Updates on Russian righteous gentile and on Oriana Fallaci

July 01, 2002

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach updates on two previous items I sent out (1) on May 28, "Russian woman severely wounded in explosion while removing sign reading 'Death to Jews'" and (2) in the dispatch "Oriana Fallaci, Ron Rosenbaum, speak out on anti-Semitism" (April 19, 2002). Oriana Fallaci's Zola-esque diatribe against European and Arab anti-Semitism which was originally published in the Italian magazine Panorama.

Please note that the (non-Jewish) Russian woman has been flown to Israel, where she is being provided expert medical treatment for her injuries, paid for by the Israeli government and private charities.

Oriana Fallaci (who is also not Jewish) has had legal proceedings launched against her in France, on the charge that she incited racial hatred against Muslims. She could face up to a year imprisonment. The article below, an opinion piece from the National Review, defends Fallaci. The writer says that it appears that the French anti-racism group behind the legal action "is more concerned with a few derisive remarks about Islam than with on-going violence against French and Israeli Jews".

-- Tom Gross



Putin awards woman injured by anti-Semitic bomb
June 27, 2002

President Vladimir Putin on Friday awarded the Russian Order of Courage to a woman who was badly injured when she tried to remove a booby-trapped anti-Semitic sign, the presidential press service said.

Tatyana Sapunova, 28, suffered burns and eye injuries last month when she tried to pull down a sign reading "Death to Jews" that was placed alongside a highway outside Moscow. The sign was rigged with explosives.

Sapunova, who is being treated for her wounds in Israel, was given the award "for courage and selflessness in fulfilling her civic duty," according to the award decree.

Since the May 27 incident, several copycat signs with dummy packages resembling explosives have been found on Russian roads.



Fallaci's fight
France, where speech can be criminal
By Rachel Zabarkes
National Review Online
June 26, 2002


Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci made a name for herself with her fierce, uncompromising interviews of some of the world's leading newsmakers. Fallaci retreated from public life after September 11, but has recently returned to the spotlight with a new book and a brilliant, Zola-esque diatribe against European and Arab anti-Semitism. The essay, which appeared on April 12 in Italy's Corriere della Sera, paints a picture of a supposedly liberal Europe caught in contradiction. Fallaci's is a sharp, impassioned critique of the hypocrisy and recklessness of Palestinian leadership, of the pro-terror apologetics of the European intelligentsia, and to some extent of herself, for once falling into their traps.

How unfortunate, then, that the French human-rights group Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between People (MRAP) whose website lists Zola as one of its intellectual founders seek to block the distribution of Fallaci's new book in France. MRAP claims that the book, Anger and Pride, incites racial hatred against Muslims, and has begun legal proceedings against its author. In the offending passages, Fallaci remarks that the children of Allah "multiply like rats" and "spend their time with their bottoms in the air, praying five times a day."

Even more unfortunate, though, is that the group could succeed. "Racism," including so-called "hate speech," is a criminal offense in France, and according to current sensitivity standards, Fallaci's remarks may make the grade.

Under a 1972 law, individuals may be fined and imprisoned for up to a year for inciting racial hatred. Though the law also covers discrimination in employment practices and group-membership selection, most of the roughly 100 people convicted of racist offenses each year are found guilty of racial slurs or defamation.

MRAP has lobbied for such legislation since its founding in 1949, and in recent years the group has been behind some prominent racism cases. In 1996 and again in 1997, MRAP filed charges against actress and animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot, who twice criticized Muslim ritual slaughter in France's daily Le Figaro. Bardot was ultimately convicted of the offense and fined 10,000 francs for her transgression. MRAP also filed charges against Yahoo! in 2000, for auctioning Third Reich memorabilia over the Internet.

That same year, in a vain but representative allegation, the group branded 40 French mayors racists for protesting a gathering of tens of thousands of gypsies in northeastern France. The mayors maintained that they merely wanted to protect their cities from the vandalism and theft that had accompanied the gathering in previous years. MRAP claimed their protest was racist because they would not have greeted "an influx of tourists" with so little hospitality.

Yet while MRAP spends its time protecting the sensibilities of France's Muslim and "traveling" minorities, real-life violence against another French minority, the Jews, has been a serious problem for some time. The Anti-Defamation League reports over 400 anti-Semitic incidents in France in recent months, including the burning and vandalism of synagogues and Jewish schools, and physical assaults on individual Jews. So what has MRAP been doing about this?

The group has of course issued the occasional and requisite condemnation of anti-Semitism. Yet for every such statement made since January 2002, MRAP has issued almost double the number of press releases condemning Israel's "provocations" and "war crimes" in "Palestine."

This is precisely the kind of disproportion Fallaci's essay assails. It appears MRAP is more concerned with a few derisive remarks about Islam than with on-going violence against French and Israeli Jews. Fallaci's comments, though earning her the title of "Islamophobe" among French, are almost complimentary compared to the anti-Semitic venom spreading throughout the Arab world. And it is the latter, not the former, that is the stuff of true incitement. Demonstrators at pro-Palestinian rallies in France chant slogans like "Hitler was right," and "In Paris as in Gaza -Intifada!" Most of the attacks against France's Jews have been perpetrated by Muslim immigrants.

Fallaci's essay also points a finger at the French government, for its unabashed hostility towards Israel and sympathy for Palestinian terrorists. After Sept. 11, French ambassador to Israel Jacques Huntzinger made a point of saying that, unlike their al Qaeda colleagues, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists carry out their murderous acts for an understandable reason. Just a few days earlier, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine had compared U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to that of Pontius Pilate vis vis Christ: Americans were attempting to crucify Palestinians under Jewish pressure. Vedrine was hardly troubled in December of last year when his colleague Daniel Bernard, France's Ambassador to England, called Israel a "sh***y little country" and accused the Jews of endangering world peace. It's tough to take the notion of "hate speech" seriously when remarks like Fallaci's generate criminal proceedings yet statements like these are simply allowed to slide by.

The tragedy of all of this, of course, is that Fallaci's book could be just what France needs. It may not be a feel-good ode to friendship, but if it is written with anything close to the sincerity and courage of her essay, it could do more good than all of France's hate-speech laws and MRAP's combined. That is, if the French are allowed to read it.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.