In June 2010, CRIF, the main umbrella group for Jewish organizations in France, published an article by Marc Knobel alleging that the Committee for Charity and Assistance to the Palestinians – known by its French initials CBSP – was actually raising money for Hamas.
Youcef Benderbal, a CBSP official, was aboard the ship and among hundreds of passengers forcibly taken to the Israeli-controlled port of Ashdod.
In the days before and after the massacre, the Israeli government engaged in intense propaganda efforts to portray the people aboard the flotilla as dangerous extremists and terrorists.
According to its own website, CBSP, founded in 1990, supports initiatives for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and such projects as constructing water purification equipment for Gaza.
Knobel has written a number of articles attacking the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and has called on French authorities to prosecute BDS activists – something the country’s judicial authorities have done vigorously.
The court ruled that the Knobel article’s “accusation that CBSP was collecting money for Hamas is defamatory” because no evidence had been provided to support the allegations, which had also been previously spread by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The judgment also found that the article’s claim that CBSP had been defined as a “radical” organization by French authorities was false, and therefore “defamatory.”
The court ordered the CRIF researchers who wrote and published the article to pay CBSP a total of 3,000 euros ($4,200) in damages.
The defamatory article has been removed from CRIF’s website.
CRIF has been involved in spreading false allegations on other occasions.
One year ago, CRIF president Richard Prasquier apologized for spreading the “false news” that Israeli film director Yariv Horowitz was “lynched” during a visit to France in what was widely claimed to be an anti-Semitic attack by “Arabs.”
Attack on Palestine groups
The defamatory CRIF article resembles a similar attack, also launched in 2010, against the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC), an advocacy organization in London.
As The Electronic Intifada reported, the Israeli army published claims – without any substantiation – accusing PRC of being a “Hamas affiliate” that was “involved in initiating and organizing radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe.”
As I note in my book, UK authorities said they never received any information from Israel supporting these claims and never took any action against PRC.
That smear campaign was part of Israel’s strategy of “sabotage” and “attack” against the Palestine solidarity movement.
CRIF’s false allegations against CBSP look like they were part of a similar initiative aimed at discrediting civil society groups that keep Israel’s crimes against Palestinians in the public eye.