The biggest demonstration against the Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip took place on January 3 in Paris. More than 20,000 attended, most of them Muslims — many, in fact, radical Muslims. This was not just another pro-Palestine demonstration (there have been dozens of them every year since the start of the Second Intifada); this was an Islamist urban riot. Cars were burned, property was destroyed, and policemen were hurt by an angry mob of about 500 anti-Jewish youth, mostly coming from the suburbs of the capital city to loot and yell their hatred of anything Israeli, Jewish, or simply representing the French state, which they see as an ally of the “Zionists.”
The pro-Gaza demos began on December 30, 2008, when about 4,000 gathered in Paris at the call of the leftist parties (the Communists, the Green Party, and the Trotskyite Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, but not the Socialists), and the major pro-Palestine organizations like the Association France-Palestine Solidarité. Even on the first day of their mobilization, it was clear that the crowd was asking for more than the usual slogans in support of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, and the “rights of the Palestinian people.” They were asking the French left to express open and plain support for Hamas and what it stands for: destroying the state of Israel and blaming the “Zionists” for every evil in the world. Within the French pro-Palestine movement, many think the Palestinian Authority is too moderate and say that the only “resistance” today is that of Hamas and Hezbollah. As a result, there were many flags with the emblem of both movements in the ranks of the demo. While the official slogan was “Stop the bombing and blockade in Gaza,” there was a huge flag in the crowd which read: “Paris – Gaza – Beirut – Kabul – Baghdad – Jenin, Resistance!” In other words: in the name of anti-imperialism, spread terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism on French soil.
On December 31, another demo took place in the heart of Paris, at the call of the Parti des Musulmans de France (PMF) and the Collectif Sheikh Yassine (Sheikh Yassin Group), named after the late leader of Hamas. The PMF is a radical fringe movement which is openly anti-Semitic. Its president, Mohammed Ennacer Latrèche, went on a trip to Iraq in 2003, just before Saddam’s fall, together with some of the most hard-line anti-Zionists from the extreme right, such as Hervé Van Laethem from Belgium and French members of the Réseau Radical, a national revolutionary group. The PMF, which marched through the heavily Muslim districts of northern Paris, had organized the demo by explaining that the Israeli strike was caused by the belief of the Tsahal soldiers in “their Torah, which has become an inspiration for committing the most filthy crimes.” The same slogans were repeated the following day, when Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Paris, by about 800 Islamists burning Israeli flags in front of the Paris Opera, while a bunch of radicals chanted, “Israel, you are Nazi” and “Long live Hamas.” Another popular slogan then was: “United Nations, in 48 you gave birth to a monster and you named it Israel.”
The anti-Jewish tone of the pro-Palestine movement reached unprecedented heights on January 3. The protesters planned to march through Paris to the Israeli embassy, located near the Champs-Elysées, which meant that it had to walk through the heavily Jewish district near the Grands Boulevards. When it arrived there, the Jewish quarter was under heavy police protection and the streets leading to it were closed, but it was certain, from all the “Allahu Akbar” and “Weapons for Hamas” that one could hear, that many wanted to physically confront the Jews. This was no wonder, for many Islamist organizations had called for the demo, including the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Collectif des Musulmans de France, which is close to Tariq Ramadan. There was plenty of anti-Jewish literature that was sold on the sidewalks alongside the demo. The Comité sur le génocide en Palestine distributed a leaflet written by Ginette Skandrani, who was banned from the Green Party because of her links to Holocaust-deniers. It is entitled “The Planned Genocide of the Palestinian.” A close look at the name of the committee members proves the existence of a red, green, brown network of Jew-bashers: Jean Brière was also banned from the Green Party because of an article he wrote in 1991 against the “bellicist Jewish lobby” that was allegedly behind the launching of Operation Desert Storm. Abdelhakim Sefrioui is a Moroccan imam who belongs to the leadership of the Comité des Imams de France. Mondher Sfar is a Tunisian political activist and opponent of the Ben Ali regime, who wrote in several Holocaust-denial French publications in the 1990s. And the last member is the www.aredam.net website, run by Daniel Milan, a neo-Nazi who converted to Islam. But the most interesting leaflet which was distributed emanated from the Mouvement des Indigènes de la République, a secular movement led by intellectuals of Arab descent who are on television regularly. The leaflet featured a photograph of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al Qassam, “hero of the Palestinian revolution, who gave his name to the armed branch of Hamas.”
Late in the evening when it became dark, the riot began. There were cries of “death to the Jews” and youngsters wearing “Hamas ” t-shirts throwing stones at the police. This is when the black supremacists of the Mouvement des Damnés de l’Impérialisme (MDI) began to distribute their propaganda. MDI, led by Kemi Seba, whose family comes from Benin, began under the name Tribu KA as a radical offspring of the Nation of Islam. It evolved into a bizarre cult advocating return to Africa and a mix of ancient Egyptian wisdom and black racialism. It is virulently anti-Semitic and Seba has now returned to the Islamic faith. In the demonstration, the MDI leaflets called the “Arab diaspora” to “efficiently fight against the Zionist enemy who is occupying our lands.” Of course, “our lands” means both Israel and France. The MDI is now building an alliance with Islamists and white neo-Nazi supremacists, and their common ground is hatred of the Jews. This certainly explains why there were several fascist militants among those who rioted as well.
Nearly one week after the demonstration, the French media has not yet understood what happened. It has not even written about it. However, it is now crystal clear to those who have eyes to see that the radicalization process of the pro-Palestine movement has reached a turning point.