PARIS (Nov. 24)
A year of intense pressure from Jewish organizations has come to naught after France’s public broadcasting authority said it would allow Hezbollah’s television station to continue transmitting. In a move slammed by Jewish groups, the CSA public broadcasting authority rejected an Interior Ministry recommendation that Al-Manar’s transmissions be “immediately terminated,” issuing Al-Manar a new licence on Nov. 19.
Because the station is broadcast across Europe through the French-owned Eutelstat satellite network, the decision effectively allows Al-Manar to continue transmitting throughout the 25-state European Union.
Jewish groups began protesting the channel following the transmission of the virulently anti-Semitic Syrian-made series “Al-Shatat,” or “Diaspora,” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in October 2003.
Based on the notorious czarist-era forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the series depicted Jews planning world domination and presented violent scenes in which a Christian child is murdered on a rabbi’s orders so his blood can be used to make matzot.
Jewish leaders showed the film to a top-level Cabinet committee late last year, evoking a strong reaction from Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
Addressing the annual dinner of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jews in January, Raffarin promised to bring new legislation enabling the CSA to revoke the licences of channels that could prove a danger to public order, describing the Syrian series as “unbearable to the eye, scorching to the heart and revolting to reason.”
The legislation already has been effective in one instance, when the CSA refused to licence a Kurdish channel linked to the PKK terrorist group.
However, the CSA said this week that it had received assurances from Al-Manar that the channel would cease broadcasting hate material, and therefore could be licenced.
Jewish groups immediately denounced the decision, with CRIF saying it was “scandalized.”
In a letter to CSA Chairman Dominique Baudis, CRIF President Roger Cukierman accused the broadcasting authority of bowing to pressure from Arab states.
“There is such incoherence in this decision that it appears to me that it can only be explained by CSA submission to pressure from countries which sponsor the Hezbollah; Lebanon which hosts it, Syria, the occupying power, and Iran, which finances and arms Hezbollah,” Cukierman wrote.
American Jewish organizations also joined in the fray.
In a letter Tuesday to French President Jacques Chirac, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said the decision “undermines the significant progress that the government of France made last year to combat the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel environment that exists in some sectors of French society.”
Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of government and international affairs, protested the decision in a private meeting in Paris with government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope.
“Al-Manar is a fountain of hatred against Jews, Israel, America and other Western societies spilling over the airwaves, and it should not be allowed to use France as a vehicle for spreading its message of hate across Europe,” Isaacson said, according to an AJCommittee statement issued after the meeting.
The widespread criticism of the decision apparently has failed to moderate Al-Manar, which remained as verbose as ever.
Reacting to the new agreement with the CSA, a spokesman for Al-Manar said it now had “regularized relations between the two parties and caused the failure of efforts by Israel and the Zionist lobby to stop the transmission of this Arab channel in France and throughout Europe.”
But CSA chairman Baudis warned that the new licencing agreement was not a blank check.
Referring to offensive material put out in the past by Al-Manar, Baudis said the channels’s “signature of this license implies, therefore, that you will formally renounce the broadcast of programs of this nature on the satellite, which comes under French law.”
Whether that actually happens remains to be seen.
At peak viewing time Tuesday evening, the channel broadcast its weekly game show, “The Mission,” with the winner given the honor of symbolically entering Jerusalem to liberate it from the Zionists.