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December 30, 2020 1:08 pm
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French-Algerian Activist Faces Potential Legal Action for Defending Antisemitic Campaign Against Beauty Queen

avatar by Ben Cohen

French beauty queen April Benayoum was targeted with antisemitic abuse on social media. Photo: Instagram.

One of the main organizations combating antisemitism and racism in France is considering legal action against a left-wing activist over an alleged antisemitic article published last week in which she argued that “one cannot be innocently Israeli.”

The article — by the French-Algerian writer and political activist Houria Bouteldja — asserted that the antisemitic abuse piled on French beauty queen April Benayoum, after she revealed that her father was Israeli, should be sympathetically understood as opposition to colonialism and Zionism.

Originally published on Dec. 24 by the left-wing website Mediapart, Bouteldja’s piece has since been taken offline following the furor it caused.

In the article, she argued that while Benayoum was not responsible for her father’s identity, “she is responsible for hers, and she cannot present herself publicly without recognizing what this identity represents for millions of expelled and occupied Palestinians.”

Bouteldja then asserted that Benayoum should “take a stand against the Israeli colonial fact…Because one cannot be innocently Israeli (emphasis in original).”

Several of the Twitter posts attacking Benayoum openly endorsed the killing of Jews, including the comment, “Hitler forgot to exterminate you, Miss Provence.”

Bouteldja’s article stated that declarations such as these should not obscure the fact that there was “among the less politicized, a confused anti-Jewism, halfway between French antisemitism (the fruit of their great integration) and anti-Israelism (the fruit of their anti-colonial spontaneity).”

The primary fault for this confusion lay with the Western powers and Diaspora Jewish communities, Bouteldja insisted, because both supposedly present Zionism and Jewish identity as the same.

“The fact remains that the Western power, with the complicity of  Zionist Jews, has succeeded in making the amalgamation between Jews and Israel,” Bouteldja declared.

She also approvingly quoted misogynistic messages directed at Benayoum, including one that said, “I haven’t wanted to f–k Miss Provence since she said she was Israeli.”

Among those responding forcefully to Bouteldja was the anti-racist NGO Licra, which said on Tuesday that it was considering legal action against her. In a post on Twitter, Licra pointedly argued that “one cannot be innocently antisemitic.”

The founder of the anti-colonialist political party, Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR), Bouteldja is employee of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) — a body created in 1980 by the French government in cooperation with 18 Arab nations.

Bouteldja came to the notice of American audiences in 2017, when her book “Whites, Jews and Us”  — an excursion into critical race theory — was published in a US edition with a foreword by Harvard University professor Cornel West.

In an interview this month with the left-wing publisher Verso in which she discussed her book at length, Bouteldja claimed that antisemitism was growing among those she terms “Indigènes” — people from immigrant backgrounds along with anti-imperialist milieus in France —  “because they live in a racist society.”

“That it is the nation-state that imposes a hierarchy in which Jews are in some sense better treated,” she continued. “The Indigènes of the Republic know that Jews are also a kind of Indigène. But the ordinary Indigène thinks that there is no reason why Jews should be cossetted and not them. Then there are integrationist Indigènes who, instead of questioning the White hierarchy and supremacy, want to simply take the place of the Jew.”

Among Jews, Bouteldja said, there had been a “gradual evolution towards the right and towards Zionism, whereas previously they were on the far left.”

In an article on Wednesday on the row caused by Bouteldja’s latest comments, the French news magazine Marianne reported that the head of the Arab World Institute — former French Culture Minister Jack Lang — was “exasperated” by the suggestion of disciplinary action against her.

Reached by phone while traveling abroad, Lang told the magazine that “we have no problem at the IMA with her and this constitutes an external intervention.”

When Marianne‘s reporter pointed out that the article about Benayoum was not the first time that Bouteldja had been accused of antisemitism, Lang snapped back, “Listen, enough! I’ve already told you too much!” before ending the call.

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