The Jewish Chronicle
Dismay at Paris heckler jail term
A MAN tried for insulting Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut during an anti-government Yellow Vest (gilets jaunes) protest has been given a twomonth suspended sentence.
Prosecutors had sought a six-month suspended sentence and a €45,000 (£39,700) fine for Benjamin Weller, one of several men who attacked the academic on February 16 after recognising him as he emerged from a taxi near his Paris home.
Weller, the only attacker identified so far, was filmed shouting “dirty Zionist”, “dirty race”, “you’re going to die and go to hell” and “France is ours! It’s ours”.
The court recognised the insults were antisemitic and not a political statement against Zionism, as claimed by the defendant. But the leader of the Jewish umbrella group Crif told the JC he was disappointed by the sentence.
“It’s unbearable,” Francis Kalifat said. “How can a two-month suspended sentence dissuade anyone from carrying out such attacks?
“The justice system is not doing its job when it’s handing down such lenient sentences. It has to be firm. It may seem harsh, but being firm is the only way to dissuade people from repeating such acts.”
During his trial, Weller told the court “Zionists and other lobbies” control France, and that “Zionists are the reason people are suffering in France”.
The presiding judge said this proved his insults were antisemitic: “We consider Alain Finkielkraut was targeted because of his identity. The accused used all of the usual antisemitic stereotypes implying they’re not part of the nation and saying that they want to dominate the world. The word ‘Zionist’ in this context has an antisemitic connotation.”
But Weller denied being antisemitic and said his attacks on Mr Finkielkraut were a political statement against the philosopher’s right-wing views expressed over the years about preserving French identity, which Weller and his lawyers described as racist.
“My client’s statements were a reaction to Mr Finkielkraut’s own comments. We reject the court’s claims my client used antisemitic stereotypes,” attorney Ouadie Elhamamouchi told the JC.
“There are clearly double standards here. Mr Finkielkraut has never been convicted for his own statements,” he said, confirming they would appeal the ruling “as a matter of principle”.
During his testimony to the court in May, Mr Finkielkraut said he had been stunned by the attack: “I tried to understand why they were heckling me. I think that had police not stopped them from approaching me, they would have attacked me physically.”
Weller had previously been flagged by French authorities as a Salafist, although he told the court he abandoned those practices several years ago. He said the Yellow Vest movement included all kinds of activists who had a common contempt for Zionists.