A racist prosecution


By lifting her immunity as a legislator, the French parliament has cleared the way for National Front leader Marine Le Pen to be prosecuted for tweeting three disgusting pictures of barbarities carried out by Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS). If found guilty, under French law, she could face up to three years in jail.

The three images, which she posted in 2015, were of a caged man in an orange jump suit being burnt alive, a tank running over another victim and a decapitated body. It was this last which caused such furor because the man who was the victim of Daesh savagery here was the US journalist James Foley.

Le Pen later claimed that she did not realize the last man’s identity and had not wished to cause any offense. But she stuck by the tweet that accompanied the pictures “Daesh is this”.

It is, of course, clear why the leader of France’s far-right party reproduced these images. Her real Islamophobic message is “Daesh is this and Daesh are Muslims”. Leaving aside the blasphemous teachings and behavior of the terrorists, the great travesty of Le Pen was to seize this opportunity to try and stir up fear and race-hatred among French voters as she was squaring up for a pitch for the presidency.

By any measure her tawdry trick was amoral. French prosecutors think it was criminal. And French legislators, by lifting Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity, clearly think that she has a case to answer. The National Front is bound to try and change this trial into a farrago by rehearsing its race-hate policies and pleading justification. Le Pen has already staked out part of her defense with a new tweet. In this she said it was better to be a French jihadist returning from Syria than an MP who denounces the base values of Daesh because the jihadist took less judicial risks. The judges will need to be firm in the running of the case, to stop it becoming a political circus in which more outrageous statements will be made. Le Pen was humiliated in her bid for French leadership. Her party made a poor showing in the legislative elections - having predicted winning a large minority, the National Front actually ended up winning just eight of the 577 seats.

But there is also an elephant in the room. The fury over Le Pen’s original tweet began when it was realized that one of the victims she showed was an American journalist. Not unnaturally fellow journalists raised a storm when their colleague Foley was butchered. Nevertheless, this served to make Foley’s horrific fate somehow more significant than that of all the other piteous victims whose disgusting fate was broadcast by the terrorists’ media.

Why should this be? The identity of the poor man run over by a tank is unclear. But the man burnt to death in a cage was a captured Jordanian Air Force pilot, Muath Al-Kaseasbeh. His death was every bit as gross and pitiless as that accorded to all the other victims of Daesh atrocities. It demonstrated the tragic truth that the majority of those slaughtered by Daesh in its insane campaign have been Muslims. But the move that triggered the prosecution of Le Pen came from the tweeting of that picture of James Foley, who was white.