(JTA) — A French-Jewish journalist ignited controversy by appearing to endorse the actions of a 19th-century French army officer who led the colonization of Algeria.
Eric Zemmour, who has two convictions for inciting hatred of Muslims and is under investigation in a third case, prompted fresh indignation on Wednesday when he said that General Thomas Bugeaud “began massacring Muslims and some Jews” when he arrived in the north African nation in 1836.
“Well I’m today on the side of General Bugeaud,” Zemmour said on a talk show on the CNEWS television station. “That’s being French.”
Following an outcry, Zemmour said on Thursday that he “didn’t support massacres,” but was merely arguing that immigrants to France should identify with their adopted nation and its interests rather than communities in their countries of origin.
In 2011, Zemmour was convicted for saying that most drug dealers in France are black or African. Last month, he was convicted again of inciting racial hatred for saying that Muslims, whose arrival to France he called “an invasion” and a “jihad” aimed at “Islamization,” should be “given a choice between Islam and France.”
Critics said Zemmour should be censored for endorsing Bugeaud’s actions. The news site Ozap reported that Zemmour “justified massacres” and Alain Jakubowicz, president of the LICRA anti-racism group, said Zemmour “dreams about massacring” and should go to a “psychiatric hospital.”
Bugeaud was the first marshal of the French army and quelled several attempts to resist French rule in Algeria.