MONTREAL — The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has filed a complaint with Radio-Canada over a caller’s remarks it considers anti-Semitic and the host’s failure to interrupt and then comment that the remarks were “interesting.”
On the Aug. 4 edition of La période des questions, a public affairs program aired on the French-language public broadcaster’s news network Ici RDI, Marie Lafontaine of Quebec City phoned in to comment on the federal election campaign.
She said she would like to know New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair’s foreign policy and whether it is “pro-Zionist.”
“If he is a pro-Zionist, well, he can pack his bags and leave. We don’t want people like that here.”
She continued more vehemently: “Our best friend, it’s not Netanyahu, Madame, not at all. We should have disinfected the place when he left. We know about all the murders happening over there… in Israel. They are stealing, just now, land from West Bank residents.
“What’s the problem? The United States, now Canada, we are in the claws and tentacles of those people, who want to become masters of the world.”
Host Christine Fournier, a veteran broadcaster, thanked Lafontaine “very much” and then commented to the show’s guest, Alain-G. Gagnon, a political science professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, that the caller’s remarks were “interesting.”
In a letter to Radio-Canada dated Aug. 6, David Ouellette, CIJA’s deputy director of Quebec public affairs, described Lafontaine’s comments as “clearly excessive and anti-Semitic.”
In particular, her opinion that Jews seek world domination is reminiscent of “Jewish conspiracies in classic anti-Semitic literature,” including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other propaganda that depicts Jews as “octopuses or other monstrous figures taking over the world with their tentacles and claws.”
Ouellette noted that this is not the first time La période des questions has allowed viewers to express anti-Semitic remarks.
In response to an earlier incident raised by CIJA, Radio-Canada affirmed last October that it is the responsibility of the host and those in charge of a program to “reject certain comments or to point out [their] excessive character.”
In this latest incident, this did not happen either, Ouellette wrote.
CIJA is also troubled by Gagnon’s reaction to the call. Fournier asked him whom Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to “seduce” with his policy on Israel.
He responded that “many financiers” in the United States and Canada are interested in that policy, noting that the American president is “very careful not to attack the Jewish lobby” and the situation is similar here. He added that Lafontaine has “the right to be concerned.”
Altogether, Ouellette claimed, the show had the potential to incite hatred against Jews and “trivialize anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
In the incident last year that troubled CIJA, the then host (not Fournier) read an emailed comment from a listener that referred to the “too important Jewish lobby” in the United States, which he or she claimed prevents a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The network management judged that the host should have intervened to “nuance” the comments. Ouellette pointed out that no on-air correction was made in that instance.
As of Aug. 11, CIJA had not heard from Radio-Canada. Ouellette said the management has 20 days to respond, and if CIJA is not satisfied, it can then ask the ombudsman to review the complaint.