alterjuifs, antisémitisme, antisionisme, Argumentation

Antisemitism in France: political implications of the media story telling

by Yana Grinshpun and Roland Assaraf

Over the last two decades, France has undergone a growing number of attacks against Jews and even murders. This violence has been associated with a discourse of denial that consists in minimizing the importance of these attacks and even ultimately reversing the blame, holding the Jews themselves or Israel accountable for the attacks they suffered.

Antisemitism is a complex psychological historical, political, religious and discursive phenomenon running the gamut of negative feelings towards the Jews up to their actual extermination. A huge amount of literature is dedicated almost daily to this issue: state-owned media, alternative media, social networks, research literature deal with anti-Jewish violence on a regular basis.

This article will focus on the role of two types of discourses that are intrinsically related in spreading various forms of antisemitism today in France. We will show that both political and media discourse widely contribute to the rise of lethal forms of antisemitism/anti-Zionism[i]. Antisemitism, or “judeophobia”[ii], as Pierre-André Taguieff puts it, is often described as “racism against Jewish people”. It has been a permanent feature of Western culture as well as Islamic culture for centuries. Its second characteristic is its potentially genocidal nature. Christian, Islamic and modern secular antisemitism were born from supersessionism, a replacement theology emanating from the monotheistic religions that came out of Judaism. This doctrine, though modified by the Vatican revolution of 1962[iii], remains a functioning principle for contemporary ideology, as it is to be found in the mass media, and expressed by a certain number of intellectuals. These ideologies, with little logical or historical accuracy, are based on manipulation of facts, disinformation, victimisation and historical revision. They have one common feature: a negative anti-Jewish narrative that not only feeds anti-Semitic hatred but also contributes to the success of Islamic fundamentalism in French Society.

Construction of a narrative

          The mass media do not only relay information on various subjects, but influence public opinion, political decisions and the course of social and political events. The way in which an armed conflict between two sates is reported can, for example, help to galvanize one side and demoralize the other. It is often through the media that the public build their opinions and certainties about world events that the media choose to put forward. The most popular way to stage events and present them to the public is to tell a story, to educate, to inform, to entertain, to influence. Media story-telling has a great power in that it can write history, past and present, by showing events from a certain point of view, according to an ideological bias, to the political positioning of the editors or the economic interest of the media outlets.

          There are many scientific and academic publications on media discourse, more particularly on the way the media use the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in France. The Observatoire du Monde Juif, the numerous articles and books by French historians, political scientists and philosophers such as Pierre-André Taguieff, Shmuel Trigano, Daniel Dayan, Georges-Elia Sarfati among others explained the way this conflict has been exploited by what French sociologist Sh. Trigano called “the dominant ideology”[iv]. Our purpose here is to propose a synthesis on the subject and a precise analysis of what we can only acknowledge as an anti-Israeli bias in the media. Antisemitism and its contemporary form anti-Zionism[v] are based on a multifactorial apparatus of cultural, political, religious and ideological reasons. The first part of this article will deal with anti-Jewish media story-telling, its cultural and psychological mechanisms, as well as the role of intellectuals and their connection to media influence.

We will propose a discursive, rhetoric, argumentative and linguistic analysis of several texts taken from different media sources in the second part of the article.

The “New” face of Antisemitism in contemporary France

The former forms of antisemitism that have been in existence since the 19th century have actually never quite disappeared in France. Nevertheless, nowadays we witness the rebirth of very aggressive anti-Semitic movements that come either from the extreme right (a kind of antisemitism that has never stopped) and, more prominently, from the convergence of the antisemitism of the extreme left under Islamic influence, a more and more powerful force at work in French society. For Taguieff, this new form of judeophobia is no longer the offshoot of the concept of “race” or “religion” but also includes a political factor, i.e. the existence of the Jewish State based on Zionist ideology. The main expression of this phenomenon is the confluence of cultural, religious, political and ideological attitudes that come from the extreme left, from the extreme right, from the influence of Islamic culture in the Western social and political landscape as well as from a gradual “mythification” of the Palestinian “cause” in Europe, exalting it to the status of an irrational set of beliefs. Indeed, the narrative about Palestinian nationalism that is widely defended by the French national media. Jihadi Islamism as well as a certain political and media French discourse relies on a number of well-established anti-Jewish stereotypes, such as blood-libel, conspiracy, financial interest, power of influence. It also reactivates seemingly new stereotypes attributed to Jews and Israel: « racism », « apartheid », « genocide », imperialism, new words for an « ancient » evil[vi]. The common basis of all these stereotypes is the attribution to Jews of a considerable power to harm the rest of the world. The other common factor that explains the virulence and success of those accusations is the rhetoric of inversion and its deep theological roots. According to it, if the Jews are persecuted, it is because by their nature, they are persecutors (of Christ, of the workers, of the Palestinians etc.).The new creed is that despite having been persecuted the Jews have become persecutors. The success of this circular rhetoric does not depend on facts or reality. It is based on the representation of Jews in Western culture.

Brief synthesis of the Soviet anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic Propaganda

Radical anti-Zionism has its roots in the first “anti-Imperialist” trials against the so-called “enemies of the people and of socialism”. One of the main strategies of the totalitarian Soviet regime was to denounce imaginary conspiracies against the State concocted by “foreign” agents. Yuri Slezkine, in The Jewish century[vii] explains how the Communist regime’s official battle against antisemitism as a phenomenon described by Lenin as pertaining to “bourgeois society”, the Communists eventually pointed Jews as a suspect category of citizens. For the Stalinists, Zionists (the word was used to designate both Jews in Israel, in America and in the Soviet Russia) represented Western imperialism and capitalism

R. Wistrich and P-A. Taguieff have analyzed with extreme rigor the origins of the “manufacture of anti-Zionism” devised by the former Soviet Union[viii].

The first inversion of roles, now almost banal in the Western world, can be summed up by the equation “Zionism=Nazism”. It was coined by the Soviet propaganda during the Slánsky process in Prague in 1952. It was the first official public Soviet show-trial. The Jews, members of the Communist Party, were accused of being agents and spies for the Zionist state. R. Wistrich could thus write that “Only six years after the Holocaust it was already possible in a public trial to assert that Israel and Zionism manipulated antisemitism as a mask to cover up their own crimes. The Prague trial set a precedent which has had countless imitators on the Left and in the Muslim-Arab world ever since”[ix]. Wistrich showed how the Eichman trial in Jerusalem was presented by the Arab media as a “conspiracy” that helped Zionists hide their “connections” with the Gestapo. Zionists were systematically presented as enemies of their own people, Nazi allies and bourgeois agents. From the 1950s onwards, the Soviet media started depicting Zionists as Nazi collaborators. The Pravda, the main official soviet media, insisted for years after World War II, that the Zionists “helped the Nazis to send members of their own community to the gas chambers and had joined hands with the Gestapo“[x]. Consequently, Israel, as the political and national achievement of the Zionist ideology, was regularly presented as a Nazi State. The Star of David was consistently associated either with the Swastika or with depictions of death and destruction. In the seventies, the comparison of Israeli leaders with Nazis became a cliché and the articles and caricatures in the Soviet press where Jews (Zionists) were constantly associated with Nazis were now commonplace. It was associated with older accusations based on the “Protocols of the elders of Zion”, a famous forgery concocted by tsarist police, where Jews were depicted as a ubiquitous secret organization seeking to control the world. They became class enemies, supported by Western imperialism. The victory of Israel in the Six Days War only reinforced the propaganda, the “nazification” of Jews compounded by their “genocidal” nature. The terms “Nazis” “genocide” and “ethnic purification” applied to Jews and Israel, that would resurface in the French media a decade later were first created in the Soviet Union.

Two major events need to be taken into account to understand the charge of colonialism, racism and apartheid that appeared in the 1960s and are still to be found in the French media today: decolonization and the creation of the PLO.

The second half of the 20th century saw the rise to independence for many states whose borders were mostly drawn by European colonialism in Africa but also in the Middle East. Arab nationalism in these territories was inseparable from antisemitism since Jewish-Arab relations after World War II were marked by the expulsion of Jews from the Arab countries (almost 800 000) and the Arab refusal which led to wars against Israel.[xi] At the time, the majority of Western countries supported Israel in the wars aimed at destroying it.

The Soviet Union has played a decisive role in the emergence of the PLO. Numerous sources, newly opened archives, testimonies of former politicians confirm officially the role the USSR in the armament, important financial aid and training of Palestinian terrorists [xii]. PLO originated as a propaganda tool, which also served to impose a new definition of the word “Palestine”, originally the name of a region comprising what is known today as Jordan, Israel. The same about the adjective « Palestinian » which used to stand mostly for Jewish inhabitants until the 1960s (as is obvious from European, American and Russian sources, whether in the press, dictionaries or ordinary use). The exclusion of Jews and the attribution to these words of a new sense is also a result of the substitution and inversion mechanisms.

The attacks against Israel, Zionism and Jews became even more violent after the victory of the Jewish State in the Six Days War. The soviet media started to depict Israel not only a Nazi State but also a “racist” and “colonial” oppressor of the Arab World. Robert Wistrich explained in A Lethal Obsession how the Six-Day War unleashed a new media campaign in the Soviet Union to delegitimize Israel and Zionism. The Jewish victory damaged the Soviet Union’s prestige after the defeat of its Arab allies. Two new components made their appearance as part of an already efficient ideology: “racism” and “apartheid”, the term first used by KGB-approved Ahmed Shukeiri, the first chairman of PLO.

