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French FM's about-face on Israel sanctions

French FM Stéphane Séjourné, at the second Saint-Denis meeting, November 17, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Just one day after France's foreign minister, Stephane Sejourne, was showered with praise for saying that sanctions on Israel could be coming over the regime's refusal to allow humanitarian aid to Gaza, he quickly backtracked in a session before Parliament.

Many are saying the episode revealed the uniquely powerful influence Zionism has in France.

France, although it has the biggest Jewish community in Europe, has also the most extreme right wing, anti-Palestinian Jewish community in Europe.

And this Jewish community in France has a lot of sway and a lot of control over the media, over the political class.

 So you have very few people within this community who are protesting what's going on in the Middle East unlike the United States and Great Britain.

Socrates Kazolias, Journalist

The majority of France's Jews fled from former French colonies in Africa once those countries gained independence in the 1950s and 1960s and they reportedly brought with them stringent anti-Arab and pro-imperialist views.

In 2019, the French parliament controversially and incorrectly equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and is currently reviewing a proposal to fully criminalize anti-Zionism. 

They are saying anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism; therefore, any criticism of Zionism, any criticism of Israel, means you are a criminal because you're an anti-Semite so it's killing all debate.

Throughout the collective West, especially in France, the number one threat to freedom of speech is the Zionist movement and the pro-Israeli movement, and I weigh my words because it's very, very dangerous to say something like that in France because you'll find yourself in court.

Socrates Kazolias, Journalist

Since October 7, 2023, support for Hamas, and even support for Palestine, has often been prosecuted as "apology for terrorism".

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations were banned nationwide for weeks leading to thousands of fines levied on protesters, with protesters arrested and prosecuted for apology for terrorism, for as little as carrying a Palestinian flag.

Without the ability to openly criticize the policies of Israel, many believe it is unlikely that Paris will reduce its unconditional support for Tel Aviv, no matter how many atrocities and war crimes they commit against Palestinians.

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