France bans pro-Palestinian demos

July 19, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting has 3 items:
1) Mail online: Outrage as France become first country in world to ban pro-Palestine demos;
2) Reuters: As Israel attacks Gaza, Jews elsewhere feel an impact. John Lloyd discusses the Jewish/Israel conflict;
3) Mondoweiss: Violence outside Paris synagogue falsely attributed to anti-Semitism

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator shouts anti-Israeli slogans in Paris last Sunday. The French government is attempting to prevent planned marches this weekend from going ahead. Photo by AP.

Outrage as France become first country in world to ban pro-Palestine demos

● Move follows violence at protests in Paris last weekend
● Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said there was a ‘threat to public order’
● Thousands across France were set to march again this weekend
● Anyone who breaks the ban faces a year in prison and a 15,000 euro fine.
● If they hide their faces the sentence can be increased to three years jail, and a 45,000 euro fine

By Peter Allen, Mail Online
July 18 / 19,2014

France’s Socialist government provoked outrage today by becoming the first in the world to ban protests against Israeli action in Palestine.

In what is viewed as an outrageous attack on democracy, Socialist Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said mass demonstrations planned for the weekend should be halted.

Mr Cazeneuve said there was a ‘threat to public order’, while opponents said he was ‘criminalising’ popular support of the Palestinian people.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to the streets of Paris on Sunday. France’s socialist government has sparked uproar after it banned protests against Israeli action in Palestine. Photo by AFP / Getty Images

Thousands were set to march against the ongoing slaughter in Gaza, calling for an immediate end to hostilities in which civilians including many children have been killed.

But Mr Cazeneuve fears there might be a repeat of the fights between ‘ultra’ Jewish vigilantes and pro-Palestinians which happened after a demonstration last Sunday.

Referring to the main Paris march, Mr Cazeneuve said: ‘I consider that the conditions are not right to guarantee security.’

He welcomed a legal procedure instigated by the Paris police prefecture to ban the march, despite its already being widely advertised.

Anyone who turns up to an illegal demonstration now faces up to a year in prison, and a 15,000 euro fine.

If they hide their faces to avoid being identified, this sentence can be increased to three years, and a 45,000 euro fine.

Even those who publish details of an illegal rally on social media face up to a year in prison, and a 15,000 euro fine.

This can be increased to seven years and a 100,000 fine if the postings lead to violence.

Mr Cazeneuve also advised other prefects across France to examine planned marches on a ‘case by case’ basis, and to ban ‘if appropriate’.

But Michele Sibony, of the Jewish Union for Peace, said: ‘By outlawing free speech by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, France puts itself in a unique position in the world and Europe.’

And Youssef Boussoumah, of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) said: ‘France is criminalising any show of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

‘This is an absolute outrage, it is a continuation of attempts to muzzle the Palestinian people and to get them and their supporters in France to surrender absolutely to Israel’s oppression.’

Sylvie Perrot, another pro-Palestine activist from Paris, said: ‘Fascist states stop people demonstrating against wars – it is beyond belief that French Socialists are following their example.’
There were false claims made last week that synagogues in Paris had been targeted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

In fact videos showed armed vigilantes from a group called the Jewish Defence League (LDJ) baiting demonstrators into fights.

[Go to original for footage of Israeli/Palestinian violence in Paris]

A protester with a symbolic gas mask and rocket during protests in Paris last weekend.

There were no arrests among the LDJ, despite them fighting and smashing up property in full view of the police.

Six pro-Palestine protestors were arrested for a variety of public order offences, but none had been anywhere near Paris synagogues, which remained undamaged.

A judicial enquiry is set to be launched into the false allegations made about the synagogue attacks – ones which people claim were made up to demonise supporters of Palestine by associating them with anti-Semitism.

On Friday night lawyers for a number of groups hoping to campaign on behalf of Palestine on Saturday lodged an appeal against the ban in a Paris court.

