Police ban Paris rally by anti-Israel groups

By Shirli Sitbon, October 3, 2008

The first pro-Palestinian "Jerusalem Day" to be held in Paris has been banned by police, following alerts on possible altercations and incitement.

Several activist groups led by the Zahra Centre had planned a rally next to the Eiffel Tower last Saturday to protest against "Zionism and Imperialism".

Jerusalem Day, or Al-Quds Day, is an annual protest first launched by the Islamic leadership in Iran.

"We wanted to organise, here in France, Jerusalem Day, the event that was launched by [late Iranian Ayatollah] Khomeini, but Zionist groups and media pressured authorities and police who banned the event at the last minute," Zahra Centre leader Yahia Gouasmi told the JC.

Palestinian officials in Paris gave no support to the initiative and have distanced themselves in the past from some of the groups involved, such as the Euro-Palestine list.

Actor Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, a former member of the Euro-Palestine list, participated in Saturday's initiative. Mr M'bala M'bala, who used to be the partner of Jewish comedian Eli Semoun, hosted a press conference in his theatre.

Police forces were particularly concerned by the presence of an extremist group MDI, which has been twice banned by French authorities. The faction, led by Stellio Capochichi, known as Kemi Seba, was disbanded in 2006 because of its antisemitic actions and incitement. It has since reformed twice using different names. Meanwhile, its members have multiplied.

The MDI - the Movement of those who are Damned by Imperialism - accuses Zionists of "being responsible for injustice and imperialism throughout the world".

French courts have ruled that Kemi Seba's repeated attacks on Zionists were ill-disguised incitement.
Kemi Seba and his militants have threatened Jews on various occasions. One such attack, in the Jewish quarter of the Marais in central Paris, led to the ban of the group by then-president Jacques Chirac.

Kemi Seba's movement, however, has managed to grow stronger ever since. Once the leader of a small, exclusively black grouping, he has opened doors to other militants and his movement now comprises an African faction and an Arab faction. He also developed contacts with white nationalist groups.

According to Le Monde newspaper, Kemi Seba was lobbying the youth in various suburbs and particularly in Paris's 19th quarter where ethnic tensions have risen in recent months.

Jerusalem Day organisers told the JC they were planning a major response to the ban in the coming days.

Last updated: 2:54pm, October 2 2008