European culture and the “replacement” strategy

To understand the background of left-wing antizionist and mostly Pro-Palestinian movement in France, and to see why it is first of all an anti-Semitic (or anti-Jewish) one, we have to offer a brief reminder of its conceptual background and cultural conditioning as part of the European mentality.

When we hear the argument that Israeli Jews are the Nazis and Palestinians are the Jews of today, we can see the theology of substitution at work. It is grounded in the Christian theory of supersessionism, an interpretation of the texts of Saint Paul by the Fathers of the Church, which became a Christian tenet up to 1962, the year of a so called “Vatican revolution”.

The prevailing catholic and atheist exegesis of evangelical texts claims that it constitutes the original criticism of the peculiarity of Judaism and an appeal to shed this singularity, in order to become truly Universalist. But what is at stake is the metaphysical, historical and political destitution of what “the Jewish subject”[xiii]. Saint Paul’s claim developed a new identity for the new religion, which had to take the place of the previous Jewish identity.

According to this interpretation, a new universal identity (‘New Israel’) replaced the old one, dismissing the Jews as clinging to their peculiarity and singularity. All the Nations may be part of this universalism except the Jews. It’s a “universalism minus one”. The fall of the ancient Israel was destined to assure the rise of the new one. If the Jews wanted to join the new Israel, they had to abandon their identity and convert themselves.

The reading of the Fathers of the Church like Justin Martyr, Saint Augustine, etc. shows that Christians had to take the place of the Jews. To take the place of someone else suggests cultural violence (conversions, assimilations) or physical violence (exile, pogroms, genocides, segregation in ghettos). Actually, it was a ritual in Europe during Pessah to kill, rape and massacre Jews to remind them that as they killed Jesus they have to be killed.

Consequently, the idea of replacement is potentially genocidal from the Jewish point of view since it is based on a matter of identity (the Jewish identity has to be destroyed). It is perceived as an existential question for Christian theology which claims to grow on the ashes of the mother religion (Judaism). The substitution is the main Christian raison d’être[xiv].

This interpretation of the Paulinian texts guided the teachings of the Christian church in the West for centuries. In his book L’enseignement du mépris (translated into English as The teaching of Contempt), prominent French historian Jules Isaac, used a considerable corpus of texts to show how this ideology of substitution had been taught for centuries, until the Vatican II “Revolution” (after the second Vatican Council).

Later, other elements were added to this doctrine by the Fathers of the Church like Justin Martyr[xv], saint Augustine, and Origen, some of whom are known for their rabid anti-Jewishness, especially with the tenet according to which the crucifixion of Christ was a sin and the Jews had to suffer divine punishment for that sin. Justin Martyr also castigated the Jewish teachers saying they were misleading people with their false interpretation of Scriptures. The same accusation was to be found in the Coran a couple of centuries later.

These ideas were transmitted from generation to generation until the 20th century, which can be seen, for instance, in a book that was very popular amongst French Catholics[xvi]

 “The revenge of God will be cast on this deicide race. The miserable rests of Israel will be dispersed in the vast universe and will bear till the end of times the weight of this mysterious curse.” (F. Prat Jesus Christ 1933)

Those examples illustrate the theology of replacement: the church as a new Israel replacing Judaism. They also give a theological explanation of the divine origin of the expulsion of Jews. The expulsion is symbolic (the abolition of the ancient Law) and physical (from their land). Judea and Israel are places of historical, symbolic, cultural and religious value for the Jews. They are not just historical kingdoms where their ancestors lived, but also places laden with the divine presence symbolized by the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The expulsion of the Jews from those places corresponds to their removal from the symbolical space, the space that Cristianity and later Islam decided to occupy. It is not a coincidence that Muslims decided to build the Dome of the Rock shrine and the Al Aqsa mosque on the site of the Jewish Temple.

These anti-Jewish discourses charge the land with a symbolic value that comes from its symbolic value for the Jews. Jews have been discharged from their place, from their identity by the theological discourse. In the same way, they are discharged from their land whose symbolic value is claimed first by Christians then by Muslims –all those who desire to occupy the original place as “God sons”.

This idea conveyed by Christianity for twenty centuries is a factor of a cultural conditioning that defines European identity. We could say that Western anti-Zionism precedes Zionism by seventeen centuries.

According to those texts, the Jews were expelled from their land because they had to pay for the martyrdom of Christ, which means that the place that Christianity took was based on the suffering victim martyred by the Jews. This victim was also a receptacle invested by the divine power that made the other nations despise and hate the deicide people. The hatred of the Jews is thus a moral obligation, since the existence of the Jewish people made other nations suffer. The suffering is not the suffering of Jesus but also of all those who identify themselves emotionally with his martyrdom and who suffer because of the existence of this people called a “splinter in the flesh of humanity”. According to this logic, that the Jews have been always persecuted is the proof that they are the cause of other people’s suffering. Things would not have been so had they been innocent. This logic is inherent to the views expressed by the media in Europe or by official diplomatic statements. The murders of Jews in France are not explained by the statements of the murderers and the clear ideological explanations they give, but by the permanent portrayal of the Jewish existence on the land of their ancestors as an outrage for the Palestinians who have become a contemporary Christ-like image in the modern secular theology. Jews cause Palestinians suffering just as they caused the suffering and death of Christ. One could say that anti-Zionism has become a new secular religion, substituting for Christian supersessionism.

Left-wing Antisemites don’t shrink from the argument explaining that Zionism was engaged in a conspiracy against Palestinians. They share the belief that Zionists were powerful, ruthless, cunning—stopping at nothing to pursue their goals. Israel is regularly presented in these discourses as a bloodthirsty, racist state. The Palestinians on the other side are invariably depicted as poor, homeless or downtrodden (as were Jews after the exile).

An important propaganda[xvii] presents Jesus as “Palestinian” today despite all historical scholarship and many Palestinians and their supporters believe or pretend to believe this myth that reinforces the “Palestinian cause” and the deicidal narrative[xviii].

Consequently, the contemporary left-wing and post-modern narratives reenact the old Christian theology today. If Palestinians occupy the place of crucified Christ in the Western religious and secular mind, then Jews are their persecutors, a cruel and ruthless people of criminals who kill the innocent. This topic of the persecuted Jew who has become a persecutor has been successful in mainstream media. Here is an example from a highly publicized psychoanalyst, Elisabeth Roudinesco: « It is terrible, the worst possible thing has happened—the most persecuted people in history, after having created a state on their promised land, have become persecutors in their turn. Doing so, they caused anti-Semitic repercussions around the world »[xix].

France : the political discourse since 1967

The victory of Israel in the Six Days War and the defeat of the Arabs also coincided with a reversal of the French policy that progressively became not only anti-Israeli but anti-American. Raymond Aron, a prominent French philosopher, published a brief essay of the “sovietisation” of the French policy and its anti-American turn in his article “Why?” (July 7, 1967). The whys and wherefores of the negative role De Gaulle’s policy played in this war were analyzed in a number of essays. For our purpose the important thing is that, according to Aron, this victory has opened what he called a new pro-soviet and anti-American era in French politics:

“are all the friends of The United States enemies of France? Are the enemies of the soviet or Arab revolutionists also enemies of France? […] It’s as if the supreme goal of de Gaulle was to oppose the United-States always and everywhere, or to incite the soviet leaders to extremism. […] Since the beginning of the Middle-east crisis, I had an impression that the President of the Republic would be carried towards the Soviet camp. .[..]. This anti-American obsession looks like the anti-British one, characteristic of the Vichy government in 1940”[xx].

The key point of what Aron later called the beginning of the suspicion era was the famous de Gaulle’s press conference given on November 27, 1967. In this conference, de Gaulle gave an overview of Jewish history and presented the Jews as “an elite people, sure of themselves and dominating”[xxi]. Inverting the causes of the conflicts, he accused Israel of starting the war against the Arabs in order to conquer new territories and to increase its population. He also blamed Israel for the “occupation” supposedly accompanied by “repressions” and “expulsions” One of the reasons for this inversion was the proclamation of independence of Algeria five years earlier. France, governed by de Gaulle, hoped to conquer the sympathy of the Arab world and the Soviet Union (the main ally of the Arab world by that time) by breaking its alliance with Israel. The victory of Israel was not only a humiliation for the Arabs and their Soviet allies, but also the start of a new era in the history of the contemporary antisemitism.

A new component had appeared in the anti-Jewish propaganda: anti-American hatred. It was the beginning of a violent anti-Israeli propaganda in which the Agence France Presse (AFP) plays the main role demonizing Israel and its ally, the United States.