As Israel attacks Gaza, Jews elsewhere feel an impact

By John Lloyd, blog, Reuters
July 16, 2014

As the death toll in Gaza rises, so does anger against Israel — and sometimes, by extension, Jews — in Europe and elsewhere.

We should mark how unique this is. There’s a very large, and often very rich, Russian community in London — and there are no attacks on Russians or their mansions, restaurants or churches because of the Russian seizure of Crimea and sponsorship of uprisings in eastern Ukraine.

People from Sri Lanka didn’t live in fear when their government was pounding the Tamil Tigers into submission, with thousands of deaths. Chinese visitors are undisturbed by reaction to their government’s suppression of dissent in Tibet and its jailing of dissidents. And quite right, too. Who knows what Russians, Sri Lankans or Chinese abroad think about their governments’ actions?

Jews, by contrast, are held responsible by large numbers of non-Jews in Western democratic countries for Israeli actions. That’s all Jews, whatever their views on the Israeli response to the rockets fired on Israel from Gaza. Sometimes, the reaction goes much further than disapproval.

Over this past weekend, a synagogue in Paris was firebombed, and there were a couple of small demonstrations featuring signs saying “Death to Jews.” The attack further inflamed tensions that were already running high since before the latest violence in Gaza. In May, four people died when a gunman opened fire in a Jewish museum in Brussels. Many of those interviewed said they were not surprised, given the rise in the level of verbal and some physical violence against Belgian Jews in the past decade.

France, home to half a million Jewish citizens, has seen rising rates of emigration to Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom. So pronounced has this become that two senior French ministers, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, authored an article contending that violence and incidents against Jews in France had been falling — and that, while recent incidents were wholly unacceptable, the fear that prompts the uprooting of families and businesses was unwarranted. Tensions, they wrote, especially emanating from immigrants and new citizens from North Africa, rose after the financial crisis of 2008 but were being actively combatted.

The French ministers are somewhat right. A Pew report based on polling showed that anti-Semitism in some countries had fallen, and that those saying that they didn’t like Jews had fallen in some cases to quite low levels — to 7 percent in the United Kingdom and — the lowest — to 5 percent in Germany (disapproval of Muslims was much higher). In France, 10 percent of respondents expressed disapproval of Jews, but in other countries the numbers were significantly higher — with crisis-ridden Greece the highest, at 47 percent, Poland at 26 percent (that number represents a sharp fall over the past five years) and Italy, which tends to pride itself on its anti-anti-Semitism, at a robust 24 percent.

But rising violence can and apparently does co-exist with a general fall in disapproval of Jews. In their article, the French ministers mention the strong growth in far right politics since the early 2000s. The far-right groups are not always anti-Semitic, however. The Dutch Freedom Party is strongly pro-Israel, and even the French Front National under Marine Le Pen has dropped most of the anti-Jewish rhetoric of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, her predecessor. But many of the others continue to attack Jews verbally, and a few — like the Hungarian Jobbik and the Greek Golden Dawn — are virulently anti-Semitic. They and their supporters are often behind the attacks and the vicious rhetoric, much of it on the Internet.

There’s a subtler half-life of the old prejudice still widely prevalent. David Hirsh, a sociologist at London’s Goldsmith College, writes that because nearly everyone can happily agree that Nazism was hideous and the Holocaust a horror, we miss the fact that anti-Jewish prejudice is embedded in many of the responses expressed to “capitalism and banking, nationalism, modernity and imperialism … it was comfortable for us to imagine anti-Semitism as appearing only with a silly moustache and a fascist uniform, and as being permanently discredited.” Because we tend to think in ready-made categories, Hirsh believes, we have to see Jews either as victims of pogroms or as imperialist oppressors of their neighbours. The complexities are sacrificed to a more satisfying striking of attitudes.

Yet since they are pressed into having an attitude toward Israel, politically active Jews have to navigate the rapids of events with some care. Those who do will often fall back on a defensiveness: Yes, the killings are awful, but the country is surrounded by enemies, and Hamas and other groups who wish to destroy Israel are now able to send missiles to the country’s urban centres — what would any country do? There’s truth to that. The problem, though, is in that tricky word “but.”

