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John Pilger on the Dagan Plan and Gaza under fire

Every war Israel has waged since 1948 has had the same objective: expulsion of the native people. 

"When the truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie." It may appear that the silence on Gaza is broken. The small cocoons of murdered children, wrapped in green, together with boxes containing their dismembered parents, and the cries of grief and rage of everyone in that death camp by the sea can be witnessed on al-Jazeera and YouTube, even glimpsed on the BBC. But Russia's incorrigible poet was not referring to the ephemera we call news; he was asking why those who knew the why never spoke it, and so denied it. Among the Anglo-American intelligentsia, this is especially striking. It is they who hold the keys to the great storehouses of knowledge: the historiographies and archives that lead us to the why.

They know that the horror now raining on Gaza has little to do with Hamas or, absurdly, "Israel's right to exist". They know the opposite to be true: that Palestine's right to exist was cancelled 61 years ago and that the expulsion and, if necessary, extinction of the indigenous people was planned and executed by the founders of Israel. They know, for example, that the infamous "Plan D" of 1947-48 resulted in the murderous depopulation of 369 Palestinian towns and villages by the Haganah (Israeli army) and that massacre upon massacre of Palestinian civilians in such places as Deir Yassin, al-Dawayima, Eilaboun, Jish, Ramle and Lydda are referred to in official records as "ethnic cleansing". Arriving at a scene of this carnage, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, was asked by a general, Yigal Allon: "What shall we do with the Arabs?" Ben-Gurion, reported the Israeli historian Benny Morris, "made a dismissive, energetic gesture with his hand and said, 'Expel them'".

The order to expel an entire population "without attention to age" was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, a future prime minister promoted by the world's most efficient propaganda as a peacemaker. The terrible irony of this was addressed only in passing, such as when the Mapam party co-leader Meir Ya'ari noted "how easily" Israel's leaders spoke of how it was "possible and permissible to take women, children and old men and to fill the road with them because such is the imperative of strategy. And this we say . . . who remember who used this means against our people during the [Second World] War . . . I am appalled."

Every subsequent "war" Israel has waged has had the same objective: the expulsion of the native people and the theft of more and more land. The lie of David and Goliath, of perennial victim, reached its apogee in 1967 when the propaganda became a righteous fury that claimed the Arab states had struck first against Israel. Since then, mostly Jewish truth-tellers such as Avi Shlaim, Noam Chomsky, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon, Tom Segev, Uri Avnery, Ilan Pappé and Norman Finkelstein have undermined this and other myths and revealed a state shorn of the humane traditions of Judaism, whose unrelenting militarism is the sum of an expansionist, lawless and racist ideology called Zionism. "It seems," wrote the Israeli historian Pappé on 2 January, "that even the most horrendous crimes, such as the genocide in Gaza, are treated as discrete events, unconnected to anything that happened in the past and not associated with any ideology or system . . . Very much as the apartheid ideology explained the oppressive policies of the South African government, this ideology - in its most consensual and simplistic variety - allowed all the Israeli governments in the past and the present to dehumanise the Palestinians wherever they are and strive to destroy them. The means altered from period to period, from location to location, as did the narrative covering up these atrocities. But there is a clear pattern [of genocide]."

In Gaza, the enforced starvation and denial of humanitarian aid, the piracy of life-giving resources such as fuel and water, the denial of medicines, the systematic destruction of infrastructure and killing and maiming of the civilian population, 50 per cent of whom are children, fall within the international standard of the Genocide Convention. "Is it an irresponsible overstatement," asked Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and international law authority at Princeton University, "to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalised Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not."

In describing a “holocaust-in-the making”, Falk was alluding to the Nazis’ establishment of Jewish ghettos in Poland. For one month in 1943, the captive Polish Jews, led by Mordechaj Anielewicz, fought off the German army and the SS, but their resistance was finally crushed and the Nazis exacted their final revenge. Falk is also a Jew. Today’s holocaust-in-the-making, which began with Ben-Gurion’s Plan D, is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint US-Israeli project. The F-16 jet fighters, the 250lb “smart” GBU-39 bombs supplied on the eve of the attack on Gaza, having been approved by a Congress dominated by the Democratic Party, plus the annual $2.4bn in warmaking “aid”, give Washington de facto control. It beggars belief that President-elect Obama was not informed. Outspoken about Russia’s war in Georgia and the terrorism in Mumbai, Obama has maintained a silence on Palestine that marks his approval, which is to be expected, given his obsequiousness to the Tel Aviv regime and its lobbyists during the presidential campaign and his appointment of Zionists as his secretary of state and principal Middle East advisers. When Aretha Franklin sings “Think”, her wonderful 1960s anthem to freedom, at Obama’s inauguration on 20 January, I trust someone with the brave heart of Muntader al-Zaidi, the shoe-thrower, will shout: “Gaza!”

