in a daze, he, on the contrary, immediately suggested implementing the Tom Lennox agenda by screening police and other (highly trustworthy) databases for known Muslim extremists, whether already sentenced to prison time in the past or not. The amount of individuals concerned (1,500, according to him) was quickly debunked by a journalist (according to whom candidates to this post-democratic experiment are probably at least three times as numerous…), but that didn’t alter the core of his message in any substantial way.
In all fairness, it should be pointed out Klarsfeld only used the words “[mass] administrative arrests”, and even though he did refer to camps used by North Ireland in the past to contain IRA-detainees, he hasn’t openly advocated opening any “internment camps” in France, but that subtlety doesn’t make much of a difference since such camps would be the only manageable way of avoiding radicalization within regular prisons, while effectively ensuring a permanent surveillance of all suspects (6).
There’s a French expression that says : « la vérité sort de la bouche des enfants ». It’s a variant of a famous paragraph from the bible, whose English equivalent could be : “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings come grains of truth”. If this is true, the truth, in this case, lies not in the beloved son’s proposal, but in the mere fact he’s making it public…
When the French democratic party laid out the main features of the new surveillance bill it was about to submit to Congress in the wake of the January events (7), the bill’s promoters insisted it was the result of years of intense pondering behind the scenes. The subtext was crystal clear : all they lacked was the right context to push it through. When the cartoonists ascended to martyrdom, this obscure bill finally saw the light of day, courtesy of the newly-found, if short-lived, bipartisan consensus.
With France’s regional elections scheduled for next month, and its presidential election drawing near, only fools can imagine resuscitating the fake unanimity forged around the JeSuisCharlie-hashtag almost a year ago. But drawing the conclusion Klarsfeld’s opinion is that of a lone wolf would be wishful thinking : the more ISIL strikes, the more what has been lying in the shadows is likely to emerge once again…
(1) Le débat, France 24, January 22, 2015 (search this blog for the following tags : Longuet, Querry)
(3) Harkis are Algerians who fought alongside the French army during the war of independence. When Algeria ceased to be a French colony, they were seen as traitors and, a as result, a lot of them emigrated to France.
(4) Source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Border_Police
(5) On n’est pas couché, France 2
(6) Hours before Klarsfeld made his proposal, the state of emergency was declared. The law regulating it (55-385) already provided for the possibility of (administrative) house arrests (in French : assignations à résidence). To the legal expert, this was clearly not enough.