Jean-Pierre Filiu

JAN 15-24, 2016 - PROGRAM FULL
EAST COAST: Washington, Boston & New York
Jean-Pierre Filiu

Jean-Pierre Filiu, a historian and Arabist, is an associate professor at Sciences Po (Institute of Political Studies) in Paris. A Sciences Po summa cum laude graduate (1981), he holds a dual degree in Chinese and Arabic from the Institut national de langues et civilisations orientales, a PhD in history, and an accreditation to supervise research. He was a visiting professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) during the spring 2011 semester and Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service (SFS) during the fall session of 2008. Filiu has written several books published by Fayard including Mitterrand and Palestine (2005), The Boundaries of Jihad (2006), and The Nine Lives of Al-Qaeda (2009) and a number of his works were recently published in the US, notably Arab Revolution, Ten Lessons from the Democratic Uprising (Hurst, 2011), Gaza (Oxford University Press, 2014), the second volume of the graphic novel Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, with illustrations by David B. (SelfMadeHero, 2014), and From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution and its Jihadi Legacy (Oxford University Press, 2015).  Filiu's works and articles have been published in a dozen languages. His Apocalypse in Islam (University of California Press, 2011) was awarded the main prize by the French History Convention.

Lectures offered (in French/English)

1/The Arab Counter-Revolution and its Jihadi Legacy
In his disturbing and timely political history of the ‘Deep State’ in the Middle East, Jean-Pierre Filiu reveals how the autocracies of Syria, Egypt, and Yemen crushed the democratic uprisings of the ‘Arab Revolution’. They did so by turning to the shadowy intelligence agencies and internal security arms of the so-called ‘Deep State’ — emulating strategies pioneered in Kemalist Turkey — who had decades of experience in dealing with internal dissent, as well as to street gangs (the Baltaguiyya in Egypt) or death squads (the Shabbiha in Syria) to enforce their will. Alongside intimidation, imprisonment, and murder, Arab counter-revolutionaries were released from prison and secretly armed and funded many hardline Islamists, thereby boosting Salafi–Jihadi groups such as Islamic State in the hope of convincing Western powers to back their dictatorships. They also succeeded in dividing the opposition forces ranged against them, going so far as to ruthlessly discard politicians and generals from among their own elite in the pursuit of absolute, unfettered, power. http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/deep-state-islamic-state/

2/ The Twelve Israeli Wars on Gaza
The 50-day long war Israel waged on Gaza during the summer of 2014 has been far more devastating than previous conflicts over the Palestinian territory. But it was neither unprecedented nor unpredictable. It is, in fact, the twelfth war Israel has waged on Gaza. An overview of the past rounds of hostilities should help not only to understand the current crisis, but also, more importantly, find a way to break this seemingly endless cycle of violence.

3/The Unprecedented Jihadi Threat On Europe
The standard analysis regarding post-Bin Laden Al-Qaeda considers the jihadi organizations, now led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, as a complex overlapping of AQ “franchises”. I began challenging this interpretation two years ago by claiming that the Iraqi branch of Al-Qaeda, launched by Zarqawi in reaction to the US invasion of 2003, had in fact superseded Bin Laden’s matrix to become the real core of the global jihad. The key to understanding the current jihadi dynamic was therefore not which group Zawahiri was blessing (or excluding), but which forces were tolerating (or fighting) the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS), as Al-Qaida in Iraq had been rebranded (its Arab acronym is Daesh). Zarqawi had called the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 a “blessing” for his organization and Baghdadi might paradoxically use the same expression to describe the undergoing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria; it has inflicted only limited damages to the jihadi core apparatus while fostering recruitment worldwide. One fears that, in order to marginalize Zawahiri, Baghdadi could try to achieve the European equivalent of the 9/11 attacks.

