Twelve French activists from a group called Boycott 68 have been acquitted on charges of “inciting discrimination and racial hatred” for calling on French shoppers to boycott Israeli goods.
The court judgment in the eastern city of Mulhouse deals a blow to efforts by French prosecutors and Zionist groups to outlaw the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The acquittal received wide coverage in French media.
Campagne BDS France declared in a statement (my translation), on the day of the verdict:
Thursday, 15 December will be a historic date for the Campaign in France. The court at Mulhouse has in effect acquitted the 12 activists prosecuted for their participation in the BDS campaign.
They had been pursued by the usual conveyers of Israel’s policies, as well as by the LICRA [International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism] for “discrimination and inciting hatred and violence toward a group or nation” for having participated in two boycott actions in the Carrefour supermarket in Illzach.
The protests took place in September 2009 and May 2010. The statement noted that similar cases, have been brought against French activists in the cities of Perpignan, Paris, Bordeaux and Pontoise and that on 8 July a court in Paris had acquitted another activist on a similar charge. More cases are pending.
Zionist, anti-Palestinian groups behind charges
Charges against the activists in Mulhouse were brought, according to Reuters, after complaints by the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, known by its French acronym BNCVA, the France Israel Chamber of Commerce and LICRA.
BNCVA is an unofficial group that purports to fight against anti-Semitism, but its website indicates that it is closely affiliated with and perhaps a project of the Paris-based European branch of the extreme anti-Palestinian Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The California-based Simon Wiesenthal Center is notoriously behind the destruction of Muslim graves in Jerusalem to build a so-called “Museum of Tolerance.” Shimon Samuels is the director of both the European Wiesenthal Center and the BNCVA.
The real agenda of the BNCVA was revealed in a comment by its president Sammy Ghozlan in reaction to the court judgment. It appears to be to conflate support for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitic statements and acts – which are illegal in France and many other European countries.
The decision, Ghozlan told Reuters, would encourage more “pro-Palestinian propaganda.” “We know,” Ghozlan said, “that such propaganda is the essential source of anti-Semitic acts that take place on our soil.”
The Mulhouse judgment is thus a blow to Israeli-inspired efforts to criminalize support for Palestinian rights in Europe and to legally declare all such speech and action as “anti-Semitic.”
A “civil right” to call for boycott
French prosecutors had asked the court to fine each of the activists €500 ($650), but the judges instead released the defendants. One of the lawyers for the activists hailed the decision, according to Reuters (my translation):
For Attorney Antoine Compte, lawyer for the accused in Mulhouse, the new jurisprudence that appears to be taking root in France signifies that calling for boycott “is a civil right as long as it is accompanied neither by violence nor by pressure on people.” He noted that previous boycott movements in the past, against the Spain of General Franco, or the Olympic Games in China were never the target of legal pursuit.
Even the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce conceded on its website that “BDS won an important legal battle in Mulhouse.”
French BDS activists’ distinctive form of protest
The multiplying efforts to use criminal charges to suppress free speech in France and shield Israel from accountability are an indication of how widespread BDS activism has become, and the distinctive forms of protest French activists have adopted – particularly highly visible actions in supermarkets.
Activists posted a video of such an action at a Carrefour supermarket in southern France on 26 November.
A recent brief documentary that you can view online profiles the increasingly bold protests by French activists and the mounting prosecutions that they have faced.
Israel has unveiled tenders for the construction of 1,028 new illegal settlement units in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the occupied West Bank.
The new settlement buildings include 500 units in the Har Homa neighborhood of East al-Quds, 348 in the Beitar Ilit settlement near Bethlehem, and 180 in the Givat Ze’ev settlement in the West Bank.
Israeli officials said the settlement units were being marketed “as a follow-up to the Palestinian UN membership bid in September.”
Acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas submitted an “application of the state of Palestine for admission to membership in the United Nations” to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on September 23.
The tenders are part of a 6,000-unit package that is scheduled to be constructed across Israel and the West Bank.
Israel has repeatedly been criticized by the international community for illegal settlement activities on the occupied Palestinian land.
On December 12, Israel approved the construction of 40 settlement units and a farm in two new settler communities in the West Bank.
