Sunday, November 1, 2015

The anti-Israel boycott is "illegal" in France

Below is my rough translation of the recent article in the French left-wing paper Libération on the decision by France's Court of Cassation to uphold conviction against activists involved in the French Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Israeli occupation Palestine.

The anti-Israel boycott is "illegal" in France
Alexandre Hervaud
Originally published in Libération
October 28, 2015

The Supreme Court last week upheld the conviction of a dozen activists from the BDS campaign. There are voices in protest against "an attack on freedom of expression."

The anti-Israel boycott is "illegal" in France
Last week, the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the French judiciary, upheld the conviction of twelve activists from Mulhouse (Haut-Rhin) who participated in 2009 and 2010 in actions calling for a boycott of Israeli products. The militants had twice invited customers of an Alsatian supermarket not to buy Israeli products under BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions).

As Libération recalled this summer, the initiative launched in 2004 intends to convince people not to use Israeli products and funding as Israel does not easily change its "colonial policy". The controversial campaign, fueled by the operation "Tel Aviv on the Seine", had subsequently led to an exchange in our pages by tribunes interposed between Laurent Joffrin [editor of Libération] and [Omar Barghouti] co-founder of the BDS movement.

The newspaper Alsace recalls that involved activists were acquitted by the high court of Mulhouse in December 2011 and sentenced by the Court of Appeal of Colmar end of 2013 for  "incitement to discrimination, national, racial and religious". With, the key, the payment of 32,000 euro fine, damages and legal costs. In a statement,the militants,  "stunned", wrote: "After the conviction, it would become impossible today to boycott South Africa to fight against apartheid? Yet in the years 70-80, the boycott of South Africa conducted against this racist state was a key factor that led to the abolition of apartheid, victory of human progress. "

Restriction of freedom of expression
"Let it be said once and for all: the boycott of Israeli products is illegal!" enthused the lawyer Pascal Markowicz, member of the steering committee of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France). For him, "the highest court of our judiciary [confirm] so that freedom of expression may be subject to restrictions or penalties which are necessary in a democratic society for the prevention of disorder and the protection of rights of others ". This notion of freedom of expression with variable geometry has been criticised by American journalist Glenn Greenwald, to whom we owe the revelations about the massive surveillance NSA documents leaked via by Edward Snowden.

On his website The Intercept, Greenwald, who has denounced for months the "fraud" of the mobilisations on January 11 in France as not so Charlie, writes: "Where are all the new found free speech activists who insisted after the Charlie Hebdo murders that a defense of free expression was so vital to all that is good and just in the Western world? Why isn’t the #JeSuisBDS hashtag trending in defense of these activists who have been persecuted — prosecuted — by France for their political views? The answer is clear: Many who reveled in wrapping themselves in the “free speech” banner earlier this year — beginning with France itself and extending throughout the West — have no genuine belief in that right. That’s why these countries not only stand silent in the face of such a fundamental assault on free speech, but aggressively perpetrate those abuses."

Echoing the rostrum massively relayed Greenwald, the American NGO Freedom House has released its annual report on the degree of digital freedom 65 countries (available here in PDF). Telerama reports that if France is still considered "free" in digital expression, it is however the Western country in which freedom has deteriorated the most in the last year. Globally, only Libya is worse. According to the report, "the situation in France has declined mainly due to problematic measures adopted in the wake of the attacks of Charlie Hebdo, just like the prohibition of content that can be described as advocating terrorism, prosecution of online and the significant increase in surveillance ".


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Revitalising Labour attempts to reflect on efforts to rebuild the labour movement internationally, emphasising the role that left-wing political currents can play in this process. It welcomes contributions on union struggles, internal renewal processes within the labour movement and the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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