The latest ‘Dreyfus affair?’

First the al-Dura affair, now a to-do about the firing of a French columnist for his purported anti-Semitic rantings. The French media has been filled with self-examination this summer, much of it related to Jewish affairs.

In the al-Dura affair, the French press questioned its role after a court ruled in favor of a media watchdog who had challenged the authenticity of a French TV broadcast of an alleged Israeli shooting of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy.

Now, a French columnist has become the new cause celebre after he was fired for a series of writings that started with an offensive piece about Nicolas Sarkozy’s son’s engagement to a Jewish heiress.

NYTimes columnist Roger Cohen says the issue could be shaping up to be another Dreyfus Affair, which has become the code word to describe a Jew being unjustly accused of something.

Here’s how Cohen describes it:

It’s not quite the Dreyfus Affair, at least not yet. But France is divided again over power and the Jews.

While the United States has been debating The New Yorker’s caricature of Barack Obama as a Muslim, France has gone off the deep end over a brief item in the country’s leading satirical magazine portraying the relationship between President Nicolas Sarkozy’s fast-rising son, Jean, and his Jewish fiancée.

The offending piece in Charlie Hebdo, a pillar of the left-libertarian media establishment, was penned last month by a 79-year-old columnist-cartoonist who goes by the name of Bob Siné. He described the plans — since denied — of Jean Sarkozy, 21, to convert to Judaism before marrying Jessica Sebaoun-Darty, an heiress to the fortune of the Darty electrical goods retailing chain.

“He’ll go far in life, this little fellow!” Siné wrote of Sarkozy Jr.

He added, in a separate item on whether Muslims should abandon their traditions, that: “Honestly, between a Muslim in a chador and a shaved Jewess, my choice is made!”

Elie Wiesel and Bernard-Henri Lévy have weighed in on the case, which appears to be reverberating across Europe.

Cohen comes out staunchly against Sine’s firing, opting for free speech over martyrdom. Read his whole column.

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