The asymmetry of conquest and terror is clear. Plan D is now "Operation Cast Lead", which is the unfinished "Operation Justified Vengeance". This was launched by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 when, with George W Bush's approval, he used F-16s against Palestinian towns and villages for the first time.


Why are the academics and teachers silent? Are British universities now no more than “intellectual Tescos”?


In that same year, the authoritative Jane's Foreign Report disclosed that the Blair government had given Israel the "green light" to attack the West Bank after it was shown Israel's secret designs for a bloodbath. It was typical of new Labour's enduring complicity in Palestine's agony. However, the Israeli plan, reported Jane's, needed the "trigger" of a suicide bombing which would cause "numerous deaths and injuries [because] the 'revenge' factor is crucial". This would "motivate Israeli soldiers to demolish the Palestinians". What alarmed Sharon and the author of the plan, General Shaul Mofaz, then Israeli chief of staff, was a secret agreement between Yasser Arafat and Hamas to ban suicide attacks. On 23 November 2001 Israeli agents assassinated the Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud and got their "trigger": the suicide attacks resumed in response to his killing.

Something uncannily similar happened on 4 November last year when Israeli special forces attacked Gaza, killing six people. Once again, they got their propaganda "trigger": a ceasefire sustained by the Hamas government - which had imprisoned its violators - was shattered as a result of the Israeli attacks, and home-made rockets were fired into what used to be called Palestine before its Arab occupants were "cleansed". On 23 December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire, but Israel's charade was such that its all-out assault on Gaza had been planned six months earlier, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Behind this sordid game is the "Dagan Plan", named after General Meir Dagan, who served with Sharon during his bloody invasion of Leba non in 1982. Now head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organisation, Dagan is the author of a "solution" that has brought about the imprisonment of Palestinians behind a ghetto wall snaking across the West Bank and in Gaza, now effectively a concentration camp. The establishment of a quisling government in Ramallah, under Mahmoud Abbas, is Dagan's achievement, together with a hasbara (propaganda) campaign, relayed through mostly supine, if intimidated western media, notably in the US, which say Hamas is a terrorist organisation devoted to Israel's destruction and is to "blame" for the massacres and siege of its own people over two generations, since long before its creation. "We have never had it so good," said the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Gideon Meir in 2006. "The hasbara effort is a well-oiled machine."

In fact, Hamas's real threat is its example as the Arab world's only democratically elected government, drawing its popularity from its resistance to the Palestinians' oppressor and tormentor. This was demonstrated when Hamas foiled a CIA coup in 2007, an event ordained in the western media as "Hamas's seizure of power". Likewise, Hamas is never described as a government, let alone democratic. Neither is its proposal of a ten-year truce reported as a historic recognition of the "reality" of Israel and support for a two-state solution with just one condition: that the Israelis obey international law and end their illegal occupation beyond the 1967 borders. As every annual vote in the UN General Assembly demonstrates, most states agree. On 4 January, the president of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, described the Israeli attack on Gaza as a "monstrosity".

When the monstrosity is done and the people of Gaza are even more stricken, the Dagan Plan foresees what Sharon called a "1948-style solution" - the destruction of all Palestinian leadership and authority, followed by mass expulsions into smaller and smaller "cantonments", and perhaps, finally, into Jordan. This demolition of institutional and educational life in Gaza is designed to produce, wrote Karma Nabulsi, a Palestinian exile in Britain, "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed . . . Look to the Iraq of today: that is what [Sharon] had in store for us, and he has nearly achieved it."

Dr Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Iraq and Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic," she wrote on 31 December. "But I'm not talking about the World War II, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [the president of Iran] or Ashkenazi Jews. What I'm referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years . . . Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn't get more anti-Semitic than this." She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. "I am in the midst of a genocide," wrote Corrie, "which I am also indirectly supporting, and for which my government is largely responsible."

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of "responsibility". Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction, but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable, invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plead for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries”?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third American Writers' Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure that the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 2,500 jammed the auditorium. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabo kov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."

If that is how things are, we are diminished as a civilised people. For what happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants war criminals impunity and immunity through our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or it gives us the power to speak out. For the moment I prefer my own memory of Gaza: of the people's courage and resistance and their "luminous humanity", as Karma Nabulsi put it. On my last trip there, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering in unlikely places. It was dusk and children had done this. No one had told them to do it. They made flagpoles out of sticks tied together, and a few of them climbed on to a wall and held the flag between them, some silently, others crying out. They do this every day when they know foreigners are leaving, in the belief that the world will not forget them.

