Paris Rally: Charlie Hebdo Team regret not Parading Caricatures of Hypocritical World Leaders

Juan Cole | (Informed Comment)

Le Monde reported on the Charlie Hebdo team at the Paris rally on Sunday, the largest demonstrations in France since the end of World War II. They were emotionally exhausted, having lived through a nightmarish week that saw 10 of their colleagues murdered in cold blood. (One of the staffers killed was a Muslim copy-editor known at the offices for the breadth of his learning).

And, fatigued as they are, they had soon to get back to work on the special edition of their weekly, which will be printed in a million copies rather than the 60,000 usual run.

They said their biggest regret was that they couldn’t have paraded caricatures from the past pages of Charlie Hebdo of the various heads of state who joined the rally– Benyamin Netanyahu, King Abdallah II of Jordan, of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, of Russian Foreign Minister Sergueï Lavrov, of Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and of all the authoritarian heads of state they had lampooned over the years. (Many of the world leaders in the rally would have at the least jailed the Charlie Hebdo staffers if they had been operating in those countries).

Oh, well, said Luz, a cartoonist. You can’t think of everything.

The survivors and the family members of the victims came out determined never to stop laughing. They had their chance for merriment when French President Francois Hollande came over at Léon Blum Place to shake their hands, and a pigeon crapped on his shoulder. Luz’s companion, Camille Delalande, rendered homage to the president on twitter, saying it was nice of Hollande to give them a good laugh.

Patrick Pelloux, a staffer who had not been there that morning and who came in to find the bodies, said, “The warmth of of these people, these people calmly united for freedom of expression– it is the first day of something. It has an air of unreality, all the world with us. It is beautiful and strange.” The companion of a deceased artist who isn’t coming back remarked, “Who united so many heads of state around a symbol? Mandela . . . and Charlie.”

So here are some relevant Charlie Hebdo caricatures just for the politicians in attendance, for many of whom the victims had only contempt:

For Marine LePen, leader of the far right National Front, whom the mainstream parties quite rightly refused to invite to the rally in Paris, and who therefore marched in the south:

On the Gaza War, for Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 3.48.43 AM
“Hamas has taken the population hostage!” – “Quickly, we’ll kill the hostages!”

On Israel’s and the West’s treatment of the Palestinians:

Palestinian President contemplates a seat for Palestine at the UN. “It is the only one left,” he is told.

For Sergei Lavrov and Vladimir Putin:

“Putin sends Gerard Depardieu to Ukraine. No to chemical weapons.”

11 Responses

  1. The threat of getting splattered with pigeon shit kept John Kerry and Joe Biden away from the Paris rally.

    “I really think this is quibbling a little bit, in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria “Fuck the E.U.” Nuland was there and did march.” John Kerry

    Ms. Nuland was seen handing out some of her famous cookies along the way.

  2. As of noon today, Central Time, the average donation to the current campaign for Informed Comment is about $68. That’s quite a lot, and that’s the average.

    I think, Juan, that if you encouraged smaller donations, say, $10 or less, you would have a good response. You could state, “Any amount will be appreciated.” Or, “Donate $5 today!”

    Des Moines, Iowa

    • Hi, Tom – when I send out appeals on social media, I do say that. and thanks for reinforcing it. If all regular readers set in small amounts, the appeal would suddenly be over.

  3. Surely Saudi Arabia must be on the short list for the most hypocritical nation represented at the rally given a non-violent activist received the first 50 of an ordered thousand lashes two days before in Saudi Arabia for a mild expression of political dissent.

  4. I really appreciate the weight you have given to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. The contradictions that extremists hope to exacerbate should be clear to all the commentators on the “left.” It should be clear that Islamic fundamentalsts hope that Islamophobia will spread; the French government reacted as it should have, by declaring its support for the Islamic community. Even though words are cheap and much much more must be done to reach out to the poor suburbs, this was in contrast with our attitude toward Muslims and Arabs after 9/11. Many on the “left” are making short thrift of an unprecedented popular and republican demonstration that the people themselves had started with nightly gatherings and vigils, despite warnings about security. Europe has reacted much more deeply to the attacks on a particularly irreverent part of the French press, followed by the horrible attacks on a young police-woman and on the people in a Jewish super market, than to other terrorist attacks, in Madrid and London. Of course, we should be horrified at everything that is done in our name (most recently, the bombings of civilians in the current campaigns against IS) and horrified at the terror suffered by Nigerian and Pakistani civilians. Terror is terror. But this was not the reason for the unspeakably stupid blunder of the Obama administration, in not sending any high level representative to Paris. Perhaps the US “left” can be satisfied that we do not protest against ANY of these outrages. A sense of fake fairness [why should we show outrage about the attacks in Paris when we don’t on Al-Bab in Syria or Baga in Nigeria] seems to me just a sanctimonious way of not joining with masses of people on the pretext that “the left” knows better . YOU help us know better and know more and I thank you for that and also for showing outrage.

  5. A very conservative co-worker claimed Obama didn’t send a high ranking representative to Paris because he is completely against all of the 19th and 20th century colonialism practiced by European countries, especially France and England. Indochina, Lebanon, Syria and Algeria were former colonies of France. The two brothers were Algerian. Kenya was an English colony who tortured Obama’s grandfather during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s.

