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J'Accuse

J'Accuse

A French court finds Le Monde guilty of anti-Semitism. In European media, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

by

The Wall Street Journal Europe
June 2, 2005

A French court last week found three writers for Le Monde, as well as the newspaper's publisher, guilty of "racist defamation" against Israel and the Jewish people. In a groundbreaking decision, the Versailles court of appeal ruled that a comment piece published in Le Monde in 2002, "Israel-Palestine: The Cancer," had whipped up anti-Semitic opinion.

The writers of the article, Edgar Morin (a well-known sociologist), Daniele Sallenave (a senior lecturer at Nanterre University) and Sami Nair (a member of the European parliament), as well as Le Monde's publisher, Jean-Marie Colombani, were ordered to pay symbolic damages of one euro to a human-rights group and to the Franco-Israeli association. Le Monde was also ordered to publish a condemnation of the article, which it has yet to do.

It is encouraging to see a French court rule that anti-Semitism should have no place in the media -- even when it is masked as an analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ruling also makes it clear that the law in this respect applies to extremist Jews (Mr. Morin is Jewish) as much as to non-Jews.

Press freedom is a value to be cherished, but not exploited and abused. In general, European countries have strict laws against such abuse and Europe's mainstream media are in any case usually good at exercising self-censorship. Responsible journalists strenuously avoid libelous characterizations of entire ethnic, national or religious groups. They go out of their way, for example, to avoid suggesting that the massacres in Darfur, which are being carried out by Arab militias, in any way represent an Arab trait.

This is ironic given that Europe's strict freedom of speech laws were drafted in response to Nazism.

The exception to this seems to be the coverage of Jews, particularly Israeli ones. This is particularly ironic given the fact that Europe's relatively strict freedom of speech laws (compared to those in the U.S.) were to a large extend drafted as a reaction to the Continent's Nazi occupation. And yet, from Oslo to Athens, from London to Madrid, it has been virtually open season on them in the last few years, especially in supposedly liberal media.

"Israel-Palestine: The Cancer" was a nasty piece of work, replete with lies, slanders and myths about "the chosen people," "the Jenin massacre," describing the Jews as "a contemptuous people taking satisfaction in humiliating others," "imposing their unmerciful rule," and so on.

Israel and al Qaeda

Yet it is was no worse than thousands of other news reports, editorials, commentaries, letters, cartoons and headlines published throughout Europe in recent years, in the guise of legitimate and reasoned discussion of Israeli policies.

The libels and distortions about Israel in some British media are by now fairly well known: the Guardian's equation of Israel and al Qaeda; the Evening Standard's equation of Israel and the Taliban; the report by the BBC's Middle East correspondent, Orla Guerin, on how "the Israelis stole Christmas."

Most notorious of all is the Independent's Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk, who specializes in such observations as his comment that, "If ever a sword was thrust into a military alliance of East and West, the Israelis wielded that dagger," and who implies that the White House has fallen into the hands of the Jews: "The Perles and the Wolfowitzes and the Cohens... [the] very sinister people hovering around Bush."

From Spain to Greece to Italy

The invective against Israel elsewhere in Europe is less well known. In Spain, for example, on June 4, 2001 (three days after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 21 young Israelis at a disco, and wounded over 100 others, all in the midst of a unilateral Israeli ceasefire), the liberal daily Cambio 16 published a cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (with a hook nose he does not have), wearing a skull cap (which he does not usually wear), sporting a swastika inside a star of David on his chest, and proclaiming: "At least Hitler taught me how to invade a country and destroy every living insect."

The week before, on May 23, El Pais (the "New York Times of Spain") published a cartoon of an allegorical figure carrying a small rectangular-shaped black moustache, flying through the air toward Sharon's upper lip. The caption read: "Clio, the muse of history, puts Hitler's moustache on Ariel Sharon."

The Italian newspaper depicted a Future Museum of the Palestinian Holocaust.

Two days later, on May 25, the Catalan daily La Vanguardia published a cartoon showing an imposing building, with a sign outside reading "Museo del Holocausto Judio" (Museum of the Jewish Holocaust), and next to it another building under construction, with a large sign reading "Futuro Museo del Holocausto Palestino" (Future Museum of the Palestinian Holocaust).

Greece's largest newspaper, the leftist daily Eleftherotypia, has run several such cartoons. In April 2002, on its front cover, under the title "Holocaust II," an Israeli soldier was depicted as a Nazi officer and a Palestinian civilian as a Jewish death camp inmate. In September 2002, another cartoon in Eleftherotypia showed an Israeli soldier with a Jewish star telling a Nazi officer next to him "Arafat is not a person the Reich can talk to anymore." The Nazi officer responds "Why? Is he a Jew?"

In Italy, in October 2001, the Web site of one of the country's most respected newspapers, La Repubblica, published the notorious anti-Semitic forgery, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," in its entirety, without providing any historical explanation. It did suggest, however, that the work would help readers understand why the U.S. had taken military action in Afghanistan.

