The French government announced it was banning pro-Palestinian protests on Thursday, explaining they cause a disturbance to public order and give rise to racial hatred. Paris announced it would arrest organisers and deport “trouble makers.”
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wrote to the nation’s departments and regions on Thursday, informing them he had banned “pro-Palestinian demonstrations” because they are “likely to generate disturbances to public order,” the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Thursday, claiming to have had sight of his communication to regional leaders.
A Parisian court had already ruled that police blocking a specific pro-Palestinian rally in the city this week was lawful and proportionate because the judges found a high likelihood of it giving rise to “attitudes, words, and gestures of an anti-Jeiwsh nature, [including] inciting racial hatred and advocating for terrorist attacks,” reports broadcaster RTL.
In Darmanin’s reportedly instructions were specific instructions to dole out harsh repercussions for those who flouted the ban and staged rallies. Police should arrest organisers and what he called “troublemakers.” He advised that “foreign perpetrators” of antisemitism causing trouble at pro-Palestinian protests should have their residence permits revoked and be deported “without delay.”
The order to ban the protests appears to be a significant step-change from the French government, given Darmanin said just hours earlier on Thursday morning that supporting the carving out of a Palestinian state from Israel was legitimate, but praising Hamas or terrorism was not. He said, reports French state radio: “[If a protest] is for the Palestinian cause, it is a respectable cause. Moreover, France has always considered and I consider that we need two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian. But if it is a demonstration of support for Hamas, or of support for the action that some of the Palestinians have taken against Israel, it is no.”
Darmanin revealed in the same interview that antisemitic acts in France had surged since Saturday’s terror attack against Israel that killed at least 1,300. Among the incidents cited by the interior minister were acts of vandalism including the daubing of swastikas and calls for intifada, but more seriously “people arrested at the entrance to a school or synagogue with a bladed weapon”.
Police arrested 24 people as of Thursday morning, he said, three of them foreigners he ordered deported.
France, like many European nations, has already seen waves of pro-Palestinian protests, the intensity of which caused concern among majorities who consider Hamas’s actions on Saturday to be terrorism. In some cases, such as in the United Kingdom, supporting Hamas is already illegal, but this can be hard to prosecute. The UK Home Secretary wrote to police chiefs this week asking them to crack down on intimidation of the Jewish community.