By: Max Gelber, World Israel News
In a blow to the anti-Israel BDS movement, France’s highest court has ruled that promoting boycotts of Israel is a form of discrimination and hatred, and has upheld fines for such activity.
France’s highest appeals court last Tuesday ruled the that the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Sanction, Divest) movement activities’ consist of a form of incitement and hate crimes, and upheld fines imposed on BDS activists who were found guilty of “inciting hate or discrimination” by promoting a boycott of the Jewish state.
The case involved two events in which BDS activists called to boycott Israeli products at the Carrefour supermarket, one in 2009 and the second in 2010. The demonstrators were wearing shirts with the slogan “Long Live Palestine, Boycott Israel,” handed out pamphlets stating that the sale of Israeli goods supports “war crimes” in Gaza, and yelled slogans such as “Israel assassinates, Carrefour is complicit.”
The Cour de Cassation, the Supreme Court of France, said that these actions consisted of an attempt to discriminate against a particular country. The ruling is based on France’s anti-discrimination act of 1981, which forbids “discrimination, hatred or violence toward a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion” and threatens a penalty of imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000.
The 12 defendents – Laila Assakali, Yahya Assakali, Assya Ben Lakbir, Habiba Assakali, Sylviane Mure, Farida Sarr, Aline Parmentier, Mohammad Akbar, Jean-Michel Baldassi, Maxime Roll, Jacques Ballouey and Henry Eichholtzer were ordered to pay $14,500 in fines as well as court expenses.
Pascal Makowicz, head of the legal department for,CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions), wrote on the organization’s website that “BDS is illegal in France,” and that boycotts singling out Israel, “are completely illegal. If they say their freedom of expression has been violated, then now France’s highest legal instance ruled otherwise.”
BDS Ruled Illegal in France in the Past
The French Left considers BDS to be a huge political success. The BDS actions attract a lot of support from Muslims youths from the suburbs surrounding the French cities. It is the first time since the 60s and 70s that the French Left has been able to mobilize large numbers of youths, Gatestone wrote in 2012.
French BDS activists have succeeded in intimidating a number of supermarkets to remove Israeli products from their shelves, movie theaters to stop programming Israeli movies, and universities to cancel lectures by Israeli citizens. The lectures were boycotted simply because of their nationality and their Jewish religion; not for the opinions they personally might have held about Israeli politics, Gatestone notes.
In February 2010, the penal court of Bordeaux convicted Saquina Arnaud-Khimoun for labeling Israeli products with the sticker “Boycott Apartheid Israel.” The court ruled that she had “hindered the normal exercise of economic activities by making a distinction on the basis of nationality.” She was sentenced to a fine of €1,000 ($1,230). In October 2010, the Appeals Court of Bordeaux reaffirmed the verdict.
French BDS activists who took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strassbourg, also saw their cases turned down. In July 2009, the ECHR ruled that the French verdicts prohibiting boycotts of Israeli products were not violating human rights. BDS has since tried to circumvent these verdicts by emphasizing that the BDS boycotts are limited to products from the “occupied territories.” This, however, is contradicted by the website of BDS-France which calls for boycotts of Israeli products in general.