Bat Ye'or, the muse of the new crusaders

Home"TO THE ONE"Bat Ye'or, the muse of the new crusaders
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"The World" launches a shameful attack


against Bat Ye'Or


Quoted by Michel Houellebecq in "Soumission", this controversial figure, with global influence, signs his political autobiography.



Here, politics begins with fiction and returns to it. A few hours before the jihadist attack of January 7, 2015 against Charlie Hebdo, the weekly Current values announced his "one" the next day: "Islam: and if Houellebecq was right? This cover greeted the release of Submission, novel published the same day at Flammarion, in which the writer depicts a France under Muslim domination.

On page 157, one of Houellebecq's characters concludes: "In a sense, old Bat Ye'or is not wrong, with her plot fantasy Eurabia. " Imposed by a bloody telescoping between the literary news and the terrorist event, the interrogation would henceforth run, underground, through a part of the right-wing press and, beyond, in a whole identity blogosphere: if Houellebecq was right , would not Bat Ye'or be wrong?

Read also the interview with the historian Dominique Avon:   "The status of dhimmis can not be judged by human rights! "

This one was already very influential, one will argue, well before the attacks of January 2015. As early as 2006, for example, the young historian Ivan Jablonka emphasized his international aura in a rich file of Life of ideas, journal founded around Pierre Rosanvallon, professor at the Collège de France. Entitled "The fear of Islam. Bat Ye'or and the specter of "Eurabia", the dossier presented the itinerary of this British author, born in Cairo in 1933, who worked on the status of dhimmis (minorities in the land of Islam) in medieval times, before signing in 2005 a pamphlet echo without borders, Eurabia (Jean-Cyrille Godefroy, 2006), where she accuses contemporary European elites of renouncing their Judeo-Christian roots and giving their peoples a new life. "Dhimmitude".

Pugnacious obsessions and virulent anxieties

At the turn of the 2000s, his lyrics received an enthusiastic welcome from famous neo-conservative intellectuals, like the American Daniel Pipes or the British Niall Ferguson, quick to denounce a Europe without identity, slump, capitularde. "Within this reactionary movement that developed in the United States after 9/11, Bat Ye'or was already a pioneer, explains Ivan Jablonka in the "World of Books". So when Europe was hit in turn, it was easy for her to proclaim: "I told you so!" In recent years, she has become one of the intellectual pillars of this hatred, or this fear, of Islam. And what struck me was that, at home, this fear comes directly from childhood, since Bat Ye'or embodies the destiny of a Sephardic Jewish diaspora, of which we almost always ignore everything. "

To verify it, it is enough to meet Bat Ye'or, or simply to open the door.Political Autobiography published today by Les Provinciales (352 p., 24 €): the pugnacious obsessions and virulent anxieties that structure its path are rooted in uprooting. Raised in Cairo in a bourgeois and cultured Jewish family, of Italian descent on his father's side and Franco-British on the maternal side, Bat Ye'or, whose real name is Gisèle Orebi, saw his world waver and then collapse.

During the Second World War, first, when Rommel's soldiers approached the Egyptian border. In 1945, when riots broke out in Cairo: "During monster events, writes Bat Ye'or, Jewish businesses and houses were looted, raped girls, Jewish synagogues and schools burned, old people's homes and hospitals destroyed, Bibles burned. " Then, in 1948, at the time of the creation of the State of Israel: "The crowd attacked all Europeans with cries of" Jews! Jews! " And finally, during the crisis of Suez, in 1956.

From harassment to humiliation, and from prohibition to threats, the family of Bat Ye'or finally decided to leave, like the mass of Egyptian Jews. "Terrorized by this halo of general suspicion, contemptuous and vindictive hostility that curbed around us, the heads of families had only one wish: to leave their homeland become prison. " Shortly before saying goodbye to her homeland in 1957, the 23-year-old woman had burned all her notebooks, newspapers and manuscripts.

Make the universal history of the oppressed

Exactly six decades later, Bat Ye'or, who is in Paris, is questioned about the reasons for such a gesture. "I was afraid that these texts would be held against us. During all these years, I did not stop to write, to take notes, because I realized well that I attended an extraordinary phenomenon: the erasure of a community present in Egypt since nearly three thousand years ", confided the one who soon chose to sign Bat Ye'or, "daughter of the Nile" in Hebrew. As soon as she arrived in Britain, the young exile would not rest until she had reconstructed these manuscripts and put down the chronicle of her own expulsion. To make the particular history of the dhimmis will be to make the universal history of the oppressed.

Investigating the fate of Jews, but also Christians, she will delve into the medieval texts to uncover what she presents as her "Discovery" crucial: the status of dhimmi, which was granted to some non-Muslims in the lands conquered by the troops of caliphs and sultans from VIIe century, in ways that depend on times and places.

This status is first protective In exchange for the payment of a tax, it gives access to rights, starting with the right to live, but also to worship and to trade. However, it is also inferior: second-class citizens, the dhimmis can not carry weapons, are forbidden to build or repair their places of worship, must walk quickly, eyes down and wear distinctive clothing.

