Israeli Journalist Under Fire From European Counterparts for Exposing Extent of French Antisemitism (INTERVIEW)
Israeli journalist Zvika Klein has recently become the target of hostile international media outlets and BDS activists for a feature he produced eight months ago.
The piece – a video depicting antisemitism in France – was a YouTube sensation when it first appeared, generating five million views. After that, Klein was interviewed on TV and in print all over the world, which resulted in the clip’s being watched by an exponentially greater number than that.
And now it is having a revival, this time thanks to its main detractors.
The under-two-minute clip shows excerpts of what amounted to 10 hours of film, during which Klein – a writer for nrg/Makor Rishon — walked the streets of Paris, sporting visibly Jewish accouterments. With a kippah (scullcap) on his head and tzitzit (traditional fringe) hanging down the side of his jeans, Klein strolled through a slew of different neighborhoods, while an undercover cameraman, whose equipment was in his backpack, walked ahead of him and filmed from behind.
Klein, too, had a hidden microphone, along with his not-so-hidden agenda: to document the atmosphere in France, following the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher massacres, perpetrated by Muslims on a mission to kill Muhammad cartoonists and Jews.
Klein’s two-day traversing of the city best known for the Eiffel Tower, high fashion and fabulous food provided pictorial footage to accompany dry statistics about the rise of antisemitism in Europe generally and France in particular – something that has led to a sharp increase in the number of French Jews immigrating to Israel.
What Klein experienced, and shows on his short clip, was a series of anti-Jewish epithets hurled his way, in addition to some spitting, cursing and ridiculing. (“Dude, he came here to f*** from the front and the back,” one young man said to another, as Klein passed by.)
Though the video might have gone viral in any case, it was given an unwitting boost by being uploaded to the Internet a day after Copenhagen experienced two serious Islamist attacks: one, on February 14, at an event promoting freedom of expression, during which an artist was killed; the second, later that night, at the entrance to the city’s Great Synagogue, where a Jewish security guard was murdered.
Because of its wide circulation, the YouTube hit — with Hebrew, English and French subtitles – caught the attention of France 2, the state-run TV channel that was involved in a decade-long legal battle with French-Jewish activist Philippe Karsenty, over its coverage of the Muhammad al-Dura affair. During the Second Intifada, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in Gaza was filmed by the French network’s news crew, ostensibly being killed by Israeli gunfire, as he and his father crouched in fear near a wall. An investigation into the incident led to the conclusion that al-Dura, who then became a symbol of Palestinian “resistance” against Israel, and a “martyr” to be emulated by children throughout the West Bank, Gaza and the rest of the Muslim world, was not, in fact, shot by an Israeli bullet. Karsenty even presented compelling evidence that the boy was not even killed during that incident.
Two France 2 reporters, Thierry Vincent and Julien Nativel, decided to put Klein’s thesis about French antisemitism to the test, by producing a video of their own, using the same model. Vincent, though not a Jew, donned a kippah and spent days wandering around Paris. The finished product was released last week.
Lo and behold, as Vincent said he had expected, the results were nothing like those of Klein.
“In the 12 days [I spent] with a kippah [on my head], I experienced no violence or insult,” Vincent asserted. “Antisemitism exists, as all the numbers say, but how is my video so different from that of Zvika Klein? Who is this journalist?”
Casting aspersions on Klein — whose newspaper is one of two media outlets owned by American-Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (the other one being Israel Hayom) – was easy for Vincent to do on political grounds. The left-wing leanings of his network, as well as its unfavorable coverage of Israel, are no secret.
Still, he did make a special trip to Jerusalem a few weeks ago to meet with Klein and interview him for a broadcast. It was during that session, Klein told The Algemeiner, that Vincent revealed he had created his own video, which yielded opposite results. Far from taunting him, Vincent showed, the public was friendly.
“I told him I was glad to hear that his experiences as a ‘Jew’ in Paris were positive, because all the French Jews I’ve spoken to say they’re afraid to be visibly Jewish,” Klein said. “And I stood by my own findings, which are more in sync with statistics about French antisemitism than his.”
When asked why Vincent and his crew were so keen on refuting his work, Klein used an exchange he had with Vincent’s cameraman – a non-Jew with a Jewish girlfriend. “He told me that when she saw my video, she said she had to leave the country. He then asked me in an accusatory way whether I grasped the detrimental effect such a video can have on French citizens.”
Not only that, said Klein, “They both noted that I work for a paper owned by Adelson and connected to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, who had announced that the Jews of Europe are welcome in Israel. The Europeans were mind-blown that a head of a country would encourage the citizens of other countries to move out.”
“I told him that I’m a Zionist, so of course I support Aliyah,” he recounted. “But I also want the Jews in Europe to feel safe.”
What Klein had not realized, however, was how such a sentiment might come across. “After viewing my video, members of the Jewish community in France met with me to tell me how happy they were that I helped them make a point about what life is like for them,” he said. “They explained that, for many people, the word ‘Zionist’ is equivalent to ‘jihadist.’”
According to Klein, the France 2 clip has led to whole new wave of negative exposure. “I continue to receive messages on Twitter from anti-Israel or BDS activists calling me a liar, saying that ‘finally the truth has been exposed,’ and using slogans like: ‘Long live Palestine,’” he said.
One such tweet reads: “Debunked: @ZvikaKlein Zvika Klein’s video on his antisemitic ‘experience’ in Paris.”
This contrasts with the response he initially received in February, when he was approached by the U.K.’s Daily Mail, and asked to do the same experiment in London. “That didn’t work out for me, schedule-wise,” said Klein. “But other journalists there and elsewhere in Europe copied the idea and reached the same conclusion as I did.”