Millions of people across the world have taken to the streets in solidarity with Palestinians, denouncing the ongoing horror and genocide in Palestine.
While most Western nations have allowed these demonstrations to take place, France has been systematically banning them for the past two weeks. These restrictions on freedom of expression are intentional. They stem from a systematic process that French governments began years ago.
In recent years, France has adopted an increasingly authoritarian, racist, and Islamophobic sentiment. This investigation examines certain discriminatory policies implemented by the governments of François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron, between 2017 and 2023.
Massive demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine in the French capital, October 2023
Arming the police
The police.. The cornerstone of their 'authoritarian agenda'?
In recent years, the repression of French civil society has become more brutal, with a number of legislations granting the police significant immunity.
As a result, the number of incidents of police firing at moving vehicles has significantly increased, rising from 119 times in the four-year period between 2012 and 2016, to 165 between 2017 and 2021. Consequently, the number of fatalities resulting from this practice has also sharply increased. The latest of these incidents is the shooting of Nahel Merzouk, the Franc0-Algerian 17-year old assassinated by police inside his parked car on 27 June 2023, inciting outrage and garnering global attention.
In 2017, French police were granted the right to fire at vehicles resisting inspection. In 2021, police were given permission to carry weapons outside of duty hours. The gap between France and the dictatorships it publicly condemns is rapidly shrinking
In response to the killing of Nahel, the United Nations urged the French authorities to take the necessary measures to curb the spread of racism within their security forces. French police unions, which were strongly supported by French media, used the same law to justify this crime, indicating that the law was amended for one reason only; to grant the French police the right to kill.
When Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Rassemblement National, was asked by French newspaper BFMTV for her opinion on the Cazeneuve Law and the killing of Nahel, she affirmed her support of the police’s legitimate right to self-defense. Additionally, Éric Zemmour, a politician repeatedly accused of inciting racial hatred, told the radio station Europe 1, “[Nahel] was no angel... at seventeen, he had a very full criminal record.”
Highly influential French media provided these prominent political figures a platform for their racist views, thus justifying police brutality and the killing of a teenager immediately after the incident.
On April 15 2021, the French National Assembly passed the Comprehensive Security law, aimed at strengthening security apparatus to suppress social movements. The law also grants police permission to carry weapons outside of duty hours, authorizes the use of drones, and allows surveillance cameras to be used to identify protesters.
France, the country that claims to uphold "human rights", has recently adopted a law reminiscent of the worst dictatorships it claims to condemn.
During the final vote at the National Assembly, the right-wing parties La République en Marche and Les Républicains were in support of the law, while the left-wing La France Insoumise and Parti Socialiste parties opposed it.
Security laws in France are not dissimilar to the kinds used by the very dictatorships it publicly condemns. It has recently adopted a law that allows it, through facial recognition and other such invasive technologies, to monitor its citizens, an act that has raised alarm among multiple human rights organizations, including Amnesty International which stated that this is slowly transforming into a "dystopian surveillance state".
For instance, although the repressive apparatus of the French state targets any social movement opposing it, some measures have specifically targeted residents of African descent.
With the exception of the strict lockdown measures imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, curfew measures have historically been enforced to intimidate and suppress protests by French nationals of African descent.
The enforcement of curfew regulations, an authoritarian approach arbitrarily deployed by the French government, is built on racism and specifically targets citizens of color. This targeted, racist pattern has become clear in recent years.
This is evident through statements that serve the far right, such as leaked statements made by Emmanuel Macron when he met undocumented refugees in May 2021. He reminded them of certain duties required “before [they] can obtain rights.” Though France is, according to Macron, a “generous country,” the law must be respected and "we cannot grant documents to everyone".
In fact, these leaks come in the wake of several, more aggressive statements from his representatives, like those made by Éric Zemmour on the CNews platform earlier this year regarding refugees, in which he labeled them as thieves, murderers and rapists, who “must be sent back and shouldn't even come in the first place."
It is also evident through the dissolution of associations working to combat Islamophobia. In September 2021, both the Collective Against Islamophobia in France and the Barakacity Association were dissolved by the State Council. This campaign against Islam is not limited to dissolving associations defending it, but also includes the issuance of anti-Islamic laws.
Shortly before the aforementioned organizations were dissolved, the Anti-Separatism Law was passed in August 2021. Committees formed to combat sectarianism are to be contacted to report any signs of extremism in an individual. These signs include prayer, observing Ramadan, and growing a beard. Such religious manifestations could classify anyone as an extremist who poses a threat to France.
In June 2023, the former Minister of Education decided to launch an investigation into a group of students reported for praying at school in Nice.
There's an authoritarian approach arbitrarily deployed by the French government that is built on racism and specifically targets citizens of color. This targeted, racist pattern has become quite evident in recent years
Criminalizing support for Palestine
In the 1980s, the “evidence through Palestine” barometer was conceived by activists including Youssef Boussoumah. This concept suggests that to determine whether someone is a political ally or adversary, their stance on Palestine must be analyzed.
The French government repeatedly and consistently supports the criminal activities of the Israeli government in Palestine.
Massive demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine in the French capital, October 2023
The French government's cooperation with Israel and clear desire to criminalize movements supporting Palestine is seen as a continuation of its racist policies. Several instances illustrate this.
Firstly, several attempts have been made to dissolve pro-Palestinian associations such as Comité Action Palestine (Palestine Action Committee), Collectif Palestine, and 'Palestine Will Win Alliance' by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin. Last April, these organizations were eventually saved after the State Council ruled they could continue operations. This ongoing targeting of pro-Palestinian civilians and organizations highlights the deep colonial connection between France and Israel, both are countries that vehemently suppress the voices of those in opposition to colonialism.
When Israel deported Salah Hamouri, a French-Palestinian national, from East Jerusalem in 2022, France remained silent despite the violation of international law against one of its own citizens. No diplomatic action was taken, no sanctions enforced
Secondly, France remains silent when Israel violates the rights of its French-Palestinian citizens.
When Israel deported Salah Hamouri, a French-Palestinian national, from East Jerusalem in 2022, France remained mostly silent. No diplomatic action was taken, no sanctions enforced, and no foreign dignitary or ambassador summoned to resolve the issue. France issued a weak statement in condemnation of Israel’s violation of international law against one of its citizens.
The close alliance between France and Israel extends to their ongoing trade and exchange of various law enforcement technology, according to an article published by L'Humanité last July.
As the evidence against France suppressing Muslims, Arabs and other minorities mounts, it continues to collaborate with Israel, sharing similar systems of repression built on racism.
The French ban on pro-Palestine demonstrations occurs within the context of its continued and increasingly racist and authoritarian policies, and is certainly informed by its long history of racism and colonialism.
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