Quashing Verdict in Favor of Far-Right Activist, Top French Court Urges Vigilance Against ‘Disguised, Allusive’ Antisemitism
France’s highest court has quashed the appeal clearing a notorious far-right activist and Holocaust denier of promoting antisemitic hatred with a rap video that featured the images of several prominent French Jews being burned.
In its decision published on Oct. 5, the Court of Cassation, the supreme appeal court in France, ruled that a lower court had erred in determining that the video pushed by the veteran extremist Alain Soral did not target the Jewish community as a whole.
The video — by a rap group calling themselves “Rude Goy Bit” — was entitled “Gilet Jaunes” (“Yellow Vests”) in honor of the radical French protest movement of the same name.
Posted by Soral to his website and social media feeds in 2019, the four-and-a-half minute video featured images of a sign carrying the name “Rothschild” thrown into a bonfire. The Jewish banking dynasty has been a favored target of antisemitic propagandists for more than a century.
Other passages in the video showed photos of the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, the writer Jacques Attali and the businessman Patrick Drahi — all prominent Jews — being burned by flames.
Accompanying lyrics declared that “only by burning the Rothschilds can we save France,” We’ll have to burn BHL and Attali too” and “The French people can no longer take these parasites.”
Soral was sentenced to two years in prison in September 2019, following a complaint against him filed by several civil society groups combating antisemitism and racism, including the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF). However, that verdict was overturned by an appeal court which deemed that the video had not been aimed at the Jewish community as a whole, as it had also vilified certain non-Jewish individuals.
The Court of Cassation firmly rejected the appeal court’s argument in last week’s decision, arguing that the rap group’s name, the attack on the Rothschilds and the burning of photos showing Jewish personalities proved its antisemitic intent.
The images of burning, the Court of Cassation said, was “suggestive of the extermination of Jews during World War II.”
The appeal court judges came in for particular criticism for “not having sought, as they should have, the true meaning of the video, which included many antisemitic references.”
The Court of Cassation’s ruling also emphasized the importance of judges seeing through coded or disguised antisemitism.
“When comments are formulated in an insidious, disguised or allusive manner, it is necessary to seek their true meaning and their real significance, particularly to determine whether people are criticized for belonging, as in the case considered, to the Jewish community,” the ruling declared.
In April this year, a separate decision by the Court of Cassation sparked fury in the Jewish community, when it ruled that Kobili Traore — accused of the antisemitic murder of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman, in her Paris apartment in 2017 — would be excused from a criminal trial on the grounds that his intake of cannabis on the night of the killing had rendered him temporarily insane.