French media and the Lebanon war (1982)

          As is shown in Leon Poliakov’s book De Moscou à Beyrouth. Essai sur la désinformation (1983) (From Moscow to Beyrouth. An Essay on Disinformation; it remains untranslated into English), the anti-Jewish passions never stopped after the unexpected victory of Israel in the Six Days War. They were fueled by the anti-imperialist socialist left who embraced the cult of the Third World embodied by the “Palestinian Question”. On the 12th of June 1982, French Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy declared “It is not by destructing the Palestinian People that terrorism will lessen”[xxii]. The principal source of disinformation was the French television who represented Israel as an “aggressor”, a “children killer”, a “genocidal nation”[xxiii]. Even if some marginal French reviews tried to call into question the image of PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) as the “revolutionary” or as “freedom fighters”, reminding its nationalistic goals and petit-bourgeois ideology, the pro-governmental media used, quite systematically, a well-organized set of lexical patterns comparing Israelis to Nazis, Begin and Sharon to Hitler and Goebbels, Beyrouth to Oradour[xxiv], Stalingrad or the Warsaw ghetto. Poliakov noted that not even the invasion of Czechoslovakia or the Vietnam War, or the numerous massacres taking place between Arabs nations in the Middle-East managed to create such an outcry. The anti-Semitic attack rue des Rosiers in Paris, on 9th of August 1982, didn’t appease anti-Jewish spirits neither. The Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon by a Christian Lebanese militia was presented as the conspiracy of Israel to force the militia to exterminate Palestinian refugees. The official media chose to that biased view of the massacre, which had been carried out by the Phalangist gunmen, not by Israel. A detailed discussion of the events is proposed by Schiff and Yaari (1984), Robert M. Hatem (2003) in English[xxv] and by E. Marty (2003) in French. Even if in some media, Begin’s indignation and the enquiry he undertook about the role of the Israeli army was mentioned, the image of Israel was completely tarnished.

          On April 1983, Yasser Arafat made a declaration that Israelis poisoned hundreds of Palestinian women. The event is known, as “West Bank fainting epidemic”[xxvi]. The accusation turned out to be false, after numerous inquiries led by Israeli government, the International Red-Cross and International Health Organization. All thee enquiries concluded to the absurdity of accusations. But the harm was done — the French public heard a Shiite imam declare on a radio broadcast (June 1st 1983) that Israelites had killed Christ, and that Christians and Druses had to beware of the homicidal propensities of Jews[xxvii]. Years of media exposure putting forward the cruelty of the Jewish state largely contributed to the spreading of this accusation that perfectly fit a medieval accusation of well poisoning[xxviii].That’s how the systematic anti-Zionist propaganda reconnected with age-old Christian anti-Jewish fallacies.

          If the background and the main fabric of the anti-Zionist discourse were coming from the Soviet Union, the main current of contemporary anti-Jewish discourse is to be found in the unbearable culpability of the West after the Holocaust. French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, wrote in 1983 that a sort of jubilation to be rid of one’s bad conscience could be felt in the way the media were dragging the Jewish State through the mud, repeatedly using words like “genocide” and “holocaust” to talk about the Palestinians. The Jews had been stripped of their moral privilege of victims: they were Cain after having been Abel for decades. Europe joyfully discovered its own innocence thanks to the Israeli bombs on Beyrouth and thanks to the Sabra and Shatila narrative[xxix].

The current anti-Semitic events cannot be dissociated from the subtle anti-Zionist campaign led by the national media. The years 2000 were the most effective laboratory for elaborating various anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist discursive devices in the media. Besides the reasons already mentioned above, the West has experienced the massive arrival of populations with a Muslim cultural background that have, to some degree, altered some of its cultural fabric. Their influence includes the post-colonial movement that is currently evolving into, what is called, ‘de-colonialism’ — and openly claims an essential and existential opposition to the West and Israel.

The “Jewish Question” in France since 2000

Today France counts the largest Jewish community of Europe. At perhaps 600,000-strong (recent estimates place it lower), the French Jewish community accounts for fully half of the Jews presently living in the European Union. This community constitutes 0,73 % of the whole French population. Anti-Semitic acts have increased every year since 2000. As an example, there were 311 anti-Semitic acts in 2018, there were 541 attested last year.

As for 2019, statistics are very clear: the report of the French Home Secretary for 2019 stated a 27% rise of anti-Semitic acts.[xxx]

The media coverage

          It is probably correct to think[xxxi] that the outburst of Antisemitism has been marked in France since the 2000 Gaza war or the second Intifada. Several major events took place in France at that time, notably an important number of anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian demonstrations featuring anti-Zionist and Anti-Semitic slogans of support to Hezbollah and Hamas. The year 2000 was a turnaround in the media, already ill-disposed towards Israel since 1982. The Second Intifada gave French media a possibility to declare a real psychological war with Israel. This assault is symbolized by a particular event staged by the French media, the “Al Durrah Incident”. In 2000, the French television channel France 2 broadcast the supposed murder of a little Muhammad Al-Durrah, a 12 year-old Palestinian child, which took place in the Gaza Strip on 30 September 2000 during the Second Intifada. Jamal al-Durrah and his son, Muhammad, were filmed by Talal Abu Rahma, a Palestinian cameraman freelancing for France 2, as they were caught in crossfire between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. The footage shows the pair crouching behind a concrete cylinder, the boy crying and the father waving, then a burst of gunfire and dust, after which the boy is seen slumped across his father’s legs. The voice-over of French journalist Charles Enderlin, based in Jerusalem, but not present during the footage, is telling the story. Muhammad, whose name became famous within a couple of hours, became a national Palestinian hero, a martyr in the battle against the Jewish occupants[xxxii].

France 2 has been suspected of staging the film by numerous experts who questioned the credibility of the footage which is incomplete and shows serious flaws (such as the child still moving when he was supposed to be dead) casting doubt on the actual facts — especially since they were compounded by a biased narrative presenting Israeli soldiers as professional children killers[xxxiii]. There was no debate about the accuracy of the reporting in the mainstream media who kept presenting the France 2 footage as the official truth and continued its staunch indictment of Israel, its army, its “genocidal” and “pedocidal” policy ‘Little Muhammad’ was hailed throughout the Muslim world as a martyr and the State of Israel as a “Killer of children”[xxxiv]. Thus, the ancient myth of Jews as Murderers of Innocent[xxxv]was revived. This incident also had a huge impact on French Society. Taguieff in a cautious study of the case[xxxvi]called it “the first blood libel” of the 21st century. It caused a wave of anti-Israeli condemnations. A flurry of articles was written about the cruelty of the Jewish army and the malevolent intentions of the Israeli State. The unanimous and vociferous chorus of petitions and articles by all kind of intellectuals in the media took on a tone of radical moral condemnation of Israel.

All the following years variations on this ‘Israel kills the innocents’ theme was regularly developed while anti-Jewish incidents kept increasing. The France 2 footage was often used to justify the following attacks and murders of Jews. Daniel Pearl’s murderers showed a video featuring rushes from the Al-Dura killing while they beheaded, showing they were avenging Mohammed by killing a Jew[xxxvii]. Catherine Nay, a prominent French journalist, announced on radio Europe I, that the death of Mohamed Al-Dura cancelled out the image of a Jewish child with his hands in the air held at gunpoint by the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto[xxxviii]. This is a clear example of how substitution ideology claims to show that “anti-Arab racism” has replaced the “anti-Jewish” hatred, Jews becoming the substitutes of the Nazis.

The silence of the French media on the Jews’ murders committed in order to avenge the “death” of Mohammed Al-Dura was stunning. Anything that contradicted the French media narrative representing the Jewish State as a cruel aggressor was obliterated. For example, the lynching of two Israeli soldiers beaten to death by a Palestinian mob in front of the eyes of the Palestinian police in Ramallah on the 12th of October 2002[xxxix]. This incident was filmed and one could see shocking images of the murderers reveling, proudly waving their blood-drenched hands to the crowd. Yet, the French media dismissed it as ‘a minor incident’[xl] and focused on Israel’s reprisal as the main piece of information. An article in the mainstream weekly Le Nouvel Obs was titled “Tsahal reprisal attack after the lynching of two soldiers.”[xli] After one sentence that casually mentions the murder of the soldiers, the rest of the article treats the very detailed response of the IDF.

Another example shows how this pattern has become embedded in the media coverage of Israel as it is founded on the constant repetition of derogatory words, misleading turns of phrases and a variety of poly-semiotic methods. In 2005, 26th of March, Euronews broadcast a TV show called “No comment”. Israeli soldiers were shown screaming something to little boy in Hebrew. The boy then takes off his pants, they continue to scream and he takes off his shirt. Without comments and a close-up the effect for the viewer is to witness the humiliation of a Palestinian child by Israeli “sadists”. As it happens, the child was a kamikaze wearing an explosive belt and the soldiers were giving him precise instructions in order not to blow himself up.

Daniel Dayan, a prominent French media analyst, has explained that in many cases what the media call “information” tends to become a confirmation of a preconditioned knowledge[xlii]. Whatever “news” is given about Israel is usually the embodiment of the predetermined story-telling expressing a stereotypical vision of Israel. The public “knows” only what they are shown and told by the media, and are familiar with the story-telling based on a particular vocabulary and syntactical structures that have been circulated for decades in the press, radio, television and social networks.

