French Jews Furious as Notorious Antisemite Dodges Jail Time for Holocaust Denial
French Jews reacted with fury on Tuesday after the Paris public prosecutor overturned a historic decision reached last month to sentence one of the country’s most notorious Holocaust deniers to a year in jail.
Far-right activist Alain Soral — who has earned several previous convictions for hate speech and Holocaust denial without being incarcerated — had been sentenced to twelve months behind bars on Apr. 15, after he was found guilty of publishing an article that denied the Holocaust on his website,“Égalité et Réconciliation” (“Equality and Reconciliation”).
But on Tuesday, the Paris public prosecutor’s office overruled that decision, arguing that the court sentence had wrongly applied the criminal code and was unlawful.
Many of the individuals and groups that hailed Soral’s original sentencing as a sea-change in the approach of French courts to antisemitic agitation angrily denounced the decision to spare him from actual jail time.
In an editorial published on the website of French Jewish communal organization CRIF, its president, Francis Kalifat, argued that the public prosecutor’s decision required “an explanation of the inexplicable.”
Kalifat asserted that the rising climate of antisemitism in France and Soral’s record as a repeat offender meant that a custodial sentence was both “legitimate” and “necessary.”
“It does not depart from the canons or the principles of criminal justice; it is the illustration of it,” Kalifat wrote.
Both Soral and the antisemitic comedian with whom he partners, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, were “the undisputed stars of this sinister market of hatred” toward Jews, Kalifat said.
In a statement published by the periodical Le Nouvel Observateur, four prominent anti-racist activists quipped darkly that Soral would now feel “as happy as an antisemite in France.”
The group, which included Sacha Ghozlan, president of the Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF), argued that the belief that French law was being faithfully applied in Soral’s case was effectively a surrender to his extremist views.
“Believing to protect the law, we end up protecting racists and antisemites from any effective punishment…by organizing their impunity,” they wrote.
The statement noted that antisemites, racists and Holocaust deniers were rarely sentenced to prison in France, pointing out that Robert Faurisson — France’s most outspoken Holocaust denier until his death last October — “died without having ever known a single day’s imprisonment.”
Along with a severe increase in antisemitic hate speech on the internet and in many public locations, French Jews experienced a 74-percent rise in violent attacks during 2018, according to official government figures.