November 13, 2015
On October 20, 2015, the highest court in France upheld the convictions of 12 people who called for a boycott of Israeli products in a French supermarket, finding these Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists guilty of inciting hate and discrimination.
This decision is a vital step in the effort to defeat boycotts of Israeli products. In their ruling, the judges state that this call to boycott discriminates “on the basis of the origin and of the national membership of the producers and the Israeli distributors.” The judgment is based on Article 24 of France’s Law on the Freedom of the Press, passed on July 29, 1881, and updated in December 2004, which imposes imprisonment or a fine of 45,000 euros on a person or entity “that incites to discrimination, to hate or to violence against a person or a group of persons on the basis of extraction, affiliation or non-affiliation with an ethnic group, nation, race or religion.”
A Reaffirmation of the Legal Principles Against BDS
Despite an instruction to prosecutors in 2010 to go after BDS activists, French courts had issued varying rulings on the matter. While there had been many convictions there were also cases of acquittals such as in Pointoise in December 2013, involving calls for a boycott made in a supermarket, or in August 2013 in Perpignan also concerning a supermarket, and a third in Paris in January 2014—all of the accused were acquitted of criminal charges.
But the recent court decision should supersede these decisions of the lower courts. There is now no longer any doubt or ambiguity: calling for the boycott of Israeli products is illegal in France and exposes the offenders to criminal penalties. Through this decision France has become the only democracy in the world where the call to boycott is forbidden.
BDS’s Failure in France
Even before this court case, BDS was condemned by French political leaders from the right and left, such as former President and current opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Alain Juppé, and President Francois Hollande, who, during his 2012 presidential campaign, declared BDS illegal and against the cause of peace. And Prime Minister Manuel Valls has recently reiterated, “There is not and there will be no boycott of Israel.”
AJC Paris has worked hard to expose the sinister nature of the BDS movement, and will continue to cooperate closely with the government and with nongovernmental organizations to combat hate, discrimination, and delegitimization of the State of Israel.