“Paris may develop into a battlefield!”
This was how commentators speculated a few “solidarity with Palestine” demonstration that the police had approved for final Saturday. The priority was not groundless.
Just a few days earlier than, a Harris opinion ballot had proven that 82 p.c of the French feared a wave of terrorism in France and 72 p.c believed that one thing just like the 7 October assault by Hamas would occur in Paris.
“Persons are proper to have considerations,” says Brice Hortefeux, a former Minister of the Inside.
Up to now decade, France has been hit by over 400 terrorist assaults or makes an attempt, virtually all associated to the Center East or what’s shorthanded as “Islamic World.” The identical concern was expressed in quite a few editorials, reminding folks that as house to Europe’s largest Jewish group, some 500,000, and highest variety of Muslims, round 7 million, France was already “a part of the Center East.”
Quite a few small however violent demonstrations in Paris and different cities within the aftermath of October 7, all banned by the police, raised the extent of concern.
On the eve of the Saturday demo, the police introduced it might discipline 2,000 armed personnel, backed by drones and helicopters and plainclothes brokers, to cope with “any eventuality.” On the similar time, the political events and commerce unions that sponsored the demo stated their “safety items”, some 1,000 powerful guys and gals, would even be current.
As an added precaution, police refused to let the march move by Marais, a Paris district with a considerable variety of Jewish houses and companies.
The demo was deliberate towards a background of rising anti-Jewish acts, over 900 situations since October 7, based on the Inside Ministry. So, you’ll be able to think about that it was with some trepidation that I made a decision to return out of retirement as a reporter and canopy the dicey demo. After which, what a shock!
Though it seemed like scores of demos I had seen in Paris since my pupil days within the Nineteen Sixties this was a reasonably small affair. Based on police, some 19,000 folks, 1 / 4 of them safety brokers and/or reporters, participated. (As normal, organizers, together with the Socialist Celebration, multiplied the determine by three.)
The three-kilometer distance between Place de la République and Place de la Nation didn’t flip right into a battlefield.
At some factors, the demo even seemed like a metropolis stroll previous retailers that had closed their shutters out of concern. The Boulevard Voltaire reminded us of a brief story by the Swiss thinker through which a bug, irritated by the tick-tock of a wall clock, jumps into it within the hope of stopping it, however is killed. So far as we may make out, a majority of marchers had been younger.
Just a few seemed grim and offended however many had a bon enfant demeanor, exchanging jokes and laughing with each other. Other than a French-Algerian girl who appeared offended sufficient to interrupt a store window, there was no signal of anybody wishing to get dramatic.
Paris demos have a template offered by activists who attend one another’s occasions.
These embrace anarchists, anti-Turkish Kurdish teams, LGBQ+, the Folks’s Mujahedin, “Cease-Oil” and different “inexperienced” militants, nostalgics of the Soviet Union, dyed-in-wool anti-Individuals, do-gooders able to march for any trigger, and looters from the suburbs.
In Saturday’s demo, nevertheless, such veteran protesters had a low profile.
Just a few folks carried banners of “Queers for Palestine”, “Black Lives Matter” and “Biden Confederate in Crime.”
A band of neo-Nazis had been among the many 1,300 people that police stated had been prevented from becoming a member of the demo from the beginning.
All through the demo, there was little point out of Hamas. A trio of Khomeinists, who stated they’d come from Belgium with a portrait of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a Hezbollah flag, tried the slogan “Hamas shall vanquish” however had been shortly silenced by hostile glances.
The fusion of Hamas and “The Palestinian trigger” had induced confusion as the entire present was constructed round “Palestine” as leitmotiv.
The one-minute silence was for “Palestinian victims” with the principle slogan: “Free Palestine!”. The slogan “Free Gaza” had an ironic ambiguity because the enclave has been dominated by Hamas for 15 yr. The slogan “From the river to the ocean, Palestine will probably be free” was chanted by a couple of marchers, echoing “Juden Raus!” in Thirties Germany, however did not fairly catch on. Not one of the marchers we talked to expressed help for Hamas.
“We’re right here in solidarity with the Palestinian folks,” claimed Hervé, a college pupil from Nanterre.
Dominique, a store employee, claimed she got here as a result of she could not see “kids of Palestine dying.”
One other marcher, Leila Ghuraibi, stated “Genocide should cease” however wasn’t ready to justify the bloodbath of Jews by Hamas.
A ballot for the every day Le Figaro reveals that 37 p.c of the French nonetheless have sympathy for Israel, whereas Palestine will get 20 p.c and Hamas 5 p.c.
“Hamas would not symbolize Palestinians,” stated Laurent, a restaurant employee, echoing a remark by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. “Palestinians do not behave like that.”
“Hamas has betrayed the Palestinian folks,” says thinker Michel Onfray.
Nonetheless, the march was additionally dangerous information for Israel. This crowd included abnormal French residents who couldn’t be written off as anti-Semite weirdos.
Little doubt anti-Semitic sentiments have deep roots in France, as in most Western international locations. Nonetheless, Israeli leaders must ask how Israel, a sufferer on October 7, was forged as an oppressor two days later.
These I talked to within the demo appeared as if they’d forgotten October 7, reminding me of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s phrase “What a miser is a human reminiscence!” For many years, apart from The Netherlands, France was probably the most pro-Israel nation in Europe and its chief supply of weapons. It helped Israel construct its nuclear capabilities. At any time when Israel was attacked, French intellectuals and celebrities mobilized to point out help via public conferences and full-page adverts in newspapers.
This time, nevertheless, the one expression of solidarity got here from a couple of, largely of Jewish background. There was a time when Israel was the darling of the left. Now, nevertheless, solely Fabien Roussel, chief of the Communist Celebration, condemns the October 7 bloodbath. Within the Saturday demo, there was no point out of the practically 250 Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The so-called elites have adopted a one-way indignation posture towards Israel.
But, informal discuss on the bronze counter reveals that Hamas has achieved a lot injury to the “Palestinian trigger” whereas Benjamin Netanyahu’s belligerent rhetoric has diverted consideration from the worth Israel paid on October 7. Nonetheless, in France at the least, so far as we may make out, the battle for public opinion is much from settled.