January 26, 2023 — Paris
The is piece originally appeared in Le Figaro.
Last December, after being expelled by Israel, Salah Hamouri was greeted with a hero's welcome at the Paris airport by several Members of Parliament of “La France Insoumise.” Ersilla Soudais, an MP from the far left party even described Hamouri's expulsion as “a deportation orchestrated by Israel,” an inappropriate choice of words , to say the least. For those who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but above all its treatment in France, this is not surprising.
Salah Hamouri, often presented as a “Franco-Palestinian lawyer,” as a “human rights defender,” and as a “former political prisoner,” was jailed in Israel between 2005 and 2011 for participating in the attempted murder of Ovadia Yossef, the former chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel. Hamouri is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union.
Following his welcome at the airport, Hamouri was, a few days ago, then received by the communist parliamentary group at the National Assembly. He was invited by Lyon Mayor Grégory Doucet (from the Green party), to participate at a round table on the Oslo Accords ( no Israeli had been invited) and has been named an honorary citizen of the cities of Rezé, Vitry, Carhaix and Gennevilliers.
Beyond the case of Hamouri himself though, this kind of behavior illustrates more than anything the common desire by certain political leaders to appear as the great defenders of what they imagine to be the Palestinian cause, using it as a tool for political instrumentalization.
These elected officials, often from the extreme left, have tried to please certain NGOs and a particular fringe of voters in certain neighborhoods for years. It has therefore become a habit for them to glorify extremists such as Hamouri and others before him.
This has notably been the case of Marwan Barghouti. Sentenced by Israel to five life sentences for the murder of Israeli civilians and his involvement in four terrorist attacks, Barghouti has been made a citizen of honor by dozens of French cities. Majdi Ihrima Al-Rimawi, convicted for his participation in the assassination of Israel's Minister of Tourism, Rechavam Zeevi, was made an honorary citizen of Bezons. However, following the cancellation of this distinction by the administrative court of Pontoise in February 2013, the mayor then decided to make 4,500 convicted Palestinian terrorists symbolic honorary citizens.
By glorifying terrorists, by calling them “resistance fighters” and challenging reality, these elected officials have largely overstepped the line of what they often call “legitimate criticism of the Israeli government.”
Being pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli are perfectly healthy attitudes if they happen within the framework of a democratic debate. Justifying or even indirectly glorifying terrorism and antisemitism should be condemned under any circumstance and particularly if they come from an elected official. This kind of behavior adds fuel to the fire and leads to the justification of violence against Israelis and in extension against Jews. Here in France violent antisemitism, linked to the hatred of Israel, has become structural for at least two decades and these political leaders, by acting in such a manner, bear a serious responsibility. Terrorist acts against Israeli Jews are no less horrific than those committed in France by Amedi Coulibali, the Kouachi brothers, Mohammed Merah, or Mehdi Nemmouche.
How can we expect our children to distinguish between the acceptable and the unacceptable if our own political leaders sink into such intellectual and moral perversion?
How can we prevent young people from “importing the conflict,” if our elected officials excuse, or even glorify, hatred of Israel? How can we expect people to understand what anti-Zionist antisemitism is if, while a majority of French parliamentarians adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, their colleagues invite those who try to murder rabbis into that same building?
While the government prepares to publish its new plan to fight antisemitism, racism and discrimination, these elected officials stir up the worst instincts for electoral reasons. If we continue to accept this kind of behavior, no plan nor initiative, however elaborate, will be enough to effectively fight against the ills that plague our society.
Simone Rodan-Benzaquen is Director of AJC Europe.