In November, Israel decided to speed up the building process of the settlement units in response to the UNESCO vote.
Between October 2010 and July 2011, the construction of 2,598 new illegal housing units started in all areas in the West Bank.
NABLUS – A child was seriously injured on Sunday after being run over by a settler bus on a road south of Nablus.
Palestinian official Ghassan Douglas said that a bus belonging to settlers hit Muhammad Munjid, a student at elementary school, while he was crossing the street.
Witnesses in Nablus told Ma’an that Israeli police had shut the road and were investigating whether the incident was accidental or not.
The child was taken to hospital and is in a serious condition.
Witnesses said that a group of settlers also exited the bus and attacked a man named as Fadi Ahmad Samara, 32, who was at the scene of the incident.
Settler attacks in the West Bank against Palestinians have increased by more than 50 percent this year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Israeli settlers number 500,000 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, living in Jewish-only communities that are illegal under international law.
Bethlehem Bible college choir performs next to Israel’s separation wall in Bethlehem. (MaanImages/Munther Isaac, HO)
BETHLEHEM – Settlers attacked a Palestinian choir bus returning from a carol concert in Nablus on Saturday evening, choristers told Ma’an.
The singers, from Bethlehem Bible college, said five men attacked them on a quiet road outside of the northern West Bank city.
“A rock smashed through the window, and glass shattered everywhere inside,” chorister Saleem Anfous told Ma’an, adding that none of the 25 carol singers was injured.
“We kept driving and starting singing to cheer ourselves up and encourage the choir members,” he said.
“Tomorrow we will continue our carol tour of the West Bank in Jenin, using the same road, and we are afraid. But we are trying to convince the families that God will protect us.”
Hardline settlers have torched mosques near Ramallah, Jerusalem and Salfit since last Wednesday. The latest string of attacks included a rampage on an army base, sparking condemnation in Israel, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu to vow stronger enforcement against lawlessness.
But he rejected a recommendation to classify the Jewish extremists as terrorists, and Israeli lawmakers were set to discuss a law to legalize settlement outposts built on land owned by Palestinians on Sunday.
Extremists amongst Israel’s 500,000 strong settler population in the West Bank and Jerusalem reference Israel’s measures against outposts in their revenge ‘price tag’ attacks, usually directed at Palestinians in the West Bank, but recently spilling over into Palestinian sites in Israel and army targets.
Israel distinguishes between state-sanctioned settlement building on occupied Palestinian land and the wildcat outposts, but the international community says all settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem break international law.
In a speech given to the Conference of Reform Jews in the US on Friday, President Barack Obama assured the audience that his administration was doing more than any previous administration in US history to serve the cause of Israel, and that US support for the Jewish state is ‘unshakeable’.
President Obama made the speech in the global context of increased isolation of Israel due to its ongoing violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, lack of compliance with its obligations as an Occupying Power under international law, and disregard for past signed agreements with the Palestinians which forbid the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and call for withdrawal of Israeli troops.
Just prior to giving the speech at the conference, President Obama met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The two did not discuss the recent upsurge in Israeli settler violence against Palestinians and against Christian and Muslim holy sites. According to a spokesperson for Obama, the two discussed ‘regional security’.
In his speech to the conference audience of several thousand Reform Jews, Obama stated, “It’s hard to remember a time when the [U.S.] administration gave more support to the security of Israel. Don’t let anyone to tell you otherwise. It’s a fact.”
Some political pundits have claimed that President Obama, in this talk, has launched his campaign for the Jewish vote for his re-election in 2012. Jews make up around 2% of the US population.
In a debate last week, all of the Republican candidates for President reiterated their strong support for Israel and Israeli policies.
President Obama also said in his talk Friday, “We stand with Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. America’s commitment and my commitment to the security of Israel is unshakeable.”
He did not address the issue of a contradiction between a state defining itself as both a theocracy (Jewish state) and a democracy. He stated that peace between Israel and the Palestinians could not come from outside, but would have to be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. But the US President made no mention of the US military and financial aid provided each year to Israel – an aid package larger than any other US aid package in the world, which Palestinian leaders say is a major hindrance to peace negotiations, as it shows extreme US favoritism toward one side in the conflict.