French news chief resigns over anti-Semitic remarks
20 october 2004 | 13:38
By MICHEL ZLOTOWSKI
PARIS The news director of the state-run radio network Radio France Internationale (RFI) resigned on Monday after he was accused of making anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist statements in the promotion of his new book on Israel's separation fence.
Alain Menargues, speaking last week on Radio Courtoisie, an extreme right-wing Catholic radio station, said, "I was very shocked by the wall. Read Leviticus in the Torah. What is it about? Separation between pure and impure. To pray, a Jew must be pure and whatever comes in the way of this purity must be separated. Where was the first ghetto? It was in Venice. And who built it? It was the Jews themselves in order to be separated from the rest. After that, Europe put them in ghettos," he said.
Menargues, who has written several books on the Middle East, has been doing interviews to publicize his latest book, Le Mur de Sharon (Sharon's Wall).
Following the broadcast, the journalists' union of RFI, the French equivalent of the BBC world service, issued a statement reading: "We protest with indignation and we reject Alain Menargues's remarks on Jews and the State of Israel. It is now up to the president of RFI, Antoine Schwarz, to draw conclusions and take the appropriate measures."
RFI's spokesman announced on Monday that Menargues had submitted his resignation as news director.
The resignation followed another controversial statement by Menargues on September 30. Speaking on LCI, a French cable television network, Menargues said, "You say Israel is a democratic state? Let me also say Israel is a racist state".
The RFI journalist union immediately condemned the statements: "Alain Menargues, the author, has every right to state that Israel is a racist state. However, Menargues is head of news at RFI and was presented as such on LCI. He thus expressed his opinion on behalf of our station. This is unacceptable."
CRIF, the umbrella organization representing French Jewry, raised the issue at the time with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
The Foreign Ministry's spokesman said in response that Menargues's statements were "unacceptable." The management of RFI did not comment on the incident.
"Once again, the associations protecting or defending Israel are getting confused. They are presenting [criticism of] Zionist political law as being anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic," Menargues said last week.
Menargues spent over 12 years in Beirut as a correspondent for Radio France. He subsequently became director of France Bleu, a state-run radio network for senior citizens. He was appointed head of news at RFI last July.
France's Foreign ministry provides 55 percent of the annual budget for RFI. The network claims to have 45 million listeners around the world.
RFI President Antoine Schwarz said Menargues will stay with the station in a position to be announced in the near future.