Because there are plenty of “buts” on the other side, too. And many Jews understand that.

In a lucid article in The Atlantic, columnist Jeffrey Goldberg discusses the “justifications” he has heard for the killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a young Palestinian, allegedly by a group of Jews looking for revenge for the killing of three Jewish teenagers. He cites a piece by Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles, in which the rabbi asks people to “please don’t say but. The words after ‘but’ invalidate everything that comes before. As – ‘he’s a nice person but he does steal from the company.’ See? ‘But’ is a meaning duster, sweeping all that comes before it.”

What Wolpe says can be taken as a broader lesson for the entire region. There is no “but” to justify attacks on either side.

In the long term, Israel has to find a lasting peace with the Palestinians, and its neighbours. So, too, do those on the other side. The moral lessons seem clear. Reality, of course, is more difficult, but there is no other way.

Violence outside Paris synagogue falsely attributed to anti-Semitism

By Sam Knight, Mondoweiss
July 15, 2014

From multiple expulsions in the Medieval era to L’Affaire Dreyfuss and Vichy collaborationism, French Jews have every reason to be wary of antisemitism. And, sadly, despite the fact that 89 percent of French citizens this year reported having a favourable opinion of Jews, antisemitism appears to be on the rise in the Fifth Republic.

But a violent incident that took place in Paris on Sunday widely described as antisemitic, using this narrative as the background, was actually a street fight between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and the Jewish Defense League; one that appears to have been started by the extremist latter in support of Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign that has thus far claimed the lives of almost 200 Palestinians – 80% of them civilians.

That hasn’t stopped powerful anti-Palestinian voices in the U.S. from using Twitter to appropriate the incident for their cause. On the same day he declared there to be a causal relationship between the mass killing of Palestinians by the IDF and the existence of Jews around the world, former Iraq War salesman David Frum highlighted the alleged attack amid his stream of sabre-rattling consciousness. Former IDF Prison Guard and admitted beater of Palestinian detainees Jeffrey Goldberg characterized the violence as “Jews Trapped by Rioters in Paris Synagogue” and questioned whether or not the incident was cause for migration. Dan Gainor, a “nondenominational Chrsitian” and waterboy for a right-wing media watch dog called Media Research Center” declared, in a refreshingly honest fashion for a bigot, that “France shows what happens after lots of #Muslim immigration: Jewish synagogue attacked, besieged.” Avi Mayer, the social media guru for the Zionist NGO, the Jewish Agency of Israel, declared the incident to be an “anti-Semitic riot, which masqueraded as an anti-Israel rally.” Yair Rosenberg, a writer for Tablet Magazine and employee of the Israeli State Archives, posted a video of the incident, describing the clip as capturing “anti-Israel protesters beseiging [sic] it and rioting outside” (it shows pitched battles in the street, filmed from inside the synagogue):

He then used his inaccurate description of the 25 second video to effortlessly justify both Israeli ethnic cleansing and the IDF’s most recent massacre of Palestinians. “With European anti-Semitic attacks spiking during Israel’s operation,” he declared, “starting to get feeling that some anti-Zionists might not like Jews.” And J-Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-Peace” lobbying group that falsely portrays the ongoing subjugation of Palestinians in as a conflict between equal factions, decried the incident, describing it as “our brothers and sisters in Paris trapped inside a synagogue on Shabbat, pelted with rocks, surrounded by crowds with sticks and chairs and calling for Jewish blood.”

Unfortunately for the aforementioned hawks and the reporters upon which they relied, the incident was far from an antisemitic attack – a fact laid bare by readily available information.

