FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
PARIS – Moral blackmail, workplace persecution, undue pressure on 14 young collaborators. Environmental senator Esther Benbassa, 71, triple French, Turkish and Israeli nationality, well known in France for her work as a historian and for positions in defense of Muslims, of the Palestinian cause and more generally of the weak, was suspended – with a unanimous decision – by the environmentalist group in the Senate.
The revelations that have dealt a severe blow to the senator’s political career and public image come from Mediapart, the online newspaper that since its creation in 2008 it has put the powerful in difficulty, sometimes even provoking their resignation: from the anti-tax evasion minister Jerome Cahuzac discovered to keep an account in Switzerland to the other minister François de Rugy who abused public money, to the alleged financing of Gaddafi to Sarkozy. Men of the right or left but still of government.
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This time instead Mediapart he investigated one of the most famous exponents of the radical and antagonist left, perhaps distant from the government but still influential in Parliament, the media and academia. And the scandal in France is notable, because Esther Benbassa he made the defense of “the weak and the oppressed” the figure of his political commitment. Without fear of taking highly contested positions – such as when she defended the Islamic veil “no longer alienating the miniskirt” – and of being treated as a traitor when, several times in recent years, she took Hamas’s defense against Israel.
Eight former parliamentary collaborators and six former university assistants delivered to Mediapart hundreds of emails and text messages that seem to demonstrate the “climate of terror” established by the senator with her subordinates. There are long exchanges with a girl who has to have an emergency lung operation, who is at the end of the trial period of the parliamentary assistant contract and who is no longer able to stall with the surgeon. Benbassa expects the operation to be postponed for at least four months: «Your doctor tells you that it is not up to me to decide on medical issues, but I will talk to you about the problems we will have in the office. The pension reform is at stake ». And shortly after: «I don’t think we understand each other. It will be difficult to make a common journey. She is frail and gives me anguish ».
Then there are the emails in which Benbassa humiliates subordinates for various shortcomings – “you can’t write a letter, the Senate is not for you” – and those in which he accuses them of behaving “like trade unionists”. Taking the defense of the senator, who apologized “to the people I could hurt”, is left-wing intellectual Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, very close to sociologist Didier Eribon and writer Edouard Louis. In recent years Lagasnerie has relaunched a vision of society based on class struggle in France, and that prism seems to guide him also in his intervention for Benbassa. “There are certainly inquiries that Mediapart he did not publish in order not to tarnish the reputation of certain people – writes Lagasnerie -. In a space of the left, we must be wary of the totalizing framework in which revelations are inscribed by the very logic of the media narrative ». In short, for Benbassa, we should turn a blind eye. Mediapart he replies that “in 13 years we have conducted investigations on politicians from all parties. Facts are facts “