Sarkozy’s son in ‘antisemitic’ satire

By Shirli Sitbon, August 7, 2008
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The son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been plunged into the centre of a national controversy after he was attacked by a satirist for planning to marry a Jewish woman.

In his article, cartoonist Siné mocked the political agenda of Jean Sarkozy, and implied the young man had decided to wed a Jew and convert to Judaism in order to push forward his career.

"Jean Sarkozy, natural son of his father and already councillor within his party, who was discharged at court in a hit-and-run accident with his motorbike, has left the court room under applause," he wrote.

"The prosecutor requested his discharge. Well, one must stress the plaintiff was an Arab! And that's not all: he just announced he will convert to Judaism before marrying his fiancée, a Jew, and heiress of the founders of the Darty stores. This boy has some future," continued Siné in the July 9 issue of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper, a page which it seems had not been passed to the editor for review.

The affair may have gone unnoticed in a newspaper renowned for its jibes, but journalist Claude Askolovitch denounced it as antisemitic and the newspaper's manager Philippe Val admitted the article was offensive and requested an official printed excuse from the satirist.

But the latter refused. "Saying I'm sorry to Sarkozy and Darty? I might as well cut off my balls," he replied, before being fired by Mr Val.

And the cartoonist got support from various public figures who argued he had the right to express himself. Some 3,000 people signed a petition in favour of Siné, arguing that the manager had displayed double standards, because Charlie Hebdo is famous for its satirical stance.

The newspaper had published the Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammad and was sued for doing so by various Muslim associations. Mr Val pleaded for hours in court in favour of the controversial drawings.
But Mr Val said "criticising religion, any religion, is not the same as criticising someone for what they are". 

"That is an unspoken rule at Charlie Hebdo," he wrote in a column after the recent controversy. He added that Jean Sarkozy's conversion to Judaism was a mere rumour.

French newspapers have been divided on the issue but most of them criticised Siné and pointed out that he had, in the past, been condemned for allegedly antisemitic remarks.

Those who defended the cartoonist counter that he was fired for his far-left, pro-Palestinian political views and that his latest article was merely an excuse. They accuse Mr Val of harassing his employees and defending a pro-Israeli position.

The Jewish umbrella group CRIF issued a press release in support of Mr Val, saying that the controversy had turned into a hate campaign against the editor.

Intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy said that people were focusing on Mr Val's decision to fire the cartoonist, instead of trying to understand why Siné's remarks were antisemitic.

    Last updated: 11:12am, August 7 2008

    COMMENTS

    Hotfish1

    Fri, 08/08/2008 - 15:14

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    This story firsrt surfaced in "Charlie Hebdo" in June. Why has it taken the JC so long to report it?