Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Journalist discovers JDL elephant in the room

Jewish Journalist Frederic Haziza dropped a bomb last week when publishing an opinion editorial in national newspaper Liberation demanding the dismantling of the French Jewish defence league, a small group affiliated to far-right ideology and claiming to protect ‘Jewish interests’.

So far widely ignored by community officials, the French JDL has raised the ire of the ‘organised community’ recently when it sabotaged an event organised by the Jewish umbrella group CRIF in the honour of Israeli president Shimon Peres, during his state visit in France.
While M.Peres was addressing the community, in the presence of French national officials, a dozen militants interrupted his speech by shouting repeatedly “traitor” at the Israeli president. M.Peres responded promptly, but the CRIF condemned the sabotage in a press release, calling the militants ‘thugs’.

“The next day, several CRIF officials examined whether the French JDL could be dismantled.” Frederic Haziza, the Jewish radio’s political editor, told me. “It is intolerable that these extremists sabotage such an event, give a bad name to the community with their racist ideology and accuse Shimon Peres of being a traitor. These are the same words as the ones shouted against Isaac Rabin before his murder,” added Frederic Haziza. “The president of CRIF Richard Prasquier congratulated me for my editorial as well as the Israeli ambassador Daniel Shek.”

However CRIF is far from unanimous. It has never requested officially a ban of the JDL, saying it respects the militants’ liberty of speech, and according to JDL and CRIF sources the militants have occasionally assisted the umbrella organisation in the battle against anti-Semitism.
“JDL militants have occasionally informed us on anti-Semitic groups which they have been watching, or on racist internet sites,” said Samy Ghozlan, the head of the Vigilance Bureau against anti-Semitism.

“They have never worked with our community security services officially, but certain CRIF leaders did meet with JDL militants in the past,” a CRIF official confirmed.
Blackmail against the 'organised community'
A JDL leader who presents himself as ‘Michael Carlisle’ told me that the CRIF was now seeking to have them dismantled, but said his group would pressure CRIF to abandon its plan.
“We recorded some conversations that we have had with CRIF officials in which they express their support to our activities. If CRIF decides to denounce us we will release the tapes,” said Carlisle.
JDL, which claims up to 200 members, has been accused of a series of assaults, mainly against anti-Israeli and revisionist figures or in demonstrations, but it denies any implication in the incidents.

“Whenever there is an incident involving Jews, the JDL is accused, without any evidence proving its implication,” said Michel Zerbib the editor in chief of the Jewish Radio J, which has distanced itself from Frederic Haziza’s call against the JDL. “They have never been condemned and they have denounced several assaults which they have been accused of.”
“The JDL is small and not organised. It is insignificant, inoffensive,” judged Samy Ghozlan. “Its dismantling wouldn’t change anything for the Jewish community.”
A JDL supporter who sent two threat letters to Frederic Haziza has been heard by the police during the week after the journalist filed a complaint.

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