Media bias in France

08.22.03

Speaking of the French, the coverage of the cease-fire collapse in the Mideast according to Le Monde is very telling in explaining France’s attitudes towards Israel.

The entire article only mentions the suicide bombing that killed 20 and injured over 80, once – and in the sixth paragraph, in a single sentence (without any mention of the children killed and wounded). The focus was on Israel’s “odious crime” (the article quotes Mahmoud Abbas in a sub-header) in its assassination of Ismail Abou Chanab, the Hamas terrorist responsible for the attack. The article presents Abu Chanab in a sympathetic light, as though it was an obituary, and clearly points the finger at Israel for “only giving the Palestinian Authority 24 hours” to react to terrorism before sending in the IDF. As if 36 hours would have made any difference . . . or 48 hours . . . or a week or a year, for that matter:

Mahmoud Abbas, le premier ministre palestinien, a été informé de l’assassinat d’Ismail Abou Chanab alors qu’il était en discussion avec John Wolf, l’émissaire américain chargé de la mise en application de la “feuille de route”, le plan de paix international, qui venait de rentrer précipitamment de Washington en raison de la tournure prise par les évènements. “C’est un crime odieux qui sape nos plans d’action contre les activistes palestiniens”, a regretté Mahmoud Abbas.

La veille, son gouvernement avait décidé de contrer le Hamas et le Djihad islamique, après l’attentat meurtrier de Jérusalem, mardi 19 août, qui a causé la mort de vingt personnes, blessant une centaine d’autres. Il restait à mettre au point certaines finalités en accord avec Yasser Arafat. Comme le dit un responsable palestinien, “le gouvernement de Sharon ne nous a même pas laissé 24 heures pour prouver le sérieux de nos intentions. Il a saboté nos plans et rendu un très mauvais service à Abou Mazen”, le surnom de Mahmoud Abbas. Et cela d’autant plus qu’Ismail Abou Chanab avait été l’un des interlocuteurs privilégiés du premier ministre lorsqu’il s’était agi d’instaurer la trève.

Abbas “decided to act against terrorism”??? Yet another example of Le Monde parroting Palestinian propaganda as fact, without bothering to provide any context whatsoever. No wonder the French hate Israel, if they believe articles like this one.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Paul Jané 08.22.03 at 9:07 PM

You know, if you want to play Devil’s advocate here, theoretically, Le Monde is correct.

It just fails to point out that there’s a massive difference between “deciding” to act against terrorism, and actually “acting” against it.

It’s all about semantics, I suppose…

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2 segacs 08.22.03 at 9:55 PM

That’s if you believe that the PA actually ever “decided” to act against terrorism. Which they did not, despite what they tell the media.

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3 Paul Jané 08.22.03 at 11:56 PM

Oh, absolutely, it’s most likely a crock, but, then again, maybe that Abu Mazen idiot is a serial waffler…

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4 Hanthala 08.23.03 at 3:01 AM

Ah well, we have Le Monde, you have The Gazette. Quit whining. (And at least Le Monde publishes the likes of Norman Schecter for balance once in a while).

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5 Nanook 08.23.03 at 11:36 PM

Le Monde is a pretty influential newspaper — on the world stage, its influence is better compared to the New York Times than to the Gazette, I should think. Who’s this Norman Schecter character, though?

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6 Hanthala 08.24.03 at 3:05 AM

Oh, sorry. For some reason I read that as Le Devoir not Le Monde and took the “French” as meaning French Canadians. Rather silly, but since people on this site often go around saying “the Arabs” instead of “the Palestinians,” I assumed it would be the same for other disliked groups.

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7 Nanook 08.25.03 at 12:10 AM

What, you dislike the French now, too 😉 ?

(Seriously, though: I don’t see people on the site mistaking Palestinians for all Arabs; I don’t believe that Segacs or her various annotators have it in for the citizens of France — I certainly don’t — and if there’s one thing my French-Canadian and French friends agree on, it’s their deep ire when folks blur their ethnic backgrounds.)

More the point, if your comments about Le Monde were really intended about Le Devoir: I can’t speak for others, but I’ve found the Devoir’s Middle East coverage to be well-intentioned and generally balanced, if as spotty as any tiny newspaper with virtually no foreign correspondents is going to have to be. On international issues, and despite the editorialists needing to rely only on their perusal of French- and English-language media because of not actually being there, their editorials have often put larger newspapers to shame — thoughtful, nuanced, and well-researched.

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8 Jake Walsh Morrissey 08.25.03 at 2:54 AM

There is a reason that I was given dirty looks reading Le Monde in Calvi (other than the Corsicans’ obvious dislike of the French): Le Monde is the mouthpiece of the French pseudo-intelligentsia. It is the expression of the side of France that much of the world seems to have a problem with. That said, it is not all bad all of the time… Hell, at least they didn’t interview Samer Elatrash!

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9 Hanthala 08.25.03 at 5:59 PM

I agree Nanook that Le Devoir is balanced in general (at least more so than The Gazette). But since that means that it runs scathing articles about the occupation, that also means that the pro-Israel/zionist/anti-Palestinian/whatever you want to label it camp has cried out that it is “antisemitic.” (I spell that right for you Segacs?!)

About the French-Canadians. Following the B’nai Brith/CJC (now overtaken by the B’nai Brith anti-Arab camp)/CIC etc. rhetoric over the last few years has lead me to conclude that they are gradually trying to introduce the old “French-Canadians are more anti-semitic than Anglo-Canadians” line in order to then explain away the greater support for Palestinians in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada. Its not totally new, but its taken more precedence recently, beginning with the Global propaganda piece on Concordia. Its also total bullshit.

