Video: French lawmakers walk out to protest anti-Palestinian diatribe

This video shows lawmakers walking out of France’s National Assembly on Wednesday in protest at an anti-Palestinian diatribe by one of their colleagues, Meyer Habib.

France reserves a number of parliamentary seats for citizens living overseas, and Habib represents French citizens in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Israel.

But in practice, Habib, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, functions more as a spokesperson for Israel’s government.

Habib was responding to European affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau, who told parliament that the French government “hopes for the quick release” of Salah Hamouri.

Hamouri is a Palestinian-French human rights defender who has been held without charge or trial by Israel since August.

He has attracted broad support from lawmakers and the public in France, who are demanding that their government pressure Israel to free him.

The seven French elected officials banned by Israel from entering the occupied West Bank this week were planning to join a large delegation to show solidarity with Hamouri and other political prisoners.

Parroting Israel’s line

In the video, Habib calls Loiseau’s statement that the government wanted Hamouri freed “shameful.”

“Salah Hamouri is a terrorist, not a political prisoner,” Habib claims. He also accuses Hamouri of being a “leader” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a resistance and political group that, like most Palestinian parties, Israel has designated as a “terrorist” organization.

Habib implies that by allegedly being tied to the PFLP, Hamouri is in effect no different from the suspected Islamic State killers who stabbed to death the priest Jacques Hamel in his church in northern France last year.

He also repeats discredited Israeli allegations against Hamouri from years ago.

Hamouri was previously jailed by Israel between 2005 and 2011 on charges which the French government acknowledged in 2011 were “not corroborated by any evidence.”

“Is this the anti-Semitic terrorist that France wants to see freed?” Meyer asks. As his vitriol increases, the lawmakers around him look uncomfortable, some shaking their heads.

Then, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the left-wing La France Insoumise movement, leads a walk-out.

Palestine won’t go away

Habib carries on and, using a favorite Israeli government tactic, conflates Palestinian political activity and resistance to Israel with the mass attacks in Paris, Nice and Barcelona.

“Anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism,” he bellows, as he tosses out practically every Israel lobby talking point.

Habib denounces the lawmakers who walk out as Islamogauchistes – “Islamoleftists” – and claims that those who had planned to travel on the delegation to Palestine were going to show solidarity with “terrorists.”

The embarrassed or outraged reactions of other lawmakers to Habib’s vitriol show just how out of touch Israel’s most extreme supporters are to many mainstream politicians in France, even if the government continues to pander to Israel.

It also shows that despite France’s repression of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the question of Palestine will not go away as long as justice is denied.

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As a psychologist with Doctors Without Borders (for 1 year, in Hebron)) and subsequently with a Palestinian NGO (Ard al Atfal (also in Hebron), I am fully aware of the peoples' devastating plight. I support all efforts by Salah Hamouri and all others working to alleviate the Palestinians ongoing difficulties.

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You have partially restored my faith in this movement .In the past , unfortunately , there has been events on the part of this org.that have forced me to take a hard look at it , in spite of the good that they do.

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It is good to hear that in France there are still gov.reps.showing that the wool has not been pulled over their eyes.Habib's diatribe is hasbara at it's best.

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"We have the following three requests from the Palestinian president”
On November 7, the pro-Hamas Filastin al-An daily carried the following piece by Fayez Abou Shamaleh: “We are the people who suffered from the scourges of the occupation and are waiting in the grey zone where the only weapons controlling Gaza are the weapons of the Resistance and all its organizations, and where the only weapons controlling the West Bank are those of the settlers and the Israeli intelligence services. In this situation where the Authority is so absent, we request that three positions be taken by the Palestinian president, three positions that will make us support him, cheer for his life, walk behind him and weave the letters of his name into a Palestinian flag.

“First: The president must tell the whole world: there will be no acknowledgment of Israel. Israel is practicing terrorism on a daily basis and it is not acknowledging the Palestinians’ rights and has turned its back on the Oslo agreement, which included the clause of the acknowledgement.
Second: The president must tell the entire world: There will be no security coordination and I will commit to the decision of the PLO’s central council. We, Palestinians, won’t serve as guardians of the Israelis security while Israel is violating the land.
Third: The president must tell the whole world: Yes to all forms of Palestinian resistance. The people living under the occupation have the right of resisting to the occupiers using all available means of self-defense.

“The above three requests reflect the roots of the Palestinian people’s suffering, and the roots of the division. These are the main elements of all the Palestinian differences, differences in points of views, conflicts and sensitivities. These three positions will be sufficient to push the Palestinian arena away from division and into agreement, and from differences to reconciliation, and from confusion to straightness, and from ignorance to piousness,

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Long ago, the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, wrote of struggle. These words resonate no less so today, in Palestine, than they did some one 150 years ago in the heart of the Antebellum South in the United States:

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
Stanley L Cohen is a lawyer and human rights activist who has done extensive work in the Middle East and Africa.

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The World will not take the Palestinian cause seriously until Palestinians and Arabs do so; this will mean, that all Palestinians and Arabs must wake up; they must rise as lions, they must physically converge upon Palestine with the intention of reclaiming that which is rightly theirs, they must even just walk and march, if no means of transport is available, in large numbers, they must physically take themselves back to their rightful homes and possessions. This is a big ask, but the prize for success could not be larger; you will face extreme opposition to your return, there will be bullets bombs and explosives used to stop you, many will die, BUT, have we not noticed, many have been dying, over just the last fifty years, and that will continue for the next fifty years, unless Palestinians and Arabs rise-up and honour their Nations history, proven and endured in peace for these many millennia past; Rise-up I say, and caring people of the World will rise up with you. Do not pause because you think President Trump will be your saviour, he will not, he is a false prophet. We have witnessed the recent invasions of refugees into Europe from the Middle East; did you notice? they could not be stopped, they marched single mindedly with one intention, to live somewhere else, and they have succeeded. Palestinians and Arabs must emulate that example, go peaceably, but go, go in the supreme certainty that your cause is just, and go in the knowledge that "Ye are many and they are few". If your current leaders will not organise and support this, then, they are not worthy, get some new ones who will. You must also realise, this message is the last "call", the last chance to establish your future survival. Amen.

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Thank you so much for adding your words of wisdom for the Palestinian liberation cause.
May you be blessed as you have blessed others in your heart.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.