In 2009, the famous Goldstone report contributed to shaping a public opinion in France about Israel. Richard Goldstone is the former South-African judge who investigated the 2008-09 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas on behalf of the United Nations. By 2007, Hamas extremists had taken control and fired some 3000 rockets and mortars into Israel, killing civilians, including children, and injuring hundreds of people. Israel sought a diplomatic resolution, but in December 2008, in response to condemnation of the UN Secretary General, Hamas fired yet more rockets. Israel finally responded with military action and always claimed that it was justified as an act of self-defense. 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Goldstone accused Israel of war crimes— although the report itself stated that it could not provide conclusive evidence of it. Sociologist Shmuel Trigano and a team of historians and law experts debunked the Goldstone report’s many inaccuracies and one-sidedness. [xliii] In 2011 in an article published by Washington Post Goldstone himself regretted his biased conclusions and disclaimed what he wrote in the report. But the harm was done since the report and its conclusions fitted existing stereotypes. Thus, this report was used as a very effective means of propaganda in the French media despite the later refutation of it by its author. Israel was accused of being a “racist state”, committing “genocide”. That is how Dominique de Villepin (former French Prime Minister) depicted Israel in Le Figaro in 2014.[xliv]

Israel has been constantly accused on the basis of rumors in this hyperbolic manner. A rumor is a sum of beliefs, convictions or non-verified information expressing certain fears shaped into the narratives illustrating what the public already knows. Rumors are based on stereotypes translated into a well-known cultural code and adapted to the sociohistorical context. When Israelis are massacred by Palestinians, the French media almost never talk about it, or if they do, the titles and the content of the journalist texts have to follow a pre-defined structure that alleviates the importance of the murder[xlv]

The structure of the story-telling

Political and media discourse are intrinsically linked: people have access to political discourse through the looking-glass of the media system. In contemporary democratic societies, the media as an institution are not supposed to be subservient to political discourse, and ought to function only as a go-between between politics and the citizens. The media are a forum where decisive discursive processes that engender consent occur. They crystallize public opinion or public will. More and more events are made public through the mass media rather than in face-to-face social interaction, more and more social values (positive and negative) are proposed and imposed through media discourse. The public is aware of military, religious, cultural, ethnic, ideological conflicts through the media. The media never presents “pure” information (which, according to most communication and discourse analysis research, does not exist) but proposes a construction of “events”.[xlvi]

The storytelling of the conflict is composed by the media and by a certain number of highly publicized left-wing intellectuals. It implies predefined and practically unchanging roles, that of Victim and Persecutor. The Palestinians represent the absolute victim in the European narrative and the Israelis the absolute persecutor. When events do not fit this pattern, disturbing the prearranged narrative, they are silenced or presented in a toned-down version. According to Daniel Dayan, the ordinary French media story-telling has produced a sacrificial scene with a religious dimension, the Palestinians an analogous figure to that of Christ and the Jews playing the role they always had in the Christian tradition. In this narrative, the point is to inform about the actual suffering of the Palestinians, but to endow them with a sacred status, thus inventing new forms of compassion. This sacred status of a martyr people echoes the Christian tradition, even though the addressees of these discourses are agnostic, atheists or often Muslim. The standoff between the martyr and the persecutor has become a dogmatic representation that no one is allowed to doubt without being considered as pitiless and immoral as the “persecutors” and hailed as a henchman of Israeli imperialism. In this narrative, Israel and Jews (except anti-Zionist Jews who support and spread the post-colonial and pro-Palestinian discourse) represent the same negative entity. In this sense, the seeds of the soviet propaganda planted in the soil of the Christian substitution doctrine has yielded a successful anti-Jewish crop that has become standard dogma in the French political and media discourse.

Once the main roles have been distributed, and the script established, the structure of the narrative has to remain stable. Several techniques are put in practice. The most important and obvious is based on lexical choices: substantives, adjectives and verbs used by the media describing the Palestinians and Jews show considerable consistency. The reference of the words goes beyond their ordinary meaning: they depend on the ideological position of the user. The same word can refer to different realities in different circumstances. For example, the word “colony” and its derivatives in French: although “colon” can mean “settler”, it can also be understood as “colonizer”, with negative echoes of the French colonization of Algeria, with connotations of conquest, domination and imperialism. Without any exception, the French media use this word speaking about the Jews living in Samaria and Judea and even sometimes, when they refer to those who live in territories that are “not disputed” [xlvii].


In 2011, the Fogiel family was murdered in Itamar, a town situated on the northern part of Samaria. Two Palestinians stabbed to death five persons: the two parents and their three kids, including a three-months old baby. Here are the main titles of the mainstream national media:

  1. Cisjordanie: une famille de colons israéliens tuée près de Naplouse[xlviii] (Translation: West Bank: family of colonizers killed near Nablus)
  2. Meurtre d’une famille de colons en Cisjordanie: deux Palestiniens arrêtés[xlix] (Translation : Murder of family of colonizers in the West Bank : two Palestinians arrested)
  3. (source des informations: (ONG palestinienne)

4.Translation: Palestine : inaudible violence (the source of the information : Islamic site: In Palestine everything is relative to the settlers’ violence)

Translation: After the massacre, Israel announces further colonisation


Translation : Itamar colonizers refuse to abandon their dream of a ‘Great Israel’.

The fixed rhetorical organization of these articles and their titles may be explained by the single source that provides information to the media: the AFP. This uniqueness goes against the supposed diversity of opinions, because we see that the media institutions copy the only one official source. There is a difference between naming and calling: while naming « consists in the institution of a lasting referential association between an object and an X sign « [l] that must be learned and memorized to be part of associative habits and is part and parcel of a language’s lexicon, calling someone something consists in the creation of an occasional association between an object and a linguistic sign. In this respect, by force of habit, the word “colon” (colonizer) is no longer a casual labeling, but becomes a stable denomination carrying a negative charge. It becomes a compulsory name and not just what a speaker chooses to call inhabitants of Judea and Samaria. Adding the epithet « Israeli » or « Jewish » to the word « colonizer » increases the negative association. All those articles imply that if “colonizers” were killed, it was their fault — they are guilty of being a Jewish “colon” living on a land that is forbidden to Jews by Muslim culture in the anti-Jewish ideology of substitution.]

In all the press articles we analyzed, the names of the murderers are as follows: « Palestinians », or « young Palestinians ». They designate a group to which the murderers belong. None of the articles analyzed contain other qualifying terms such as « terrorist », « extremist » « Palestinian ultra-left » (the killers turned out to be members of the PFLP).

If we compare the choice of names for the murderers in the media who kill civilians in France, when the murder is committed on national territory in the name of Islam, and when it is not a mass attack, like that of the Bataclan concert hall (2015), the journalistic designations usually single out the killer, described as « unbalanced », “mentally disturbed”, « extremist », « Islamist » or “terrorist”. However, when the media describe the deadly attacks in Israel, the designations remain stable and only mention national belonging and age (one will never find: « Palestinian-Islamist”, « unbalanced Palestinian » and never “Palestinian terrorist” even if the terror attack is a proven fact and is not controversial). The word “terrorist” describing mortal attacks committed by Palestinians in Israel is prohibited by the editorial guidelines of the AFP. It may be used only as a reported speech attributed to Israeli sources[li]. An important French website Info Equitable (the French equivalent of Honest Reporting), founded by Laurent Hayem, regularly sheds light on the implications of this decision in the media and the political discourse. Indeed, when attacks against Jews are committed in France, the media regularly speak about “mentally unstable persons”. When the same media focus their permanent and unflagging attention to what happens in Israel, the labels change.

The word “mental disorder” is never employed for the Jews’ murderers in Israel, the Palestinian murderers are called “young Palestinian”, “Palestinian adolescent” or event “martyr” (some articles in the extreme left media use this term without quotation marks, on the model of the Hamas or Palestinian press)[lii].

The logic of labeling is different, because it follows a different argumentative pattern: the media narrative is built on the idea that a Palestinian is necessarily a “résistant” engaged in a struggle against the Jewish settlers and is innocent by nature. This lexical use found in the AFP press releases is the one prescribed by Hamas:

“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Begin [your reports of] news of resistance actions with the phrase ‘In response to the cruel Israeli attack,’ and conclude with the phrase ‘This many people have been martyred since Israel launched its aggression against Gaza.’ Be sure to always perpetuate the principle of ‘the role of the occupation is attack, and we in Palestine are fulfilling [the role of] the reaction.’- Avoid publishing pictures of rockets fired into Israel from [Gaza] city centers. This [would] provide a pretext for attacking residential areas in the Gaza Strip. Do not publish or share photos or video clips showing rocket launching sites or the movement of resistance [forces] in Gaza”.

These recommendations coincide with those given by the AFP never to use the word “terrorist”. Acts of terror are often called “acts of resistance to the occupation” and Palestinians are implicitly compared to the French “Résistance” while Israelis are depicted as “occupation power”. When two entities are always described positively on the one side and negatively on the other, the recurrence creates a stylistic association with lasting axiological effects.

To understand this vocabulary, two ideological facts should be considered.

