J’Accuse

Tom Gross, Wall Street Journal, 2June05, writes:

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 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.

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. 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.

In the British media, the Guardian equated Israel and al Qaeda; the Evening Standard equated Israel and the Taliban. The Independent’s Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk, implies that the White House has fallen into the hands of the Jews: “The Perles and the Wolfowitzes and the Cohens…very sinister people hovering around Bush.” 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).

Although the French court ruling – the first of its kind in Europe – is a major landmark, no one in France seems to care. One would have thought 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.

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