John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The destruction of Gaza

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France’s deluded president

François Hollande’s poll ratings are at an all-time low and the far right is rising. Can anyone lead the country out of its malaise?

They made an odd couple, standing beneath an overcast sky in a replica of a Roman amphitheatre in western France. On one side was the 38-year-old then minister of the economy and industry, Emmanuel Macron, whose evident ambition and embrace of the market had angered many in the governing Parti Socialiste (PS). Beside him was his host, Viscount Philippe Le Jolis de Villiers de Saintignon, a nostalgic nationalist and anti-EU politician who warns about the Islamisation of France, and who took 2.2 per cent of the vote when he ran in the 2007 presidential election. The setting for their encounter in August was the Puy du Fou; the viscount created this historical theme park nearly four decades ago in the Vendée, scene of the chouannerie, a rural uprising against the French Revolution led by reactionary noblemen and drawing on deep Catholic resistance to change.

Macron, who says he offers France “the choice to be free” of its long-standing political cleavages, insisted that there was nothing surprising about appearing beside the 67-year-old viscount, who appears to prefer the past to the future. “Honesty obliges me to say I am not a Socialist,” Macron said. “Philippe de Villiers has his convictions, which I respect. We belong to the same country.” Then he mounted a reproduction Roman chariot and drove its four horses round the amphitheatre. The viscount was impressed. “This is the first time I have seen a minister drive a chariot with such dash and with such an ability to learn how to do so,” he told reporters.

A month earlier, Macron had launched his movement En Marche! (“Forward”) at a meeting hall in Paris, where he told a large crowd that he had “touched the limits of our system, the last-minute compromises, its imperfect solutions”. Macron’s admirers hope that his “dash” will lead him to tilt at the presidency next year as the new and independent face in a crowd of familiar contenders; this week, aides confirmed that he would declare his candidacy “before 10 December” and some told the French news agency AFP that he has decided to stand “since all the conditions are in place”. Thousands of young supporters wearing grey T-shirts have been canvassing on his behalf. One I met in the 13th arrondissement of Paris pointed to everything that was going wrong in France – social divisions, economic stagnation, lack of confidence, concerns about law and order. It sounded like a litany of the “French-bashing” that the Socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, decries as unjust (though just as much of this bashing seems to originate in France as from abroad). Then the young woman quoted Macron’s line that France is “paralysed by sectarianism” and asked if I didn’t think it was time for a new approach.




By the time of the visit to the Puy du Fou, President François Hollande was growing increasingly exasperated by Macron, who had acted as his special adviser before being appointed a cabinet minister in August 2014. To begin with, Hollande had found the younger man’s independence of mind refreshing as he sought to veer away from left-leaning policies, on which he had been elected two years earlier, in favour of more market-orientated measures to boost the economy. But now Macron’s maverick streak was contributing to the widespread perception that Hollande lacked authority.

His behaviour was also too much for Valls, who was caught on television muttering “that’s enough” as Macron flaunted his free thinking. The prime minister had other things to worry about, given the continuing terrorist threat, the prospect of renewed street protests against legislation to relax France’s protective labour regulations, a slowdown in growth over the summer after a promising start to the year, and the general mood of discontent and rejection of authority that makes France so difficult to govern.

In addition, Valls and Hollande faced rebellion in their own ranks. The more centrist path they want to set, by way of big financial breaks for companies and a relaxation of the 35-hour working week, are unpopular among large parts of the PS membership. Macron was not helping matters, his disdain for people on the left all too evident. He had long been suspect, in any case, as a former Rothschild investment banker who had never run for election, and who showed a propensity for being photographed for magazines on holiday with his wife; she is two decades his senior and taught him French when he was in high school.

The left’s doubts forced the government to water down Macron’s proposals to free up the economy (and the parallel efforts to modify labour laws). Yet even then it could not be sure of a parliamentary majority, so both sets of measures had to be pushed through by decree.

Hollande needs every bit of backing he can muster if he is to have any chance of hanging on to office after the presidential election next spring. The boost he received for his firm reaction to the terrorist attacks has evaporated and more than half the respondents in a recent poll said they were “very unhappy” with him. Another poll in late October put his support at only 4 per cent; others had it in the low teens.