  1. The substitution ideology which is the ideological basis of the story telling construction
  2. The French national memory of the World War II (French Resistance versus Nazis occupiers). The discursive opposition between “résistant” and “occupant” is a familiar cultural template. The public can understand these words that evoke national history and identify themselves with the narrative in which Palestinians are depicted as “résistants” and Israelis as “occupiers”

Titles and articles’ structures

When in 2016 a young Israeli called Hallel Ariel was murdered in her sleep by a 19 year old Palestinian, the French media titled the article as following: “Hallel Ariel, 13 ans, victime de la haine des Hommes” (Hallel Ariel, a victim of men’s hatred). It is a strikingly ambiguous phrasing that could mean various things: she was a misanthropist (she hated mankind), or she was hated by human beings. The title does not mention the real reason: the brutal murder of a young girl in her house. The article itself is a textbook example of biased construction whose structure can serve as a model for all the articles on the subject.

          When the murder of Jews is particularly barbarian, to attenuate the crime, the media choose an ambiguous title with an attenuating effect, generally obliterating the agent, which is the case here, death, cause of death and murderer remaining unnamed. The first paragraph is presented as a reported speech from an official source:

“La France a « condamné un odieux assassinat » et exprimé sa « profonde inquiétude face à la poursuite des violences et actes terroristes » ». (France    « condemned an odious assassination » and expressed its « deep concern at the        continuation of violence and terrorist acts »)

The second part of the article does not mention any terror attacks but instead quotes the general death toll in the conflict, whatever the previous content of the article is:

« Depuis le 1er octobre, les Territoires palestiniens, Jérusalem et Israël sont en proie à des the violences qui ont coûté la vie à 212 Palestiniens, 33 Israéliens, deux Américains, un Erythréen et un Soudanais, selon un décompte de l’AFP ».

(Since October 1st, the Palestinian Territories, Jerusalem and Israel have been plagued by a violence that has claimed the lives of 212 Palestinians, 33 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count).

The numbers of casualties are always given by the AFP. Those deaths are often blamed on “violence”, but its actual causes are never explicit. The fact that they are caused by terror attacks either committed by Palestinians or by rocket attacks from the West Banks is rarely mentioned. In that recurring death toll, the number of Palestinian casualties is always more important than the number of Israelis. This “disproportion” is constantly underlined by the media, using an objective fact to imply that Israel is less a victim of “violence” than Palestinians and that its reprisals are always “disproportioned”.

And the final paragraph consists — as if so often the case — in recommendations for Israel to freeze its “settlements” considered to be “illegal” by the UN. It’s easy to forget that the article was initially about the murder of an Israeli girl, but the transition from one specific murder suffered by an Israeli to the condemnation of Israeli policy is significant, since it suggests that if the young girl is dead, Israeli policy is to blame.

« Dans un rapport au Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU jeudi, le Quartette sur le Proche-Orient (Etats-Unis, Russie, Union européenne, ONU) a demandé à Israël de cesser « d’urgence » sa politique de colonisation en Cisjordanie, et dénoncé du côté palestinien « la violence, le terrorisme et l’incitation à la violence ». Les colonies sont considérées comme illégales par l’ONU. » (Paris Match, July 1, 2016)

Translation :

« In a report to the UN Security Council on Thursday, the Middle East Quartet (United States, Russia, European Union, UN) asked Israel to stop » urgently « its settlement policy in the West Bank , and denounced on the Palestinian side « violence, terrorism and incitement to violence ». The settlements are considered illegal by the UN.”

No French media ever gave any reference to any text stating precisely what « international law » says or why the territories of the settlements are called “occupied”. In all the articles we gathered since 2000, the territories that are called « disputed » by the International Law, are regularly called “occupied” by French politicians and the French media. As Bertrand Ramas-Mulbach[liii] and Eugene Kantorovitch [liv] point out there have been no « violation » of any international text of law by Israel but a permanent disinformation on this topic in Europe.


On February 22, 2020, the French Ministry of Foreign affairs published a statement that severely reprimanded Israel[lv] for freezing funds destined to the Palestinian Authority, appealed Israel to respect the Oslo agreements and condemned Israel for their unjust and illegitimate measures. The decision of the Israeli government to freeze part of those funds had been taken after two particularly ferocious terror attacks where two young Israeli girls were murdered by Palestinians terrorists. Mahmoud Abbas, who ordered to put the portraits of the murderers in the streets of Ramallah to glorify their murder, rewarded them. He later pronounced a speech announcing the payment of salaries to all the “martyrs” and their families[lvi] and that “the martyrs and their families are sacred”. Neither the French media nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Abbas for glorifying of terrorism. Instead, the indictment was against Israel was for it ‘unjust and illegal measures’.

Overturning arguments and disinformation

This strategy consists in overturning a positive or a neutral information or argument into the contrary in order to discredit the adversary. This rhetorical device is also extremely frequent in the media coverage of Israel. For example, on the 17th of march 2020, during the Covid-19 crisis, Le Monde published an article where the journal blamed Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahou in an article whose title was :

« Coronavirus : Israël approuve des méthodes de surveillance électronique de masse. Le Shin Beth pourra traquer les données de localisation des téléphones portables de personnes infectées sans autorisation préalable de la justice. »


“Israel approves methods of mass electronic surveillance. Shin Beth allowed to track location data of infected people’s phones without prior authorization from a judge.”

Info Equitable proposed a detailed analysis of almost each sentence of this article [lvii], showing that the strategy consisted in presenting the measure taken by the Netanayhou government as totalitarian, depicting the prime Minister as a tyrant eager to control each movement of the population, violating the laws of the nation. The suggestion made by the journalist is that Israel is a “rogue state” where laws are not respected, using a disparaging vocabulary (“man hunt”, “control”, “mass surveillance”, etc.). Coronavirus is only a pretext as the article quickly shifts into the usual denigration of Israel.

« Cela revient à appliquer en Israël des méthodes de surveillance comparables à celles employées dans les territoires palestiniens occupés depuis 1967, et dans les zones sous contrôle de l’Autorité palestinienne et du Hamas, à Gaza »,


“This boils down to using surveillance methods comparable to those used in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, and in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, in Gaza but this time within Israel’s borders”

As Infoequitable remarked in their analysis: this comparison implies that Netanayahou persecutes his own citizens exactly like Israel has persecuted Palestinians since 1967. The article moves on to depict Netanayahou as a totalitarian leader whose goal is to raise fear amongst the population. The day before, on March 16, 2020, the New-York Times had published an article on this subject with the following title:

“To Track Coronavirus, Israel Moves to Tap Secret Trove of Cellphone Data. The information, intended for use in counterterrorism, would help identify people who have crossed paths with known patients”[lviii].

On March 25, 2020, the readers of the national media could find the following information on the site that treats medical questions: researches in France work on the development of an application that would allow to geo-locate the Covid -19 carriers. The article mentions South Corea and China where such applications are already in use, but does not judge these methods as a totalitarian measure[lix].

The role of French intellectuals

This is how Pro-Palestinianism as a belief has become a mainstream opinion, and even a new moral standard. Influential French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze went as far as saying that Israel was responsible for committing “genocide”, comparing the Jews to the Nazis through rhetoric inversion. In 2002 he published an article in La revue d’études palestiniennes where he wrote “This is a genocide where the physical extermination is subordinated to geographic evacuation.” Deleuze then compared the events of the second intifada with Oradour-sur-Glane, a French village that was wiped out and its inhabitants slaughtered by Panzerdivison das “Reich” (Waffen SS) in 1944. As we’ve already shown this comparison was first put into work by the soviet media.

In the same vein, a decade before, famous French director Jean-Luc Godard overlapped images of Golda Meir and Adolf Hitler in his movie Ici, ailleurs. Sarcastically Godard also liked to say that the Jews saved Israel by dying in the camps. In truth, he said, there were “6 million kamikazes”. That is how Israel and the Jews in general are intrinsically connected as the same entity.

The French media are also very fond of academics explaining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to children. There is a special broadcast on France Inter for Juniors (“France Juniors 8-12 years”) where experts are invited to explain various aspects of reality. On April 19th, 2019, Jean-Paul Chagnollaud, a professor in political sciences was invited to talk to teenagers about “What is happening in Gaza”. The children asked him “where is Israel and where is Palestine”. He answered that Palestine is a country that occupies 26000 km near the Mediterranean and has frontiers with Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. Then he adds that it is in Palestine that the sacred places that everybody knows like Jerusalem and Bethlehem are located — which implies that the Temple Mount is in Palestine. This expert never mentioned the existence of Hamas and its role in ruling Gaza, nor did he mention the fact that the “innocent victims” he lamented had military affiliations that the Gaza press itself was proud to reveal. It is not surprising then that these future students should be convinced that Israel is an evil entity.

The media also publish frequent sociological explanations giving a platform to the institutionally recognized “experts” handpicked for their ideological bias. A leading left-wing sociologist, marked by the post-colonial ideology, M. Khosrokhavar thus explained, “the everyday humiliations are insufferable and the way of martyrdom (terror attack) is a royal way”. The suicide attacks, according to the same sociologist are a “refusal of the superiority of Israel”.

Thus, a murderer does not bear any responsibility for his acts since he is presented as the actual victim of those whom he kills. The reversal of the killer/ victim positions is a frequent and well-oiled pattern used by both politicians and journalists.