One of the loudest voices denouncing this false characterization belongs to a Jewish woman named Michèle Sibony, a member of the Union Juive Francaise pour Le Paix – The French Jewish Union for Peace. Sibony, incensed by what she described as an Islamophobic report of the demonstration on a Nouvel Observateur blog, penned an open letter to its editor. Posted on the UJFP website, her side of the story in question, as interpreted by Mondoweiss, is as follows:

Protester thugs tried to attack the Synagogue de la Roquette? You cite, without flinching, a ‘testimony of the JDL.’ The announcement of the JDL assembly you mention, in support of Israel before the Synagogue de la Roquette, was organized with the eloquent title ‘Keep Calm and Kill Hamas.’ Curiously, when a rally for war crimes takes place in front of or inside a Synagogue, the injection of religion in politics does not shock you, nor does it even register. It requires no commentary from you. It is sufficient to insinuate that the [pro-Palestinian] demonstration was antisemitic. You need that for your cause: silence about crimes in Gaza, of which you say nothing.

So I’ll tell you what I, a poor Jewish infidel, saw…at this protest:on the Boulevard Beaumarchais, right near the Chemin Vert Métro stop, four or five JDL types perched on a bench, completely surrounded and protected by two rows of riot cops, threw projectiles and insults at the crowd. Cops and officials begged the crowd to not lose its cool and respond to provocations – what they were waiting for. Of course, as crowds dispersed, there were fights at the entrance of the Synagogue de la Roquette, as expected, I dare say.

Sibony also makes no apology for Islamist rebels, declaring that Palestinians have the right to resist Israel’s occupation on their own terms:

The [Israeli] army has occupied and stolen their lands, and they refuse to submit. They’re fighting for liberty, for national liberation, and the independence of Palestine, and against eradication, pure and simple, declared by Israel, for resisting! Yes, Hamas and Jihad militants are resisting the occupation, as all Palestinian political groups are, and even if my heart is to the left, I respect them.

Especially when the agenda is their dehumanization, their demonization, and their eradication at all cost. Wouldn’t anyone – white Christians, atheists on the left, or the right wing limousine set – have a title as beautiful as resistance fighter?

But whether or not one disagrees with Sibony’s characterizations of Hamas, which have been applied to many others combating occupation without controversy, a video of the incident on Rue de la Roquette lends credence to her story: Des pro-Israeliens qui cassent tout devant la synagogue de la rue de la Roquette

The video, posted on Monday by a user whose library doesn’t appear to include any other video on Israel or Palestine (unlike the anti-Palestinian YouTube user who posted the video shared by Rosenberg), is titled “Pro-Israelis who break everything in front of the Synagogue on Rue de la Roquette” (“Des pro-israéliens qui cassent tout devant la synagogue de la rue de la Roquette”).

As promised, the video shows extremist Zionists (who had said the day before that they would appear outside of the Synagogue “to support Israel, where the population lives under the rhythm of sirens”) smashing chairs and tables to make weapons. The group forms barricades before pursuing pro-Palestinian demonstrators while yelling “Palestine, we fuck you” (“Palestine, on t’encule”) and throwing missiles. The JDL members pursue the demonstrators, but stop at the nearest intersection. A stand-off ensues, until pro-Palestinian demonstrators themselves respond with militancy and charge, bearing a hastily-cobbled together armory of their own. The JDL members, minus a few comrades who were attacked, retreat behind a line of riot police, and take refuge near the synagogue – without a hint of irony, in light of cynical accusations that Hamas has been employing “human shields” in one of the most densely populated strips of land on earth. The pro-Palestinian combatants withdraw soon after, closely watched by police.

Nowhere does this violence appear to be motivated by hatred of Judaism. But that hasn’t led any of the previously mentioned journalists, flack or their sources to issue corrections.

This is not to say that antisemitic attacks don’t occur in France. Also on Sunday, for example, not far from the Synagogue de la Roquette, the Synagogue de la rue des Tournelles was targeted by a few individuals in an attack that lead to several arrests. Yet, unlike the vivid images captured outside the Synagogue de la Roquette, the rue des Tournelles incident didn’t fuel wild rumors of a mob siege depicting a sizable part of the pro-Palestinian march as antisemitic — an extremely powerful, but ultimately false, tale in these combustible times.

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