  6. The Limbaughs and Hannitys, better known as comedians posing as journalist/ commentators over at Fox, are now slamming Obama for not showing solidarity with France. Fox is a exhibiting a completely different attitude towards France as opposed to the pre-Iraq war days when France was not eager to jump on the Let’s invade Iraq bandwagon. During that period, O’Reilly was leading a boycott of French Wine (Claiming he was going to bring the French wine industry to it’s knees) while Limbaugh and company labeled the French as “Surrender Monkeys.”

  7. Der Spiegel had two great satirical cartoons of the Pegida movement, a strange melange of members whose interest vary from anti-immigration, anti-Islam, opposition to German economic policy, disenchantment with the EU, and contains skinheads espousing neo-Nazis slogans with violent streaks. Plus, they attract lots of underemployed people. They have gained greater legitimacy from the support of the parliamentary party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). The movement is now opportunistically using the massacres in France last Wed. as a way to mobilize consensus among the different agendas of the diverse groups who comprise the movement.
    The cartoons:
    link to

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    What is worthy of reflection is the willingness of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to march at a rally with Muslims in Berlin today (Jan. 13th) in order “to promote tolerance, condemn the attacks in Paris and send a rebuke to Germany’s growing anti-Islamic movement.”

    Here’s the Guardian article about Merkel’s participation:
    link to

    From anti-Pegida marches that have attracted 3-4 times as many demonstrators, it appears most Germans are not comfortable with the outward expression of hatred towards Muslims.

    A thoughtful article from Der Spiegel International investigates provides greater clarity than almost every mainstream media outlet publishing in English and French and is worthy of further analysis: link to

  8. I agree. But the savage depredations of the Mau-Mau on the British farmers were reported daily on the BBC radio news when I was a pre-teen.

  9. I totally fail to see how the absence of high level U.S. officials from the recent “Unity Rally” in Paris was an “unspeakably stupid blunder” on the part of the Obama administration. Instead, as more and more things come to light, that event may yet turn out to be not quite what it was cracked up to be, at least among the “world leaders” who did attend. Meanwhile note that Obama’s counterparts in Russia and China were not subjected to the usual kneejerk Conservative attacks for likewise not being in Paris on that glorious day . Only Obama had to suffer those, alone as always.

    Though it was interesting and maybe even a little awe-inspiring to see so many heads of state and lesser figures from many places in the world all gathered in one spot at such short notice to demonstrate against a series of unspeakable mass murders, nevertheless the whole thing carried a definite air of being a display of mere exhibitionism. Clarion calls of “unity” kept ringing through the air, even while one wondered how the horrible acts of just a very few thugs with guns could possibly set aside so many traditional antagonisms of nations for longer than brief moments. And then one wondered if all along — Paris being what it is to nearly everyone — the appeal of the rally to the French premier’s highly placed guests had been its location instead of the occasion itself.

    Some have wondered why Hollande even invited all those dignitaries, and why he didn’t leave the rally purely in the hands of his ordinary fellow Frenchmen instead, because by now it should have been clear even to world leaders everywhere exactly what terrorists can do. Obama, for one, had a very clear idea on that score, having had to spend a large amount of his Presidency dealing with issues brough on by the seemingly indelible and enormous messes left behind by the Republicans in their badly misguided responses to 9/11, which included such abominations as the attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, the prison at Gitmo, and the open use of torture, with all the enormous rents that those measures tore in the American fabric and its ideals. And soon enough that “world leader” part of the rally in Paris was badly tainted anyway, by the actions of just one man.

    Like Lady Macbeth, B. Netanyahu, the Israeli leader, is so packed from head to toe “topful with direst cruelty” that he must spoil every party that he attends, as shown by his White House excursions and by several spectacles that he staged at the UN, one of which featured him displaying — what else? — a cartoon while trying to lay down the law to one of his neighbors that is in every way — including staying cool, calm, and reasonable — as much as 10 times larger than his own bailiwick. Along with his own unpleasant run-ins with this man, Obama already has his fill of having to deal every day with a solid, unbroken bloc of similar buffoons, hundreds of them, all aching to get in individual whacks at him — the Republicans in Congress.

    Therefore Obama is to be commended instead, for sparing his two most immediate underlings, Biden and Kerry, the ordeal of this baleful man, while Netanyahu made a big fool of himself even in the eyes of many Israelis, by crashing Hollande’s “party” after having been asked not to come to the rally and at first agreeing but then changing his mind and coming anyway and muscling his way from the second row in the march up into the first, and climaxing that by engaging in his own brand of unity and doing just what the French had feared — urging French Jews to do the ridiculous and to leave the amenities and the beauties of France in favor of relocating in a country that has inflicted an endless succession of heartless, brain-dead leaders upon itself and on their prisoners, the Palestinians.

    From the article that precedes these comments, I got the idea that the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre weren’t unanimous in appreciating the rally. Some charged some of the world leaders with being hypocrites because they wouldn’t have permitted Hebdo to operate in their countries, and besides, the Hebdo cartoonists had lampooned leading figures in those countries, angering those leaders, yet here they were, toasting the Charlies.

    With Obama having become a regular target for lampooning and all other means of derision in the U.S., thanks to unflagging opposition from the Republicans from the day he took office, it is very likely that Obama took a few lumps from the Hebdo cartoonists as well. But now at least there won’t be a dreadful picture showing him arm in arm with the likes of Netanyahu or anyone else, nor should there be any accusations of hypocrisy hurled at Obama and by implication also upon his country. He thought to leave the Frenchmen to do the rally on their terms, in their own way, which didn’t involve bringing the hellfires down on the nearest Muslims. I call what was, after all, Obama’s normal circumspection a quite decent thing to have done in this matter, and not at all a blunder.

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