Last October, the French author and philosophy teacher Robert Redeker, accompanied by two bodyguards, went to the office of his publisher in the charming fifth arrondissement of Paris. Redeker has been in hiding for more than two years, ever since he addressed the question of Islamic intimidation in a newspaper article in Le Figaro, which led to a string of death threats. He is France's Salman Rushdie, but his case has already been largely forgotten by his compatriots.
When the staff left for lunch, Redeker encouraged his bodyguards to take a break too. He felt safe. In an interview with Standpoint he explained what happened next:
"At 1.30pm, a young man of North African origin came to deliver a package. ‘Monsieur Redeker,' he said, ‘I know who you are...' adding, ‘I won't kill you but someone else will.'
"He lashed out at me for ten, maybe 15 minutes. The genocide of the Muslims, Arabs are Semites, Hitler was Christian... ‘You make a distinction between moderate, fanatical and Islamist Muslims. You're wrong. A person is Muslim or not Muslim, period.' Over and over, he accused me of insulting all Muslims by criticising Muhammad. ‘Muhammad is more than a father for Muslims,' he said. ‘What you did is serious!' He stormed out in a rage. I called my two RG [Renseignements Généraux, the domestic intelligence service] protectors, who rushed over. They whisked me away to the airport."
It was in Paris 60 years ago that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed, on 10 December 1948. France has always claimed a special relationship with the Declaration, affirmed as a defining national quality, carried as a banner whenever and wherever human rights are threatened - more or less. In the words of René Samuel Cassin, recognised as its principal author, the Declaration "is the most vigorous, most necessary protest of humanity against the atrocities and oppressions endured by millions of human beings through the ages". Cassin, who refused to take his seat as a delegate to the League of Nations after publicly denouncing the Munich Agreement, maintained a lifelong association with the Alliance Israélite Universelle, under whose auspices he frequently visited Israel.
Today in France, demonstrators equate the Star of David with the swastika, scream their hatred of Israel, burn its flag and chant promises of destruction. Schools that bear the name of René Cassin are vandalised. Cassin was a résistant, sentenced to death in absentia by the Vichy government. Where is the Resistance today? Is it the enraged crowd in keffieh, vowing allegiance to Hamas? Or courageous thinkers who dare to denounce the greatest totalitarian threat since Nazism and communism?