This is a translated article from Libération on the JDL and Gaza Firm. I am grateful to Hugh McDonnell for the translation.
Besides the Jewish Defence League, the French Ministry of the Interior looks into banning the Sheikh Yassin group and the Parisian ex-ultras of the Gaza Firm 6 August 2014Willy Le Devin and Dominique Albertini
The Jewish Defence League (LDJ) is not the only group currently in the sights of the French Ministry of the Interior. While the latter continues to look into the possibility of banning this small ‘self-defence’ group, it might equally target the pro-Palestinian side.
In fact, this would involve two groups in particular: the Gaza Firm and the Sheikh Yassin group. These two groups of radically different styles have participated in most of the meetings in support of Gaza that have taken place in Paris over the last few weeks. They have done so despite the fact that the organisers themselves declared that they were not welcome. ‘Instructions were given for the processions to remain completely impermeable to these people’, maintains Alain Pojolat, member of the Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) and one of the principal organisers of the demonstrations. All the associations authorised to demonstrate – the Parti des indigènes de la République, EuroPalestine, Palestinian Youth Movement and the Union générale des étudiants de Palestine – employed teams of stewards who were vigilant to protect them from any infiltration.
Infiltration is precisely the working method of the Sheikh Yassin group. It was founded in France in 2004 shortly after the Israeli Defence Force’s killing of the blind Palestinian sheikh Yassin, spiritual eminence of Hamas, and is led by Abdelhakim Sefrioui, a radical Islamist well known to the police. For ten years Sefrioui has been conspicuous for his sermons and anti-Semitic quips made at the exit of mosques that he judges to be ‘unfaithful’. Which is to say, too complacent with regard to Israel. As such, he attacks the imam of Drancy, Hassem Chalghoumi, who is held in contempt by many Muslims who take him for a windbag in the service of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF).
For a period of time Sefrioui also maintained informal relations with Mohamed Achamlane, leader of Forsane Alizza, a small Islamist group from Nantes that was dissolved in March 2012 on the order of Claude Guéant, the then Minister of the Interior. Since that time, the Sheikh Yassin group, composed of some thirty ‘brothers’ from the Paris region, has by itself run the website of the cultural association Ansar al Haqq, a platform working to recruit for jihad.
Then there is the Gaza Firm, whose style is completely different. This movement is made up of supporters of Paris Saint-Germain football club, and comes out of groups of ultras (K-Soce Team, Microbes and Karsud), which are subsets of the Supras Auteuil PSG supporters group, dissolved in 2010 by government decree. Generally, members of the Virage Auteuil at the Parc des princes (PSG’s ground) were characterised by their anti-racism, as opposed to their fascist rivals from the Boulogne stand. But, according to a source knowledgeable of ultra circles, the groups making up the Gaza Firm made an objective alliance with their enemies to put up a common front against the government bans.
If the members of the Gaza Firm have known each other for a long time, it is only with the occasion of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations that they adopted their new name. In the processions, these young men, mainly based in the banlieue, distinguish themselves by chants and gestures coming straight out of the football stadium. Their look is more homogenous than that of other organisations – keffiyeh, t-shirt in the colours of the K-Soce Team and black gloves can be seen again and again. According to our sources, the dossier on the Gaza Firm at the Ministry of the Interior is still quite thin.
It does not appear that the group played the leading part in the clashes that marked certain banned demonstrations in the Paris region. However, the NPA complained of an ‘aggressive attitude’ towards its stewards from members of the Gaza Firm, whilst the authorities noted anti-Semitic slogans coming from the group, as well as ‘quenelles’ – the rallying symbol of the polemicist and comedian Dieudonné. This comes as little surprise given that one of the organisers of the Gaza Firm, Thomas N’Lend – who goes by the pseudonym of Mathias Cardet – is close to the far-right essayist Alain Soral. What is more, the latter has welcomed the creation of the Gaza Firm, seeing it a ‘goy defence league’, as opposed to the Jewish Defence League (LDJ). The group’s use of the national flag and the national anthem, the Marseillaise, appears in keeping with Soral’s notion of ‘national reconciliation’. His endorsement, though, is something of an embarrassment, from which N’Lend-Cardet has tried to distance himself.
In a video made available on the far-right website Info libre, he presents his group as a modest representative of the ‘banlieue in revolt’: ‘From the moment that there is a communitarian militia [i.e. the LDJ]… we stood up to say this has to stop.’ In its only statement the Gaza Firm declared itself to be ‘apolitical’ without any links ‘to Dieudonné or even Alain Soral’. ‘In any case, with the start of the French football Ligue 1, three quarters of these guys will not be the slightest bit interested in anything other than football’, predicts a source familiar with Parisian supporter circles. ‘Maybe ten or so guys will stay around Cardet to do the punching’.