Hundreds of protesters shut down the Champs-Élysées on Tuesday evening to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s gala welcome for Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader was in Paris for the official inauguration of the Saison France-Israël – or France-Israel Season – a series of propaganda events backed by both countries to boost Israel’s image.
Earlier, France had canceled a visit by its prime minister to Israel for a similar ceremony, but it went ahead with receiving Netanyahu to the outrage of supporters of Palestinian rights.
The opening event at the Grand Palais focused on Israel’s supposed technological achievements.
Nearby, in the Champs-Élysées, protesters danced the Palestinian dabke and they held a festive breaking of the Ramadan fast on the iconic avenue at the end of the rally.
Protesters called for Netanyahu to be tried at the International Criminal Court:
And they demanded the cancellation of the France-Israel Season altogether:
BDS France, a group that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, said the protesters got close to the Grand Palais before police stopped them.
The group said protests took place in other parts of Paris as well as around the country.
“The normalization of relations with an apartheid state is intolerable,” the group added, promising continued actions and protests.
The newspaper L’Humanité drew attention to another reason why Macron should have refused to receive Netanyahu: Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial since last August of Palestinian-French human rights defender Salah Hamouri:
“After the bloodbath in Gaza and mounting tensions with Iran, it is not the time to inaugurate events, but for a firm response from France in favor of peace. What is Macron waiting for?” tweeted left-wing lawmaker Eric Coquerel, who took part in the Paris rally.
Netanyahu used the visit to press Israel’s campaign for war against Iran, following the abandonment by the US of the international deal on Iran’s nuclear energy program last month.
France and other European countries party to the deal are sticking by it.
Despite the lavish welcome accorded the Israeli leader, Macron pushed back in a joint press conference against any “escalation” towards war in the region, and strongly defended the continuation of the Iran deal.
Macron also called the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to the city a mistake.
“When you celebrate such an event and there are people dying, I don’t consider that to be a celebration,” Macron said, referring to the dozens of Palestinians massacred by Israeli forces in Gaza as US and Israeli officials took part in the embassy opening ceremony in Jerusalem on 14 May.
Israel has killed more than 100 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, during the weekly Great March of Return rallies that began on 30 March.
“France must bang its fist on the table against [Netanyahu’s] extreme right-wing regime that kills Gazans, still colonizes the Palestinians and takes a very dangerous position,” left-wing lawmaker Clémentine Autain tweeted. “France must affirm the voice of justice and peace.”
But despite Macron’s verbal parrying with Netanyahu, France shows no signs of taking any action to hold Israel accountable. Indeed, as Paris-Match magazine pointed out, with the focus on Iran, the question of Palestine “was relegated to the back burner.”
The continuation of the France-Israel Season and France’s promotion of Israeli weapons used to kill Palestinians indicate that Paris remains committed to shoring up the very Israeli abuses it claims to oppose.
“Public opinion in France is influenced by the images of violence from the conflict with the Palestinians,” Bin Noun said.
“But the French cannot ignore Israel’s accomplishments in new technologies in the past decade,” the ambassador added, pressing a familiar theme of Brand Israel propaganda.
Meanwhile, in the streets, citizens are showing they want France to change course and hold Israel accountable.
As well was the protest in Paris, hundreds marched in the cities of Marseille and Lyon:
And people rallied in towns across the country including Saint-Étienne, Rennes, Saint-Nazaire and Toulouse: