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France - Middle East

Paris police ban pro-Gaza demonstration

A demonstation against Israel's Gaza offensive in Lille, northern France, on Monday
A demonstation against Israel's Gaza offensive in Lille, northern France, on Monday Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Paris police on Friday banned a demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians as Israel launched a ground offensive on the Gaza Strip. Organisers said they would go ahead with the demonstration.

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“The conditions for the demonstration planned in Paris to take place peacefully do not exist today,” a statement by the Préfecture de Paris announced on Friday, citing “serious risks to public order … in a context of heightened tensions”.

On a visit to Niger on Friday, President François Hollande backed the decision, saying that the Israel-Palestine conflict should not be "imported" into France.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

The ban follows clashes outside two synagogues after demonstrations last weekend, although it will follow a different route - from the largely immigrant area of Barbès to Place de l’Opéra and not to Place de la Bastille, where last week’s most serious incident took place.

Protest organisers said they would appeal against it on Friday afternoon, claiming that it was a breach of the “basic right” to demonstrate.

“In the light of the escalation in Gaza, there is great anger and people will want to express it,” commented Alain Pojolat of the far-left New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), one of the protest’s organisers. "Hundreds of thousands of young people will go to Barbés on Saturday whether the demonstration is authorised or not.”

The NPA later called on supporters to defy the ban.

The French Human Rights League condemned the ban, claiming that it would increase suspicion that the govenrment is partial in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Earlier on Friday Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve dubbed the “violent acts” of last Sunday “intolerable”, blaming them on anti-Semitism.

“Attacks on our Jewish compatriots are unacceptable,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament on Thursday evening. We obviously have to listen to the feelings they have at the moment.”

It was “unacceptable” that condemnation of Israel’s policies turns into “anti-Zionism, which opens the door to anti-Semitism”, he added.

Controversy has blown up about who was responsible for last weekend’s clashes, with politicians and some Jewish leaders blaming pro-Palestinian demonstrators, whose supporters claim that the far-right Jewish Defence League (LDJ) provoked them.

“Whenever there are pro-Palestinian demonstrations near Jewish religious buildings we will be in front of it to protect it,” an anonymous LDJ leader told the AFP news agency this week.

Demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza took place in several French cities on Wednesday evening, although turnout was reported to be lower than in the previous week.

Hollande’s declaration of “solidarity” with Israel in the face of Palestinian rocket attacks drew criticism.

Ahead of Israel’s ground offensive Hollande called for restraint and a ceasefire.

At least 265 Palestinians and two Israelis had been killed by Friday afternoon.

 

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