Repression and Resistance in France: Victory for Salah Hamouri in Lyon; Herault prefecture bans Palestine demonstration

On Thursday, 22 June, the Collectif 69 in Support of the Palestinian People, in Lyon, France, organized a public meeting on colonization and apartheid in occupied Palestine, with guest speakers Jean-Claude Samouiller, the president of Amnesty France, and Salah Hamouri, the French-Palestinian lawyer and former political prisoner who was forcibly deported from Palestine and stripped of his Jerusalem ID by the Israeli occupation regime in December 2022. Since his deportation (and before), he has been a tireless voice throughout France in defense of the Palestinian people, their rights and their liberation.

On 20 June, Lyon mayor Gregory Doucet of the EELV (Greens) party, banned this public event, which was sponsored by 15 organizations and political parties, on the grounds that it would “disturb public order.” As the Committee to Support Salah Hamouri said in a statement, “This is the second time Mr. Doucet took the decision to censor Salah Hamouri, even though the City of Lyon had planned to make him a citizen of honour in December 2022 (ceremony cancelled a few days before).” In a letter addressed to the mayor, the prefect — the local representative of the national government — supported the ban on Salah Hamouri’s presentation, making particularly false and dangerous arguments. As the decolonial Jewish collective Tsedek! wrote, “the prefect justifies the ban by alleged concern for the emotions of the Jewish community, associating this with the rejection of solidarity with the Palestine people. This is a doubly dangerous game, for international solidarity and for the Jews. It mobilizes a fantastical image of a Jewish community unilaterally on the side of Israeli politics…as if the French state had waited for the Jewish community to support Israeli policy and suppress Palestine solidarity.”

The organizers filed an appeal to the administrative court of Lyon, which decreed on Thursday afternoon, just hours before the event, that the order banning the event had been suspended by order of the court. The judge said in her order, “Neither the mayor of the City of Lyon or the prefect of the Rhône credibly allege that Mr. Hamouri, during conferences organized in other cities in France, would have made remarks likely to be sanctioned or to create disturbances to public order.”

On the contrary, the only “disturbances” that have taken place at Salah Hamouri’s events have been physical attacks by Zionists, who threw chairs at the crowd in Toulouse and attempted to attack Hamouri as he spoke.

The legal victory in Lyon is a defeat for those forces that are waging an open campaign to hinder the freedom of expression of French-Palestinian lawyer and former political prisoner Salah Hamouri. This campaign of censorship and intimidation must inspire us to build solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, of which Salah Hamouri has become an important spokesperson throughout France.

This came just one day before the prefecture in Hérault announced yet another ban on Palestine solidarity activities in France. On Saturday, 24 June, the Montpellier Coalition Against Apartheid had called for a rally against Israeli apartheid and commeorations of “Jerusalem Day,” which glorifies the occupation, annexation and ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem since the 1967 Nakba.

In a particularly outrageous statement, the prefect declared that the demonstration was banned because it “fears the importation into Montpellier of an international conflict and the presentation of discriminatory speeches.”

As the coalition noted in their statement, “These pretexts are just as fallacious as those used in previous bans: ‘importing the conflict,’ ‘Saturday is Shabbat’ and ‘it is the eve of the international observance of Jerusalem Day.’ However, when the French state supports Ukraine or the Town Hall of Montpellier wishes to declare its ‘solidarity with Iranian men and women against obscurantism’, no one accuses them of ‘importing’ or ‘transposing’ these conflicts in France, any more than they are accused of discriminatory speech inciting hatred against the Russian or Iranian population…On the other hand, when some commemorate in Montpelllier the annexation of Jerusalem for 46 years, in tota violation of international law, in the presence of the Israeli consul and representatives of the executive of the Region, of Department 34 and the City of Montpellier, represented by its mayor, those who protest and demand respect for international law, are prohibited from demonstrating on the pretext of ‘incitement to hatred, discrimination, etc.’

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network internationally joins the Collectif Palestine Vaincra, the member organization of our Network based in Toulouse, in denouncing this new attack on organizing for Paletine in France, an attack on the freedom of demonstration that poses a threat to all. We stand in solidarity with the Montpellier Coalition Against Apartheid and we call on all to sign their petition demanding that the Montpellier municipality suspend its ties with Israeli apartheid. Faced with ongoing dissolutions, bans and repression, we must stand together more than ever to challenge these draconian attacks.