Belfast Telegraph

Fine for Galliano shows racism is still all the rage

By Lindy McDowell

Never mind those stern sentences being handed out by English judges to the London looters - that French judge certainly laid down the law to racist dress designer John Galliano.

Er ... didn't he?

Galliano (Gibraltar-born, reed-thin moustache, Gaddafi-style braided cap, formerly House of Dior) was up before le beak in recent days following a number of incidents where he had hurled vile anti-Semitic and racist abuse at other patrons in a Parisian bar.

In a video of an incident which was not actually part of the court action he is seen spitting bile at two Italian women.

Their Jewish forebears should have been gassed he told them. "I love Hitler," he snarled.

In another unprovoked outburst in the same bar on another date he had described a female customer as a "f****** ugly, dirty Jewish b******".

And on yet another occasion he had hurled anti-Semitic abuse at a museum curator who he yelled had a "dirty Jewish face".

Her friend he described as "a dirty Asian s***" and an "illegal immigrant".

And for good measure he observed that the woman herself had "revolting eyebrows, low-end boots and low-end thighs".

In terms of fashionista abuse it doesn't get worse than that.

At his trial Galliano (who pleaded guilty) faced the prospect of a jail term. France, like the UK, professes to crack down hard on what would here be termed a hate crime.

Certainly, you could understand the judge wanting to make an example of such a high profile transgressor to send out the message that such behaviour is intolerable and that no one is above the law.

But you can also understand why he would want to show some compassion too.

In his head-first plunge from grace, Galliano had been bumped from his job with Dior. (Predictably there are now calls that he be re-instated.)

His defence had been that he was suffering from a triple addiction to drugs, drink and tranquillisers brought on by tragedy in his personal life. Galliano had apologised. He had already been punished enough by his loss of career, his friends argued.

So far, so fair, you might think.

But what is inexplicable is the tariff the judge imposed.

First of all a suspended fine of a few grand - which the extremely wealthy Galliano will only have to pay if he re-offends.

And most shocking of all, compensation to his victims amounting to only one euro each.

Racism and anti-Semitism are rightly regarded as serious crime. Yet this high profile case suggests that truly shocking (indeed dangerous) abuse only amounts to an 80p insult.

What sort of encouraging message does this case send to the Jew-haters of Europe? What sort of frightening message does it send to their many, many victims?

I'm not suggesting that sending Galliano to prison would have achieved a lot. (Perhaps a few weeks working at the Auschwitz museum? A contribution to an anti-racist charity?)

But one euro compensation?

If ever there was a case of court-endorsed insult to injury this is it. And chillingly it seems to reflect a growing trend to treat anti-Semitism as a trivial matter.

Europe-wide anti-Semitism has become almost the fashionable hatred (which surely has a lot to do with why no other nation on earth provokes quite the same mouth-foaming odium as Israel).

In the same Europe where not so long ago millions of human beings were being shovelled into ovens and where the skin of human beings was turned into lampshades, one euro compensation for anti-Semitic abuse doesn't amount to any form of castigation. It's almost a round of applause.

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