Front National leader Marine Le Pen denounces Zemmour’s sacking
France has been split down the middle by the sacking of the nation’s favourite – and at the same time most detested – hard-right, Islamophobe misogynist.
Éric Zemmour was dismissed by the 24-hour news channel i-Télé after telling – or seeming to tell – an Italian journalist that France’s estimated five million Muslims should be “deported” to avoid “chaos and civil war”.
The channel’s decision was approved by anti-racist groups and some left-wing politicians. It was lambasted by senior figures on the right of French politics – who adore Zemmour – but also by some on the left – who detest him – on the basis of his right to free speech.
With the radio station RTL also under pressure to dismiss Zemmour from his twice-weekly commentary slot, the fate of the provocative journalist and author has become the hottest issue in French politics. Zemmour, 56, a Jew of Algerian origin, could therefore be said to have disproved his own pet theory.
His book Le Suicide Français has sold 250,000 copies in the past three months. It claims that France’s core identity has been destroyed by immigration, feminism, homosexuality, Europe, free trade and excessive, unnecessary guilt about the persecution of Jews in the Second World War.
The controversy surrounding the scrapping of Zemmour’s programme on i-Télé suggests that, au contraire, France remains France. In few other countries would the sacking of a political commentator arouse such passions. In few countries, would politicians on both sides of the left-right divide have defended Zemmour’s right to freedom of speech.
The row is also typically French in being partly semantic. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Zemmour said the removal of France’s Muslim population seemed “unrealistic” but might be necessary to avoid “chaos and civil war”.
The interview went unnoticed until it was picked up and translated by the hard-left French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon. On his blog, Mr Mélenchon said Zemmour had called for the “deportation” of all French Muslims, many of whom are second or third-generation French citizens.
In France, “deportation” carries dark overtones of the fate of hundreds of thousands of Jews and other French citizens sent to Nazi deathcamps during the war. Zemmour protested that he had never used the word.
The Italian journalist who conducted the interview pointed out that the word “deport” was in his question, as published, not in Zemmour’s reply. The word in Italian – deportare – was the normal word for “repatriate”, he said.
Senior figures in the Socialist-led French government nonetheless questioned whether Zemmour should be allowed to remain in his three slots as a TV and radio commentator on current affairs. They pointed out that he was, in effect, raising the desirability of the forced repatriation of one in 12 of the French population.
Journalists at RTL radio suggested that the author and essayist had finally overstepped the limits of provocation and should be dismissed from his Tuesday and Thursday morning commentary slots. Zemmour complained that he was the victim of a “fantastic manipulation”.
See also “France embroiled in free speech row after Islamophobic TV presenter is sacked for saying Muslims ‘should be deported to prevent civil war'”, Daily Mail, 22 December 2014
Here is the section of the Corriere della Sera interview that featured the word deportare:
Question: Lei allora che cosa suggerisce? Deportare cinque milioni di musulmani francesi?
Eric Zemmour: Lo so, è irrealista, ma la storia è sorprendente. Chi avrebbe detto nel 1940 che un milione di pieds-noirs, ventianni dopo, avrebbero lasciato l’Algeria per rientrare in Francia? O che dopo la guerra 5 o 6 milioni di tedeschi avrebbero lasciato l’Europa centro-orientale dove vivevano da secoli?
Here is the Google translation of the interviewer’s question: “So what you suggest? Deport five million French Muslims?”
And here is the Oxford Italian Dictionary translation of deportare: