TV host’s anti-Israel comments cause outrage

Stéphane Gendron

MONTREAL — The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has asked for a meeting with the head of a Quebec television network because of a program host’s repeated expressions of “animosity and prejudice with regard to the Jewish community.”

On Dec. 23, CIJA Quebec vice-president Luciano Del Negro wrote to Maxime Rémillard, co-president and chief executive officer of Remstar Corporation, which owns V Television, about its concerns over Stéphane Gendron, co-host of the talk show Face à Face.

CIJA made the letter public following remarks made by Gendron on the Dec. 27 program in which he said of Israel: “[A] country like that does not deserve to exist” and, “unfortunately, Israel has not yet collapsed.”

CIJA said it has yet to receive a response to the letter from V, a private, over-the-air French-language station.

Gendron made the remarks during a “tribute” to Quebec member of the National Assembly Amir Khadir for his support of the boycott of Boutique Le Marcheur shoe store on St. Denis Street because it sells a line of Israeli-made shoes.

The sole Québec Solidaire MNA took part in one of the pickets outside the store in December 2010 and blocked debate on an otherwise all-party motion in the National Assembly condemning the boycott campaign against the store.

Gendron, who in addition to his hosting duties serves as mayor of the small town of Huntingdon, also accused Israel of imposing apartheid and of “stealing” land from the Palestinians.

Del Negro charged that Gendron has engaged in “constant incitement” against Jews and Israel on air.

As egregious as his comments have been over many months, “Stéphane Gendron has now gone too far in affirming that Israel does not have the right to exist,” said Del Negro.

In his letter to Rémillard, he pointed out that Gendron’s “incitement” does not fall within the realm of opinion as set out in the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council code.

“Under the pretext of criticizing Israel, your host conveys the oldest antisemitic clichés,” Del Negro wrote.

He added that Gendron was dismissed from TQS, as V was known before its present ownership, in 2006 for remarks that its management at the time deemed unacceptable.

The pro-Israel media watchdog HonestReporting Canada was also appalled by Gendron’s latest outburst, a video clip of which it posted on YouTube.

Executive director Mike Fegelman is especially disappointed because HonestReporting raised objections about Gendron with V’s management when he made anti-Israel comments in November.

In that instance, Gendron accused Israel of avenging the Palestinians’ admission to UNESCO by “build[ing] 2,000 homes in areas that do not belong to them, the occupied territories, so they are going to bulldoze people, kill people.”

V communications director Diane Patenaude told The CJN Jan. 5 that a meeting is scheduled for this week between the station’s management and the Face à Face production team.  Gendron has been invited to the meeting.

“We take this complaint very seriously,” she said, adding that she’s answering all the communication the station has received about Gendron’s latest comments, and there has been a considerable amount.

She said Rémillard has been on vacation, and that’s why CIJA’s letter to him had not been acknowledged.

Patenaude said she expected to meet with Rémillard this past Monday on CIJA’s request for a meeting.

“Face à Face is a daily public affairs show that deals with numerous issues, and is intended to provoke debate and discussion,” Patenaude said. “It is not a newscast or news magazine, and the co-hosts [Gendron and Caroline Proulx] are not journalists. The views they and their guests express are not necessarily those of the network or its management.”

While V does not think it is responsible for everything it broadcasts, Patenaude said management will insist from now on that “when an issue is discussed, both sides are presented.”

Patenaude gave a similar response after Gendron’s remarks in November. She added at the time that the show’s producers were reminded of the need to adhere to Canadian broadcast standards “to avoid repeating a similar occurrence.”

This lack of a reprimand from his superiors appears to have “emboldened” Gendron to make further anti-Israel comments, Fegelman said.

“V Television continues to allow itself to be a platform for the dissemination of Gendron’s hateful invective.”

Neither a retraction nor apology was issued on Face à Face.

Fegelman said V is responsible for the information it broadcast, regardless of the type of program.

HonestReporting has now turned to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council for redress.

“We reiterate our call for a public apology from V Television and for Stéphane Gendron to be immediately terminated as TV host of Face à Face,” Fegelman said.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has also expressed its outrage at Gendron’s remarks.

“His views are shared by the likes of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran’s ruling mullatocracy and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the annihilation of the only true democracy in the Middle East,” wrote the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, in a Dec. 30 letter to Rémillard.

“It is dangerously naive and irresponsible not to believe that such escalating rhetoric – left unchallenged by V Television – could impact intergroup relations in Quebec.”