The following article, featuring an interview with Tom Martin of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra in Toulouse, was originally published in Arbejderen (The Workers), the Danish leftist newspaper. We are republishing it here in English. This interview took place while the Collectif was participating in the 50th anniversary of the Internationalt Forum in Copenhagen. The Collectif is a member organization of the Samidoun Network in France. Click here to read their intervention, or watch the video of the presentation.
Tom Martin, of the southern French city of Toulouse, is wildly unopular with French Zionists. They claim that anyone who protests the Israeli government’s policy of apartheid against the Palestinians is anti-Semitic.
Tom Martin, 35, is shaking his head.
“We are facing strong forces that argue that because you are against Zionism, you are — in their eyes — automatically anti-Semitic,” he said to Arbejderen during a visit to Denmark.
Tom Martin is a member of one of France’s most active and visible solidarity groups, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, which in May was the driving force behind very large demonstrations in Toulouse against Israel’s war against Gaza. Thousands of young people attended.
Collectif Palestine Vaincra means, “Palestine Will be Victorious Collective.”
“The Zionist lobby in France, which supports Israeli apartheid, deliberately links anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and accuses us of being racists, even though we are in fact anti-racists,” Tom Martin says.
Anti-Semitism can be described as prejudice against or even hatred of Jews as a group.
Zionism is the term for the state of Israel’s underlying ideology that Jews constitute a people entitled to their own religious state in Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital. In practice, it means controlling as much Palestinian land as possible and the presence of as few Palestinians as possible.
The Collectif Palestine Vaincra, founded in 2019, calls for, among other things, a boycott of Israel, and it provides information about the history and rights of the Palestinian people.
The Zionists in France were infuriated when, in the days leading up to Christmas last year, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra put posters on JC Decaux bus shelter advertisements, taking photos and sharing them on social media, where they were viewed hundreds of thousands of times. They carried slogans like “Boycott Israel” and “As a Christmas present, I want a free Palestine.”
The accusations of anti-Semitism came quickly — for example from the BNCVA, which defines itself as a national bureau to combat anti-Semitism, as well as from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the CRIF, the Representative Council of Jews in France.
Calls to Prohibit Collectif Palestine Vaincra
This led to parts of the Zionist lobby in France proposing a ban of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra.
In March of this year, politician Patrice Perrot asked the Home Secretary to ban and dissolve the Collectif Palestine Vaincra.
Patrice Perrot is a member of the National Assembly representing the La Republique en Marche! Party, led by French president Emmanuel Macron.
This politician is close to the extremely Zionist and right-wing organization NGO Monitor, which aims to suppress the Palestine solidarity movement around the world.
The demand to ban the very active French group came in the wake of the Israeli government officially branding a number of Palestinian NGOs as “terrorist organizations.”
“The very strong pro-Zionist lobby is trying to use its connections to French politicians to introduce interventions against us using the judicial system and the laws. The goal is to silence forces that support the Palestinian people,” Tom Martin says.
He says that France’s pro-Zionist lobby has not only allied itself with the French government but is also aligning with U.S. policy on Israel and the Palestinian cause.
“These three components are merging more and more, adapting to the extremely aggressive policies of the United States,” Tom Martin says.
Is it illegal to boycott Israel in France?
“No, but the Zionists and their supporters are trying to make people believe that. The Zionist organiations are trying in various ways to make ordinary people believe that it is illegal, which it is not. We stand with the movement here in France calling for the boycott, including the BDS campaign.”
Building the Boycott Campaign
Tom Martin emphasizes that the Collectif Palestine Vaincra supports the boycott of Israel as one of the means by which people can fight the colonial Israeli state.
The Collectif is working together with the BDS campaign in the south of France as well as other Palestinian and Palestine solidarity groups.
“We support economic, cultural, sporting and academic boycott campaigns,” Tom Martin says.
Among other things, there were protests against the Israeli cycling team, “Israel Start-Up Nation,” during this summer’s Tour de France cycling race.
He says that in recent years, there have been various accusations, allegations and lawsuits against activists who support the boycott of Israel in France, most recently against the leader of the solidarity group EuroPalestine, Olivia Zémor, who is of French Jewish descent.
She was acquitted by the Lyon City Court in May of this year for calling for a boycott of the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva.
“This kind of court victory happens even though the French Ministry of Justice issued a circular last October to prosecutors and officials throughout the country condemning calls to boycott Israeli products as equivalent to inciting discrimination against Israel on the basis of nationality,” Tom Martin says, shaking his head again.
He added that the European Court of Human Rights in June of last year upheld the right of French activists to call for a boycott of Israeli products, ruling that prosecutions against them would violate their freedom of expression.
Free and democratic Palestine
Tom Martin says that many Zionist groups in France want to ban the Collectif Palestine Vaincra because the group openly advocates for a liberated and democratic Palestine for all, without Zionism, racism and hatred and with justice for all.
The group also upholds the inalienable right of return for all Palestinian refugees displaced from their land.
These are not the only reasons why several Zionist groups in France are calling for a ban on the Collectif Palestine Vaincra. They are also outraged that the group supports the Palestinian struggle to liberate all of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.