Jewish intellectuals and their role in the media

One of the means of propaganda in the media is to choose Jews as a guarantee of impartiality and truth. Their role is to serve as a shield against any suspicion of antisemitism and therefore against criticism. One could mention American icon and charismatic political figure Noam Chomsky, who went as far as defending Holocaust denier Robert Faurrisson (a former professor of literature at the University of Lyon and the most infamous Holocaust denier for the past forty years in France). Chomsky wrote an introduction for the book of Faurisson[lx] where the latter claimed that the Holocaust was a ”historical lie” and a gigantic political and financial swindle” whose actual victims today are the Palestinians. Chomsky was not embarrassed by the fact that Faurrisson has dismissed all the works of historians, scholars, witnesses whom he declared not reliable because of their Jewishness. Shlomo Sand, the author of a trilogy The invention of the Jewish people, The invention of the state of Israel and How I stopped being a Jew makes the allegation that the Jewish people doesn’t exist and explains that the creation of Israel is based on Zionist propaganda and manipulation of history. In France Sand has gained equal footing with historians and political scientists. He and other Israeli “new historians”[lxi] are considered as standard references for many of Antisemites who don’t really know his arguments but use his Jewishness as an argument against any accusation of antisemitism.

Such intellectuals specialize in the deligitimation of Israel and their statements are accepted as absolute proof of the Zionist Evil because they come from Jews.

Many of those intellectuals write anti-Zionist columns in the mainstream media as “Jews” justifying, whether they’re aware of it or not, an ideology according to which being Jewish is pretension that can endanger the idea of an inclusive democracy[lxii]. Some of those very influential intellectuals, like Edgar Morin, promote the rhetoric of inversion according to which Jews behave like Nazis[lxiii]. Others, less publicized but receptive to the positive social image expected from a French intellectual who is supposed to be a « universalist « rejecting any particular identity[lxiv], usually condemn « Israeli policy »[lxv] whatever it may be. Demonstrating their loyalty to the mainstream media and political discourse, some of them bring forward their « Jewishness » in order to criticize « occupation », « Israeli discriminations » or « Islamophobia », all catchphrases that circulate in the media and that have become part of the standard lexical apparatus.

Anti-Zionism, anti-Israeli propaganda and antisemitism

One should point out the connection between this anti-Zionist discursive organization and antisemitism. In this part, we will show that the negative media discourse on Israel contributes to nourishing criminal anti-Semitic acts costing Jewish lives in France.

In France, since 2006, eleven Jews were killed only on the basis of their Jewishness. Yet, in two cases the murderers acted on the assumption that Jews were necessarily wealthy, so their crime was also financially motivated.

In 2003, 23 year-old Sébastien Selam was found in the basement of the building where he lived. Having murdered the young man, the killer went to his mother’s house and screamed: “I killed a Jew”. He also declared to the police that he was happy to have killed a Jew since that meant he would go to Heaven. The antisemite motive of the murder was not officially taken into account before May 2018 (15 years after the murder). The killer was described as “an unbalanced person” in the media.

In 2006, Ilan Halimi, a twenty-three-year-old Jewish salesman in Paris was gruesomely tortured to death in the outskirts of the city by a gang appropriately called “Les Barbares.” (“The Barbarians”). Although the media, the police and much of the public stubbornly resisted seeing the murder as an anti-Semitic act, it eventually emerged that the gang leader (Youssef Fofana) was a West African Muslim with Salafist connections.

In 2012, in Toulouse, home to 20,000 Jews, a thirty-year-old rabbi, his two small children and an eight-year-old pupil were gunned down at the Ozar Hatorah school, located in a region that could be described as free “inter-community tensions” (the usual euphemism for anti-Semitic disturbances in French media language). The twenty-three-year-old killer, Mohammed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin, had been born in Toulouse, had imbibed Islamist and extreme anti-Semitic attitudes at home, becoming further radicalized in prison as a juvenile delinquent, and subsequently training as a jihadist in Afghanistan.

In May 2014 Mehdi Nemmouche committed the brutal killings at the Brussels Jewish Museum. One of Nemmouche’s four victims, a retired art publisher, had arrived in the Belgian capital only two months earlier, having left her home in France because of the increasingly pervasive anti-Semitic atmosphere there. Like Mohammed Merah, Nemmouche was a French-Algerian jihadist, born in the northeastern French industrial city of Roubaix —today a mecca of French Islam—and  had just recently returned from a stint with the Islamic State in the killing fields of Syria. He admired Mohammed Merah and in all the documents he left he expressed his wish to commit an attack 5 times more powerful than that of Merah.

Neither the murder of Ilan Halimi for which the anti-Semitic motive was not at first taken into account, nor the Toulouse killings alerted mainstream French society to the gravity of growing antisemitism. But a wake-up call did come in the form of a mass demonstration on January 26, 2014, known as Le Jour de Colère (“The Day of Anger”). Those pro-Palestinian demonstration included a heterogeneous group of activists shouting slogans like “Jew, Jew, France does not belong to you,” “Jews, get out of France,” and for the first time since the Holocaust “Death to the Jews”. The official media preferred not to focus too heavily on those aspects and the left-wing daily Libération even published a couple of witnesses where it was said that the demonstration was “peaceful and dignified”.

In 2015, Amedi Coulibaly attacked the « Hypercasher » shop in Paris, taking hostage and killing of four of them.

In 2017, Sarah Halimi was murdered by her Muslim neighbor. Killed by a 27 year-old Muslim, who had beaten her and then thrown her out of the window, shouting “Allah Akbar” and “I killed a Shaitan”. The anti-Semitic character of the murder wasn’t acknowledged immediately, and the representatives of the Jewish community had to struggle for it to be acknowledged. Her murderer was judged in Paris in 2020 and considered “criminally irresponsible” since suffering an access of delirium under the effect of marijuana.

In 2018, Mireille Knoll’s murderer, her Muslim neighbor, thought that since she was Jewish she had to have money. Mireille Knoll was a Holocaust Survivor. 6 months after her murder, the police expressed doubts about the anti-Semitic character of the murder.

In each case when Jewish individuals are murdered in France, the murderers, when they do not commit a collective attack where non-Jewish French are involved, turn out to be “mentally disturbed” or “unbalanced”, or in case of Kobili “under the effect of marijuana”, suffering from delirium, almost all having a psychiatric record, an aspect heavily stressed by the media. This information turned to be false in case of Kobili, who never had a psychiatric record.

This reluctance to name explicitly the origins of this antisemitism is explained by several factors. One of them is a false idea according to which Jew hatred is the exclusive dominion of the far right (neo-Nazis, neo-fascists etc.) or to catholic traditionalists. The second false idea has relied on the creation of a concept, “islamophobia”, widely spread by the contemporary anti-racists movements. According to this new post-colonial dogma, islamophobia has replaced antisemitism in Europe where antisemitism “doesn’t exist”. Under the pressure of the post-colonial left and Islamic influencers, “The Muslims are the Jews of today” is fast becoming the new mantra supported by many intellectuals, historians and philosophers.

For example, Enzo Traverso says in his The end of Jewish modernity (2013):

“Islamophobia plays a role for the new racism that Antisemitism had in the past. The memory of the Holocaust – a historical perception of antisemitism through the prism of its culmination in genocide – tends to obscure these clear analogies. The portrait of the Arabs or Muslims sketched by contemporary xenophobia does not differ much from that of the Jew constructed by antisemitism in the early 20th century.”[lxvi]

As French blacks, Arabs, gays, and other minorities are fighting for institutional recognition, journalists, intellectuals, and politicians have started equating anti-Muslim xenophobia with antisemitism if not with the Holocaust. The turning point was achieved when Jews were accused of seeking a monopoly over public compassion for the victims of genocide.

It is in fact a denial of judeophobia. The antisemitism Enzo Traverso is speaking about has turned into the demonization of Zionism and Israel. Since naming the authors of anti-Semitic attacks would mean acknowledging the existence of Muslim antisemitism, it is an embarrassment for those who claim to fight racism. The declared victims of racism (Muslims) cannot be persecutors, according to this perverted logic.

Detailed Case study

To illustrate the confluence of these ideologies we will now give a concrete example of this discourse showing how these ideas are conveyed and received. The terrorists who committed murders of Jews contacted official media to justify and legitimize their acts. These young people were all French, grown up and educated in France. Three of them, Mohammed Merah, Mehdi Nemmouche and Amedi Coulibaly contacted the media before the massacre and explained the motives of their acts. Mohammed Merah left four hours of recording, 183 pages of transcript published by Libération on the 12th of July 2012

  • MOHAMMED:< prénom négociateur DCRI > regarde [mot arabe] ce qu’il se passe en PALESTINE, t’as vu. Tu vois tous les enfants qui sont tués? Des, des bébés, des nouveaux-nés, des femmes, des pères, à, à, à longueur de journée. Que, en plus la plupart du temps, y en a ils ont même pas d’armes t’as vu. Tu vois des enfants. Et tu trouves pas ça légitime que, que je les I attaque moi ici sur le sol français, je les ai att-, moi j’ai attaqué sur le sol français parce que je suis Français, j’aurais été Américain, j’aurais fait la même chose en AMÉRIQUE t’as vu.


  • Speaking to the negotiator of the of the General Directorate for Internal Security: Look, (name of the negotiator) have you seen what’s happening in Palestine? Kids getting killed? Babies, new-born, women, fathers: all day long, every day. And most of the time they are not even armed. Kids… so how is it not legitimate for me to attack them here on the French soil? I did attack them here on the French soil because I am French. If I’d been an American, I would have done it in America.

