France’s Socialist government provoked outrage today by becoming the first in the world to ban protests against Israeli action in Palestine.
In what is viewed as an outrageous attack on democracy, Socialist Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said mass demonstrations planned for the weekend should be halted.
Mr Cazeneuve said there was a ‘threat to public order’, while opponents said he was ‘criminalising’ popular support of the Palestinian people.
Thousands were set to march against the ongoing slaughter in Gaza, calling for an immediate end to hostilities in which civilians including many children have been killed.
But Mr Cazeneuve fears there might be a repeat of the fights between ‘ultra’ Jewish vigilantes and pro-Palestinians which happened after a demonstration last Sunday.
Referring to the main Paris march, Mr Cazeneuve said: ‘I consider that the conditions are not right to guarantee security.’
He welcomed a legal procedure instigated by the Paris police prefecture to ban the march, despite it already being widely advertised.
Anyone who turns up to an illegal demonstration now faces up to a year in prison, and a 15,000 euro fine.
If they hide their faces to avoid being identified, this sentence can be increased to three years, and a 45,000 fine.
Even those who publish details of an illegal rally on social media face up to a year in prison, and a 15,000 euro fine.
This can be increased to seven years and a 100,000 fine if the postings lead to violence.
Mr Cazeneuve also advised other prefects across France to examine planned marches on a ‘case by case’ basis, and to ban ‘if appropriate’.
But Michele Sibony, of the Jewish Union for Peace, said: ‘By outlawing free speech by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, France puts itself in a unique position in the world and Europe.’
And Youssef Boussoumah, of the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR) said: ‘France is criminalising any show of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
‘This is an absolute outrage, it is a continuation of attempts to muzzle the Palestinian people and to get them and their supporters in France to surrender absolutely to Israel’s oppression.’
Sylvie Perrot, another pro-Palestine activist from Paris, said: ‘Fascist states stop people demonstrating against wars – it is beyond belief that French Socialists are following their example.’
There were false claims made last week that synagogues in Paris had been targeted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
In fact videos showed armed vigilantes from a group called the Jewish Defence League (LDJ) baiting demonstrators into fights.
There were no arrests among the LDJ, despite them fighting and smashing up property in full view of the police.
Six pro-Palestine protestors were arrested for a variety of public order offences, but none had been anywhere near Paris synagogues, which remained undamaged.
A judicial enquiry is set to be launched into the false allegations made about the synagogue attacks – ones which people claim were made up to demonise supporters of Palestine by associating them with anti-Semitism.
On Friday night lawyers for a number of groups hoping to campaign on behalf of Palestine on Saturday lodged an appeal against the ban in a Paris court.