Selected bibliography

From Deep State to Islamic State: The Arab Counter-Revolution and its Jihadi Legacy
(Hurst, 2015)

In his disturbing and timely book Jean-Pierre Filiu lays bare the strategies and tactics employed by the Middle Eastern autocracies, above all those of Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Algeria, that set out to crush the democratic uprisings of the 'Arab Revolution.' In pursuit of these goals, they turned to the intelligence agencies and internal security arms of the 'Deep State,' the armed forces, and to street gangs such as the Shabiha to enforce their will. Alongside physical intimidation, imprisonment, and murder, Arab counter-revolutionaries discredited and split their opponents by boosting Salafi-Jihadi groups such as Islamic State. They also released hardline Islamists from prison and secretly armed and funded them. The full potential of the Arab counter-revolution surprised most observers, who thought they had seen it all from the Arab despots. But the wider world underestimated their ferocious readiness to literally burn down their countries in order to cling to absolute power. Bashar al-Assad notably set a grisly precedent; one that other Arab autocrats are sure to follow in their pursuit of absolute power.

Gaza : A History
(Oxford University Press, 2014)

Gaza has become synonymous with conflict and dispute. Though only slightly larger than Omaha, Nebraska at 140 square miles, the small territory of Gaza has been a hot spot for bitter disputes between sparring powers for millennia, from the Ancient Egyptians up until the British Empire and even today. Wedged between the Negev and Sinai deserts on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other, Gaza has been contested by the Pharaohs, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Fatimids, Mamluks, Crusaders, and Ottomans. Then in 1948, 200,000 people sought refuge in Gaza, a marginal area neither Israel nor Egypt wanted. It was here where Palestinian nationalism grew and sprouted into a dream of statehood, a journey much filled with strife. Though small in size, Gaza's history is nothing short of monumental. Jean-Pierre Filiu's Gaza is the first complete history of the territory in any language. Beginning with the Hyksos in 18th century BC, Filiu takes readers through modern times and the ongoing disputes of the region, ending with what may be in store for the future.

Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations
(SelfMadeHero, 2011 and 2014)

JP Filiu and David B. draw striking parallels between ancient and contemporary political history in this look at the US–Middle East conflict. The reader is transported to the pirate-choked Mediterranean sea, where Christians and Muslims continue the crusades, only this time on water. As the centuries pass, the traditional victims of the Muslim pirates—the British, French, and Spanish—all become empire-building powers whose sights lie beyond the Mediterranean.  The second volume of Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B.’s graphic novel history of US–Middle East relations begins in the 1950s with the Eisenhower Doctrine and ends with the Lebanese War of 1982. A perceptive and authoritative account of this turbulent historical period, Best of Enemies provides an overview of the Six-Day War between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria; the Iranian Revolution of 1979; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern conflicts involving the United States. A beautifully drawn account of the time period, Best of Enemies is a milestone of graphic novel reportage and strikingly relevant to the current political situation in the Middle East.

Apocalypse in Islam
(University of California Press, 2011 in a translation by M.B. DeBevoise)

This is an eye-opening exploration of a troubling phenomenon: the fast-growing belief in Muslim countries that the end of the world is at hand—and with it the “Great Battle,” prophesied by both Sunni and Shi`i tradition, which many believers expect will begin in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands. Jean-Pierre Filiu uncovers the role of apocalypse in Islam over the centuries and highlights its extraordinary resurgence in recent decades. Identifying 1979 as a decisive year in the rise of contemporary millenarian speculation, he stresses the ease with which subsequent events in the Middle East have been incorporated into the intellectual universe of apocalyptic propagandists. Filiu also shows how Christian and Jewish visions of the Final Judgment have stimulated alarmist reaction in Islamic lands, past and present, and examines the widespread fear of Christian Zionist domination as an impetus to jihad. Though the overwhelming majority of Muslims remain unpersuaded, the mounting conviction in the imminence of apocalypse is a serious matter, especially for those who are preparing for it.


If you would like to invite this author to speak at your university or bookstore, please fill out the application form and email it to Anne-Sophie Hermil at anne-sophie.hermil@diplomatie.gouv.fr