France calls jailed Palestinian activist ‘human rights defender’

Posted: December 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, unarmed protest | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

In a letter to the French-Palestine Solidarity Association, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé slams Israel for arresting and trying Bassem Tamimi in military court. Mr. Juppé states that “an official demarche has recently been delivered on his behalf to the Israeli authorities by the chief representative of the European Union delegation in Tel Aviv”

Bassem Tamimi at Ofer military court, West Bank (image:

Palestinian protest organizer Bassem Tamimi was arrested by the Israeli army last March, and has been in prison ever since. Tamimi, a father of four from Nabi Saleh, has been the target of the Israeli security forces since the beginning of the unarmed protest in his village a couple of years ago. The Palestinians in Nabi Saleh are demanding the return of the lands that were taken from them by the army and settlers of nearby Halamish. The regular protests erupted after the settlers took over a pond used by the village’s people. you can read more about the protest in Nabi Saleh here.

Last week, Alain Juppé, the French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, sent a letter to the French-Palestine Solidarity Association, in which he expressed his deep concern over the indictment and incarceration of Bassem Tamimi.

“Tamimi’s situation is just as much of a concern to me as it is to you,” Mr. Juppé wrote, “The European Union has taken this case and considers Mr. Tamimi a human rights defender and a non-violent demonstrator.”

Tamimi doesn’t stand a real chance in court: The conviction rate for Palestinians in Israeli military courts is a stunning 99.74 percent, and previous unarmed protest organizers – like those from the villages of Bil’in and Ni’lin – have been sentenced to long prison terms, despite international protest.

Here is Mr. Juppé’s letter (translation from a press release by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee; French original can be read here).


Paris, November 25th, 2011 – 010286CM

The Minister of State

Mister President [of AFPS],

You have brought to my attention the case of Mr. Bassem Tamimi, coordinator of the popular committee of Nabi Saleh, for which I thank you.

Mr. Tamimi who was arrested on March 24th has been charged of five offenses. Three of these charges are based on a military edict which amounts to a denial of the right to demonstrate of all Palestinians under military occupation, a right which is nevertheless universally recognized.

Tamimi’s situation is just as much of a concern to me as it is to you.  The European Union has taken this case and considers Mr. Tamimi a human rights defender and a non-violent demonstrator. An official demarche has recently been delivered on his behalf to the Israeli authorities by the chief representative of the European Union delegation in Tel Aviv.  The aforementioned intervention also denoted  the European support for the right to demonstrate non-violently in the Palestinian territories.

Regarding the issue of colonization, that Mr. Tamimi denounces, I remind you the firm position that France has taken in condemning this type enterprise, which we have recently qualified as “provocation”. Colonization is contrary to international law and is an impediment to peace.

I thank you, Mr. President, and you have my deepest consideration.


It is worth reading Bassem Tamimi’s statement before the military court (here).

More on this issue:
Palestinian protest organizer stands no chance in army court
Conviction rate for Palestinians in Israel’s military courts: 99.74%
UN special rapporteur on torture to address Nabi Saleh trial
Nabi Saleh: A tiny village’s struggle againt the occupation

New Knesset bill on banning Burqas / it’s not feminism, it’s racism

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) is proposing a new Knesset bill that will make it illegal for women in Israel to wear Burqas (the Islamic dress coveting the entire body and face) or Niqabs (a veil covering the face).

“I just came back from a visit to southern France and I was shocked to see so many Muslim women entirely covered in black, with only their eyes seen,” said MK Solodkin. “I congratulate president Sarkozy and all the European administrations who believe that in the 21st century there shouldn’t be a place for an outfit which so terribly humiliates women, and I want to initiate something similar in Israel… I am not anti-Muslim and I intent for this law to be imposed on Jewish women as well.”

This law is aimed against the Arab-Israeli minority. There isn’t but one group of a dozen or so Jewish women who cover themselves with Burqas, so it’s obvious that this law, if passed, is meant to deal with the Palestinian population.

I don’t really get MK Solodkin’s logic: if she saw all these terrible Burkas in southern France, why does she want to present her bill here? Burkas are not that common in Israel, especially not in mixed towns, so why take such extreme measures? By the way, even France didn’t ban Burkas altogether (yet), but only in schools.