Second extract

  • MOHAMMED: [mot arabe] Tu sais que j’ai raison. Heu. Je ne m’en suis pas pris aux civils même si ALLAH me l’autorise. J’avais un message à faire passer, c’était de combattre. Là hamdulillah ils pourront pas dire que j’ai combattu des gens innocents ou quoi, j’ai tué des juifs comme, comme ces j-, ces mêmes juifs-là qui tuent mes, mes petits frères et mes petites soeurs en PALESTINE. J’ai tué des militaires et ces militaires tuent, tuent en AFGHANISTAN et voilà c’est, hamdulillah je sais que tu le sais que j’ai raison et que, que, voilà tu vois, c’est si tu t’obstines à dire que c’est faux et ben, soit qu’ALLAH te guide, soit qu’ALLAH te, te fasse rejoindre les (mot arabe) éternellement (…) tu vois, c’est lui qui décidera inch’allah.


You know that I am right, don’t you? I didn’t attack civilians even if Allah authorizes me to do so. I had a message to deliver—it was a call to fight! Hamdullilah, they won’t say that I killed innocent people or something like that, I killed Jews because these Jews kill my little brothers and sisters in Palestine.I killed soldiers because these soldiers kill, they kill in Afghanistan and now I know that you know that I am right and if you insist that it is wrong, then either Allah guide you, or Allah make you join (word in Arabic). That’s Him who will decide.

Third extract

  • « J’aurais jamais tué des enfants si vous aurez… si vous aurez pas tué nos enfants. J’ai tué des enfants juifs, parce que mes petites sœurs, mes petits frères musulmans se font tuer. Donc heu, heu. Donc moi je savais qu’en tuant que des militaires, des juifs, tout ça, le message passerait mieux. Parce que si j’aurais tué des civils, la population française aurait dit que, heu voilà, c’est un fou d’Al-Qaeda, c’est juste un terroriste, il tue des civils. Même si j’ai le droit, mais le message, il est différent. Là j’ai tué des militaires et des juifs. Les juifs, ils tuent en Palestine. Les militaires, ils sont engagés en Afghanistan. Ils peuvent rien dire, c’est de la défense. Je tue les militaires en France parce qu’en Afghanistan, ils tuent mes frères. Je tue des juifs en France, parce que ces mêmes juifs-là… heu tuent des innocents en Palestine. Donc voilà, c’est… J’avais un but précis. Dans mes choix de victimes. »


I would have never killed children if you hadn’t been killing our kids. I killed Jewish kids because my little Muslim brothers and sisters are getting killed. So, I knew that if I killed soldiers and Jews, the message would come across. Because if Ihad killed civilians, the French people would say, here is a madman from Al Qaeda, just a terrorist, he kills civilians. Even If I do have the right to do it, the message is different. Here I killed soldiers and Jews. The Jews they kill in Palestine, the soldiers kill in Afghanistan. No one can say anything. I kill the soldiers in France because in Afghanistan they kill my brothers. I kill Jews in France, because the same Jews kill innocent people in Palestine. So, I had a precise aim in choosing my victims.

  1. Pointing of the roles of Victim/Persecutor (Palestinians / Jews)
  2. Identification of the murderer with the victims (my “Palestinian brothers and sisters”
  3. Identification of the murder victims with the persecutor (the murdered children are Jewish and the Jews kill Palestinian children, the Jewish children are thus identified to the persecutors)

The logic of this discourse can be analyzed as follows:

4. Absence of responsibility for the murderers: “I would have never killed children if…”. The Jews are responsible for these murders. Here is the process of inversion: the victims are responsible for what happened to them.

This speech is laden with preconceptions that are felt to be true (“to kill the Jews because they kill in Palestine”, is repeated throughout the interview). It echoes the content of the biased and hyperbolic narrative offered by the media and by many intellectuals. It is actually an implicit reference to these discourses.

As we have shown, the topic of innocent Palestinian children killed by cruel Israelis has been a mainstay of the media treatment of the topic since 2000. Here are two examples, one from the national daily Le Figaro 2014 and one taken from a supposedly alternative media with left-leaning readership.


« Quelque 400 enfants, dont plus de 70 % avaient moins de 13 ans, ont été tués dans l’offensive israélienne à Gaza, a annoncé aujourd’hui la chef du bureau de l’Unicef à Gaza, soulignant que ces enfants affronteraient un futur « extraordinairement sombre ».


« Some 400 children, 70% of which were less than 13 years old, were killed during the Israeli offensive in Gaza” stated the chief of the UNICEF office in Gaza, suggesting that those kids would have to deal with a dark future”


Title: Israel (sic!) kills a Palestinian child every three days in general indifference.

« De plus, le meurtre et les blessures d’enfants palestiniens par des tireurs d’élite israéliens au Grand retour traduisent une volonté de mutilation directe de la génération capable de poursuivre la lutte anticoloniale ».


« The murder and the wounding of the Palestinians by Israeli snipers during the “Great March of return” are a clear expression of the will to mutilate the generation capable to pursue the anticolonial struggle”.

The fact that Hamas uses children as human shield, that these children are also trained and prepared to die as “martyrs” by the ideologists of this movement is never mentioned by the media despite the easily accessible information coming from Palestinian sources in Arabic, in English and in French[lxvii]. This information was given publicly by Mahmoud Abbas advisor on April 6 and April 27, 2017[lxviii] and broadcast on the Palestinian TV. Apparently, AFP preferred the official Hamas sources.


« A Gaza, une famille pleure son bébé, mort asphyxié par du gaz lacrymogène »


« Gaza Family mourns baby dying of tear gas”

The baby was not dead because of the gas, but because it suffered from a heart disease[lxix] Even Hamas government declared this baby couldn’t be counted amongst Israeli victims, but no French media ever published this information.

Two representations are exploited here[lxx]

1. The ancient blood libel picturing Jews as killing Christian children in order to get their blood for the Matza.

2. The extermination of Jewish children by Nazis during World War Two.

Such a narrative bias mixes the age-old blood libel with the role reversal of the Nazi extermination. The perversity of this mechanism lies in the fact that blaming Israelis in fact targets all the Jews in the world. The text from Mediapart clearly attributes intentional murder of Palestinian children to ‘Israel’, i.e. the state and the people, making them all heartless criminals. Israel and the Jews are now embodied by the sickening figure of the Israeli soldier. Those who have read Mein Kampf will recognize the accusation of “criminal heredity” of Jews developed in the Nazi ideology.

The logical construction of such narratives transfers the responsibility for murderous deeds to the victims of the murder and requests empathy for the murderers. This model is at the heart of the mainstream story-telling. We ‘ve mentioned the AFP recommendation to journalists who cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not to use the word “terrorist” when speaking about Palestinians. Working on a quite important French media corpus, we can confirm that recommendation is followed. In no murder of Israelis, the word “terrorist” is used. The word “Palestinian” is only used as a noun or as a prepositive adjective to “man” “woman” or “adolescent”.


The construction of the media narrative is based on very accurate linguistic and discursive work.

1. The loss of semantic precision regarding words describing Jewish history by transforming their initial meaning into something else. One could call that semantic substitution.

The words “Zionism”, “Jewish colonizer”, “Israeli colony” “occupied territories” are used as fixed syntactic groups. Their original meaning has been eliminated. Denotations have been replaced by negative connotations. That is how the making of an anti-Zionist story telling incorporated very ancient stereotypes: murder of innocent children (kids in Gaza), hatred for humankind (the communalism and the loyalty of some French Jews to Israel make them suspicious in the eyes of the post-national “universalists”.)

2. The main discursive and rhetoric procedure is the inversion. It is based on the substitution ideology. The inversion consists in accusing the Zionism is in the name of the Holocaust. The idea is as follows: ‘Jews were singled out as such by Hitler. Before the Holocaust they were individuals living in different European countries. Today they claim to have their own communal life in the State of Israel, and want to be a people, which means that they follow the Hitler paradigm since they identify with Jewishness as defined by Hitler whereas they are just human beings.’ Refusing to be a human being devoid of without any particular national, cultural or historical self-definition they become the enemies of a conception of Human Rights that only recognize individualsand not citizens or nations. Israel thus becomes an obstacle to the establishment of this international order.

          The main interest of these “ideological patterns” spread by the media is to be able to modify the perception of reality by focusing on the weak linguistic and critical awareness of the majority of readers. A language codified by the system of dominant ideas leads to a stereotyped vision of reality, which produces a unilateral point of view. The doxic elements mobilized by these argumentative processes, gradually settle in the common language and in the collective memory, frame the reader’s perception and seem to appear as an alethic evidence. Today we face the results of this common knowledge that was elaborated in the course of centuries, nourished by the conflation of various ideological and political configurations. Several generations of our contemporaries, non-Jewish as well as Jewish, were brought up on this anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli dogma, painstakingly presented as “humanist”, “universal” and “morally founded” by dominant social, political and religious discourse. The only “reality” they know is the one created by the discourses we have briefly presented here. Thus, the continuation of a millennial tradition of antisemitism is assured without interruption. To break with this poisonous conditioning, the whole system of education has to be changed in Europe, and especially in France.

