PARIS - Alain Menargues, head of news at the state-owned Radio France International, resigned from his post Monday after he was accused of anti-Israeli bias.
Promoting his new book "Sharon's Wall" on the wall being built to separate Israel from Palestinian centres of population, Menargues more than once described Israel as racist, earning condemnation from the government as well as RFI journalists and Jewish groups.
Speaking on LCI television on September 30, he said: "You say Israel is a democratic state, let me rapidly add that it is also a racist state .... The law of return only concerns Jews. What is the basis of Zionism? It is to make a state for the Jews."
On another occasion he said, "What was the first ghetto on the world? It was in Venice. Who made it? The Jews themselves, in order separate themselves from the rest. Afterwards Europe put them in ghettoes."
The foreign ministry said that Menargues' description of Israel as racist was "unacceptable" and journalists' unions at RFI called on management to "assume its responsibilities."
The vice-president of the France-Israel association Gilles William Goldnadel said the remarks were made "in the context of a deep-rooted anti-Jewishness and the fact they were made by a director of RFI, the voice of France abroad, shows there is a sense of total impunity."
Menargues has rejected the charges against him, saying "Israel is a country like any other and like the others it must be criticised. There is no exception in my vision of the world, no country is above international laws."
Menargues, 57, is a Middle East specialist who has spent many years in the region. He was named to his current post, which bears the rank of deputy director-general, in July.
Israel and Jewish groups have long accused France of pursuing policies that are biased to the Arab world.