The film ‘The Patriot’ and Newton’s Third Law

I saw ‘The Patriot’ as part of the Jewish Film Festival. It is an important film about fighting antisemitism. Disappointingly it was very poorly attended – a sign of the indifference and ‘head in the sand’ attitude of many British Jews to antisemitism as well as the extreme reluctance to actively oppose it. Particularly worrying was the paucity of young people. You have another chance to see it on 21st. 

‘The Patriot’ is a French film (directed by Daniel Sivan) about a French hacker, Gregory Chelli (35 – also known as Ulcan), who fights antisemitism.  He managed to hack into the vile Dieudonne’s website and published the names of all his supporters. (Dieudonne is banned from the UK. Dieudonne and I have history. In 2010 Dieudonne was due to speak in London. After two venues cancelled, eventually he found one at 36 hours’ notice. I demonstrated outside and was roughed over by his Manager). Other targets of Ulcan included Alain Sorel (who suggested loading Jews onto trains) and Laurent Louis, a former member of the Belgian Parliament who runs an antisemitic website.

Ulcan’s methods of fighting these antisemites are full-on and sometimes even break the law. He managed to convince the Belgian police that his voice on the phone was that of Louis and that he had just killed his wife. Consequently six police forced their way into Louis’ house in the middle of the night. He called Sorel’s blind mother-in-law and told her that her daughter has just died. Most controversially, Ulcan went for journalist Benoit Le Corre, who had published an unflattering article about him in Rue89. After contacting Le Corre’s parents and informing them that their son had died in an accident, Ulcan summoned the police to their home in the Paris suburbs in the middle of the night. Five days later, Le Corre’s father suffered a heart attack and died a short time later.

After Thierry Le Corre’s death in 2014, the authorities began to investigate Ulcan, after years of leaving him alone. He was accused of deliberate violence that caused death, and an international warrant was issued for his arrest. He fled to Israel, where he lives in Ashdod. French efforts to extradite him have been unsuccessful. He appears to have stopped fighting antisemites, at least under his real name.

I had not heard of Ulcan so I did some reading before the film. In the May 2017 Haaretz interview with him, one passage above all struck me:

“When I went to court after setting Werlet’s motorcycle on fire, the judge said to me, ‘He’s a neo-Nazi, you’re a Zionist, everyone is allowed his political opinions.’ That’s crazy. I told the judge that I was really sorry, but my ideology doesn’t include the systematic murder of innocents and doing horrifying experiments on human beings, so how can you compare? Nobody respects the Jews when they complain through the accepted channels. The police force doesn’t work, and therefore I took it upon myself to be the police force of the Internet.”

When institutions fail, that is when people take matters into their own hands. When a Judge (as above) sees neo-Nazism and Zionism as morally equivalent “political opinions” (!), that is when civil disobedience starts, with the risk that it crosses the line into illegality.

Things in the UK are not as bad for Jews as they are in France.  Nevertheless there is an important failure of an institution. The Crown Prosecution Service is failing the Jewish Community and by separating Judaism and Zionism it has opened a door for antisemites to walk through. And pace Ulcan, Newton’s Third Law applies here, just as it does in Physics (For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction): The worse antisemitism in the UK gets, the more likely are its opponents to harden their tactics!

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