macron imposes more & more rigid, draconian legislation

France defies European court ruling upholding right to boycott Israel
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Nov 17 2020

A protester in Toulouse wears a poster depicting Macron as Pétain.
Photo: Patrick Batard/ABACA

The Macron government is defying a landmark judgment from the ECHR that protects the right of people to call for a boycott of Israeli products. This comes amid a mounting human rights crisis in France, where the government is waging a violent crackdown on dissent and protest, and escalating its repression of the country’s Muslim population. The ECHR’s unanimous decision in June struck a major blow against Israel’s efforts to silence its critics when it overturned the criminal convictions against 11 Palestinian rights activists in France. The court found that the convictions against the activists for calling on shoppers to boycott Israeli goods violated the ECHR guarantee of freedom of expression. It ordered the French government to pay each of the activists about $8k in damages and awarded them their legal costs. According to two experts on French law, the European court’s ruling should have prompted the French government to rescind its instructions to prosecutors first issued in 2010 that they should aggressively pursue supporters of the BDS movement. Yet far from respecting the precedent-setting decision and the political rights of French citizens, the Macron government’s justice ministry issued a memorandum to prosecutors last month telling them to continue investigating activists who call for boycotts of Israel. The memorandum asserts:

Actions calling for a boycott of Israeli products may still constitute a crime under the press law, by provoking public discrimination towards a person or group of persons due to their membership of a nation.

According to the legal experts, Magistrate Ghislain Poissonnier and law professor Nicolas Boeglin:

The new memorandum is obviously seeking to preserve the French-style penalization of boycott calls. It is clear that the French authorities refuse, in violation of the hierarchy of norms, to submit to the decision of the ECHR and to European law. The French justice ministry is trying to side-step the clear distinction in the European court’s ruling between, one the one hand, calls to “refrain from consuming products to challenge the policy of a state,” and on the other hand, “calls for violence against people” or “racist and anti-Semitic remarks targeting Jews as an ethnic-religious collective.” The government is attempting to maintain vagueness about the distinction between the call for a boycott of Israeli products and anti-Semitism, without clearly specificying what could tip one towards the other.

At the same time, the justice ministry memorandum incites prosecutors to subject political activists to a terrifying level of inquisition and scrutiny. It claims:

The anti-Semitic character of a boycott call could result directly from words, gestures and writings of the accused, and can also be deduced from the context of these.

The justice ministry “fails to conceal its clearly political goal to suppress at all costs the calls for boycotting Israeli products launched in the framework of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement,” Poissonnier and Boeglin conclude. While France has long waged a campaign of repression targeting supporters of Palestinian rights, the Macron government’s authoritarian crackdown is expanding to almost any form of dissent. The French government’s violence against its own people highlights one of its many shared values with Israel. In September, the Committee to Protect Journalists said that “France and Israel stand out for use of dangerous ammunition” used to attack protesters and the journalists covering them. The irony is that Macron claims to be a champion of free speech, insisting that displaying the infamous cartoons dehumanizing and denigrating the beliefs of Muslims is not only permissible but necessary to demonstrate this commitment to liberty. Macron is in fact waging a war on Muslim citizens of France, using free speech as a cover for the French state’s animus towards Muslims and the racist scapegoating of this population for terrorism. Last week, Amnesty International published a statement titled “France is not the free-speech champion it says it is,” an understatement if ever there was one.

Amnesty states:

Thousands of people are convicted every year for ‘contempt of public officials,’ a vaguely defined criminal offense that law enforcement and judicial authorities have applied in massive numbers to silence peaceful dissent. This included, in 2019, the conviction of two men after they burnt an effigy depicting President Macron during a peaceful protest. In another alarming incident, French police interviewed four 10-year-old children for hours on suspicion of being ‘apologists for terrorism.’

The two children apparently questioned the choice of murdered French teacher Samuel Paty to display cartoons that denigrate the Prophet Muhammad.

Meanwhile, the French government is using the outrage about recent violent attacks as a pretext to close down Muslim civil society and civil rights groups based on vague political charges that they are promoting “separatism.” While Muslims are a key target of the crackdown, the Macron government has been trying to stamp out protest and dissent against its domestic policies from the Yellow Vest movement and climate activists. An Amnesty report published in September found:

Thousands of peaceful protesters have been swept up in France’s draconian crackdown on demonstrations, which has seen the authorities misuse the law to fine, arbitrarily arrest and prosecute people who have committed no violence.

In 2018 and 2019, more than 40k people including protesters were convicted based on vague laws for activities that “should not constitute a criminal offense,” according to Amnesty. Macron’s feats would rouse the envy of any “dictatorship” that Western governments tell us we should revile, while falsely painting themselves as champions of freedom and human rights.

More from EI:

Is the UAE about to invest in Israeli settlements?
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Nov 17 2020

Dagan meets with business-people in the UAE.
(Photo via Facebook)

The UAE marketed its “peace” deal with Israel as a way to stop further Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian land. Instead, it has all but explicitly encouraged it. Last week, an Israeli settler delegation visited Dubai and Sharjah and met with Emirati business-people. The delegation was led by Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, a settler body in the occupied West Bank. They met around 20 individuals and corporations to explore deals on agriculture, pest control, plastics and water desalination. Dagan told the AP:

The UAE is an advanced country at the forefront of development and investment. It is our honor to forge trade and industry ties with them.

