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.
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.