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French Jews brace for BDS demonstration in Paris

MP Meyer Habib asks interior minister to ban Saturday protest; CRIF officials warn Jewish citizens that demonstrators may target them

Protesters clash with riot police in Sarcelles, a suburb north of Paris, on July 20, 2014, during a demonstration to denounce Israel's military campaign in Gaza and show their support for the Palestinian people. (AFP/Omar Bouyacoub)
Protesters clash with riot police in Sarcelles, a suburb north of Paris, on July 20, 2014, during a demonstration to denounce Israel's military campaign in Gaza and show their support for the Palestinian people. (AFP/Omar Bouyacoub)

A French Jewish member of parliament is seeking to ban a demonstration scheduled for Saturday in Paris on the grounds that it will likely call to boycott Israel, a demand that is illegal in France.

The event is scheduled to take place Saturday on Chatelet Square.

MP Meyer Habib sent a letter to French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl, asking him to ban the demonstration organized by anti-Zionist groups CAPJPO-EuroPalestine and Droits Devant (Rights First).

In a statement, the groups had said they were calling for the demonstration “to celebrate the Palestinian resistance to the occupation and to the settlements” and urge sanctions against Israel.

“No to blackmail by means of anti-Semitism,” they wrote, implying that criticism of Israel is being unfairly labeled anti-Semitic. “No to the dictates of the Israeli lobby. No to attacks on freedom of expression. No the attacks by the fascist thugs of the Jewish Defense League.”

The protesters wrote that they will “demand sanctions instead of the current collaboration of the French government with Israeli apartheid.”

The International Solidarity Movement — a far-left group that, like CAPJPO, supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel – wrote on its website that the protest was for a “separation of CRIF and state.”

CRIF is the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, which defines itself as Zionist and engages in pro-Israel advocacy as well as lobbying efforts on this issue.

The organizers of the rally, which police approved, did not call for a boycott of Israel ahead of the protest – an action that is illegal in France under 2003 legislation that proscribes discrimination against countries or their citizens.

“France is in [a state of] emergency, with 250 citizens killed by terrorism over the past year and a half,” Habib wrote in the letter. “The Jews in France are targets for Muslim terrorists, as in Toulouse and the Jewish shop in Paris,” Habib wrote, referring to terror attacks against Jews that took place in those locations in recent years.

In 2012, an Islamic extremist, Mohammed Merah, killed seven people in attacks targeting Jewish civilians, including children, and Muslim members of the French armed forces in Toulouse. On January 9, 2015, terrorist Amedy Coulibaly held several hostages at gunpoint at the Porte de Vincennes branch of the kosher Hyper Cacher supermarket chain in eastern Paris. Four Jewish hostages were murdered by Coulibaly, who was then killed by police. The attack was part of a coordinated assault that started two days earlier, when two terrorists forced their way into the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 people including a police officer and a bodyguard.

French parliament member Meyer Habib. (Erez Lichtfeld)
French parliament member Meyer Habib. (Erez Lichtfeld)

Habib wrote in his letter to Fekl that French society “is more fragile than ever and cannot tolerate displays of hatred against the Jews and Israel. This is a demonstration supporting a campaign calling to boycott Israel, a call that is, as is known, illegal in France. It is therefore not clear why the demonstration was approved” in the first place, he added.

On Friday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo backed Habib’s call to cancel the demonstration.

Warning of disturbances to public order, she wrote that the protest “could be considered as a public, anti-Semitic act to French Jews,” according to AFP.

The call by ISM for a “separation of CRIF and state” is “some of the worst anti-Semitic clichés that exist and it may provoke severe disturbances to public order,” said Hidalgo.

“Anri-Semitic calls have no place in Paris and must be fought firmly,” she wrote in a series of tweets.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Francis Kalifat, the president-elect of CRIF, wrote a letter to French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, urging that the event be called off.

CRIF President Francis Kalifat poses in Paris, France, on May 29, 2016. (AFP/Francois Guillot)
CRIF President Francis Kalifat poses in Paris, France, on May 29, 2016. (AFP/Francois Guillot)

Officials in the Jewish community have warned French citizens who plan to pray in the city’s synagogues on Saturday that they may be targeted.

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