In a Facebook post during the visit, Dagan called on Netanyahu to “apply full sovereignty to Judea and Samaria,” or in other words, to proceed with formal annexation of the occupied West Bank. He said he was “happy to announce” that the UAE will soon begin importing settlement products. The settler leader asserted that there is “no contradiction” between strengthening the settlement economy and working towards annexation. He wrote on Facebook:

A strong and well-established economy equals a strong and well-established settlement.

Dagan also thanked the UAE, Netanyahu and the US for the normalization agreement, which “proves that peace without withdrawal” and without removing settlers from occupied Palestinian land is possible. Dagan seems only now to have realized that the so-called Abraham Accords are no hindrance to Israeli colonization. He was not as pleased when the Israel-UAE deal was struck a few months ago. He called Netanyahu’s purported agreement to halt annexation in exchange for normalization “a stab in the back.” Dagan said he was “disappointed, hurt and angry” to see Netanyahu walk back on promises to formally rubber-stamp what Israel has been doing for decades: stealing land, forcibly displacing Palestinians and building colonies in flagrant breach of international law. But shortly after the UAE-Israel deal was announced on Aug 13, Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to annexation. Earlier this year, Israel was charging towards formal annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, but the US put those plans on hold.

The UAE tried to spin the US-imposed freeze as an achievement for Palestinians resulting from its deal with Israel. It was clear from day one that this was nothing more than public relations messaging to allow the UAE to claim that its move helped Palestinians, when the opposite is the case. Now, the UAE is going above and beyond normalization of ties with the apartheid state to openly embracing its colonization of the West Bank. The UAE’s deals with Israeli weapons manufacturers, Israeli banks that finance the theft of Palestinian land and now the warm welcome for Israel’s most hard-line settlers, shows that the Gulf state is not an opponent of settlements by any measure, but actively supports them. The UAE is already accruing US rewards. The Trump administration last week approved the sale of 50 F-35 fighter jets to the UAE as part of a $23b weapons deal. Pompeo announced on Nov 10:

This is in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran.

Pompeo cited the Abraham Accords as part of the context for the arms sale without explicitly stating that it was a direct result of the deal. The UAE-Israel agreement and the arms sale are part of the US effort to build an anti-Iran alliance between Israel and Gulf states under American oversight. Israel’s initial refusal to give its blessing to the US sale of F-35s to the UAE had been a hiccup. But in October, Israel relented and gave the Americans a green light to sell the advanced warplanes to Abu Dhabi. The F-35 is made by US arms giant Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest beneficiaries of US military aid to Israel and a primary focus of the BDS movement.

Meanwhile, Israel is accelerating its theft of Palestinian land in the Trump administration’s waning days. On Sunday, the Israeli government issued tenders to build hundreds of housing units in the Givat ha-Matos settlement south of Jerusalem. Israel set the tender deadline as Jan 18 2021, two days before Biden is inaugurated as president. Peace Now said this was “part of an attempt to establish as many facts on the ground as possible” before the new administration is sworn in. In 2014, expansion of Givat ha-Matos was put on hold due to opposition from the Obama administration. If implemented, it would isolate the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa and prevent territorial contiguity between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, further eroding the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. Nikolai Mladenov, the UN Middle East envoy, said on Monday that he was “very concerned” over the planned expansion in Givat ha-Matos and called on “authorities to reverse this step.” European diplomats offered similarly passive statements:

Only one European diplomat called for Israel to bear consequences for its actions. Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney tweeted:

One option would be for Ireland to pass the Occupied Territories Bill, which would ban trade in goods from Israeli settlements. Despite broad political support for it in Ireland, Coveney himself has been the key obstacle to introducing such a ban. On Monday, Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, the EU envoy to the occupied West Bank and Gaza, led a dozen European diplomats to the Givat ha-Matos area to protest Israel’s planned expansion. Members of the extreme anti-Palestinian group Im Tirzu chased von Burgsdorff and other diplomats off the site, telling them to “go back to Europe” and accusing them of anti-Semitism.

The delegation reportedly returned to their cars and moved to a different area before addressing protesters. von Burgsdorff said:

What we’re seeing right now here is a de facto annexation attempt. And that cannot go on.

In order to silence supporters of Palestinian rights, the EU aggressively promotes the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which conflates criticism of Israel’s anti-Palestinian policies with bigotry against Jews. So Im Tirzu’s attack on the European diplomats, calling them anti-Semites for protesting a war crime, was merely an example of the EU’s own tactics being turned on itself. Von Burgsdorff later told The Times of Israel:

I personally didn’t feel threatened. It was unfortunate that we could not have a reasonable dialogue with these people, which is a pity, because I would have liked to engage with them.

That captured the EU’s limitless indulgence for Israel, no matter what it does.

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