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As Gaza Burns, France Feels the Heat

Published: 23/07/2014 03:47:41 AM GMT
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CAIRO –Amid escalating tension in French streets, President Francois Hollande met with religious leaders on Monday, July 21, as a part of the government’s effort...(more)

CAIRO –Amid escalating tension in French streets, President Francois Hollande met with religious leaders on Monday, July 21, as a part of the government’s efforts to stop the pro-Palestinians protests that have turned violent in some areas, with fierce confrontations with pro-Israelis..

“The Muslim community is not anti-Semitic and itself suffers from racism,” Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, July 21.

Boubakeur, who attended Hollande’s meeting at the Élysée Palace, stressed that anti-Semitic chants and attacks are not encouraged by Islam, saying they deemed “unacceptable”.

The two-week Israeli offensive in Gaza has sparked angry protests across Europe that were attended by tens of thousands of Arabs, Pro-Palestinian activists, and right activists.

After protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in the capital during a pro-Palestine rally, French police banned the pro-Palestinian protests in France.

The protests turned violent after being attacked by pro-Israel protesters who confronted Gaza march.

“What happened in Sarcelles is intolerable. Attacking a synagogue and a kosher food shop—which had already been the victim of a [2012] attack—is quite simply anti-Semitism,” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls earlier Monday before joining the meeting with the religious leaders.

Tens of thousands of angry protests marched against Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza strip on Saturday, July 19, demanding “justice and freedom” for Palestine and an end to Israeli war in the tiny besieged strip.

In London, up to 15,000 people marched through the capital from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy in Kensington this afternoon.

From Jakarta, Indonesia to Berlin, Germany, protests have been staged in condemnation of Israel’s offensive on Gaza.

Similar protests erupted in Auckland when hundreds gathered at Auckland’s Aotea Square to protest the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.


Banning pro-Palestinian demonstrations in France was harshly criticized by several rights groups and political wings in France.

“Francois Holland and Manuel Valls made the scandalous choice to confuse the fight for rights for the Palestinian people and anti-Semitism,” Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA), a far-left political party, said a statement cited by Al Jazeera America.

“They are today primarily responsible for whatever actions happen on the margins [of the protests] because of their ban on [pro-Palestine protests].”

Defying the ban, pro-Palestinian protesters flocked to Paris streets on Saturday and Sunday when dozens of them were arrested after clashes with police.

Blaming extremists for the violence in Paris streets, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “A minority of radical forces are taking advantage of the situation,” AFP reported.

France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has also justified the ban saying, “It’s not banning protests that causes violence; it’s violence that causes some protests to be banned.”

For Jews, the pro-Palestinian rallies in France pose as a threat for “Semitism”.

“Fighting anti-Semitism will become a national cause,” Joël Mergui, the head of the Jewish union Central Consistory of France, said after meeting the president.

Israel has been launching relentless airstrikes against Gaza since July 8 where hundreds have been killed and injured.

The Palestinian death toll in an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip rose above 590, with more than 3660 injured.

According to UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 80% of deaths in Gaza are civilians, including dozens of children and women.

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