Ministers admit that the state of emergency and the “war on terror” – 10,000 soldiers have been deployed on the streets of France – cannot guarantee that there will not be further attacks. The discovery in early September of a car with five full gas cylinders in the boot in a popular tourist area of Paris was the latest sign of vulnerability. Criticism of the police and security services rose after the attack on Bastille Day in which a Tunisian resident of Nice killed 86 people by driving a lorry through a crowd on the Promenade des Anglais. Nor was the president’s status helped by the summer revelation that a hairdresser is retained at the monthly cost of €10,000 to ensure that he is properly groomed. It was just the latest in a string of embarrassments that included being photographed on the back of a motor scooter on his way to an assignation with his actress girlfriend, even as he maintained a long-term mistress at the Élysée Palace.

Alienating the rank and file of his own party and disappointing those who voted him into office in 2012 on a platform of high taxes, public spending and pledges to reduce unemployment is not the way for Hollande to win re-election. Moreover, although his protégé Macron turned in strong polling numbers among the French as a whole, Macron’s unpopularity in the PS and his insistence on trumpeting that he was not a Socialist could only lead true believers to shy away from the president in favour of challengers such as the former industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, who accuses Hollande of having sold out to capitalism.

So, on 30 August, 11 days after his trip to the Vendée, Macron was summoned to a tense meeting at the Élysée. Immediately after that, he announced his resignation. Now, a presidential bid beckons for a would-be providential candidate who claims he can set France back on its feet. A snap poll has reported 30 per cent support for his candidacy next year.

Nathalie Saint-Cricq, a leading political commentator, says that Macron’s game plan is based on the supposition that the president will be unable to seek a second term because of his unpopularity. That could be a miscalculation, given that Hollande spoke in September of dealing with the terrorist threat “for years”, which was taken as a clear indication that he would seek re-election if he wins the PS nomination in January.




Emmanuel Macron’s emergence as a player in France’s convoluted politics comes at a time when the country is struggling as never before with problems of national identity, heightened by the terrorist attacks and a swirling debate over the place of French Muslims, who number at least five million, the largest population of Muslims in western Europe. The political jousting and the questioning of what it means to be French feed into one another, as in the fierce debate that erupted in August over the burkini for Muslim women after 30 mayors banned it from public spaces. Although the Supreme Court ruled against the ban, the government was split. Valls backed the mayors but several female ministers dissented.

Valls stoked further controversy by condemning Islamic veils and extolling the naked breast of the symbolic national figure Marianne, as depicted leading the second revolution of 1830 in a celebrated painting by Delacroix. He says the burkini is a political matter and incompatible with French values. Surveys suggest that terrorism has overtaken unemployment as the main public concern. The sense of danger is felt on all sides. Assaults on Muslims have increased and anti-Semitic attacks have prompted Jews to move from suburbs with high Arab populations into central Paris – or to leave France for Israel or London.

It is the kind of atmosphere in which Nicolas Sarkozy thrives. Since his early days as interior minister in the early 2000s, Sarkozy has made security and immigration his main themes. His presidency began in 2007 with promises of wholesale change, but the French people’s reluctance to reform proved great. He also had to cope as president with the global financial crash and the eurozone crisis. By 2012, Sarkozy was a deeply divisive figure. Hollande’s narrow election victory was the product as much of antagonism towards Sarkozy as the appeal of the Socialist programme.

Earlier this year, Sarkozy seemed to have lost ground as a candidate for 2017 to the suave former prime minister Alain Juppé. But he staged a strong comeback in late summer, hardening his rhetoric in response to what he sees as the shifting public mood, and shrugging off accusations of funding malpractice in the last presidential race.

In a book published in August to launch his campaign, entitled Tout pour la France (“Everything for France”), Sarkozy identified Islam as a religion that had “not done the work, necessary as well as inevitable, to integrate”. If elected, he says, he would ban the burkini on beaches and at public swimming pools, prohibit the hijab and the niqab in universities, public administration buildings and the workplace, and tighten family reunification criteria for immigrants as well as citizenship conditions. Suspected Islamists would be required to wear an electronic bracelet, or be assigned to controlled residences. Returnees from Iraq and Syria would be interned as soon as they arrived in France. Those with a second nationality would be expelled immediately. Logging on to a jihadist website would become a crime.

Juppé, who served as prime minister under Jacques Chirac, still holds a lead over all the other runners in broad public opinion. Sarkozy’s hardline views have harmed his appeal, but he remains the darling of a core of right-wing supporters in the lead-up to the primary to be held by les Républicains, the main opposition party, in November. In contrast to Sarkozy, with his tough stance, Juppé proposes a “happy identity” politics which accepts that most Muslims are not extremists. “Agitation doesn’t equal authority,” he says in a superior tone.