But the most important thing is that Israel is not France or the Netherlands, for two reasons:

First, the Palestinians here are a native minority, meaning that they were here before the state was born. The common belief is that native minorities should be allowed to hang on to their culture and customs, even when they differ from those of the majority. There might be some logic in forcing immigrants to accept the customs of the country they came to – this is debatable as well – but there is certainly no reason to impose these ideas on a native minority, except in extreme cases.

Second, the attempts to ban Burkas in Europe are rooted in the French republican model, which is nothing like Israel’s. In short, the idea is that any immigrant can become as French as Napoleon as long as he knows and accepts the local culture, speak French, believes in individual freedoms, etc. But Israel is different: the base for citizenship and rights here is Judaism, and an Arab cannot become a Jew even if he gives up the Burka. Unlike in France, Palestinians here are not asked nor expected to be integrated. In this context, forcing them to give up their customs is nothing but another way of harassing them; showing them “who is in charge”.

And one last point: Hasidic women from eastern European origins are expected to shave their hair and wear a wig from the day they are married. Isn’t that diminishing? But don’t expect MK Solodkin to do something about it. Her feminism applies only to Arabs.

Minarets in Switzerland, Burqas in France: Israeli Right finds allies in Europe

Posted: November 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

mineratsSome Israelis got exited today by the referendum in Switzerland, in which Swiss voters have approved a right-wing-backed proposal to ban construction of new minarets. There are many people here that view the Palestinian problem (and even more, the relations between the Arab citizens of Israel and the Jewish majority) as a part of a “Clash of Civilizations” between the West and the Muslim world. For them, today wasn’t only a victory in one of this war’s major battles, but more importantly, further proof that “we are not alone” in the fight.

The historical irony, of course, is that our allies in this cultural war are the same political forces – if not the same people – that used to persecute our grandparents just a few decades ago. Since there aren’t that many Jews today in Europe, the xenophobes of the Old World decided to pick the Blacks and the Muslims as their current enemies, much to the joy of the Israeli Right.

The referendum in Switzerland – much like the debate over the burqas in France – is used by neo-Zionists and Israeli conservatives as proof that it is possible to limit the rights of ethnic minorities and still remain a democracy. Much in the same way, they propose limitations on the Arab citizens of Israel in order to protect the “cultural identity” of the state. I’m pretty sure that in the next few days we will have some articles in the Israeli papers drawing a line between the European cases and the Israeli one.

It is, however, important to understand the major differences between the legislation regarding minorities’ rights in Europe and the Israeli case.

First, the Palestinians in Israel – both the states’ citizens and the Palestinians in the West Bank – are a native minority (oppose to minorities created by recent immigration wave, like in Europe). As even a Zionist legal scholar such as Amnon Rubinstein notes, Modern human rights concepts promise such minority the right not to assimilate into the dominant culture, to keep its religious traditions and to educate its children and speak in its own language.

But the real difference is that unlike in France or Switzerland, Israel doesn’t ask nor wants its Arab Citizens to assimilate. In other words, France is demanding the Muslims to accept the dominant secular culture, as a precondition to handing them full civil rights. It’s basically the same idea in Switzerland: the state is accepting the immigrants as citizens, but demands them to abandon their original culture, or at least some aspects of it.

But Israel is not a secular state that can have minorities assimilate into it. Israel is a Jewish state by definition, and it doesn’t ask nor expect the Arabs to assimilate in return for full rights. Even if the Palestinian citizens here stop speaking Arabic, don’t mention the Nakba anymore or build minarets, they will still be second rate citizens by definition.

Those who promote the Anti-Arab legislation in Israel are not really imitating the French republican model or the Swiss multi-cultural democracy. They try to create something new: an ethnic democracy, were all citizens will enjoy basic rights, but Jews will have extra privileges.

To the best of my understanding, this is no democracy at all.

Le Pen

Posted: March 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

We tend to forget how short is the distance between Anti-Arab racism and plain old antisemitism.

It’s always nice to have someone to remind us.

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — French far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen repeated his belief Wednesday that it “is a statement of fact” that the gas chambers where millions of Jews perished during World War II “were a detail of history.”

Le Pen’s made his outburst Wednesday, after European Socialist leader Martin Schulz tried to make sure that Le Pen, if re-elected in June, would be barred from presiding over the opening of the first session of the new European Parliament session as potentially the doyen of the house.

And to think there were Jews who voted for him, “because he will know how to deal with the Muslims”.