(JTA) – In an unusual move, Israel’s ambassador to France criticized in harsh terms a French-German television channel’s nixing of a documentary on anti-Semitism.
The decision, announced last week by the state-funded Arte channel citing the film’s alleged focus on Muslim countries, is “an obfuscation of information and an encroachment on the public’s right to information,” Ambassador Aliza Bin-Noun wrote in an open letter addressed to Véronique Cayla, the president of Arte’s France division. The letter was published Wednesday by the Actualite Juive weekly.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry rarely comments publicly on content in the media of friendly countries that does not involve Israel directly.
Arte’s program director, Alain le Diberder, told Deutsche Welle that his channel decided not to air the program because its creators, Joachim Schroeder and Sophie Hafner, had said the documentary would focus on anti-Semitism in Europe, whereas in reality it ended up dealing mainly with the phenomenon in the Arab world.
The prevalence of violent attacks and hate speech against Jews increased 17 years ago across Western Europe, reaching levels that had previously not been observed since the end of World War II. The majority of attacks, according to watchdog groups, are perpetrated by people of Arab or Muslim descent who target Jews out of animosity toward Israel. Scholars call this phenomenon “the new anti-Semitism.”
Noting this development, Bin-Noun in her letter suggested that hatred of Jews and hate of Israel, which surveys indicate are more prevalent in Muslim countries and populations than elsewhere, are intertwined.
Anti-Semitism “kills,” Bin-Noun wrote, referencing the murder of four Jews at a school in Toulouse in 2012 and the murder of another four at a Paris kosher shop in 2015. “Anti-Semitism, which expresses itself these days through anti-Zionism, contributes to the denial of Israel’s right to exist,” she added.
Bin-Noun also wrote that she was “astonished and disconcerted” by the news that Arte would not air a documentary it had commissioned.
On Tuesday, the German Bild tabloid made the film available for 24 hours on its online edition in protest of Arte’s decision, which the paper’s editor-in-chief said was guided by political considerations instead of journalistic ones.
The scrapping of the film comes amid complaints by leaders of French Jewry over the judiciary and the media’s handling of crimes against Jews that many French Jews deem anti-Semitic but were deliberately not labelled as such by authorities.
One case involves the slaying of a French Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, by a neighbor who threw her to her death from the window of her third-story apartment in Paris. The neighbor, whom Halimi’s daughter said had called the daughter a “dirty Jewess,” cried for Allah and called Halimi “Satan,” neighbors said. He was taken for psychiatric evaluation although he has no history of mental illness. A draft indictment against him for voluntary manslaughter contains no mention of a hate crime.
“Police and justice officials will not say where the suspect is held, whether he is in prison or in a psychiatric institution,” Sammy Ghozlan, a leader of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, told JTA on Thursday.
“I think the silence about this is connected to the elections,” he said in reference to the vote next seek for parliament.
Separately, a hate crime charge this month was added to a draft indictment against three men of African and Arab descent who said they had targeted a Jewish family in Creteil near Paris because they were Jewish. One of the men allegedly raped a woman at the family’s home while others robbed her boyfriend at gunpoint. The hate crime charge was added following an outcry of the absence of such an aggravated element from an earlier draft.