French president-elect François Hollande has told a Jewish community publication that he opposes the boycott of Israeli goods, even apparently from Israeli settlements in occupied territories, and considers such boycotts “illegal.”
Hollande also promised to visit Israel as president and echoed hardline Israel lobby rhetoric about Iran.
His statements published Tribune Juive (Jewish Tribune) on 1 May contrast sharply with the decisions of French judges who on 3 May acquitted another group of French activists on charges related to calling for the boycott of Israeli goods.
In a significant victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in France, the criminal court near Paris ruled that it cannot be deemed “incitement to discrimination” to call for the boycott of a state, as opposed to a specific population group.
On 6 May, Hollande defeated incumbent French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and will take office on 16 May.
Hollande “totally opposed to the boycott of Israeli goods”
Hollande’s comments came in an interview with Tribune Juive relevant sections of which I’ve translated:
Tribune Juive: Jean-Luc Mélenchon [leader of the Left Party] calls for the boycott of Israeli products that come from “occupied” territories, which would ruin the Palestinians that grow or make them and goes against the law. Are you going to make an alliance with all the parties of the left in order to achieve victory?
François Hollande: My project has been known since January, it has not changed, it is not modified to the circumstances and it will be applied. All voters who want to join me, all who want change are welcome, without negotiations, without bargaining. As for the rest, I am totally opposed to the boycott of Israeli goods, which is illegal and does not serve the cause of peace.
With respect to his approach to the situation in Palestine in general, Hollande offered a bland restatement of the failed peace process and two-state consensus, a clear indication that just as Obama followed Bush’s pro-Israel policies, Hollande will almost certainly follow those of Sarkozy and the EU in general.
Tribune Juive: You have still not traveled to Israel. If you are elected, will such a trip be part of your plans? What initiative can you suggest to revive the peace process?
François Hollande: Yes, this trip will be part of my plans. Everyone has known for decades the contours of peace between Israel and the Palestinians: two neighboring and sovereign states, where each respects the legitimacy of the other. The only question is to know how much time, that is to say how much suffering, how much mourning. In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian question, we must be very firm with regard to Iran whose nuclear program represents a life-threatening danger to Israel and to world peace.
Not “discrimination” to boycott Israel, court rules
Meanwhile, in contrast to Hollande’s claim that boycotting Israeli goods is “illegal,” four French BDS activists have been acquitted on charges of “incitement to discrimination, hate or violence” because they had participated in peaceful actions calling for such boycotts.
A 3 May email from Campagne BDS France said that on 15 March the prosecutor in the Paris suburb of Bobigny had “scandalously” requested sentences against the four ranging from suspended sentences of four months in prison and fines of 2000 euros.
However, the activists were acquitted. Agence France Presse reported on 4 May (my translation):
The Bobigny prosecutor said today that it has appealed the acquittal of four pro-Palestinian activists on trial for actions to boycott Israeli products in 2009 in supermarkets of the Paris suburb.
The four defendants were charged with “incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence.” They were acquitted today by the Bobigny criminal court. In its judgment, the court held that incitement to discrimination could only be applied to a population or a population group, and not to a state or the products of that state. This analysis is disputed by the prosecution, a judicial source said.
This legal victory follows a similar acquittal of 12 activists in the eastern French city of Mulhouse last December.
However, it is only the latest in a series of trials aimed to suppress the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in France. Three more activists face trial in the southern city of Perpignan on 24 May.
French activists have developed a distinctive form of protest, undertaking deshelving actions at supermarkets all over the country to protest the sale of Israeli goods, especially those from illegal colonies in the occupied West Bank.