The president of France’s main umbrella body for Jewish institutions, CRIF, has apologized for disseminating a false report that Israeli film director Yariv Horowitz was “lynched” in what was widely claimed to be an anti-Semitic attack by “Arabs” on 21 March.
CRIF president Richard Prasquier said his organization should never have published the report and called on Horowitz to offer an apology and explanation. Prasquier said such false reports would only help generate anti-Semitism.
The Electronic Intifada’s reporting on the affair has been instrumental in unraveling the false claims from Israeli media, some Jewish communal publications and from Horowitz himself about the incident involving the director after his film Rock the Casbah was screened at the Aubagne International Film Festival in southern France where it won a jury prize for best picture.
The Electronic Intifada also wrote to CRIF on 30 March with its findings, urging the group to investigate the case and to refrain from publishing false information.
CRIF president Richard Prasquier issued the following statement in French on his organization’s website today:
The Aubagne attack: false news
In an press review published on Friday, 29 March 2013, the CRIF newsletter stated that the Israeli director Yariv Horowitz, present at the Aubagne International Film Festival with his feature film Rock the Casbah, had been “attacked and beaten by a group of individuals” who “threw him to the ground and kicked him.”
The information was also reported by numerous other Israeli publications and first published on 28 March 2013 by the journalist Nirit Anderman in the newspaper Haaretz. The interview with the director, therefore, took place one week after the event, after Yariv Horowitz had returned to Israel: the interview was motivated by the fact that his film won a prize at the festival.”
The headline in Haaretz was unequivocal: “An Israeli director attacked by young Arabs in France.” In his interview Horowitz stated that while walking out in the evening with the composer of his film’s score, they were insulted by a group of young people, to which he responded, and then he received a blow to the head that caused him to briefly lose consciousness. In the article, the journalist wrote that Horowitz stated that the attackers were evidently Arabs and that they were drunk. Notably, the insults that the Israeli director reported had no anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli connotation.
CRIF transmitted the information taking on faith the articles in the Israeli press, without claiming that it was an anti-Semitic attack, nor mentioning that the attackers were “Arabs.” We should certainly not have used the term “lynching,” even if it had been used by others elsewhere.
But above all, we should actually have written nothing at all, because the news was false.
It was, according to consistent testimonies, an altercation among young people walking in the street in the evening: stares, insults, temper, followed by a violent blow, but fortunately not serious. There was no police complaint; Horowitz, in tip-top condition, made no reference to the incident two days later when he received his prize, and it was not until after his return to Israel that the controversy was launched.
This raises several questions that are not insignificant: did the director really say what he said? Should not the journalists (Haaretz in particular) have done more to verify a testimony founded on the impressions of a single person before publication? And finally, did this testimony not receive all this publicity precisely because it bolsters the common sentiment in Israel that anti-Semitism is rife all over France and a Jew is at risk the moment he sets foot on the street?
If yes, then this is a typical case of what the Americans call “self-fulfilling prophecy” because such false reports cannot but generate anti-Semitism in response.
Mr. Horowitz may perhaps want to offer an apology, or at least an explanation, when he comes to the Festival of Israeli Cinema in Paris. We advise him to do so. As for us, we offer our apologies here to the readers of the CRIF newsletter.
President of CRIF
Zionism versus Jews in France
I have two comments. First, in response to Prasquier’s question of whether Horowitz really said what was quoted in Haaretz. I believe he did, because Horowitz gave similarly lurid accounts (though with multiple telling inconsistencies) to several Israeli publications.
But more important, CRIF’s statement today is a necessary and welcome step to begin to repair the damage and defamation done by this false, inflammatory and widely disseminated report whose only effect will have been to increase hatred and suspicion, especially targeting Muslims and people of Arab ancestry in France, at a time when all efforts should be made to combat racism and discrimination of any kind.
The statement by CRIF, which is also the most prominent pro-Israel lobby group in France, is also a timely reminder that the actual interests of France’s Jewish community in remaining and being understood as fully integrated citizens of their country at peace with all other French communities clash jarringly with the priorities of Israel.
While Prasquier rightly criticizes exaggerated fears about the safety of Jews in France, it is the habitual tactic of many Zionist advocates and Israeli officials to claim that Jews are hated and in grave danger everywhere in the hope that they will be provoked to flee their homelands in fear and relocate to Israel.