(JTA) – A French court acquitted the Jewish historian Georges Bensoussan of hate speech charges over his assertion that Arabs receive anti-Semitism with their “mother’s milk.”
Bensoussan was acquiteed on Tuesday, the AFP news agency reported, ending a polarizing trial that observers regarded as a significant test case for determining the boundaries of academic freedom amid growing inter-ethnic tensions.
Bensoussan, a scholar on the Holocaust and one of the world’s leading historians on Jewish communities in Arab territories, was put on trial in December after a Muslim lobby group and a French human rights organization that was founded by Jews in the 1920s initiated a criminal lawsuit against him for the statement he made during an interview for a radio station in 2012.
The reference to mother’s milk was in a paraphrased quote that Bensoussan attributed to 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.”
Leading French scholars dismissed the lawsuits against Bensoussan as an attempt at “intimidation” in a statement in December.