It’s an indicator of how bad things have gotten that a French court actually found Le Monde, the paramount French newspaper, guilty of “racist defamation” against Israel and against Jews.
In truth, Le Monde has been found guilty of antisemitism; the French legal system simply refuses to use the correct word.
And Tom Gross points out that the antisemitism at Le Monde is only a drop in an endless European sea: J’Accuse. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)
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), Danièle 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.
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 extent 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.
Yet it 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.