Will Macron stop Israel’s expulsion of Salah Hammouri?

A woman holds a microphone in front of poster of a man as another woman looks on

Elsa Lefort, left, wife of French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hammouri, speaks during a July 2020 rally near Paris calling for his release. Israel, which is again detaining Hammouri, has revoked the Jerusalem native’s residency and announced his imminent expulsion.

Ait Adjedjou Karim Abaca Press

Israel says it plans to expel political prisoner Salah Hammouri in coming days. Lawmakers and human rights defenders are calling on France’s government to act firmly to stop it.

The Palestinian-French lawyer has been in Israeli “administrative” detention without charge or trial since March, the latest ordeal in Israel’s long-running campaign of detention, harassment and persecution against him.

Now Hammouri has been informed that he will be expelled within days for “breach of allegiance,” according to Addameer, the prisoners advocacy group where he works.

For years, Israel has been moving to revoke Hammouri’s residency in Jerusalem, the city where he was born and which Israel occupies in violation of international law.

Israel, which has no lawful or legitimate authority to do so, regularly revokes the residency of Palestinian Jerusalemites, a form of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing aimed at suppressing Palestinian political organization while Judaizing the city.

On Wednesday, according to Addameer, Israeli interior minister Ayelet Shaked “re-affirmed her decision to revoke Salah’s residency and signed off his deportation with the Israeli minister of justice Gideon Saar’s approval and following recommendations from the Israeli Security Agency.”

France’s response criticized

On Thursday the foreign ministry in Paris said that France was following Hammouri’s case “very closely and at the highest level.”

In response to a question at its daily press briefing, the ministry’s spokesperson noted that President Emmanuel Macron had “raised his case during a telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.”

Hammouri “must be allowed to live a normal life in Jerusalem, where he was born and resides, and his wife and children must be allowed to return there and join him,” the ministry said.

For some activists in France, this is far from adequate.

“You’ve done nothing concrete to put pressure on Israel,” anti-racism activist Madjid Messaoudene tweeted in response to the Macron administration’s statement.

“Israel humiliates you every day and you accept it. You wouldn’t accept it from any other state,” Messaoudene added. “If Salah Hammouri is expelled you will bear the responsibility.”

France’s left-wing parliamentary bloc LFI-NUPES also called for more robust action from Paris.

“It is high time for French diplomacy to show more clearly its support for Salah Hammouri and to raise its tone against Israel,” the lawmakers said.

That appeal was echoed by many individual lawmakers, including Eric Coquerel, chair of the French parliament’s finance committee.
Meanwhile, CRIF, France’s main Jewish communal and pro-Israel group attacked the left-wing lawmakers for their solidarity with Hammouri, accusing them of supporting the “destruction of Israel” and “terrorism.”

“It’s sadism”

In addition to jailing Hammouri without charge or trial and moving to expel him from his native country, Israel’s occupation authorities have also violated his right to family life.

“My wife, Elsa Lefort, is a French citizen. She was deported by Israel in 2016 while we were expecting our first child,” Hammouri wrote for The Electronic Intifada in 2020. “For four years, I have been separated from my wife and son.”

“We were struck in our happiness and placed before a choice no one should have to make,” Lefort told media last month. “You have to choose between your homeland and your wife and son. It’s sadism.”

The couple’s youngest child barely knows her father at all.

“The little one last saw her father when she was 11 days old. Now she’s almost 19 months,” Lefort said. “So for her, her father is mostly a photo that she kisses.”

“Seismic escalation”

Deporting “rights defender Salah Hammouri from his native Jerusalem would be a seismic escalation in Israel’s efforts to force out Palestinians and [an] all-out assault on Palestinian civil society,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, tweeted on Thursday, urging Macron to press Israel.

Shakir noted that Addameer, Hammouri’s employer, is one of a number of Palestinian human rights groups that Israel purports to have outlawed as “terrorist” organizations, and has violently raided over the last year.

As such, Hammouri’s situation “embodies the struggle of Palestinian rights defenders challenging apartheid,” Shakir added.

Similar appeals have come from many other human rights defenders.

But whether Macron, who misses no opportunity to express his support for Israel – even denying its perpetration of the crime of apartheid in the face of overwhelming evidence – will act, remains to be seen.

It is hardly an encouraging sign that the French embassy in Tel Aviv recently celebrated the arrival of French retailer Carrefour in Israel.

Earlier this year, Carrefour announced it would be bringing its products to Israel in partnership with Israeli firms deeply involved in the illegal colonization of occupied Palestinian land.

While France claims to oppose Israeli settlements and other abuses, it has been more than happy to see French companies getting rich from their complicity in war crimes against Palestinians even if they are also French citizens.

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Ali Abunimah

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.