Le Monde editor "defamed Jews"

PARIS: A French appeal court has found the Editor-in-Chief of Le Monde and the authors of an opinion piece in the paper guilty of ``racial defamation'' against Israel and the Jewish people. In a ruling greeted with applause by Jewish groups and some alarm by media lawyers, the court ordered Jean-Marie Colombani and the three writers to pay a symbolic one euro in damages to the France-Israel Association and to Lawyers Without Borders. The two groups had alleged that the June 2002 article, headed Israel-Palestine: the Cancer, contained comments that ``targeted a whole nation, or a religious group in its quasi-globality'', and constituted racial defamation. The offence was exacerbated, the groups said, by a ``semantic slip'' from the phrase ``the Jews of Israel'' to ``Jews in general"; in other words, it referred to ``the Jews'' when it meant ``certain Israelis''. France, which has the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in western Europe, has seen tensions rise in recent years in parallel with the increase in violence in West Asia. The French media are routinely accused of pro-Palestinian bias. Mr. Colombani and the authors of the article — Edgar Morin, a sociologist; Daniele Sallenave, a writer and lecturer; and a French MEP, Sami Nair — argued that the extracts had been taken out of context from ``a lengthy and more balanced piece'' that ``did not undermine or attack the fundamental values of democratic societies''. But the appeals court overturned a lower court ruling. —

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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