France targets activists calling for boycott of Israeli goods

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Waseem Shehzad

Shawwal 22, 1431 2010-10-01

News & Analysis

by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 39, No. 8, Shawwal, 1431)

True to their aggressive nature, the Zionists resumed illegal construction on Palestinian lands as soon as their own declared deadline of September 26 expired. Israeli Prime Minister Ben-jamin Netanyahu had the temerity to say that

True to their aggressive nature, the Zionists resumed illegal construction on Palestinian lands as soon as their own declared deadline of September 26 expired. Israeli Prime Minister Ben-jamin Netanyahu had the temerity to say that it was the Palestinians’ fault to resume talks so late and that he was not going to stop construction even if it displeased the Palestinians.

Global reaction to this land theft was also tepid. US President Barack Obama simply appealed to Israel not to resume construction. Netanyahu thumbed his nose at him effectively telling him where to go. For his part, Mahmoud Abbas, the US-Israeli approved leader of the Palestinian Authority, made a hurried journey to Paris to meet the Zionist French President Nicolas Sarkozy to plead with him. Why should Sarkozy listen to Abbas? Besides, Abbas has little choice; he is a slave of the US and Israel and must do as he is told.

There were other developments underway in France that indicate its absolute support for Israeli crimes and complete violation of every tenet of international law that is so often touted to threaten others that do not toe the West’s prescribed script. Two weeks earlier (on September 13), five members of the group “Boycott 68” appeared in court charged with “incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence” after distributing leaflets asking shoppers to boycott Israeli products. This followed the French government’s announcement to prosecute those calling for a boycott of Israeli products.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divest-ment and Sanctions National Commit-tee (BNC), on behalf of its constituent organizations and unions representing the majority of Palestinian civil society, in a statement strongly condemned the French authorities’ decision to prosecute people of conscience for calling for a boycott of Israeli products. These state-sanctioned forms of repression amount to active support for Israeli violations of international law and have serious implications on political freedoms in France and across Europe.

Such prosecutions are not new. The French are becoming increasingly repressive in their treatment of people that do not conform to whatever the prevailing policies may be. Often, people are targeted by changing the law in order to force people to conform to the prevailing convention. The repressive anti-hijab/anit-niqab law that was passed by the French National Assembly last April won Senate approved last month. How the hijab and niqab is a threat to the French Republic remains unexplained. But there are other bizarre steps the French Republic has taken. For instance, last year a 1,000 euro fine was imposed on Sakina Arnaud for attaching a “Boycott Israel” sticker to a fruit juice carton. She appeared in court again on September 24 to appeal the conviction.

The campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005, is a non-violent, just and effective way of pressuring Israel to comply with international law and end its institutionalised discrimination and violence towards Palestinians. People of conscience all over the world, including many Israeli Jews, engage in BDS campaigns as a form of solidarity with the oppressed people, suffering under Israeli occupation and apartheid. The BDS campaign is based on unambiguous respect for international law and universal human rights; as such, it is categorically opposed to all forms of racism and racial discrimination, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The BNC is therefore deeply troubled by state-sanctioned smear campaigns against BDS activists in France.

When examined closer, the campaign against BDS activists is spearheaded by the Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l’Antisemitisme (BNCVA), a pro-Israeli Zionist group in France, with assistance from other pro-Israeli pressure groups. While such intimidation campaigns expose the lack of freedoms in Western societies despite drumbeating about their respect for human rights and freedoms, they also reveal the nature of pro-Israel pressure groups that are part of a wider campaign of attacks against Palestine solidarity activism. The BNCVA president was quite unabashed when he announced: “Altogether, we have filed over 80 similar complaints, everywhere in France.”

The BNC has previously criticised the French Prime Minister for making unfounded and inflammatory insinuations about the movement to boycott Israel. According to activists, police regularly demand the names and addresses of those present at BDS demonstrations. The BNC is astounded that the authorities in a country that has historically contributed so much to the development of the principles of citizenship and human rights would succumb so easily to the demands of the Israel lobby and curtail political freedoms so blatantly.

French MEPs Jacky Henin and Michele Alliot-Marie recently spoke out against the repression of Palestine activists. “In that case, justice is used for political purposes,” said Henin. Such statements should shame the French government but given its strong Zionist policies and the brazen manner in which French President Sarkozy conducts himself, no change is likely in French policy in the near future. This gives a carte blanche to the Zionists to continue their illegal policies of land theft, illegal settlements, brutality against the Palestinian people and total disregard for any laws, international or humanitarian. In fact, such support encourages Israeli intransigence and brutality.

While the French government intensifies its campaign against French BDS activists calling for a boycott of Israeli products, the same government eagerly participates in an illegal boycott of the Islamic Republic in cooperation with the US and other Western governments.

There is a clear alignment of the forces of oppression and tyranny on the one hand and those resisting such oppression on the other.

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