About “the Arabs.” To be fair, its not only the pro-Israel camp on this site that use this racist language but also some media.

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10 Nanook 08.25.03 at 10:46 PM

Hanthala, I’m a subscribed Devoir reader, and I have to disagree with you.

It simply isn’t true that the “camp” you identify — or anyone, unless it’s been kept very secret — is vilifying the Devoir for Middle East coverage they feel antisemitic. What accusations there have been are linked to Le Devoir’s past when it was, well, an antisemitic newspaper under the French-Catholic nationalist elite, both under André Laurendeau and others. Very rarely, rather stupid letters to the editor and op-eds make it through to the paper, but I think it’s generally understood that those are more letters from the grave (ie from Quebec nationalism’s greying racist fringe) than anything else, and they usually provoke a prompt raft of angry rebuttals from French-Canadian Québécois.

To be frank, the Devoir doesn’t really register in a big way on most Jews’ reading lists. It’s sort of a local community newspaper for the Quebecois elite (Outremont, Quebec City, various Quebec Inc. leaders, and a surprisingly healthy chunk of the university professorship). To the extent that there has been any Devoir controversy regarding the Middle East at all in recent memory, it’s mostly been confined to a particularly weird exchange on the op-ed (here, readers’ submissions) pages.

As to whether francophone Canadians an, separately, Quebeckers’ marginally higher support for Palestinians makes French-Canadians (the majority of whom are francophone and are Québécois) antisemitic — that seems like a silly argument. If someone were making it, well, I’d be among many Jews to raise their eyebrows. It has much more to do with French-Quebec’s closer ties to the Europe-dominated French-language press (Le Monde being, as it happens, the most prestigious of them) rather than the U.S.-dominated English-language press.

That said, a more marked distinction that separates francophones on the Israel-Palestine issue from anglophones, or Québécois from other Canadians, is that of not caring. Anglophones were much likelier than francophones to “support” Israelis, and yet the reverse was only barely true for francophones. Instead, they overwhelmingly said “neither”, in numbers of 57.6% for francophones (against 43%), and 54.5% for Québécois (against 45.6% for Canada as a whole). The PDF is here.

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11 Hanthala 08.26.03 at 11:40 PM

Nanook,

You read Le Devoir and missed Schecter’s piece? He was calling, well, almost everyone an antisemite. And yeah, the op-eds and letters from “Quebec nationalism’s greying racist fringe” are more than a little scary but Canada’s got its associations of racist anglos as well. (I love your expression…but have you heard of the MNLQ-Mouvement National de Liberation du Quebec? They fly the patriot flag–orange, white, green with a gun-toting soldier–and they are young, racist, anti-immigration, anti-abortion (killing off the “white, French-speaking, Quebecois “race”), antisemitic, patriarchal, etc. etc. Check out their site at:

http://www.mlnq.net/

especially their manifesto and their links page.

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12 Nanook 08.27.03 at 2:08 AM

Not all of Villeneuve’s accolytes are old, but I doubt they’d be channelling in that particular direction if folks like him weren’t still around. It’s a truism to say that there are zero of anything anywhere, but I don’t really see that type of people as much more of a movement here than anywhere else in Canada, or elsewhere for that matter. So if the question is whether Quebeckers are unusually racist — I think it was — no, the MLNQ doesn’t really make them so.

As to Stephen Schecter and so on, same answer, kind of: it’s not that there aren’t any letters to the editor or op ed pieces at all ever, but it’s just not a very big deal. He may have written a letter to the editor, and a few kneejerk responses predictably followed, but that doesn’t a trend make imho.

More to the point, it clearly had a lot more to do with the UQAM incident than anything else, which seems to have radicalised Schecter more than a little bit. And — while I really don’t want to get into it, and in any case haven’t talked to enough people who were there to have formed a strong opinion — anyone who thinks that that that whole thing at UQAM couldn’t have been about anything but the Arab-Israeli conflict hasn’t taken very many courses at UQAM.

(I took a couple there on Quebec nationalism, among other things, while an undergraduate. Both interesting experiences, and I enjoyed them, but very different than chit-chatting with nationalists about the same issues. Friends who graduated from UQAM felt the same way.)

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13 Sharon 08.31.03 at 12:26 AM

The French certainly don’t hate Israel because of what they read in the newspapers.

They hate Israel and the Jews for the same reason all of Europe does — they are Catholic countries.

Read the New Testament (I use that term loosely, of course) and the Catechism. It’s all in there.

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14 Nanook 09.01.03 at 6:48 PM

We were talking about Quebec, not France. Different place.

You’re right that the Catholics have taught a lot of antisemitism over the years; that’s where a lot of it in Quebec — and other Catholic places — comes from. For us here in the province of Quebec, the birth of modern Quebec nationalism out of Catholic Quebec nationalism, and the modern-day newspaper Le Devoir’s historic linkage to the Catholic elites, means that there are a lot of challenges, for example.

But I don’t think you’re right that the antisemitism can simply be obtained straight out of the New Testament. Religious writings have lots of interpretations. The Christians made the choice to pay a lot of attention to the antisemitic parts, to actively and aggressively pump up the antisemitism of their Bible, and to promulgate it all over the place. That doesn’t mean that they have to, though, and today there are many parts of the institutional Christian world that do not — in fact, that speak against it. Not enough, necessarily, but they provide an example of what is possible under Christianity. The fact that the main opposition to Mel Gibson’s movie has come from Christian groups, for instance.

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