On Friday, 9 April, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network organized an international webinar on “Defending Palestine, Fighting Repression.” Inspired by a number of recent attacks on the Palestinian and Palestine solidarity movement internationally, including the labeling of Samidoun as a “terrorist organization” by Israeli Defense Minister and war criminal Benny Gantz; the demand by a member of the French national assembly to dissolve Collectif Palestine Vaincra, and ongoing repression of Palestine organizing in Germany, the event brought together activists engaged in resisting repression and building solidarity with Palestine.
The event was moderated by Hadeel Shatara of Samidoun Network in occupied Palestine, who noted the anniversaries of the birth of Ghassan Kanafani and the Deir Yassin massacre, while urging people to get involved with the calls to action for Palestinian Prisoners’ Week from 17-23 April and the Week of Palestinian Struggle between 15-22 May.
The speakers at the webinar were:
- Charlotte Kates, the international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. She is based in Canada and also works with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Al-Awda and the National Lawyers Guild.
- Collectif Palestine Vaincra is a committed organization working for Palestine based in Toulouse, France. They are actively involved in building the campaign to free Georges Abdallah, imprisoned in French jails for over 36 years.
- The Anti-Zionists on trial in Milan, Italy are facing trial and charges against them because they challenged the presence of Zionist organizations and the Israeli flag at the annual anti-fascist rally commemorating the liberation of Italy.
- Ryan of Palestine Antikolonial in Muenster, Germany, an organization dedicated to taking an anti-colonial approach to the Palestinian struggle. They have repeatedly faced attacks from student government bodies and others in order to repress their work.
- Liliana Cordova Kazcerginski, the co-founder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN). She was recently part of an important legal victory in Valencia, Spain over an attempt to silence the movement for the boycott of Israel.
Below is the English text of the intervention made by the Collectif Palestine Vaincra of Toulouse, France, a member organization of the Samidoun Network:
Intervention of the Palestine Vaincra Collective
Webinar “Defending Palestine, fighting repression”
Good morning to all of you,
I am speaking on behalf of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, a member organization of the international network Samidoun in Toulouse, France. Since our founding in March 2019, we have been the target of a series of intimidations, threats and attacks by organizations defending Israeli apartheid. But all this is part of a much older political tradition of the French bourgeoisie.
Indeed, France sells an image of itself in the world as “the country of human rights”, of republican universalism, of liberty – equality – fraternity but the reality is quite different. France is a former colonial power and one of the main imperialist powers in the world.
In this context, it has always supported the Israeli occupation which is a real outpost for the imperialists in this region of the world. As early as 1947, France voted for the partition plan and legitimized the Nakba of 1948. In the 1960s, France supplied nuclear power to the Zionist state. Today, it develops important trade agreements while promoting “peace processes”, the “two-state solution” and other tools that ultimately serve to preserve the interests and existence of the Zionist state.
This position translates into a real policy of criminalizing the solidarity movement with Palestine. Obviously the most symbolic is the fate reserved for Georges Abdallah, a Lebanese communist and fighter for the Palestinian resistance, who has been imprisoned in France since 1984 although he has been eligible for release since 1999. Having become the oldest political prisoner in Europe, Georges Abdallah is kept in prison because he is a threat to the strategic interests of French imperialism in Lebanon, as a French intelligence report in the early 2000s pointed out.
Another element of this policy of criminalization is obviously the French government’s policy on the boycott of Israel and the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign. Since its development in the mid-2000s, the various French governments (of both the right and the left) have constantly sought to criminalize this anti-racist and anti-colonial campaign. Various circulars (such as those issued by the Ministers of Justice Alliot-Marie or Dupont-Moretti) have encouraged the prosecution of activists who call for the boycott of Israeli products. However, no law in France currently prohibits the boycott of Israel, but the pro-Israel lobby uses a legal guerrilla warfare, manipulating the facts, in order to fight this campaign. Activists of the BDS Campaign have been prosecuted many times: in Bordeaux, Montpellier, Toulouse, in the Paris region, etc. Recently, the president of EuroPalestine, Olivia Zémor, went on trial in Lyon for having supported calls for a boycott of Teva, the Israeli pharmaceutical company. The trial will take place in mid-May.
In June 2020, the European Court of Human Rights condemned France for “hindering freedom of expression” after it convicted activists who called for a boycott of Israeli products. This shows that this policy of criminalization is far from being a consensus, even among the highest European authorities. But regardless of whether it is legal or not, we affirm that the boycott of Israel is legitimate and must be supported!
Another aspect of French policy in defense of Israeli apartheid is the strategy of equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. This strategy is coordinated internationally by the supporters of the Zionist occupation in order to combat the growing movement to legitimize the Zionist state. For example, President Emmanuel Macron announced at a meeting of France’s leading Zionist organization that “anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism.” The IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism, and especially its reactionary examples, have been adopted in the National Assembly, in the cities of Nice and Paris etc. But each time, this is done in a non-binding way and the vote in the French parliament took place with difficulty, including in the presidential majority. Better still, the city of Strasbourg rejected the adoption of this definition, recognizing that it was a dangerous attempt at instrumentalization.
It is therefore within this general framework that the activities of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra fall. Since our foundation in March 2019 after a work of 10 years on the city around Palestine and George Abdallah, we are the target of regular attacks from defenders of this racist, colonial and apartheid state. They have taken different forms: insults, threats, intimidation, filing of complaints, calls for dissolution, etc. And it is something logical, it shows that our work meets a certain echo. A work that we carry out on two levels. Firstly, a field work on the city with multiple actions and initiatives in support of the Palestinian people. But also an in-depth work of explanation and promotion of the historical positions of the Palestinian resistance: the defense of a free Palestine from the sea to the Jordan River, the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners, the right of return of all Palestinian refugees, the right to a total boycott of the Zionist state, the defense of the legitimacy of the resistance (including armed resistance) against colonialism, etc.
Since the designation of the Samidoun network as a “terrorist” organization by the Israeli war criminals, the attacks have redoubled in several countries, including France. The extreme right-wing NGO Monitor is leading a campaign with the French authorities to ask for our dissolution, obviously using a deeply false argument. Moreover, a parliamentarian of the presidential majority has made an official request to the Ministry of the Interior to dissolve us.
Faced with the multiplication and intensification of these attacks, a broad movement of solidarity has been expressed. Sections of the BDS France campaign, the AFPS (Association France Palestine Solidarité), organizations such as the French Jewish Union for Peace, Europalestine etc., but also the National Collective for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis which brings together the main left-wing organizations ( PCF, PG, EELV, NPA ), unions ( UNEF, CGT, Solidaires, FSU ), associations (Attac, ATMF, FTCR, Mouvement de la Paix ). And this is something extremely important. Because behind these attacks against the collective, it is the whole movement of solidarity with Palestine that is attacked. It is therefore more necessary than ever, regardless of tactical or strategic disagreements, to reject and fight these attacks which concern all anti-colonialist and anti-racist activists.
All the more so as they are part of a deeply reactionary dynamic in France around the intensification of racist policies, in particular Islamophobic ones, dissolutions or threats of dissolutions against anti-racist organizations, Muslim associations or student unions.
And the best response is to continue our solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and to build the necessary links between the different organizations, in France and in the world. This webinar is an important response. We must continue this work in this direction.