World, Middle East, Europe

France bars pro-Palestine demonstrations

Restrictions placed to avoid repeat of 2014 violent clashes, says interior minister

Shweta Desai   | 13.05.2021
France bars pro-Palestine demonstrations

PARIS

France on Thursday imposed a ban on pro-Palestine demonstrations amid escalated violence in the region in a bid to avert a repeat of previous clashes and riots that took place in Paris over half a decade ago, said the country's interior minister.

"Serious disturbances to public order were noted in 2014. Instructions were given to the Prefects to be particularly vigilant and firm," Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter, noting that he had directed Paris police to ban the demonstrations planned last Saturday against

Elsa Faucillon, a communist party senator who has been at the forefront of condemning the French government's silence to Israeli attacks against Palestinians, called the justification for the move bizarre. "Demonstrating is a right that you should be the guarantor of. And in this case, given the silence of our country on the reasons for the attacks, it even seems a duty to me," she said.

The administration of former President Francois Hollande had also outlawed rallies in support of Palestine in 2015, becoming the only major European country to place such restrictions, citing a threat to public order. This came after July 2014 demonstrations in Paris against Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip turned violent on multiple occasions and confrontations between Palestinians and Jewish groups resulted in riots, clashes with police, looting of Jewish-owned shops and protestors attempting to storm synagogues.

Darmanin's statement came in the wake of a last minute cancellation of a national rally organized by the France Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS) on Wednesday. Police in Paris denied permission to the rally that was to be attended by at least three parliamentarians and detained its 71 year old president, Bertrand Heilbronn, outside the Foreign Ministry where he was summoned for a meeting.

Heilbronn was released shortly after midnight following outrage by the activists.

The French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP) strongly condemned the arrest and the "government's maneuvers to silence solidarity with the Palestinians."

In a statement released on Thursday, the AFPS said demonstrators gathered outside the Invalides metro station in Paris had also been fined. "These facts are totally unacceptable and show that this power is trying by all means to prevent our voices of solidarity with the Palestinian people."

The group demanded the government "put an end to these repeated and scandalous attacks on freedom of expression and demonstration." It has since vowed to hold gatherings across various cities and towns in France in the coming days to pressure France to act to "protect Palestinians in Jerusalem."

Over 60 French lawmakers have written to President Emmanuel Macron to initiate large-scale diplomatic action to reiterate to Israeli authorities Palestinians' right to live in East Jerusalem, the letter said. France, along with Germany, Egypt and Jordan, is pushing Israel and Palestine to resume dialogue to de-escalate the ongoing deadly conflict, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced in the Senate.

Tensions have been running high in the Sheikh Jarrah area in occupied East Jerusalem over the past month as Israeli settlers swarmed in following a court order for the eviction of Palestinian families in the area.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 -- a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

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