Macron will ‘not recognize Palestine’

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron has reiterated that he will not recognize Palestine as a state as it would hinder good relations between Israel and France

Prior to his election win, Macron said he backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that recognizing Palestine would cause instability and he would not risk France’s relationship with Israel to serve the Palestinian agenda. At a political rally Macron said: “Unilateral recognition of Palestine, right now, will undermine stability.” He added: “it will not change the lives of anyone on the ground, including Palestinians.”

Have French socialists and Francois Hollande lost the Muslim electorate because of Gaza?

August 6, 2014

“To our French cousins, one thing to repeat for Hollande, Valls and Cie: ‘Gaza, if I forget you in the 2017 polls, let my right hand be cut off!’” Reads one of the latest Facebook posts calling to “punish” Hollande and the Socialist Party at the next presidential election in 2017.

The Party of the Indigenous of the Republic (PIR), which is very active in mobilizing for Gaza in France and which played a major role in the two demonstrations that were banned, has been vocal about its dislike for Hollande’s policies.

“The tide is turning. After more than a month of a Zionist invasion, from all sides, emerges the slogan: ‘In 2017, the PS will pay,’” it warned in a recent statement.  “Numerous voices have marked the date for the presidentials, and call for a real Waterloo for the PS in the next elections” stated the PIR, which has promised to “employ all its forces.”

In activist circles and beyond, Francois Hollande, who obtained 85% of the Muslim vote in 2012, is currently at his lowest popularity level. Although it is impossible to determine what constitutes the “Muslim vote,” it is evident that many Muslims are angry with Hollande and how he has dealt with the situation in Gaza.

Early in the conflict Hollande expressed his support for Israel and urged the government to “take every measure to protect its population in the face of threats.” This statement has since prompted outrage from the Muslim community.

Many activists and elected socialists of Muslim origin have noticed the rise in hostility toward the Socialist Party, a dislike which has increased since the ban on public demonstrations in Paris and Prime Minister Valls’s accusation of anti-Semitism in poor neighborhoods. Hollande’s party has suffered from internal debate.

Certain members of the French government have revised their original support for Francois Hollande as more civilian casualties in Gaza take place. For example, Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius recently recognized the “massacre of civilians” in Gaza.

Christians and Muslims of Nevers unite against killings in Gaza

August 6, 2014

August 6, “Mossoul’s persecutions. The killings in Gaza. ‘No cause is more important than the other.’  Injustice must be fought wherever it comes from,’” said Izzet Cosgun and Father Jean Baffier in a joint statement discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cosgun is a Muslim teacher currently working in a Catholic school. Father Baffier is in charge of “relationships with the Muslim world” in his department at the school.

Both have worked together in a joint initiative to host a meeting in Nevers to discuss the current situation in Gaza. “Muslims are concerned by what is happening in Gaza, but are also in solidarity with what is happening to Christians in Iraq,” affirmed Cosgun. When commenting on the political situation in Iraq he stated that any violence was “mercenary acts that do not represent our beliefs.”

Father Baffier confirmed that a delegation of French bishops gathered in July in northern Iraq to express “the solidarity of Christians in France.” The bishops “brought another point of view. It’s not Islam that is fighting Christianity over there. It’s a band of rebels that took power in that city. Don’t make it a misunderstanding. This would only play into the hands of those who want to divide France.”

“Christians are on their ancestral territory in Mossoul,” said Cosgun. He added, “They are at home. Like the Palestinians are at home in Gaza. Like French Muslims are at home in France.”

When discussing the recent incident of racist tagging in Charité-sur-Loire, Cosgun said that “People that do that are enemies of peaceful coexistence. It’s necessary to fight this because the future, it’s peaceful coexistence. Why leave the situation up to those who represent nothing?”

Cosgun believes that “it’s not his meeting that’s going to change things” but hopes that political leaders will pay attention to the initiative. He cited Rumi: “If the fair had as much courage as the unjust, the world would be less unfair.”

The leaders of three mosques in Nevers will be present at the meeting. The bishop has also urged all the parishes in the area to participate.

Haïm Korsia: “We all have to protect the Republic”

July 23, 2014

Jewish chaplain and the new Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia is known for his commitment to interreligious dialogue and to the values of the French republic. He was elected June 22, 2014 and is now faced with a series of attacks against the country’s Jewish community that have occurred during pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In the wake of rioting in Sarcelles Korsia participated in an interfaith prayer session with Drancy’s imam Hassen Chalghoumi in the town’s synagogue. Korsia answered questions in a recent interview with Le Point.

When asked his reaction to the speeches given at the presidential palace and at the prayer session in Sarcelles, he answered that is was a “necessary time for the national community, that needed to express the idea of solidarity between all its peoples, to say that there are things that are unacceptable.”

