France - Middle East

French PM Valls defends ban on Paris pro-Gaza protest

A demonstrator throws a rock at police at the Paris pro-Gaza rally on Saturday
A demonstrator throws a rock at police at the Paris pro-Gaza rally on Saturday Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday defended the ban on Saturday’s rally in solidarity with Gaza after it ended in a riot in the Barbès area of Paris. Opponents on the right and the left claim the ban increased the chances of violence.


"What happened again yesterday in Paris - unacceptable unrest - justifies all the more the courageous choice by the interior ministry to ban a demonstration," Valls told a ceremony commemorating the 1942 Vel d’Hiv mass arrests of Jews in occupied Paris.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

The prime minister warned of a "a new form of anti-Semitism", spreading "on the internet, on networks, in working-class areas, among young people who are often aimless, who have no awareness of history, who hide their 'hatred of the Jews' behind the facade of anti-Zionism and behind hatred of the Israeli state".

The demonstration was forbidden on the grounds that it was a threat to public order after clashes near two synagogues during the previous weekend’s pro-Gaza demonstration in Paris.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve blamed the violence on the “irresponsibility of those who … defied the ban”.

But centrist politician Yves Jégo accused the government of a “kind of provocation” and mainstream right UMP member Pierre-Yves Bournazel asked why it hadn’t been authorised “so as to be able to control it” in a tweet.

The far-right Front National called the move a “patent failure”, claiming that the neighbourhood had be devastated, while Socialist MP Razzy Hammadi told the AFP news agency that it was a mistake that had “encouraged a certain radicalism”.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon's Left Front dubbed the ban a "provocation and a manipluation".

An anonymous top police officer defended his force’s behaviour on the grounds that sectarian clashes had been avoided.

Protest organisers have promised to organise more demonstrations during the week and next Saturday, while comedian Diuedonné, who has been found guilty of anti-Semitism in several court cases, has organised a meeting on Palestine at the theatre where he performs on the same day.

Protest organisers accused the government of trying to stifle criticism of the Israeli government and its latest offensive in Gaza.

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