Who is Roxane Rouas-Rafowicz and what is her relationship with the pro-Israel bias in France's media landscape?

6 min read
13 June, 2024

On November 15, 2023, during the second month of Israel's genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, Mohamed Kaci, a journalist on French channel TV5 Monde, posed a simple question to the Israeli army's French-speaking spokesperson Olivier Rafowicz, on the daily news show 64' Le Monde en Francais.

"Do you consider the raiding of hospitals in Gaza to be a war crime?"

But instead of offering a clear answer to a simple question, Rafowicz was evasive, refusing to condemn the Israeli army's storming of Gazan hospitals, and asserted out of context: "Hamas has killed children, raped women, raided homes and plundered them."

Kaci responded, "So are you saying that you are behaving like Hamas?"

Kaci's final question was the last straw for the Israeli spokesperson, who said agitatedly that Kaci wasn't undertaking his role as a journalist but was speaking based on his political stance.

This confrontation could have ended here. However, Rafowicz's anger grew, and the result was that TV5 Monde issued a statement on November 20 reprimanding Kaci, signed by four executive directors, which stated that in the interview "the journalistic rules, applicable to any interview, were not respected," further adding, "This led to the impression, in the last question, that the methods of intervention of the Israeli army were equivalent to the strategy of Hamas, an organisation considered terrorist by many States."

The channel expressed its strong regret for the conduct of the interview and its abrupt conclusion, stating it would take all the necessary measures to ensure that the coverage remained balanced in a "context of great tension".

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Roxane Rouas-Rafowicz: Millions in the media

Though TV5 Monde's statement may seem to simply be in keeping with the overwhelming pro-Israel bias on display in Western media since immediately after October 7, the case of Olivier Rafowicz has another dimension which has not been highlighted enough.

To understand Rafowicz's influence on the French media, the professional career of his wife, Roxane Rouas-Rafowicz, must be examined.

Olivier and Roxanne Ravovich (Getty, Facebook)
Roxane Rouas-Rafowicz and Olivier Rafowicz [Getty/Facebook]

In 2021 Roxane Rafowicz established StudioFact Media Group in partnership with Jacques Aragones. StudioFact describes itself as "the first French audiovisual group to produce original content exclusively based on true stories", and works directly with the state-owned group, France Television, which runs five channels, as well as LCP (the parliamentary channel) and RTBF, Belgium's French-language broadcaster.

On October 26 – less than 20 days after Operation Aqsa Flood – StudioFact produced the documentary "Hamas: Blood and Weapons for the programme Complément d’enquête (Further Investigation) which was aired on channel France 2 (part of France Television), according to Alain Gresh, a French journalist and founder of the website Orient XXI in an article published in "Le Monde Diplomatique".

Ms Rafowicz's company StudioFact has thoroughly embedded itself in French media. In 2022, the French holding group Les Echos – Le Parisien Groupe bought 30 percent of shares of StudioFact.

According to the French media-monitoring site Acrimed, Le Parisien's (a daily French newspaper which is part of the group) coverage on the war on Gaza was not balanced at all, instead showing an absolute bias to the Israeli narrative, stating: "The newspaper conveyed only one viewpoint: how the Israeli government sees and presents Gaza to the rest of the world. Over more than two months, not a single face of a Palestinian civilian featured on the front page of Le Parisien. Not one." 

Acrimed published another analysis of French media discourse, in which it clarified the media immunity enjoyed by the French-speaking Israeli army spokesman Olivier Rafowicz. To do this it did a simple comparison between two interviews aired by French channel BFM TV minutes apart on October 10, 2023.

The first was with Rafowicz who spoke freely with no interruption or interrogation, even when he asserted: "Today, we are striking the Gaza Strip forcefully. They can cry, they can ask for help, no one will help them."

A few minutes later Ziad Madoukh, a French language teacher from Gaza, was hosted for a second interview on the channel. He pointed out the brutality of the Israeli massacres and the slaughter of civilians, but was repeatedly interrupted by the journalists in the Paris studio, who repeated the Israeli narrative: that it was not targeting civilians in Gaza.

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A pampered guest

Roxane Rafowicz has penetrated French media and influenced its coverage then — this is what has ensured her husband is treated as a pampered guest, who French channels are not permitted to embarrass. However, Roxane Rafowicz's power goes further than StudioFact.

According to a blog post by veteran French journalist, Jacques-Marie Bourget: "Further Investigation: Husband whitewashes Israel, wife blackens Hamas", Roxane Rafowicz had purchased Infolive TV, the first international TV station broadcasting from occupied Jerusalem (a station previously owned by her husband).

Likewise she has obtained a $35 million contract to direct and produce shows, reports and entertainment programmes for French Television. Moreover, she has struck a partnership contract with the daily French paper Liberation, for which the managing editor since 2020 has been the French-Israeli journalist Dov Alfon, an ex-Haaretz correspondent in Paris, as well as an ex-Israeli intelligence officer from Unit 8,200 in the Israeli army.

Roxane Rafowicz's illustrious career also includes having been the general director of media giant FremantleMedia, which has produced some of the biggest entertainment shows in the world.

Since the beginning of the war on Gaza, Rafowicz's positions have been clear, especially when it came to promoting the fabricated claims around the events of October 7.

For example, she republished a blog post about "rape by Hamas terrorists, and the disembowelment and killing of women in a pre-planned manner during the slaughter of 7 October".

This, of course, turned out to be a lie, and was debunked in several subsequent reports published by Western media, the most recent of which was one by the Associated Press (AP).

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Returning to Alain Gresh's article, and the role of Israeli army spokesman Olivier Rafovich in being allowed to comfortably promote Israel’s narrative, Gresh makes a very important point: that Israel has an advantage over other countries.

"Western officials and media start from the assumption that Israel tells the truth," writes Gresh. "Rafowicz utters falsehoods shamelessly, with the confidence of someone who knows he'll rarely be cross-questioned: he has repeated inventions about 7 October and its aftermath: a pregnant woman being disembowelled, and Israeli children kept in cages. […] Yet, despite his demonstrable lies, he still receives a warm, indulgent welcome from many French media outlets that seldom challenge his statements."

What Gresh says shows vividly, to those who follow the French media, that Israel's narrative rarely finds anyone who will refute it.

But this was the case even before October 7, for example during the series of wars on Gaza that preceded Al-Aqsa Flood, and in the aftermath of the assassination of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

In response to Abu Akleh's murder, the first story in French media embraced the statement by the Israeli army, which denied it had killed Abu Akleh. Just days later, it had been forced to retract — but this retraction never made it to the front pages.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko   

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication, Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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