Korsia affirmed that it was not only up to Muslim leaders to speak out against violent acts. In the words of imam Chalghoumi, those perpetrators “are not in true support of any cause, they are not Muslims, they demonstrate only a rejection of the system and a hate for Jews. It is necessary to recognize this in order to fight: it will not work to be alarmist, but to make a fair observation in order to institute working methods, education, and courage so that there may be a peaceful ‘living together,’ which is France’s true mission.” The rabbi stated, “There is no war of religions, but of Frenchmen who attacked other Frenchmen.”

The rabbi trusts Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve’s statement that there will no future demonstrations. He expressed his surprise at elected officials who attended banned demonstrations, saying, “It is incomprehensible that certain people scoff at the Republic that they are supposed to embody.”

He stressed the importance of interreligious dialogue and of schools to introduce children to classmates with different religions than their own. “Someone else’s religion doesn’t have to be a mystery, a radical otherness, but another form of humanity that is just as deserving of respect,” he said. Korsia believes that this type of dialogue is possible in public schools. “One must go back to basics, at what is at the heart of the republican intention: we are all citizens, and there is a single community that counts: the national community,” he affirmed.

When referring to the “great national cause” he acknowledged the specific fight against anti-Semitism. However he said “it’s necessary to see things as they are: when we engage in methods to fight anti-Semitism, we give the impression that there are two weights, two measures…In reality one must fight against any rejection. The fight against global racism is good, but with a specificity towards anti-Semitism, which must become a great national cause.”

According to the recent findings, 5,000 French Jews have relocated to Israel in 2014 compared with 1,907 in 2012. Korsia stated that this number may be related to the anxiety many Jews feel in France, but is not the only reason for their relocation.

When asked if he believes that the majority of France feels a “softness” towards the anti-Semitic violence that occurred he answered, “not a softness, but an indifference, a resignation.” He stated that it’s necessary to work towards instituting “freedom and brotherhood while at the same time working toward national reconciliation.”

“Muslims of France wish for a united brotherhood” affirm Muslim leaders

July 23, 2014

In a recent statement, Muslim leaders recognize the “particular resonance in our country” of the “war between Israel and Palestinians.” They emphasized that “the Muslims of France wish for one united brotherhood, to live together peacefully.”

“No exterior conflict, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should, in any case and in any way, be brought into France and most of all affect the relations between our country’s citizens or generate hostile behavior between them,” they wrote.

The leaders condemned “the small minority, who under pretext of defending the Palestinian cause, infiltrate the demonstrations that have peaceful objectives to attack citizens or their places of worship, no matter if they are Christians, Jews or Muslims.”

They called on the Muslim community to stand up to these “‘thugs’ whose objectives are totally foreign to [the community’s] interests and principles.” Reaffirming their support for the Great Mosque of Lyon they called on Jewish leaders to “understand, beyond the passions and legitimate feelings that they feel in regard to Israel, that we as well cannot remain insensitive to these children, to these women and these Palestinian men who die each day.”

The concluded: “We propose to our Jewish citizens of France to discuss together the best ways to resist…proponents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in France and in the world.”

Statement issued by:

*Laid Abdelkader Bendidi, Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Benaissa Chana, Vice Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Azeddine Gaci, Recteur de la Mosquée Othmane

Kamel Kabtane, Recteur de la Mosquée de Lyon

Paris, Sarcelles: Cazeneuve “takes complete responsibility” for the ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations

July 21, 2014

After a pro-Palestinian demonstration turned violent in Sarcelles, Val-d’Oise on Sunday, July 20, a similar demonstration followed in the streets of Paris in the Barbès neighbourhood. Bernard Cazeneuve spoke about the controversial decision to ban public demonstrations in support of Palestinians. He does not regret this decision, stating, “I take full responsibility for the decision…Every French citizen should live harmoniously with one another no matter their religious beliefs, their confession, their conviction. Can you do this when you let things escalate?” asked Cazeneuve in a recent interview.

According to Cazeneuve the violence would have been “worse” in Sarcelles without the ban. He assured those wishing to hold demonstrations that police heads would meet to discuss the possibilities of future pro-Palestinian demonstrations. If the demonstrations can be held “without risk” to public order “they will be allowed” he said.

According to Cazeneuve there is a “small minority” of French Muslims who are “radicalized.” “That has already shocked the representatives of Islam in France…There is a large majority of French Muslims that condemn [the violence] in France, Muslims are tied to the Republic,” he affirmed.

“’They themselves are put at risk’ by the recent events…They see the consequences that all of this can have on them” said Cazeneuve. “These hoodlums who riot in Sarcelles or elsewhere are not representative of the Islam of France.”

Muslims or not, citizens called on to express their solidarity with Gaza

July 22, 2014

Close to two weeks after Israel’s army began bombing the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 650, most of whom were women and children. Many more have been injured and over 100,000 Palestinians have been displaced according to the United Nations. The Gathering of Muslims of France (RFM) firmly condemns “blind violence that violates international law and reiterates its deepest emotion and greatest concern at the unprecedented killing spree.”

According to the RFM is a country that “engenders great respect in the region,” and must “play a determining and decisive role for the immediate end to this violence and work for the establishment of justice and peace in this bruised region.”

