France’s government provoked outrage on Saturday 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, French 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 backing the ban. Opponents however, said he was ‘criminalising’ popular support of the Palestinian people.
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 (Rs 1.22 million) fine. If they hide their faces to avoid being identified, this sentence can be increased to three years, and a 45,000 euro (Rs 3.67 million) fine.
Even those who publish details of an illegal rally on social media like Facebook or Twitter face up to a year in prison, and the same fine. This can be increased to seven years and a 100,000 euro (Rs 8.17 million) fine if such social media activity leads to violence.
Cazeneuve also advised authorities across France to examine planned marches on a ‘case by case’ basis, and to ban ‘if appropriate’.
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.
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.