October 24th, 2006

I’m off to the Palais de Justice

I’m off to the Palais de Justice, and I’m not just sightseeing.

Today is the occasion of the second al Durah/France2 defamation trial, that of defendant Pierre Lurçat :

Lurçat, 39, a Jerusalem resident and president of an association called Liberty, Democracy and Judaism, was sued because he is the leader of an organization listed as the legal operator of a Web site, www.liguededefensejuive.com, that urged readers to attend a planned demonstration against France2 in 2002: “Come demonstrate against the lies of France2,” it said, “and the gross manipulation with an award for disinformation to France2 and Charles Enderlin.”

Those of you who are used to the free-for-all that is the internet are probably more than a bit perplexed as to what the big deal is here. That this sort of statement could be a cause of action in any court in a country that considers itself to be a modern, developed, progressive nation—not to mention a bastion of liberty—is ludicrous.

Let’s put aside for the moment the question of whether the accusations this defendant made against France2 and Enderlin are true, as blogger and historian Richard Landes (and, in the interests of full disclosure, acquaintance and friend of mine) has suggested at his website Second Draft and his blog Augean Stables.

Forget it? Isn’t it of the utmost importance? Absolutely of the utmost importance. I happen to believe the evidence is strong that both France2 and Enderlin may have done exactly what Lurçat and the other two defendents have accused them of doing (at the very least the plaintiffs almost certainly lied in their original allegations that the Israelis deliberately killed the boy, and about the amount of footage they had and what it showed; I’ve written at some length on al Durah/France2 before, here and here.)

I’ll be writing more about the many issues involved in these cases (Landes has written a piece on the “justice” involved in the verdict from the first trial, that of Karsenty; he rightly calls it “aristocratic justice”—which, of course, is an oxymoron—and likens it to that initially extended to Dreyfus). But for the moment, I merely stand in awe of the colossal arrogance of France2 and Enderlin, and the contempt they show for freedom of speech and for the right to demonstrate peacably, by the mere act of bringing these lawsuits.

Can you imagine a similar lawsuit brought by CNN, for example, or NPR, in the US? I’m not a fan of the journalistic standards of either organization, but that low they would not go.

Of course, one of the reasons is that US law would not let them; defamation, especially of a public figure, is exceptionally hard to prove under common law rules such as that of NY Times vs. Sullivan, which established the standard that:

The First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity).

France’s justice system has a very different standard, as France2 and Enderlin were well aware before commencing these particular suits. It’s also of note—in a sort of poetic, metaphoric way—that in France the trial is being held in a building known as a “palace” (there’s that aristocratic echo being sounded again), while Lurçat’s association is called “Liberty, Democracy, and Judaism,” in what I imagine might be a somewhat ironic commentary on the famous sentiment of the French revolution “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.”

What sort of liberty is it that produces a legal system that allows a well-known reporter a cause of action against a private citizen for calling his news report a lie? And what sort of liberty is it that produces a legal system that does away with the presumption of innocence for that defendant? (See pages 13-14 of this document for clarification; it appears to be up to the defendants here to prove Enderlin lied rather than for Enderlin to prove he told the truth and that they acted maliciously, as in the US.)

It’s been raining off and on in France ever since I’ve been here. I’ve had an excellent trip thus far, absorbing the beauty of the buildings, the people, the fashion, the food (ah, above all the food!) and the general ambiance.

But I can’t ignore the chill that’s in the air here, and I’m not talking about the weather. That a news organization cannot be criticized by a private citizen such as Lurçat (or previous defendent Philippe Karsenty or upcoming defendant Charles Gouz) without such citizens being afraid of being slammed with a lawsuit should rightly send a shiver down the spine of every freedom-loving citizen of the world.

It’s no accident, of course, that the law under which Karsenty, Lurçat, and Gouz are being prosecuted is the same one that was used to convict Emile Zola of defamation for his critical role in writing about the Dreyfus affair.