The echo of the "Dhimmi"

In 1980, after years of hard work, Bat Ye'or publishes at Anthropos his main work, The Dhimmi, which reappears today with a preface by Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), libertarian intellectual and Protestant theologian (Les Provinciales, 160 p., 15 €). At the time, this study was hailed in "The World of Books" as "An unparalleled reference work". Today, it is subject to contrasting assessments. "I have no indulgence for the lenient speeches about the" tolerance "of Islam, Lucette Valensi, author of reference books on Mediterranean Islam, but this book is an exalted pamphlet, which ignores the internal diversity and evolution of Muslim societies in the past, and which has no more validity for the contemporary era: even Khomeini has not restored the dhimma in Iran! "

Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, whose scholarly research focuses on Shiite Islam, says: "The study of texts is one thing, their interpretation is another. Bat Ye'or is someone who knows classic texts but, like many colleagues (in one sense or another), she tends to read at once anachronistic and one-sided. "

Other academics are more nuanced. A philosopher like Rémi Brague, a specialist in medieval Arabic thought, continues to hold the British study for important: "I would not say that everything has to be taken literally, but its work is documented and should not be overlooked. "

For his part, Bernard Heyberger, one of the finest connoisseurs of Eastern Christians, explains the echo of this book by the context of its publication: "Bat Ye'or was influential because she was the first to call attention to the phenomenon of dhimmis. And although she chose to value the texts that were in line with her thesis, namely that Islam would always persecute Christians, she was able to get the documents in Arabic at a time when all this did not interest the university. Today, it is different, the subject has been well invested by various researchers, and the audience I meet at my conferences expects less conflictual approaches. In recent years, even if the reference to dhimmis is frequent on far-right sites, the concern for Eastern Christians is no longer limited to Islamophobic and cross-cultural milieus....

In the name of a defense of the French identity, the Christian West or Israel

Symmetrically, the texts of Bat Ye'or found themselves more and more confined, them, in this medium. Although she claims that her texts are intended to support Muslim reformers, and that she is not responsible for the use that is made of them, it must be admitted that her books, from now on, essentially feed the prose of journalists or activists who fight against the "Islamization of Europe" their displayed fight, in the name of a defense of the French identity, the Christian West or Israel.

Often compared to the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci (1929-2006), Bat Ye'or is quoted eulogistically by the editorialist of the Figaro Ivan Rioufol. His lexicon is also taken up by Eric Zemmour or by Philippe de Villiers, who regularly vituperes French elites "Dhimmis". Referenced by sites like Riposte laïque, The Salon beige or Dreuz, it is mentioned with respect on the blog of Bernard Antony, long leader of the traditionalist Catholic branch of the National Front (party he left in 2008). Most recently, the newspaper of L'Action française, a monarchist organization founded by Charles Maurras, invited his followers to read Bat Ye'or and noted: "Every land conquered by Muslims sees its inhabitants or converted or submissive. The Dhimmi is a historical book, certainly; it is also a warning. "

« Marche contre le fascisme ­islamiste » ­organisée par ­l’association ­Résistance républicaine, à Paris, en ­novembre 2012.

That Bat Ye'or's texts are receiving such a focused reception has finally put on alert. And by sowing doubt, including among those who published it. But here again, the situation is mixed.

Thus the Dominican father Nicolas-Jean Sed, long head of Editions du Cerf, and who published Bat Ye'or in 1991 (The Christianity of the East between "jihad" and dhimmitude), does he assume an uncomfortable position: "On this kind of subject, either we say things and we risk playing the game of the far right, either we say nothing and we are not honest. Me, I am for the reception of migrants and refugees, besides I work there, but that does not prevent me from opening my eyes to a certain reality of Islam. Dhimmitude, I did not wait for the Islamic State organization to crucify Christians to discover it. I have been friends with Iraqis for forty years! In 1969, after the hangings organized by Saddam Hussein, Jews left Iraq and told Christians: "Today is Saturday, but tomorrow is Sunday." That's why I published Bat Ye'or . For even though her book puts the feet of an elephant in a garden, I considered that it frankly addressed a subject that no one, including among the Dominicans, wanted to hear. "

Some discomfort

As for political scientist Pierre-André Taguieff, who in turn asked Bat Ye'or in 1994 to update The Dhimmi under the title Jews and Christians under Islam (Berg International), he does not hesitate to confide a certain embarrassment with regard to him: "Today, I am divided. On the one hand, his work is a solid synthesis which was needed and which I do not forbid myself to quote; and then, I can not stand the condescension that it is the object of some academics who do not tolerate the snipers. But, on the other hand, she has shown herself insufficiently suspicious of the uses that can be made of her work, and it is regrettable that, by blackening the picture, she may have seemed to justify conspiracy fantasies. One only has to see the place it holds in the text of Anders Breivik. "

