An Amer

, October 1, 2006

“Few people abroad realize that the French media are government-influenced in a subtle manner. Don’t misunderstand me: this situation is in no way comparable to that of the Soviet Union under communism. The French system operates in a different way. It is hard for a journalist to find work. If one gets fired, it is difficult to get another job. This is a powerful incentive to stay in line, and almost all journalists do. That line is left-wing orientation, Third Worldist, anti-American, and anti-Zionist.”

Nidra Poller observes France through vignettes. She is an American who came to France in 1972 and has worked since as a writer of fiction and translator from French to English. A few years ago she switched to journalism. Poller writes for various American publications, both hard-copy and online.

“It took me many years to realize that I had left the United States, a highly-developed and powerful country, and gone to live in a declining one. For decades I translated French texts into English, and only slowly understood that the language and its philosophical configuration also reflect this reality.

“An author who writes in English usually wants to make a point. Step-by-step he reaches his goal. In French texts the author often raises an issue, dances with it a bit, drops it, raises it again, dances again, drops it once more. It is a circular process. In my translation work, I once came upon a major exception: the writings of the Lithuanian-born philosopher Emanuel Levinas, which reflect Jewish thinking. I consider this the most important of all the translations I did.”

Loving Anti-Israeli Israelis

Poller returns to the subject of the press. “The French elite and the media love Israelis and Jews who strongly criticize Israel. Some are hardly known in Israel, such as Michel Warshavsky. Filmmakers such as Amos Gitai and Eyal Sivan are other examples of Israelis against Israel. Many French media present these people, who are on the margins, as mainstream Israelis.

“On the other hand, an important French Jewish intellectual like Daniel Sibony, who is a psychoanalyst, mathematician, and essayist, is hardly published anymore in major media. He has done important research on relations between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and also comments on current affairs. Another balanced commentator on the Middle East, Alexandre Adler, fell out of favor in the major media.”

Poller says that a biased press can use many methods. “The daily Le Monde, for instance, reported on the findings of the IDF commission that investigated Palestinians killed by an unidentified source on a Gaza beach. The paper writes in a style of ‘What do you expect them to say? Of course, they say they didn’t do it.’

About Nidra Poller

Nidra Poller is an American writer living in Paris since 1972. She is the author of Karimi Hotel et autres nouvelles d'Africa (Paris: l'Harmattan, 2011) [French] and many articles on European Jewry and Israel relations.