Boycotters fined for ‘provoking violence’

By Shirli Sitbon, December 5, 2013

An appeals court in Colmar, eastern France, has handed 12 pro-Palestinian activists suspended 1,000-euro fines for organising a boycott of Israeli products.

The court, which also ordered the boycotters to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees of 24,000 euros, condemned them for “provocation to discrimination, hatred or violence” against people belonging “to a nation, race or religion”.

The BDS group, called “Boycott 68”, campaigned in 2009 and 2010 to stop a supermarket near the city of Mulhouse from ordering Israeli products, and urged its customers not to buy them.

Boycotting is illegal in France, and the case was brought by four anti-hate groups, including the Vigilance Bureau against Antisemitism and the International League against Racism and Antisemitism.

The Vigilance Bureau has launched over 150 legal actions against boycotters across France.

“We’ve been suing boycotters since 2009,” said Vigilance Bureau president Sammy Ghozlan.

“Their actions are illegal and I believe they’re a part of a smear campaign against Israel which also triggers hatred against Jews in general and encourages violence.

“We’ve always feared that this would lead to antisemitic violence. Our fears became reality when Mohamed Merah killed Jewish schoolchildren ‘to avenge the Palestinians’ in Toulouse.”

The BDS group won a first trial in December 2011 and can now appeal their sentence.

They believe Israeli products should be banned to pressure Israel to end settlement activity in the West Bank.

The legal situation changed in February 2010 when then-Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie told prosecutors to appeal rulings that acquit Israel boycotters. Pro-Palestinian groups referred the ruling to France’s top constitutional court, Le Conseil Constitutionnel, but lost.

In September, seven activists were fined for a similar protest in 2010 in a supermarket in Alençon.

But on November 19 the Court of Cassation — France’s highest criminal court of appeal — acquitted several boycotters who staged a protest in a supermarket in Evry near Paris in 2009.

“It always takes a very long time to get the final decision. We had to battle for five years to get last week’s ruling,” said Mr Ghozlan.

His association is now also suing BDS activists who pressured pop star Vanessa Paradis to cancel her concert in Israel in 2011.

Last updated: 10:45pm, December 5 2013