Zola declared:

In making these accusations, I am fully aware that my action comes under Articles 30 and 31 of the law of 29 July 1881 on the press, which makes libel a punishable offense. I deliberately expose myself to that law.

Zola was convicted of libel in 1897; he fled the country but ultimately returned and the charges against him were dismissed. He died a few years later under “mysterious circumstances” and never lived to see Dreyfus exonerated.

But I’ll give Zola the final word today. What he said was true then, although the wheels of justice ground slow. I hope his words are as true now as they were then, and that events will move far more quickly toward that desired end:

The truth is on the march, and nothing shall stop it.

16 Responses to “I’m off to the Palais de Justice”

  1. Robert Schwartz Says:

    Don’t bother with the trial. The fix is in. Last time France2′s lawyer didn’t bother to put up a case, and they still won. What does that tell you?

  2. expat Says:

    I can’t wait for your further reports. BTW, while you’re at the Palais, you might want to inquire about the detainment situation of the asyllum seekers in the basement. I have seen no follow up on the EU report about the rats and the despair and he violence. I’d like to know whether things have improved to, say, the standards of Guantanamo.

  3. goesh Says:

    You might want to wear a burka to be on the safe side. I think the jihadis, i.e. disenfranchised youth, are preparing to destabalize portions of France via burning government buildings and banks instead of cars and they may want to demonstrate the seriousness of their oppression at the hands of the Frogs by killing a few of the same Frogs – perhaps even a public beheading or two for general PR purposes as well. Word on the street is this: the oppressed muzzie youth are saying if the nazis can put the boot of control on the necks of the filthy french in a matter of hours, we should be able to do it in a week or so. I saw a protest sign that read: “Remember Dien Bien Phu – we can do it too!” So, she-who-hides-behind-the-apple, you would be wise to wear a burka and pack a pistol in your pantys. You have been known to by fair and objective when it comes to Jews you know……

  4. Isaiah Hunahun Says:

    I am so jealous!

    “I’m off to the Palais de Justice, and I’m not just sightseeing. Today is the occasion of the second al Durah/France2 defamation trial, that of defendant Pierre Lurçat”

    This is fascinating story.

  5. benning Says:

    The anti-Semitism displayed in France today is breath-taking. In no way is France a bastion of Freedom, nor has it ever truly been. From the Terror to the Dreyfuss Affair, France has been an Autocracy of the Left. Fall afoul of the Autocracy and you will pay. It has not changed one iota since then.

    Defend Freedom? Ptah! Just more of the Joooo-ish propaganda!

    Be careful, neo!

  6. mary Says:

    I am so jealous!

    Me too. Go Neo!

  7. strcpy Says:

    I recall seeing a poll a year or two ago that interviewed Journalist about how free they felt with their speech. The US ranked fairly low and France fairly high. Suposedly journalist felt they may go prison or be censured in the US more often than some some countries that actually did such things.

    It was argued fairly heavy on a few websites about bias. I always find stories like this as a much better indicator of freedom of speech. I’m sure that France2 feels MUCH freer than they would in the US to post anything they want – after all they have state backing to silence opposition. However, most of us do not really feel this is “free speech”.

    I also find it amusing that these same journalist could not find a single incidence of what they were afraid was going to happen to them in the US but choose to bury stories like this in the lands they idolise.

  8. strcpy Says:

    Apparently my “year or two” was fairly accurate. Coincidentally on another blog I read they posted this years new annual poll I was talking about:

    link

  9. Instant Karma Says:

    A previous commentor has noted that France ranked high on press freedom in a poll conducted on Press Freedom amongst journalists. Any wonder? So long as the self righteous members of the fourth estate don’t happen to “hurt the sentiments” of members of a particular monotheistic religion (thereby making themselves targets of fatwas and-if those fatwas happen to be carried out to their logical conclusions- a knife sticking out of their backs) everything and anything is ‘legitimately exercising freedom of expression’. I remember having seen a panel discussion with journalists from AFP, Reuters, Le Monde and the representative of the PLO in France, just after the Mohammed Cartoon riots last year, the overwhelming consensus seemed to be that while Freedom of Expression is essential, there was a need for the media to be ‘sensitive’ about hurting religious sensibilities.

