The following interview with Collectif Palestine Vaincra (a member organization of the Samidoun Network) was originally published in French at the Chronique de Palestine. Read the French original here: https://www.chroniquepalestine.com/attaque-diffamatoire-contre-collectif-palestine-vaincra-cible-ensemble-mouvement-solidarite-avec-palestine/
An interview with Tom Martin, spokesperson for the Collectif Palestine Vaincra.
January 28, 2022 – The Collectif Palestine Vaincra, a very active and visible organization in France in the Palestine solidarity movement, has been under attack for several months by pro-Israeli organizations.
These false and dishonest attacks, which aim to undermine the entire solidarity movement with Palestine, are now relayed by members of the National Assembly and other prominent political figures, who go so far as to demand the dissolution of the organization.
These threats are not to be treated lightly, as evidenced by the current administrative dissolution procedure of Nantes révoltée, where the unspoken aim of the government in place is to leave the streets open primarily to the extreme right.
Palestine Chronicle wanted to give the floor to the spokesperson of the organization, Tom Martin, who agreed to answer our questions.
Question: How did the Collectif Palestine Vaincra begin its work? What is its scope of action, its main campaigns?
Tom Martin: The Collectif Palestine Vaincra was founded three years ago, in 2019, and is the result of a decade of work in the Toulouse region, in support of the Palestinian people and, in particular, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah.
Our motivation for action is supporting the Palestinian people and their resistance. This is done through both awareness-raising and educational campaigns, for example on the fate of Palestinian prisoners, the situation in the occupied Naqab, the situation related to the blockade of Gaza or the colonization of the West Bank under occupation, or the reality of life in occupied Palestine ‘48.
But it is also a collective that is oriented towards concrete practice and action. Every month we set up information stands in the city center and in the working class neighborhoods of Toulouse.
We conduct awareness campaigns and promote the boycott of Israel, for example with a campaign to demand the end of the twinning between Toulouse and the city of Tel Aviv, the capital of Israeli apartheid. We lead campaigns to question political leaders and denounce their active complicity with Israeli colonization.
In short, we are a collective dedicated both to promoting a radical anti-Zionism, radical anti-colonialism, for the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea, and to normalizing these positions in the French political scene, which is unfortunately still too timid on these issues.
At the same time, we aim to be a collective anchored in a practice with the people, with regularity and consistency.
Q: The issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israel is obviously of particular importance to the Collectif Palestine Vaincra… What are the reasons for this?
T.M : The Collectif Palestine Vaincra is a member of the international Samidoun network, and we believe that support for Palestinian prisoners is central to the defense of Palestine.
It is obviously a support for the defense of basic rights, against torture, and against administrative detention, which are particularly barbaric practices.
But our support is above all a political support for Palestinian fighters, because for us, the Palestinian political prisoners embody the Palestinian resistance.
In fact, their imprisonment symbolizes the fact that the Palestinian people continue to fight tirelessly for their rights and liberation.
That is why, in our opinion, defending Palestinian prisoners is defending Palestinian resistance, and that is why defending prisoners is a central cause for us.
Q. How do you analyze the role of the Zionist state at the international level?
T.M: For us, Israel, the Zionist state, is obviously a colonial, apartheid, racist state, but more precisely, it is a Western settlement in this region of the world.
The Zionist state is a watchdog of Western interests, of imperialist interests, and it is therefore important to be anti-Zionist because fighting the Zionist state is also fighting our own imperialism: French imperialism and its interests in the Middle East.
When we say we support the Palestinian people and their resistance, it is a support for a common anti-imperialist struggle because the liberation of Palestine will have a considerable effect in the Arab world but also in the imperialist centers, including France.
Q. The Collectif Palestine Vaincra has been for several months in France the object of attacks in the written and spoken press – and even from parliamentarians – orchestrated by pro-Israeli pressure groups. The stated objective is to impose a ban on this organization. Can you summarize in a few lines the nature and the origin of these attacks?
T.M : The Collectif Palestine Vaincra supports the Palestinian resistance in all its forms and in the diversity of its orientations. Within this framework we advocate in favor of the progressive organizations that are part of this Palestinian resistance, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
However, the accusations of an organizational or structural link with this party are false. Let us remember that in Europe, hundreds of organizations and many European parliamentarians support the Palestinian resistance, and the smear campaigns launched by the supporters of Israeli apartheid will not silence us.
Furthermore, we denounce the classification of the primary organizations of the Palestinian resistance as “terrorists”. This particularly scandalous classification aims to silence solidarity with the Palestinian people and their resistance.
This resistance is legitimate, including in its armed component, as has been emphasized in numerous United Nations resolutions, according to which peoples who are victims of colonialism have the right to resist in order to free themselves.
Q. Attacks on the Palestine solidarity movement recur throughout the Western world, and the Israeli state has an active policy in this regard, with great financial resources. One of the most glaring examples is Great Britain, where solidarity has been officially criminalized. Do you see a similar evolution in France?