The Collectif Palestine Vaincra refers to the growing number of Palestinian groups, especially among young people, who with the words “river to the sea” indicate the borders of the original historic Palestine as the goal of the liberation struggle. Historic Palestine includes present-day Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza Strip). The river is the Jordan River, which runs east of Palestine, and the sea refers to the Mediterranean Sea to the west.
This demand was raised by tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Palestine and around the world in May of this year during major protests against Israel’s attack on Gaza.
During the protests, some Israelis also supported the demand for a democratic Palestine.
“We support a free, diverse and democratic Palestine, liberated from imperialism and Zionism. By diverse, we mean a country where traditions, religions and languages are a personal choice and people can live in freedom,” Tom Martin says.
“We see Israel as a colonial and racist entity, an outpost of Western imperialism in the region. We condemn and fight France’s support for the Zionist entity,” he says.
Tom Martin says that the message of a united, free Palestine is well received by many residents of Toulouse.
“People notice us, and more and more people are becoming aware that the so-called two-state solution, and especially the so-called peace process of Oslo and Madrid, is a big lie, and that a democratic Palestine is a real solution,” he says.
The much-publicized Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 purported to form a roadmap that was supposed to lead to Israel evacuating the settlements and withdrawing its occupying forces, and finally leading to a Palestinian state.
However, Israel continued to build settlements and did not withdraw. And there has not been a Palestinian state.
Every month, the Collectif Palestine Vaincra sets up a stand in the center of Toulouse, providing information about the boycott, Palestine and the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
“It is a space and a meeting place where we can discuss with hundreds of people. There is also an opportunity to hoist the Palestinian flag in public space,” said Tom Martin, adding that the group’s mere presence evokes strong reactions from groups that support the “extreme Zionist right wing,” as he puts it.
Tom Martin explains that the Zionist forces in France are also infuriated because the Collectif Palestine Vaincra views the Palestinian people’s struggle as an integral part of anti-imperialist resistance throughout the world.
“The struggle is anti-imperialist, internationalist, anti-racist and anti-colonialist at the same time,” Tom Martin says.
In southern France, many activists from the social protest movement, the Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes), have taken part in demonstrations organized by the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, most recently in the demonstration that drew over 1,000 participants in solidarity with Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, a Lebanese Communist and resistance struggler who has been imprisoned for 37 years in the Lannemezan prison not far from Toulouse.
BDS France Toulouse, local branch 31 of the CGT Education trade union, the French student union (UNEF)’s Toulouse branch and others participated, together with Attac Toulouse and political parties like the NPA and the French Communist Party, PCF.
“The French state is an imperialist and colonialist state. The comrades from the Yellow Vests joined our demonstrations because they could easily recognize the repression of the French state against Georges Ibrahim Abdallah. They themselves have been subjected to the repression of the police and courts,” Tom Martin explains.
Tom Martin is not worried when Zionist forces and bourgeois media call the Collectif Palestine Vaincra the PFLP in Europe.
The PFLP stands for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is the second largest Palestinian resistance organization in the PLO.
The PFLP is fighting for a free Palestine that is not under Israeli control. The purpose of the PFLP is to create a secular, socialist democratic state where Muslims, Christians, Jews and others can live in peace.
Tom Martin smiles at the claims of being the PFLP in Europe.
“Yes, they are trying to label us as terrorists and compare us to what they call terrorist organizations. But we continue to support the Palestinian resistance and its legitimacy. And yes, we respect Georges Abdallah, as well as Ahmad Sa’adat and Khalida Jarrar, who are political leaders of the PFLP.
Tom Martin considers the PFLP to be one of the Palestinian liberation movements.
Young people’s growing involvement
Internationally, Collectif Palestine Vaincra cooperates with the International Forum in Denmark and with the Palestinian prisoner solidarity organization Samidoun, of which the French group is a member.
Collectif Palestine Vaincra is also part of the organization of the Masar Badil, the Palestinian alternative revolutionary umbrella movement, which held conferences in Beirut, Madrid and Sao Paolo at the same time in October and November this year.
“The conference renewed contacts between Palestinian organizations, Arab groups and international groups and is a step towards regrouping the resistance. There was strong agreement that the Oslo agreements are a thing of the past, forgotten and buried.”
“We were thrilled that a large number of young people attended the conferences, especially young Palestinian women. They are from a generation that was born after the Oslo Accords were signed. But the young people have experienced precisely that those agreements have hit them hard, as they have the Palestinian resistance struggle as a whole,” says Tom Martin.
Tom Martin and the Collectif Palestine Vaincra are optimistic about the youth of Palestine and their resistance struggle against Israeli occupation.
“We strongly believe that the ‘revival’ and renewed resilience we experienced during Israel’s recent attack on Gaza will mean that a common front will gather to liberate all of historic Palestine. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were on the streets in Gaza, in the West Bank, in refugee camps outside Palestine and in all places of exile,” he says.
“I am very optimistic, not least because of the many activities of young people,” Tom Martin concludes.