Frédéric Encel, professor of international relations at the prestigious Ecole Nationale d’Administration in Paris and a man not known for crying wolf, recently stated that France is becoming a new Lebanon. The implication, far-fetched though it may seem, was that civil upheaval might be no more than a few years off, sparked by growing ethnic and religious polarization. In recent weeks, a series of events has underlined this ominous trend.
On March 8, tens of thousands of high school students marched through central Paris to protest education reforms announced by the government. Repeatedly, peaceful demonstrators were attacked by bands of black and Arab youths—about 1,000 in all, according to police estimates. The eyewitness accounts of victims, teachers, and most interestingly the attackers themselves gathered by the left-wing daily Le Monde confirm the motivation: racism.
Some of the attackers openly expressed their hatred of “little French people.” One 18-year-old named Heikel, a dual citizen of France and Tunisia, was proud of his actions. He explained that he had joined in just to “beat people up,” especially “little Frenchmen who look like victims.” He added with a satisfied smile that he had “a pleasant memory” of repeatedly kicking a student, already defenseless on the ground.
Colpart, who is active in anti-racist causes, confirmed that “these were racial assaults,” and the attackers used “far-right slurs, violent and racist.” One black student he saw come to the defense of a fellow student under attack by three blacks was called “a white sellout” by the assailants. Some scores of victims were taken to hospitals. Those who were interviewed confirmed that they had been caught up in an “anti-white” rampage and that the cops did nothing to protect them.
These figures, of course, capture only incidents sufficiently severe to come to the attention of the authorities. Beneath the radar are other incidents, seemingly petty, yet telling, such as one I happened to witness in a Paris department store a few months back. A woman was pushing her baby in a stroller down an aisle. Behind her was a well-dressed, prosperous-looking Arab woman in a hurry. Suddenly the Arab woman pushed the mother, saying, “Move, dirty Frenchwoman” (“Dégage, sale française”). The familiar epithet “dirty Jew” is apparently being extended for more general use.
Another remarkable verbal innovation is the use of the word “Gaulois”—an inhabitant of Gaul, the part of the Roman Empire that became France—to identify the non-Jewish, non-Muslim, non-black French. Today, the term is used mostly by Muslims and blacks, but, amazingly enough, French whites are starting to pick it up as the rift between ethnic communities grows wider. Journalist Stéphanie Marteau, in an online interview about her new book on Muslim France, for example, speaks of “the Gaulois vote.”