French government wants hard-left lawmaker probed for backing Hamas

Daniele Obono of France Unbowed (LFI) insists Hamas a resistance movement; Spain defends ministers who panned Israeli Gaza strikes, including one who called them ‘planned genocide’

France's LFI MP Daniele Obono speaks during a press conference held by French leftist party La France Insoumise in Paris, on February 22, 2023. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)
France's LFI MP Daniele Obono speaks during a press conference held by French leftist party La France Insoumise in Paris, on February 22, 2023. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Tuesday that a hard-left lawmaker should face a criminal investigation on suspicion of justifying terrorism after she described Palestinian terror group Hamas as a “resistance” movement.

The comments by lawmaker Daniele Obono of the France Unbowed (LFI) party come as the party and its figurehead, ex-presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, have come under increasing pressure even within the left over their stance on the attack by Hamas on Israel that killed over 1,300 people, the vast majority civilians, and provoked an ongoing war.

Israel, the US, the European Union, and a number of other countries consider the entire Hamas movement a terror group. Some countries consider only the Hamas armed wing a terror group.

“Hamas, a resistance movement? No! This is a terrorist movement,” Darmanin wrote on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, saying he was requesting prosecutors open a probe into justifying “terrorism.”

Obono is close to Melenchon, who has run in the last three presidential elections and played a major role in the past two campaigns that were ultimately won by President Emmanuel Macron.

Asked repeatedly on Sud Radio if Hamas was “a resistance movement,” Obono replied: “Yes.”

“It’s an Islamist political movement that has an armed wing… It’s a resistance movement that defines itself as such,” added the lawmaker, a member of parliament since 2017.

Her comments immediately stirred controversy, forcing Obono to take to social media to denounce “manipulations.”

“I said that Hamas was an Islamist political group that claims to be part of the resistance to the occupation of Palestine,” she said on X.

“This is a fact,” she said, adding that her comments were “neither an excuse nor support” for “despicable war crimes against Israeli civilians.”

Bodies of the victims of the mass murderous attack by Hamas on southern Israeli communities on October 7, 2023 await advanced examination for identification at the National Center of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir) in Jaffa, October 16, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

French Transportation Minister Clement Beaune described her comments as “disgusting.”

“She takes a new step in shame. By defending terrorism and antisemitism, by violating the law of the Republic,” he wrote on X.

At least 20 French citizens were confirmed to have been killed in the devastating October 7 Hamas onslaught, during which over 1,500 terrorists abruptly breached the border fence with the Gaza Strip and then murderously rampaged for several hours through southern areas, slaughtering those they found. Over 1,000 of their victims were civilian men, women, and children with dozens of babies killed. Some victims were mutilated, and some were raped or tortured. The gunmen overran communities, butchering entire families in their homes as well as seizing military posts and killing soldiers.

Some 200 people of all ages — including children — were abducted and taken hostage in Gaza. Alongside the initial assault, Hamas fired over 5,000 rockets aimed at towns and cities across Israel. Gazan terror groups have continued to rain rockets on southern and central Israel since the attack, causing more deaths and injuries.

The refusal of Melenchon and the LFI to describe Hamas as a terror group has caused a crisis within the NUPES coalition of France’s left, which also brings together Socialists, Greens and Communists.

Socialist leader Olivier Faure told France Inter radio that he was suggesting a “moratorium” on his MPs taking part in NUPES, saying there was a problem with the “Melenchon method” and he can “no longer claim to embody all the Greens and left.”

Melenchon hit back by writing on X that Faure was “breaking up NUPES.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin holds a press conference following a security council meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris on October 16, 2023. (Yoan VALAT / POOL / AFP)

Israel has retaliated to the massacre with artillery and airstrikes, and officials from the Hamas-controlled health ministry estimate more than 2,800 Palestinians dead. Israel said it would eradicate Hamas and is targeting terrorist infrastructure and all areas where Hamas operates or hides out, while issuing evacuation warnings to civilians in regions it plans to attack.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the government defended ministers who have criticized Israel’s military response, including one who called it a “planned genocide” in the Gaza Strip.

Last Friday, acting equality minister Irene Montero tweeted, “Violations of international criminal law and war crimes cannot go unpunished. Defending peace and human rights is today the most urgent task of all.”

Then on Saturday, Ione Belarra, who is Spain’s social rights minister, attended a pro-Palestinian rally in Madrid. The following day she posted to X (formerly Twitter), “The streets of Madrid were filled with dignity today to call for an end to the planned genocide of the State of Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

On Monday, Belarra followed up with a video statement in which she again accused Israel of genocide and demanded that the Spanish government bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes.

Alberto Garzon, Spain’s acting consumer affairs minister, said, “A violent and indiscriminate attack on a civilian population is a collective punishment that clearly violates international law,” the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported. “What the Israeli government is doing is pure cruelty.”

Screen capture from video of Spain’s social rights minister Ione Belarra accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip, October 16, 2023. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel’s embassy in Madrid on Monday posted a Spanish-language letter to its own X feed calling on socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to condemn the remarks, saying they are “not only absolutely immoral, they also endanger the safety of Jewish communities in Spain, exposing them to the risk of a greater number of antisemitic attacks and incidents.”

“It is deeply worrying that certain elements within the Spanish government have chosen to align themselves with this kind of ISIS-style terrorism,” the embassy said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group, according to the Guardian report.

The Sanchez government responded in a statement, saying, “In a full democracy, such as Spain, any political leader can freely express their positions as the representative of a political party.”

It said the government had made an “unequivocal condemnation” of the Hamas attack and was demanding that the hostages be released while recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself “within the limits set by international law and international humanitarian law.”

On Sunday, over 100 experts on international law published a statement assessing that Hamas committed multiple war crimes in its attack on Israel, and was likely also guilty of genocide.

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