T.M : We see that the image of Israel has rapidly declined, because it is becoming more and more obvious to the world that this state is not a state like others, that it is a state that practices an apartheid policy, a segregationist, racist policy, which has been oppressing the Palestinian people for over 70 years.
In the face of this, the Israeli extreme right multiplies the campaigns of defamation and attacks against the supporters of justice in Palestine.
Of course, one must recall the attacks on the BDS movement, the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, since this movement is considered a strategic threat by the supporters of Israeli apartheid.
But this is just one aspect of the repressive campaigns, as one can also see the campaigns around the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which outrageously equates anti-Zionism – which is anti-racism – with anti-Semitism.
There are also attacks around the alleged accusations of terrorism that have concerned our Samidoun network, but which have also recently targeted six Palestinian NGOs that defend the most basic rights of the Palestinian people.
In short, all of these procedures aim to criminalize support for the Palestinian people, and we believe that we must not give in to intimidation and continue our anti-colonialist struggle.
Q: Has a new threshold been crossed after the multiple anti-BDS attacks that we have experienced in recent years and which have led to repeated trials?
T.M: There is indeed a threshold that has been crossed with a series of attacks, notably judicial attacks against the BDS campaign in France, but also in Germany, Austria, England, the United States, etc.
But we can see that this movement for BDS, for the boycott, is a movement that is growing, despite the intimidation. We have recently seen successes such as the withdrawal of Ben & Jerry’s from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Ben & Jerry’s has yet to withdraw from all of occupied Palestine.
We have also seen it with the German court decision that rejected the anti-Palestinian policy of the city of Munich.
We saw it with the acquittal of Olivia Zemor in the first instance in the lawsuit brought against her by Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva, but also, and above all, with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in 2020 which condemned France for hindering freedom of expression following the convictions of activists of the boycott campaign in Mulhouse.
So we see that the attacks are intensifying, but that solidarity is also intensifying, and this is what we are working for, to build greater links with the various organizations and components of the Palestine solidarity movement.
Q: The accusation of anti-Semitism seems to be particularly highlighted, and is clearly part of the arsenal exploited against the Palestine solidarity movement today. What is your response to this?
T.M : There is an very visible offensive that aims to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. We see this in particular through the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which in its examples equates anti-Zionism to a form of anti-Semitism, and this definition has been taken up by the National Assembly, the Senate, the council of the city of Paris and the city of Nice.
Clearly, what is at stake in the adoption of this resolution is to silence support for the Palestinian people and anti-Zionist positions.
Our response to this is to state unambiguously and firmly that we are anti-Zionist activists, that is to say, anti-colonialist and anti-racist activists.
We affirm loudly and clearly that Israel – a colonial and racist entity – is illegitimate, and that the only just and lasting alternative is a free and democratic Palestine from the river to the sea.
Q. Far-right forces are on the rise in many countries, and pro-Israeli pressure groups are like fish in water… In the French case, does this same context influence the smear campaign against you?
T.M : It is more and more obvious that there are close links between the international far right and the leaders of the Israeli state. We have seen, for example, Netanyahu very friendly with Brazilian President Bolsonaro, with Hungarian Prime Minister Orbàn, very close politically to Donald Trump etc…
In France, there has been a significant evolution of the traditional political parties which are progressively questioning the position that was until now the French position around the so-called “two-state solution.”
We see more and more parliamentarians, political figures, like Manuel Valls, Aurore Bergé, Sylvain Maillard, Eric Ciotti… defending the colonization of Palestine, from the river to the sea, defending an increased criminalization of support for the Palestinian people, defending a strategic alignment of the French state with the Israeli extreme right.
This political and ideological alignment reinforces the smear campaigns against us, but more generally, what is at stake here is the defense of democratic freedoms and the defense of the expression of anti-colonial and anti-racist voices in France.
Q: A ban on the Collectif Palestine Vaincra would be extremely serious for the whole solidarity movement, because it would open the way to a larger scale aggression. What are the first reactions around you and what would be the course of action for the whole solidarity movement with Palestine?
T.M : After the first announcements of the demand for our dissolution, we received a large amount of solidarity, which was expressed through many organizations supporting Palestine, such as the National Collective for a Just and Lasting Peace between Palestinians and Israelis, which brings together major French political parties and trade unions and the major organizations supporting Palestine.
This request for dissolution has also been widely condemned at the international level. There has therefore been an awakening.
Nevertheless, we would like to remind you that what is at stake in this attempt to criminalize the Collectif Palestine Vaincra is an attempt to criminalize support for Palestine in general.
Through the attacks against us, it is the whole Palestine solidarity movement that is attacked, it is the whole anti-colonialist and anti-racist movement that is targeted.
In the same way that we must stand together when BDS Montpellier is attacked by the prefecture and city officials who want to censor its activities, or when Olivia Zemor is facing lawfare and unjust lawsuits at the hands of Teva, while the call for a boycott of Israel is not only legitimate but also legal… we must stand together today against this campaign of defamation and attacks which aims to silence an anti-colonialist and anti-racist voice.
Interview by Claude Zurbach, for Chronique de Palestine