Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gaza Firm and banned protests for Gaza

This is a further article from Le Monde on the group, Gaza Firm, which has appeared on pro-Palestine protests.  Thanks again to Stephen Hastings-King for translating.

A Radical Pro-Palestinian Collective Behind the Banned Protests for Gaza.
LE MONDE | 25.07.2014 à 12h18 • Mis à jour le 26.07.2014 à 07h18 |
Par Faïza Zerouala

The pro-Palestinian collective at the origin of the banned protest on Saturday July 19, which deteriorated into confrontations with the police, called for another demonstration on Saturday the 26th.  But this new demonstration was banned by the Prefect of Police on Friday the 25th.  “We met with the organizers and discussed the route and organizational situation of this demonstration” explained Bernard Cazeneuve, the Minister of the Interior, on Thursday, July 24. At the same meeting, Prime Minister Manuel Valls demanded “guarantees” on security questions.

Why this caution?  The explanation is that the organizations which support the Palestinians are not a unified front.  Had the National Collective for a Just and Lasting Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which is comprised of organizations with histories like the Human Rights League, the French Communist Party (PCF) or the CGT, organized the demonstration, they would have advanced consensual and pacifist demands.  But these associations, which advance more radical demands, are those which called for those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause to demonstrate for the first time on July 13th.

That day, events were choreographed by an informal collective without an official name comprised of about 30 friends who were long-time militants because, they said, the traditional actors “won’t move.” This network is comprised of a small core of militants, but it’s abilities in using social media as a tool for mobilization compensates for their numerical weakness.  They brought together members of the Union general des etudiants de Palestine [The General Union of Palestinian Students], the Mouvement des jeunes Palestinians (PYM France) [The Palestinian Youth Movement] and Génération Palestine, in addition to l’Union juive française pour la paix (UJFP) [The Union of French Jews for Peace], the Nouveau Parti anti-capitaliste and the Parti des indigènes de la République (PIR).

By their own admission, this call to mobilize was the fruit of improvised meetings in the face of catastrophe.  Their groups had been more or less dormant since the strong mobilizations against “Operation Cast Lead” was launched by Israel at the end of 2008-beginning of 2009.

The informal collective supports the right of return as well the release of political prisoners.  But its representatives say their demands do not bear exclusively on peace.  This nameless collective supports Hamas and opposes the Unity Arrangement.  One of the members of the GUPS, which was formed in 1959 and is one of the few Palestinian associations operative in France, sees this need for autonomy as a reaction against the “language of National Unity which has been a weak politically for a long time.  They prefer to organize outside of all that.”


There are more than political divergences, explains Omar Al-Soumi of the Mouvement des jeunes Palestiniens (the Palestinian Youth Movement).  His friends and he did not want to depend on a National Unity agreement that is, in their eyes, not at all representative.  Son of a Palestinian artist, he became involved with militant activity 10 years ago as Sciences Po.  He recalls: “At the time, the classic militant profile was a retiree from public service with white hair.  We wanted to open ourselves up to popular neighborhoods, to the “New France” that has emerged through immigration in order to never again be deprived of our struggle.”  Mr. Al-Soumi was mostly in charge of uniting the banlieue (Parisian suburbs).

In order to appeal to these French people of immigrant origin, the collective developed an additional language: the struggle against colonialism.  Youssef Boussoumah of the PIR, with 30 years of militant activity behind him and the “Daddy” of the PIR, was made spokesman.  The PIR was started in 2005 in response to the law prohibiting religions symbols in public schools.  “In France, the colonial fracture is open.  Palestine is experiencing supreme injustice: it is the last colonial cause.”
For everyone the questions remains political above all.  Haoues Seniguer, researcher at the Groupe de recherches et d'études sur la Méditerranée et le Moyen-Orient (The Mediterranean and Middle East Research and Study Group) partially confirms this hypothesis: “Some of these movements are mobilized in the name of a common reference point, for example the Islamic identity of the Palestinians.  But they know that they cannot make the conflict into a matter of religion without losing support.”

The NPA, the only political organization that supports them, describes itself as irritated by the religious slogans that are started in the course of demonstrations.  However, Omar Al-Soumi assumes that groups which are very religious and close to Hamas like the Cheikh Yassine Collective demonstrates alongside them: “This doesn’t bother us to the extent that we support all forms of resistance and armed struggle.  Diplomacy and negotiation never lead to anything.”