Jewish tombstones were not desecrated in the cemetery of Pantin

During the night of the 23rd to 24th of March, thirteen tombs in the Jewish section of the cemetery of Pantin in Paris were damaged. Rumours of vandalism and desecration spread across social networks. In reality, this was an accident: a truck hit the tomb stones while trying to avoid a car.

(Translation: ‘Pantin cemetery… Jewish tombs vandalized… during the night of Thursday to Friday.’)

On March 24th the website Europe Israel claimed that: “dozens of tombs have been destroyed and/or vandalized”. Two days later the same publication claimed to have received photographs and videos from the public and reported in an article that: “all reach the same conclusion: the theory of the road accident is highly unlikely”.

(Translation: “Picture taken this morning: Pantin cemetery, Jewish section: a “crazy truck”? People need to stop lying and treating us like idiots…!’)

The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) denounced the panic observed on social networks in an editorial. “A simple news story that occurred last Monday and was treated and reported as such over the following week turned into digital delirium over the weekend”, lamented the president of the CRIF, Francis Kalifat. “If the authors of the rumors had asked the relevant persons what had happened, they wouldn’t have got the social networks excited over nothing. They wouldn’t have created as much buzz or generated as many likes or shares. They would, however, have demonstrated responsible behavior”.

(Translation: ‘I am surprised by the extent to which this affair is being blown out of proportion, we are dealing with a road accident, albeit in a cemetery…’)

In a press release on March 26th, Paris City Hall confirmed that a police investigation had established the truck driver’s responsibility for the accident and determined that the truck was driving over the speed limit. The municipality has committed to restore the damaged tombs as soon as is possible.

Matthieu Lamarre, press advisor to the mayor of Paris, shared two pictures of the truck. The pictures had been taken by the authorities responsible for the maintenance of the cemetery .

Lamarre told CrossCheck that: “the truck could not be removed from the cemetery for over two days and we had to use a crane to remove it”.

(Translation: ‘2 photos for those who continue to say that the tombs of the #Pantin cemetery were desecrated. No, it was indeed a road accident.’)




Jean-Luc Mélenchon accused of having praised the Front National party in 1991

French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a strong opponent of the Front National, is wrongly accused of having praised the party in the past. This rumor is based on a copy of an incomplete interview in the Quotidien de Paris (a French newspaper), dating back to December 25th, 1991. Mélenchon is quoted as having said: “The only party that rehabilitates politics is the Front National”, but the quotation is truncated. In fact it was not praise for Marine Le Pen’s party. However, comments on the post by Facebook page “On Aime La France” (We love France) declared the opposite, and the misleading post was shared 15,000 times in under 24 hours.

(Translation: “The only party that rehabilitates politics is the Front National”.  There you have a statement by Jean-Luc Mélenchon in 1991. Please share this image so many times so that it goes around France! Just blow up the sharing meter! I’m counting on you, one and all! Thank you in advance.’)

In this Quotidien de Paris interview (which is not to be found it its original form on the Internet), Mélenchon, a member of the ruling Socialist Party in 1991, criticized the absence of Socialist Party proposals. “The SP has abandoned politics. I am going to tell you something awful: today, the party that rehabilitates politics is the Front National”, said Mélenchon, according to an extract of the interview published the following day (December 26th,1991) by Le Monde.

In 2011, when asked about the quote on Direct 8 (a French TV Channel) by Valérie Trierweiler, Mélenchon firstly reminded us that he “fought hard to make the Front National illegal”.

He then explained his statement in 1991: “It meant that the militants and managers of the Front National believe politics can change the course of events, which I agree with. Then, there are people that disagree and believe there is only one option, only one possible world order”, said Mélenchon at the 15th minute of the video.

Front National leader Marine Le Pen also mentioned the 1991 interview to Mélenchon on France 3 (a French TV Channel) on June 2nd,2012 (11th minute of the video), as both were competing for the deputy position in Hénin-Beaumont (Pas-de-Calais, Northern France). “You did not find this article by yourself”, answered Mélenchon, before restating his explanation as given to Valérie Trierweiler a few months prior.



Did the Kremlin tweet that “Moscow will help Le Pen to win the elections”?

A tweet which was quickly deleted from Russian news website Lifenews, titled “Moscow will help Le Pen win the elections”, led to rumors of Kremlin support for Front National’s presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on the day of her visit to Russia on March 24th. However, whilst this website supports Russian President Putin, it is not an official body as was believed by many members of the public. Moreover, the link provided in the tweet directs us instead to an opinion column written by a political scientist, entitled “Le Pen is scared of no one”.

(Translation: ‘This Kremlin tweet was deleted in 5 minutes. Word for word it says that “Moscow will help Le Pen to win the elections.”)

The deleted tweet however still figures on another Twitter account that belongs to Lifenews.

The article related to this deleted tweet is an opinion column by the political scientist Dmitri Rodionov, as indicated by the word “Мнения”, which means “opinions”. The author explains that the Front National candidate is not afraid to come to Russia, “despite the anti-Russian climate in the European Union”, but never mentions any help from Russia to Marine Le Pen.

Lifenews is not a state-run media outlet. It belongs to the News Media organization and was founded by Ashot Gabrelyanov. He, however, does support Putin, and the Gabrelyanov family – influential in many sectors in Russia – has expressed its support for the Russian president several times.

Lifenews deleted this tweet several hours before the cancellation of an alert by the press agency Interfax according to which the Kremlin was announcing the financing of Le Pen’s campaign by Russian banks. This alert, published after a press meeting given by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, was replaced by another in which Dmitri Peskov was confirming that the question of financing the National Front candidate had not been brought up during her meeting with Putin.

The alert cancelled by Interfax

The new alert published by Interfax

In February, the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, denounced the interference of Russia in the French presidential campaign. Yet, Putin insisted during Le Pen’s visit that Russia “would/will not influence the elections.”




Will the Marine Hotel in Paris be converted into a slavery museum?

Several websites, among which Riposte Laïque, state that the Marine Hotel in Paris is about to be “promoted to a slavery museum”. They base their statement on an article published by the extreme right-wing weekly Minute. Yet, this article was contested by the director of the Center for National Monuments.

The rumor originates from a report on the remembrance of slavery that was given to the Minister of the Interior in March 2017. Its authors advocate the creation of a memorial site in Paris on slavery and its abolition. They suggest several locations, the Marine Hotel on Concorde square being the first one on the list. This building is the ex-ministry of the Navy and Colonies and “hosts the office where Victor Schoelcher signed the decree for the abolition of slavery” in 1848. The building ceased to be the headquarters of the Navy in 2015 and it is now under reconversion.

Extract of the report proposing the set-up of the foundation in remembrance of slavery at the Marine Hotel.

The report’s authors propose that the foundation in remembrance of slavery be set-up at the Marine Hotel, but they recognize that “there needs to be an institution, a scientifically-oriented museum, that is distinct from the site”. Hence, Minute, as did Riposte Laïque, used simple proposals to support their claims.

Questioned by CrossCheck on the possible conversion of the Marine Hotel into a slavery museum, the direction of the Center for National Monuments categorically denied the claim: “The answer is no.” Its future use will be unveiled “very soon”, they added.

A collective of historians had already asked for the conversion of the Marine Hotel into a slavery museum in 2011 – before the publication of the report – in order to safeguard a “site of national and colonial memory”.