Threat to Freedom of Speech in France

12 February, 2016
Association France Palestine Solidarité

Dear 1

Thank you for your message of 12 February, 2016.  We take very seriously the threats to freedom of speech in France and everywhere, and we are appalled that the courts have upheld the convictions of French activists for advocating a boycott of Israeli products.  We feel compelled to ask one question, however.  Are you concerned about the freedom to advocate BDS or are you concerned about freedom of speech?

France is the land of Voltaire, whose views have been characterized as “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We note, for example, that the AFPS never spoke in defense of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala when he was denied his free speech in numerous cities in France and other countries.  You may disapprove of what he says, but do you not defend his right to say it?

And what about Jacob Cohen, doyen of anti-Zionism in France?  You not only never defended him, but also refused to allow him to register as an attendee at a BDS conference in Paris.  What about his freedom of speech?

Why is anti-Semitism a crime in France but not Islamophobia?  We disapprove of both, but recognize hate speech as part of the price we pay for free speech, and we believe that the antidote to racist speech is anti-racist speech, not prohibition of some types of free speech that we might disapprove of.  We also believe that the accusation of anti-Semitism is too widely made, and that those who object to its use against advocates of BDS nevertheless often approve its use against anti-Zionists.

The Free Palestine Movement will happily and enthusiastically endorse a call for free speech which makes all of these considerations explicit, but we are not interested in a false call which is self serving in purpose and selective in application, which is just another way of denying free speech to those of whom we disapprove while keeping it for ourselves, i.e. a form of hypocrisy.

We understand the strategic need to avoid unnecessary confrontation when seeking a particular goal, and we thoroughly disapprove of it.  To compromise principle for the sake of expediency is the worst form of hypocrisy.

Please let us know if you decide to accept our suggestions, but in the meantime, the Free Palestine Movement will not endorse or promote your petition, and we refer you to STYLO France at its website and Facebook page which we helped to create for the purpose of furthering free speech internationally.

The Free Palestine Movement

—– Forwarded Message —–
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2016 6:30 AM

Name: 1 on behalf of the AFPS

Email: gro.enitselap-ecnarfnull@esserp


Comment: Hello,

Following the recent court decisions to uphold the conviction of French activists merely for calling for the boycott of Israeli products, and in the very difficult climate that France has endured since the Paris attacks that we all condemn, there is a very real threat in France to freedom of expression in the form of calls to boycott Israel for its violations of international law.

In order to put an end to these despicable measures and to avoid their spread to other countries, widespread action is necessary to protect freedom of expression and the right to call for boycott in France.

Please take a minute to read the full text of our call, (published in French by the journal Politis) which is being signed by major figures around the world.

It is open to the public as part of a large-scale international petition, currently counting over 10000 signatures:
Would you be willing to help us spread the word about our call and petition? If so, can you assist us in contacting any high-profile individuals likely to sign our call?

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

In solidarity,
1 from the AFPS (Association France Palestine Solidarité)

Time: February 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm
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  1. Name deleted at correspondent’s request. [] [] [] []
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement. Read other articles by Paul.