[i]We’ll show that these three concepts are inseparable within the discursive patterns analysed in this text.

[ii]Judeophobia is a term proposed by a prominent French scholar, Pierre-André Taguieff, who gives this concept the following definition “ideologically organized hatred of Jews that presents Jews as a threat (by stigmatizing and slandering them). It can take the form of an anti-Jewish conception of the world functioning as a myth and being accompanied by institutional modes of discrimination or violence going from pogroms to mass extermination”. He explains that the expression” anti-Semitism” refers to the anti-Jewish ideology of the final decades of the XIX century based on racial theories that used to oppose Arians and Semites. The majority of historians of anti-Semitism think that “anti-Semitism” means new forms of hostility towards emancipated Jews (Taguieff, L’antisémitisme, (Paris:Puf, 2015))

[iii]Delmaire Jean-Marie. Vatican II et les juifs. In Le deuxième Concile du Vatican (1959-1965) Actes du colloque organisé par l’École française de Rome en collaboration avec l’Université de Lille III, l’Istituto per le scienzereligiose de Bologne et le Dipartimento di studistoricidelMedioevo e dell’etàcontemporanea de l’Università di Roma-La Sapienza (Rome 28-30 mai 1986) Rome : École Française de Rome, 1989. pp. 577-606. (Publications de l’École française de Rome, 113); accessed on April 10, 2020.

[iv] La nouvelle idéologie dominante. Le post-modernisme, (Paris : Hermann, 2014).

[v] We are aware of methodological difficulties of defining these concepts and the controversies on this subject. To make our reasoning clear, we will follow Taguieff, L’antisionisme: origines, composantes, fonctionnements (Paris: Cahiers de CRIF, 2020, p.98), in the definition of anti-Zionism. It implies a) the opposition to the Zionist project b) the permanent criticism of Israeli policy, c) the denunciation of the world Zionist conspiracy c) the denial of Israel’s right to exist.

[vi]These “ideological” words do not correspond to any known or established reality in Israel. We cannot quote here all the texts that refute these lies because of lack of space. The reader can refer to the Middle East Forum, particularly to (accessed on April, 12, 2020), or to the following statistics, (accessed on March 30, 2020), or to an even more comical document written by Arab students (accessed on April 18, 2020)

[vii]Slezkine, Y. The Jewish century,( Princeton University Press, 2004).

[viii] Wistrich, R., The Left, The Jews and Israel, (Vidal Sassoon International Centre, 2012).

[ix]See Wistrich, R. “The Holocaust inversion of the Left” 2012, 450-454

[x] Wistrich, R. ibid p.454-455 « The Soviet’s Union Permanent Delegate to the UN, N.T. Fedorenko, like the Arab delegates, insisted on hammering away at the similarity between Israel’s policies and those of the German Nazis […] A leading article in Pravda on 17 June 1967 entitled “This is Genocide” made it abundantly clear that branding Israel as a Nazi State was now the official Soviet Communist Party line”.

[xi] see Bensoussan, G. Les Juifs du monde arabe. La question interdite (Paris : Odile Jacob, 2017).

[xii] see Ron Mihai Red Horizons (Regnery publication:1990) First published in 1987, Vladimir Bukovski, Judgement in Moscow: Soviet crimes and Western Complicity (translation of Moskovskij Process, originally published in Russian 1996), Okorokov, A. Sverhsekretnije voiny SSSR –(Top Secret wars of the USSR) (Iauza, Eksmo 2010).

[xiii]See Shmuel Trigano, « La question juive du retour à Paul. La politique de l’Empire » in Controverses, 2006.

[xiv]For a detailed discussion, see Trigano, Sh., Gisel, P., Banon, D. Judaïsme et christianisme, entre affrontement et reconnaissance (Paris :Bayard, 2005).

[xv]See Jewish Quarterly Review “Justin Martyr” by Ben Zion Bosker. New Series, Vol. 64, No. 3 (Jan., 1974), pp. 204-211.

[xvi]Quoted by J. Isaac, Enseignement du mépris, (Paris : Grasset, 1962).

[xvii] See a very documented text of Macina, M. La pierre rejetée par les bâtisseurs. L’«intrication» prophétique des Écritures, Limoges : éditions Tsofim, 2012), especially, chapter 25 (on line

[xviii] accessed April 15, 2020, and accessed April 3, 2020

[xix],115365.php accessed on April 12, 2020.

[xx] our translation


[xxii]Le Monde 20/21 of June 1982.

[xxiii]quoted by Poliakov 1983:163-164.

[xxiv]The Oradour Massacre took place in Oradour-sur -Glane ,whose population (642 persons) was slaughtered by Nazis on 10th of June 1944 by a German Waffen –SS company. The village was completely destroyed. Its name has been a symbol of a Nazi savagery ever since.

[xxv]Zeev Schiff and Ehud Yaari, Israel’s Lebanon war, NY : Simon and Schuster, «Dans l’ombre d’Hobeika”, Paris: Jean Picolec.

[xxvi] See Rafael Israeli Poison: modern manifestations of a blood libel (2002).

[xxvii] Panorama culturel, France-Culture 1/6/83) Quoted by Poliakov 1983.

[xxviii]see Trachtenberg; J. The devil and the Jews, (Yale University Press 1943).

[xxix] Finkielkraut, A. La réprobation d’Israël (Paris : Denoël, 1983).

[xxx] Accessed March 29, 2020.

[xxxi]Taguieff, La nouvelle propagande antijuive (Paris : PUF, 2010),Taguieff, Judéophobie. La dernière vague (Paris : Fayard, 2018).

[xxxii]see Taguieff 2004, Les prêcheurs de la haine (Paris : Mille et une nuit, 2004) and Taguieff 2010 Ibid.

[xxxiii]Wikipedia presents a documented survey of the affair and a consistent bibliography :

[xxxiv] accessed on April 2020 18.

[xxxv]Taguieff, Criminaliser les Juifs, 2020,Trachtenberg, J., The devil and the Jews, 1983, Roger, H. (1966), The Beilis case, Antisemitism and politics in the reign of Nicholas II, 1966, Samuel, M. (1966), L’étrange affaire Beilis, 1966.

[xxxvi]Taguieff, P.A. La nouvelle propagande antijuive (Paris :Puf, 2010).

[xxxvii] accessed March 30, 2020.


[xxxix] and

[xl] While the word incident in English means ‘something that happens, especially something unusual or unpleasant’ Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary ; « An occurrence or event, sometimes comparatively trivial in itself, which precipitates or could precipitate political unrest, open warfare, etc. Also, a particular episode (air-raid, skirmish, etc.) in war; an unpleasant or violent argument, a fracas. » OED). The French « incident » means ‘a minor and unpredictable event without significance’ and is clearly a way to minimize an event.

[xli] « Représailles de Tsahal après le lynchage de deux soldats », 12 octobre 2000, Nouvel Obs,  Accessed February 12, 2020.

[xlii]Dayan, D. « Mentir par les médias », Écrire l’histoire [En ligne], 9 | 2012, mis en ligne le 10 juin 2015, consulté le 13 avril 2020. URL :;; DOI : accessed  April 5, 2020.

[xliii] Controverses, « Gaza : une critique du rapport Goldstone », n°13, March 2010.

[xliv], accessed February 13, 2020.

[xlv] Accessed April 10, 2020.

[xlvi]Dayan, D., Katz, E.  Media Events, the Live broadcasting (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), Charaudeau, P. Les medias et l’information. L’impossible transparence du discours (Bruxelles: de Boeck, 2011).


[xlviii] Accessed April 1, 2020.


[l] Kleiber, G.  « Dénomination et relations dénominatives »,  Langages, 19ᵉ année, n°76, 1984. pp. 77-94.

[li]http://www.menapress.orgmesa/le-coup-du-b-lier-info-012510-14.html Accessed March 25, 2020.

[lii]Compare with Hamas lexical recommendations

[liii] accessed March 12, 2020.

[liv] Kantorovitch, E. Israel/Palestine — The ICC’s Uncharted Territory Journal of International Criminal Justice, Volume 11, Issue 5, December 2013, Pages 979–999,

[lv] Accessed April 15, 2020.


[lvii] Accessed April 2, 2020.


[lix] Accessed April 3, 2020.

[lx] Faurisson, R. Mémoire en défense contre ceux qui m’accusent de falsifier l’histoire, (Paris: La Vieille Taupe, 1980).

[lxi]IlanPappé, Tom Segev, Benny Morris, Avi Shlaïm etc.

[lxii] accessed January 29, 2020.

[lxiii] Morin, E. Sallenave, D. Naïr, S.Le Monde, 4 juin 2002.

[lxiv] See N. Sharansky Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy. 

[lxv] « the right to criticize Israeli policy » has become a catchphrase.


[lxvii] accessed on April 11, 2020. accessed on April 11, 2020.

[lxviii], accessed April 12, 2020

[lxix] accessed March 23, 2020.

[lxx] We refer to the latest work of P.A. Taguieff (2020) Criminaliser les Juifs were the complete historical and ideological analysis offers a consistent explanation of the ideological logic behind all the crimes Jews have been accused for centuries.

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