Desecrated Jewish graves at Bar-le-Duc, France
Desecrated Jewish graves at Bar-le-Duc, Francecourtesy of L'Est Republic

Following widespread public furor over what has been compared to the world-changing Dreyfus trial and described as a "Stalinist show-trial", a French court acquitted Jewish historian Georges Bensoussan of hate speech charges over his statement that Arabs receive anti-Semitism with their “mother’s milk.”

The 17th Criminal Tribunal of Paris acquitted Bensoussan on Tuesday, saying in their ruling that the plaintiffs failed to substantiate the hate speech charges and concluded that Bensoussan merely “misspoke” in quoting without intention to incite hatred.

Bensoussan, a Holocaust scholar and one of the world’s leading historians on Jewish communities in Arab countries, was put on trial in December after a Muslim lobby group and a French human rights organization founded by Jews in the 1920s initiated a criminal lawsuit against him for the statement he made during a 2012 radio interview.

In November 2015, the Paris prefecture hurried to prosecute the distinguished historian in criminal court for paraphrasing another academic, Smain Laacher, a non-Jewish French filmmaker whose family originates from North Africa. In reality, Laacher had said in an interview that for many Arab families, anti-Semitism is in “the air that one breathes.”

In the radio program discussion, Bensoussan praised professor Laacher for his bravery and said, paraphrasing Laacher, “As Laacher very bravely said ... in France, in Arab families ... anti-Semitism is imbibed with one's mother’s milk.”

It took only three days for a group of pro-Islamic activists to bring a claim against Bensoussan to the French media watch-dog, CSA, accusing the historian of propagating "biological racism.”

Bensoussan called the charges "intellectual terror", and leading French scholars dismissed the lawsuits against Bensoussan as an attempt at “intimidation” in a statement in December. Other writers came out in Bensoussan's favor, and there is widespread feeling that world coverage, especially in the English language press, including Arutz Sheva, was instrumental in securing the exoneration.

A friend present at the January 25th trial reported Dr. Bensoussan's words there:

"For more than a quarter of century, I have been working as a researcher on the mechanism that defines hatred and makes it a self-fulfilling phenomena. The area of my specialty is Jewish conditions in Islamic countries.

"Already back in 1965, the Moroccan writer Said Ghallab wrote in his work titled The Jews Go to Hell, "The worst insult that a Moroccan can deal to another Moroccan is to treat him as a Jew. It is with this milk of hatred that we grew up." Today, more than 65 years later, we have 28% supporting the supremacy of Shariah law over French law, according to the research conducted by the Montaigne Institute under the leadership of Hakim el Karoui. And under all these circumstances and in these realities, is it I who must stand before this tribunal today? Is it not anti-Semitism that has led us to the present situation that should be judged?"

George Bensoussan concluded his speech in a quietly dramatic way, in a completely silent court room: "Tonight, Madame President, for the first time in my life, I had the temptation of exile."