In April 2002, the Italian liberal daily La Stampa ran a front-page cartoon showing an Israeli tank, emblazoned with a Jewish star, pointing a large gun at the baby Jesus in a manger, while the baby pleads, "Surely they don't want to kill me again, do they?"

In Corriere Della Sera, another cartoon showed Jesus trapped in his tomb, unable to rise, because Ariel Sharon, rifle in hand, is sitting on the sepulcher.

Sweden's largest morning paper, Dagens Nyheter, ran a caricature of a Hassidic Jew accusing anyone who criticized Israel of anti-Semitism. Another leading Swedish paper, Aftonbladet, used the headline "The Crucifixion of Arafat."

Silence in the Mainstream Media

If the misreporting and bias were limited to one or two newspapers or television programs in each country, it might be possible to shrug them off. But they are not. Bashing Israel even extends to local papers that don't usually cover foreign affairs, such as the double-page spread titled "Jews in jackboots" in Luton on Sunday. (Luton is an industrial town in southern England.) Or the article in Norway's leading regional paper, Stavanger Aftenblad, equating Israel's actions against terrorists in Ramallah with the attacks on the World Trade Center.

One would have thought that such a verdict would prompt extensive soul-searching.

Grotesque and utterly false comparisons such as these should have no place in reporting or commenting on the Middle East. Yet although the French court ruling -- the first of its kind in Europe -- is a major landmark, no one in France seems to care. The country's most distinguished newspaper, the paper of record, has been found guilty of anti-Semitism. One would have thought that such a verdict would prompt wide-ranging coverage and lead to extensive soul-searching and public debate. Instead, there has been almost complete silence, and virtually no coverage in the French press.

And few elsewhere will have heard about it. Reuters and Agence France Presse (agencies that have demonstrated particularly marked bias against Israel) ran short stories about the judgment in their French-language wires last week, but chose not to run them on their English news services. The Associated Press didn't run it at all. Instead of triggering the long overdue reassessment of Europe's attitude toward Israel, the media have chosen to ignore it.

Published: June 15, 2005


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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) R. Luis-alberto river-a, March 31, 2006 12:00 AM

awareness is the key

To be aware is the key. What I mean, is that the American public, is not aware of what is going on , in other parts of the world. They are more concern with, what is going on down the street. Attack on Israel's policies, is consent in the world's Newspapers, we only become aware, if we search out these, writers and there newspapers and fight! Speak out ! Our survival depend on it. Becoming aware, is the first-step and speaking out with our Truth the latter.
Keep up the great work.
R. LA River-a

(10) Anonymous, July 3, 2005 12:00 AM

the idea, i believe, is to fight these people head on

fight them, argue with them until they cant take it anymore

they never listen to reason. theyre not going to change their minds if youre nice (believe me i've tried many times)

instead of being insular we need to get out there and confront them directly ever single time

(9) Nadia Gould, June 19, 2005 12:00 AM

this article is the most important article I have read in a long long time - as an escapee of the Holocaust I share Mr. Gross's indignation towards the people from the right and from the left who espouse day in and day out anti-Semitism- I feel very grateful to Tom Gross for giving a specific list of some of the examples of this Anti-Semitism. I find it so horrifying that so many instances of anti-Semitism are still voiced freely in the name of what cause ?- Hitler's cause? How can it be so easy for the world to accept that half of the Jews have been exterminated and how can it be so easy to pick on the fifteen millions that are left? I am constantly reminded that the world is not changing and we are still living in 1940 when all the Good self righteous people let the holocaust happen so quietly so naturally -I can never forget---- never again don't be so sure. Nadia Gould

(8) Volvi, June 18, 2005 12:00 AM

were ordered to pay symbolic damages of one euro

Though joy may be perceived as to the courts judgement it is alas veiled by their order and I quote "were ordered to pay symbolic damages of one euro" Had it have been a sum of 10 million or 100 million perhaps then 'others' would have stood up and taken note. This was no victory for truth on the contrary print as much lies as you like and villify the Jews and your punishment thereof will barely amount to a slap on the wrist. The judgement itself is as infllamatory as guilty's article. So no salvation will be found in Eurabia's courts, salvation will come upon them by either fire or global warming submerged beneath the rising seas.

To he that asked 'why the Jews' please study http://www.aish.com/seminars/whythejews/index.htm

(7) Chana Levi, June 16, 2005 12:00 AM

Where in the world...?

Last night I was at Ben Gurion airport to see my daughter off to visit family back in the Old Country of North America. As we waited, I studied the huge neon board listing all the departure destinations. Where in the world would I like to visit, if I could choose, I mused reading the names of different cities all around the globe. London, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Oslo, Copenhagen? Thanks, but no thanks, I concluded. With the disturbing growth of anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israelism around the world, I think I will stay right here in Israel, the only Jewish country in the world, where, despite all its problems, I feel at home. Jewish travelers should take this into consideration when choosing where to vacation this summer.

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