It was a victory in Toulouse on 30 May against the attempts to criminalize and silence organizing for Palestine and particular the BDS movement in France, as the administrative tribunal ruled that the Mayor must allow Attac and its partners to rent Salle Osete for an event in support of four BDS activists facing prosecution. The event, which will take place tonight, 31 May, in Toulouse at 8:30 pm, features Samidoun’s Mohammed Khatib and writer Eric Hazin.
The Mayor of Toulouse, an opponent of BDS and a supporter of French government efforts to criminalize boycott organizing, had earlier denied access to the room. The tribunal referred to this action as a “serious attack, manifestly illegal to the fundamental right of freedom of assembly,” ordering the mayor to provide the space and to pay 1500 EUR to Attac.
The Comité de Soutien aux inculpéEs BDS toulousains referred to the decision as a “great victory for freedom of expression.”
“This decision has come due to the solidarity and persistence against the oppression of freedom of expression. It is an indication of yet another failure of all attempts to shut down the growing BDS movement in support of the Palestinian people,” said Mohammed Khatib of Samidoun, who will speak at the event. “This victory will also contribute toward organizing to achieve victory for the four activists being targeted for persecution.”
The purpose of the event is to support four Toulouse activists, Bernard, Jean-Pierre, Loic and Yamann, who are facing trial and prosecution for publicly distributing leaflets in support of the boycott of Israeli products, accused of “obstructing the normal exercise of economic activity.” They will face the Toulouse court on 30 June, where organizers are preparing a rally of support. The prosecution of BDS activists in Toulouse comes within the context of ongoing attempts to criminalize actions to boycott Israel and persecute activists, with the active support of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who earlier as Interior Minister intervened to overrule French courts and block the release of imprisoned Arab struggler for Palestine Georges Ibrahim Abdallah.
The attempts to repress BDS activism, including the prosecution of activists in various cities for distributing leaflets and even the arrest of a young woman for wearing a BDS t-shirt in Paris, have been accompanied by other state attempts to silence Palestine solidarity. The French state has attempted to force Mayor Azzedine Taibi of Stains to remove a banner urging freedom for imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti from his town’s city hall.
At the same time, France is promoting itself as central to a new “peace process,” the so-called “French initiative” to impose a solution in Palestine. The initiative has been rejected by Palestinian forces, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Hamas, and others because it fails to implement fundamental Palestinian rights, including the right of return, and urging protests on 3 and 4 June against the initiative.
“We oppose the so-called French initiative not only for its political content, and not only because France is playing a colonialist and reactionary role in the region – but also because of French policies in France. Such policies include attacking the Palestine solidarity movement; criminalizing and prosecuting BDS activists supporting the boycott of Israel; the continued imprisonment of Lebanese Arab communist struggler for Palestine, Comrade Georges Ibrahim Abdallah; and the racist policies of the French state towars African, Arab and other oppressed communities within France. All of these policies and practices discredit the French government and its initiative as any force for justice or peace,” said Palestinian leftist writer Khaled Barakat.
The event in Toulouse will take place tonight, 31 May, at 8:30 pm at Salle Osete in Toulouse; speakers will include Mohammed Khatib and Eric Hazin. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the movement in Toulouse on their victory, urges a large attendance at this event, and reiterates the call to support the four accused BDS activists in Toulouse.