    The French have for a long time declared themselves to be the defendants of liberty – so long as they decide what constitutes liberty from time to time. The French over the course of history have mastered the art of self deception- so much so that they even consider their military debacles to be victories for the Republic. Thus we have the French wars in Indo-China,Algeria, the heroic defense of the Maginot……the list seems to be endless.

    Anti-Semitism in France is almost an institution with everything from the government to the layman all indoctrinated into the ‘inhumanity of occupation’ and ‘daily humiliation’ school of thought. Challenge them, and they would go into fits trying to explain how being anti-Israel does not essentially mean anti-Semetic. As a friend of mine said a few years ago, ‘…atleast the Germans had the moral courage to own upto their crimes, which is more than we can say about France’.

  10. Webutante Says:

    What a great idea, Neo, to be visiting and touring in France, as well as covering, or should I say uncovering the myths of its free press!

    With all that is going on en France, I figure we have at the most 5-10 more years to visit this semi-Arab/Muslim country with impunity before it just becomes too dangerous for Americans and certainly Jews to go for pleasure.

    Very sad. Please be careful and have a wonderful time too!

  11. douglas Says:

    I’ll be very interested to hear your report from the Palais.

    I keep wondering how long the French will tolerate the antics of the Muslim slums before they go Algeria on them…

    It’s gonna happen sooner or later…

  12. strcpy Says:

    I would note that the press is very free in France. In fact, I would say this case shows that press freedom is enforced by the govt.

    Remember press does not equal speech. A licensed press may be allowed to say anything they wish while everyone else can only talk about approved (by the press or by the govt) topics. That would technically be a very free press but horrid on freedom of speech.

    And yes, many out there *do* make that distinction. Even many in the press in the US – it has been argued by quite a few in the press that the 1′st amendment only applies to them. Also see the outrage when bloggers were allowed into press conferences with Bush – that is reserved for recognised press agents *only*.

    Thankfully, in the US, we try and have no real privledged classes (well, we fail at that, but that is another complaint). The 1′st amendment applies to someone who has never written anything nor ever given a public speech as much as it does a veteran CNN reporter. In other countries it isn’t exactly the same.

    I can not see how one can be more free than the system we have in the US. It’s pretty easy to equal (and no doubt many other countries do so), but almost no restrictions whatsoever is really hard to get free-er. However places like France have a long list of ideas and things you are not allowed to discuss by law (say, go over to France and start talking much about Nazi’s or try and purchase old WWII Nazi medals if you think they have no topics illegal).

  13. Baron Bodissey Says:

    Plus ça change, eh?

    And the truth that is on the march is the truth of les jeunesses, emerging from the banlieux for the rest of us to witness.

    Don’t linger there too long…

  14. Ariel Says:

    “Freedom of the press” had to with the printing press and the publication of tracts, pamphlets, etc., and not with a priviliged class of journalists.

    Shame it morphed into that through the courts and the public’s misunderstanding. In my own life, I no longer call newspapers or news gathering organizations “the press”.

    Today’s computer users are the equivalent of the press users of that era. Bloggers should be allowed into “press” conferences. Their lack of “journalism training” can be a plus. How many journalists actually have a clue, let alone any knowledge, about the subjects they report on?

  15. Ariel Says:

    My spelling slowly fades away…privileged as it were.

  16. ytba Says:

    have you got these links?

    http://www.seconddraft.org/movies.php

    http://www.honestreporting.com/articles/45884734/critiques/Film_Focus_HR_in_Hollywood_and_Pallywood.asp

    http://www.israel-wat.com/kid_eng.htm

    http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=3&x_outlet=167&x_article=855

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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