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Hessel's Memoir Blurs "Eastern" Sahara, Goldstone and Hutus, French Mirror

By Matthew Russell Lee, Review

UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- Before the Nobel Peace Prize this year was tossed to the European Union, rumored laureates included one of the many "fathers of the Arab Spring," retired US academic Gene Sharp.

  Another for whom paternity is claimed is Frenchman Stephane Hessel, whose memoir "The Power of Indignation" is brought to the US by Skyhorse Publishing. But how is it brought, and what does it mean?

  It is brought with typos, some of them telling. Recounting a sponsored trip in the late 1980s to Burundi, it says "the Huru president had just been assassinated."

  That would be Hutu, and the French government would play an unseemly role protecting and even training the genocidal Hutu government of Rwanda just next door.

  This escapes comment in Hessel's memoir, even as he describes representing France in Geneva at the UN "Human Rights Council" and at the UN rights conference in Vienna in 1993, just a year before the killing of 800,000 in Rwanda.

 Hessel plays up the UN in his book, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to a proposal of his to the General Assembly in 2001. But what for example of 1994?

  What was Hessel doing then, as France defended the Hutu government in the UN Security Council, including through Herve Ladsous, then France's Deputy Permanent Representative and now, not without scandal, the head of UN Peacekeeping?

  Another French shame on which Hessel comments, but with a glaring geographical mistake or type, appears on Page 177: "we should also mention Morocco, which, in the case of Eastern Sahara, remains as obstinate and unjust as Israel is toward the Palestinians."

  That would be Western Sahara, which Ladsous recently visited while remaining quiet about restrictions on the movement and ability to observe of "his" UN peacekeepers.

   On the issue with which Hessel is most identified, his book decries "Robert Goldstone" for apologizing for his report which Hessel says he confirmed on site in Gaza. That, we can confirm, would be Richard Goldstone.

Hessel is a public intellectual, and his books cites others from Claude Levi-Strauss to Marcel Mauss and Derrida. But wouldn't it have been important to get Goldstone's name right, and even more so the name of Western Sahara and of the Hutus?

There is something telling in these mistakes, and in Hessel's lack of comment on France's role in the Hutu - Tutsi genocide. But Hessel is 94 and so we will leave it here. Maybe he, and not Gene Sharp, will being in the Nobel running next year, as the "White Father of the Arab Spring" candidate. Watch this site.

Other Inner City Press book reviews this month:

Annan Memoir Downplays Oil for Food, Congo and Corruption, Ignores W. Sahara  (October 22, 2012)

New Benghazi Books, from Exit the Colonel, a Guardian Short and Shalgam, Long  (October 20, 2012)

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