The RFM “calls on the Muslims of France, politicians and all loving citizens of peace and justice to express their solidarity with the Palestinian cause, with respect for the republican pact which links and concerns us all.”

The organization reinforced the need for peaceful protest and reiterated that French Muslims reject “all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Muslims of France are equally respectful of the sanctity of places of worship and are deeply committed to the safety of persons and property.”

French Muslims are invited to “benefit from these blessed days of Ramadan to pray that the martyrdom of the Palestinian people can stop as soon as possible.”

Signed,

Anour Kbibech, President of the RFM

Hollande urges Middle East diplomacy after pro-Palestinian protest in Paris

July 14, 2014

After Muslim youths attempted to forcefully enter two Paris synagogues on Sunday, July 13, French president Francois Hollande is calling for diplomatic measures between leaders of Hamas and Israel and “pressing Israel for restraint in Gaza.”

The conflict has caused religious tension within France and has led to several violent outbursts by pro-Palestinian protestors.

In a recent televised speech, Hollande stated, “Israel has the right to its security; Israel can defend itself if it is attacked; but at the same time Israel should show restraint.” A synagogue near the Bastille was stormed by more than 100 youths chanting “Israel murder.” More than two thousand protestors participated in Sunday’s march. Some carried banners saying “stop killing children.” Six policemen and two worshippers at the synagogue were injured.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who lives in the neighborhood, condemned the attacks. “France will never tolerate people trying in words or deeds to import the Israeli-Palestine conflict onto its territory,” he said.

The French president said that he has attempted “to convince those who could have an influence on Hamas, on the Gaza Strip, and at the same time putting pressure on Israel” to put a stop to the ongoing attacks. Hollande has affirmed that he is intent on stopping the violence from being “imported” to France.”

“We cannot have intrusion or efforts at intrusions into places of worship, whether they are synagogues, as happened yesterday, but I would say the same thing for mosques, for churches, or for temples,” he said. “Religions should be respected, all religions. These places of worship should be protected.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations: Muslim leaders call for calm

July 16, 2014

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, called for peace and “strongly recommends respect for places of worship” following the incidents on Sunday, July 13 in front of two synagogues in Paris.

His statement condemned the “misbehaviors” that “should not disrupt the lives of Frenchmen, no matter their religious beliefs.”

His speech came in the wake of a pro-Palestinian demonstrations responding to the current conflict between Israel’s government and Hamas, some of which ended in violence. “The current Muslim opinion concerning this conflict must remain calm and work for peace in this blessed month of Ramadan,” wrote Boubakeur. “The escalation of violence has already caused several casualties and we call for all national and international authorities to stop the violence,” he declared. The Great Mosque of Paris announced that it would hold a “prayer for the absent” to honor the victims. The mosque “called for all other mosques to do the same.”

The president of the Union of French Mosques, Mohammed Moussaoui believes that peaceful demonstrations in support of Palestinians are “legitimate and justified,” while reaffirming that “nothing justifies an action that harms our Jewish citizens, their institutions, or their places of worship. Such an action, strongly condemnable and morally unjust and unacceptable, would also affect the interest of the Palestinian people and the support that they could have in French public opinion.”

The president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Roger Cukierman, expressed his “utmost concern” to Hollande concerning the demonstrations. The Jewish community views the incidents “as a break from the republican pact…the Jewish community feels isolated within its national community,” stated Cukierman after meeting with the president. “No pro-Palestinian supporter should confuse anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Because today there is identification between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

Five people were sent to criminal court for violence and for disruption of public order after the demonstrations on July 13.

Jewish and Muslim friends, remain foremost Frenchmen

July 13, 2014

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of any discussion at the moment” begins Tareq Oubrou in a recent op-ed. “I call on my fellow citizens, no matter their religious beliefs, to calm. I know well that certain, quick to vilify any attempt to move in this direction, will interpret this message as treason, even if it is a call to live together and to learn to decipher the subtleties of our society.”

Oubrou called on French Muslims to distinguish between “what is political and what is religious” and said that French Jews must also do this. He stated that the current conflict is political rather than religious. Oubrou stressed that each community must adopt this viewpoint in order to work towards peace and that “Jews must recognize the state of Israel’s part in the conflict, just as Muslims must also recognize the responsibility of organizations that ‘sow disorder.’”

“We are Frenchmen, citizens of the same country, we have the task of living together in harmony. So, we need to know how to discuss, to accept an opposite side’s dialogue and most of all, most of all to never move from political position to violence,” he said.

He recognized France’s importance as one of the most important Western countries to house large Muslim and Jewish communities. “We need courageous men and women to speak to their communities and make them see reason when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict creeps too far into our lives.” Oubrou stated that the “colonization of Palestinian territories needs to end, international law must be applied. It seems to me that it is the only way to appease Muslims in the world. And Muslims must say loud and clear that the multiple aggressions by Hamas are condemnable.”

Oubrou stated “while adopting different political positions in regard to this deadly conflict, a dividing line between French citizens remains necessary to live together in France.”