Indeed, the Norwegian killer, author of the Oslo and Utoya attacks in 2011, quotes Bat Ye'or dozens of times in the thick "manifesto" where he explains his motives. When we speak to him today of this tribute, the British intellectual, who lives near Geneva, begins by rearing up before sowing the suspicion: "When you are blamed for such a massacre, it's scary! I have nothing to do with an assassin like Breivik. But the harm was done, I was exposed to revenge, the police came to tell me that I had to protect myself. All of this is revenge on the part of the Norwegian left-wing government, whose complacency towards Islamism I denounced. For him it was a good opportunity to shut me up. "

Here appears an aspect that even some of his friends blame Bat Ye'or: his growing tendency to develop a conspiracy vision of things. In fact, open Eurabia, it is to plunge into a prose whose success is now largely based on its conspiracy imaginary, peopled with good or bad intentions, with saving or evil forces. A writing that endlessly accumulates details concerning diplomatic summits as well as marginal meetings, state treaties and unimportant pamphlets, so many indications to support one and the same scenario: since the oil crisis of 1973, the cowardly European elites would have agreed to sell their souls to the Muslim powers. And when we point out to Bat Ye'or that she uses expressions like "Anonymous circles" and "Occult organizations", to say the least, she denies that it is her vocabulary. She is shown a precise passage, she retreats into silence, behind a petrified smile.

Tiny malaise, daily dread and intimate retreat

In the course of the conversation, moreover, his silences, or his strange refusals, attract attention. To those who claim to fight not Islam but Islamism, and support the reformers of the Muslim world, it is asked to name a few of them. "There must be Muslim theologians who do this work of proofreading the Qur'an and Sharia law. There are probably, I do not know, " she answers, before letting go of a single name, that of the Algerian writer Boualem Sansal ... who says he broke with Islam, and who shares globally his vision of a fixed Muslim world.

"What Bat Ye'or says seems serious to me, and corresponds to what I live in my country, observes Sansal, contacted by "The World of Books". The dhimmis in Algeria are Jews and Christians, but also the Mozabites and all those who are not on the line of orthodox Islam. From this point of view, the Muslim world has hardly changed. It is modern in appearance, but medieval in its foundations. It's hard to understand, it's getting harder and harder, too, because today Islamists dominate society. Personally, when I come out of my house, I pay attention to what I say, I know that one risks to look at me badly, and I think that it also begins to be a little the case in certain districts in France. "

Read also:   Controversy over "Islamophobia"

To listen to Boualem Sansal, we understand why Bat Ye'or quotes it spontaneously. Not because he would be a figure of "modernizer Muslim", but because, like her, and like the characters of Houellebecq, he displays a conscience on the watch, always on the lookout for servility or allegiance that would pass less by great laws than by tiny malaise, daily fright and intimate retreat: from the first pages of Submission, one crosses inquisitive eyes and others more deferential, for example the "Obedient and naive look" Steve, a specialist in Rimbaud who will accept a lucrative job at the Sorbonne, now Islamized, in the hands of the Saudis ...

The fantasy of a great machination made by the powerful

Before turning it into a historical and political reading chart, Bat Ye'or has developed it, this extreme sensitivity to "Crooked look" and to the docile eye. Make him notice that his texts feed the fantasy of a great machination made by the powerful, she retorts: "You know, dhimmitude is not just the concessions of governments, it's a fear I've experienced, that I've seen in the eyes of others, on their lips. In Egypt, I was a minority as a Jew, but as a woman too. The girls we were strolling with pins to defend against the hands wanders. It was not conceivable to go alone to the cafe, you had to constantly watch your clothes, not expose your arms, etc. I discovered my freedom by discovering that of Europeans, by observing their behavior, their confidence. Suddenly, I no longer felt the need to look in the store window to see if I was followed, to develop those eyes behind the head that allowed me to detect a male presence behind me. "

From book to book, in the end, Bat Ye'or theorized this experience of anxiety and vulnerability, radicalizing it gradually to universalize it in a great story with doubtful scientific pretensions, but with explosive political effects. If his first texts were part of a historical research work, his pamphlets as Eurabia are more like the conspiracy fable.

Thus the British intellectual has reconnected, consciously or not, with what it presents as his true passion, fiction. "I always knew that I would become a writer, I could not escape it. When I was young, I wrote all the time, I was a slave to my characters. Subsequently, I botched my work on the dhimmis to be able to return as soon as possible to my novels, the recreation of the world but, each time, there was another book to come, another solicitation of a friend. I am like the character of Chekhov who will have spent his time dreaming of his cherry trees ... But this work of history that I did, I know that it is related to my novels, my characters live in ", confides the one who says finally prepare the publication of his first novel.

At this moment, as he is asked if, by chance, Michel Houellebecq has not already written a novel version of his political pamphlets, Bat Ye'or concludes: "Houellebecq wrote a great novel. Through his characters, in a strange way, very simple, brilliant, like a pointillist painter, he ended up drawing Eurabia. Yes, it's nice! "


Source: © Bat Ye'or, the muse of the new crusaders

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