But Juppé, 71, also has baggage. He was thrown out of office in 1997 after mass demonstrations against his planned welfare and pensions reform, and is the epitome of the polished establishment figure that many people love to hate. “He knows everything, but not the way the French think nowadays,” is how one former Juppé supporter, who still holds an official position and did not want to be named, described him to me. As Bruno Cautrès, a professor of political science at Sciences Po, the elite institute in Paris, told the Financial Times: “After this summer, the terror attacks in July and the controversy around the burkini, Juppé may sound out of touch.”

Even more than Sarkozy, the biggest electoral beneficiary of France’s travails is Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN). Opinions polls give her 29 per cent of the vote in the first round of the impending presidential election. That would propel her into a run-off against whichever candidate les Républicains chose: Sarkozy or Juppé. Macron gets between 15 and 20 per cent, suggesting that he, too, would fail to reach the second round.




The elimination of the Socialists from next year’s decisive, second ballot would be an even greater blow for the left than Lionel Jospin’s failure to reach the run-off on the PS ticket in 2002, on being beaten into third place by Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie. Jospin’s debacle was caused by a poor campaign and a plethora of left-wing candidates who split the vote against the incumbent president, Jacques Chirac. This time, it would be because the public had lost confidence in Hollande, who further damaged himself in October with a book of indiscreet interviews, and because the FN has become a well-managed movement that is strong in depressed industrial regions.

Regional elections at the end of last year were hailed as a “republican escape” because the FN failed to gain control of any councils. But this demanded that the left and centre right partner in some areas for the second round of voting to check the FN’s progress. Almost 30 per cent of voters backed Le Pen’s party in the first round and it ranked top when pollsters asked which party was closest to popular concerns. Middle-class, middle-aged provincial voters spoke openly on television about having cast their ballots for the Front; in 2002 few were ready to admit as much. After the 2012 presidential election, in which she finished third with just under 18 per cent of the first-round vote, she told associates that it would take two more elections to win power.

She was correct in her assessment that next year’s election is out of her reach: the mainstream electorate can be counted on to rally against her in the second round. Even so, she has completely changed the political landscape and ensured that the Républicain primary will determine who becomes France’s next head of state.




The French people have convinced themselves that they are caught in an existential crisis, ground down by the effects of globalisation, their society dysfunctional, the nation failing to live up to a role, bequeathed by history, which the French see as constituting exceptionalism.

Of 40 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Institute last year, France was among the most pessimistic about its economic future, 85 per cent of respondents saying they thought their children would grow up to be worse off than their parents. The French education system favours the best and brightest and leaves millions of others by the wayside. Although the population has grown by eight million to 67 million since 2001, the number of people employed outside the public sector has remained static even as the number of retired people has ­risen by a third. The proportion of young people not in jobs, education or training – 19 per cent – is twice as high as in Germany. Permanent jobs constitute only 16 per cent of labour contracts, and the chances of a temporary position becoming permanent have dropped from 62 per cent to 25 per cent over the past decade.

Facing a weak, flip-flopping administration and divisions within the PS parliamentary majority, each interest group pushes its own concerns, from Breton farmers to pharmacists, railway workers to teachers. In spring, when oil refineries were blockaded, power supplies were cut and street demonstrations turned violent as protests mounted at labour law reform, Le Monde ran the headline “France ablaze”, and the conservative Figaro wrote of “social terrorism”. The demolition of refugee camps, first in Calais and then in Paris, produced clashes and the spectacle of 1,500 abandoned children being bussed to reception centres.

A quasi-sacred reverence for the state in France unites left and right, impeding change that can be framed as challenging inherent values of the republic, even if this change is in defence of vested interests. Those in power all too easily give way, as if they fear being overthrown by direct action, like the Bourbons at the end of the 18th century, overlooking the way in which each French revolution has been followed by a swing back to conservatism. “If you tell the French the truth, and propose a remedy, you are sure to be beaten,” as the former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing put it.

This results in the extraordinary longevity of French political careers, which in turn heightens public alienation from the hermetic system of government, with its huge gap between a self-perpetuating elite and an increasingly anxious citizenry. Yet this elite class, with its many graduates from the top finishing schools that turn out France’s administrative gurus, has failed to respond to the problems facing the nation, with Islamist terrorism now joining the list of issues to which there seem to be no answer.

At the time of the regional elections last December, pollsters reported that over 90 per cent of respondents thought politicians were not believable, honest or capable of proposing effective solutions, and were too removed from popular concerns. A suitable case for treatment nearly six decades after Charles de Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic – but treatment by whom?

Jonathan Fenby’s book “The History of Modern France: from the Revolution to the War with Terror” is published in paperback by Simon & Schuster

This article first appeared in the 10 November 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump apocalypse