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French children's mag pulled after saying Israel 'not real country'

French children's magazine 'Youpi, j'ai compris!' Screen grab/youpi.fr

The magazine for French six-year-olds Youpi, j'ai compris! (I Understood) was being pulled from shops Wednesday after it said that Israel was "not a real country".

The magazine which sells around 60,000 copies each month aimed at five- to eight-year-olds, was withdrawn by publishers Bayard after protests from Jewish groups.

The magazine's January issue carries a map of the world with the following legend: "We call these 197 countries states, like France, Germany or Algeria. There are other ones but not everyone agrees they are real countries (for example the State of Israel and North Korea)."

Bayard said there had been an error.

"We recognise our mistake, it was not well put, and obviously we do not want to contest the existence of the state of Israel," its managing director Pascal Ruffenach told the AFP news agency.

He said they were withdrawing the issue "voluntarily and in good faith because it is important to contribute to the spirit of calm," said.

Francis Kalifat, the head of the French Council of Jewish Institutions (Crif), had earlier demanded that the magazine be pulled.

He said he had been tipped off by readers about this "historical untruth being feed to young children aged between five and eight. I immediately wrote to the editor and the head of Bayard to protest about this flagrant error and to demand they rectify it," he told AFP.

Crif has also demanded that the magazine run a correction in its next issue "as well as an article explaining what Israel is and how it came into existence."

Ruffenach, however, refused to be drawn.

"Our December issue explained the major religions to children. Our publications follow the learning cycle for children of around six years of age. We will see how we can do better next time," he added.

Israel was founded in 1948 after a vote at the United Nations on the partition of Palestine.

But US President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as its capital has triggered Palestinian protests and was rejected by a UN General Assembly resolution.

Israelis see the whole of the city as their undivided capital, while the Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

- with AFP