Éric Zemmour, why so much hate(s)?

The former French polemicist is today the most emblematic presidential candidate of the identity crisis that his country is going through. A France dechristianized and worried about the vitality of Islam. A society where the multicultural fact raises questions about the future of the republican assimilationist model, underlines this article by The Orient-The Day.

1952. Barely two years before the outbreak of the Algerian war, Roger and Lucette Zemmour disembarked from their native Constantine in “metropolis”, in Montreuil, in the Parisian suburbs, with their parents, Jacob and Rachel for him, Léon and Ourida for her. The code for the department of Constantine at the time was 93, the same code that would fall to Seine-Saint-Denis in 1968, six years after the colony’s independence. The city of Montreuil is one of them, as well as Drancy and Stains, where the Zemmour will move a few years later.

Steeped in love for France and dreams of social ascent, these children of the Crémieux decree trade, on their arrival, their old first names for new ones: Jacob will become Justin, and Ourida, Claire. Since September 1870, the regulatory act in question automatically grants French citizenship to “Israelites” of Algeria, releasing them on the one hand from their condition of “dhimmis”, protected but legally inferior subjects, snatching them on the other hand from the world “indigenous”, which was also theirs.

Step by step, the break is almost definitive between Jews and Muslims after fourteen centuries of coexistence and, consequently, of cultural mixing. In 1952, however, the assimilation of the Jews of Algeria had already done its work. Roger and Lucette Zemmour are proud of their absorption into the French nation. From their example, their son, Éric Justin Léon Zemmour – a candidate seventy years later in the presidential election of 2022 – draws the conclusion that the only true Frenchman is one who gets rid of any sign of belonging to a previous identity.

Impervious to the passage of time, to the convulsions of colonial history and the intertwining of memories, it has thus distinguished itself by the forging of a national novel marked by the obsession with “great replacement”. A far-right theory popularized by writer Renaud Camus to refer to the substitution of the French population of “stump” European by another of North African and black African origin, massively Muslim.

“Arab Peril”

Journalist and polemicist with acerbic pen and outrageous verb, assumed reactionary, keen on history – material which he does not hesitate, according to many historians, to falsify –, Éric Zemmour stands out among the contenders for the Élysée. Admittedly, in a France which, according to the polls, leans largely to the right, he is not the only one campaigning on the theme of identity malaise. But he is the one whose evolution says the most about the French assimilationist model and about its being sorely tested by liberal globalization.

The former journalist Figaro undoubtedly arouses contradictory passions in a society on edge, gnawed by the fear of downgrading and shaken by a multiculturalism which, even if it questions the West as a whole, takes on a very particular resonance in France. In this France which is both the eldest daughter of the Church and the mother of secularism, more than half of the population say “without religion”.

The abandonment of churches by the faithful contrasts with the growing visibility of Islam. And we are still torn about the law of 1905, relating to the separation of Church and State, not on its merits, but on the interpretation that must be given to it more a century after its promulgation.

In his quest for power, the one who claims to follow in the footsteps of General de Gaulle wants to unite the popular classes and the so-called bourgeoisie. “patriot” against an explicitly defined fifth column: Muslims. In doing so, he reopens wounds that the country thought had healed, gives a thumbs up to those nostalgic for Vichy France, claims that the “Marshal Pétain saved French Jews and gave away foreign Jews”.

Éric Zemmour goes so far as to question the innocence of Captain Alfred Dreyfus more than a hundred years after his rehabilitation, in one of the most emblematic cases of the virulent anti-Semitism that infested French society at the end of the 19th century.

How this child born in France in 1958 into a modest Jewish family in Algeria – and who might not have been born French if the Crémieux decree, repealed by the Vichy regime in October 1940, had not been reinstated three years later – can he be complacent towards those who stripped his ancestors of a citizenship he cherishes so much? As if he were following several decades apart in the line of Émile Morinaud, deputy for Constantine from 1898 to 1902, then from 1919 to 1942, obsessed with “Arab Peril” and fearing that the assimilation of the Jews by the Republic would be followed by that of the majority Muslim population.

“No veiled women”

When asked about his origins, Éric Zemmour replies straight out that he is a Frenchman of Jewish faith and of Berber origin. Faced with him, it is better to avoid suggesting the hypothesis of an Arab filiation, even remote. “The Berbers were colonized, massacred, persecuted by the Arabs, Islamized by force”, he said.

Not a word, however, about the crimes committed by the French army against the Berbers, who in the meantime had become massively Muslim. The main thing for him is to emphasize that if his ancestors came from across the Mediterranean, they were Berbers and non-Arabs, Jews and non-Muslims, and therefore more compatible with the essence of France.

In the Zemmourian software, the narrative ellipses always seem to converge towards this objective: to make “Muslim” today’s postcolonial descendant of the“Arab” colonized yesterday. A demographic and cultural danger transposed from one shore to the other of the Mediterranean, from one century to the next, and the imminence of which justifies some accommodations from the far right rows behind his candidacy with their traditional ideological baggage.

“For some of them, the old anti-Semitism has become politically counterproductive, since it diverts militants from what is urgent (stopping Muslim immigration, or even getting Muslims to leave) in favor of what is less, let us say cynically, what may


Soulayma Mardam Bey

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