The BDS movement had amazing successes in 2011 in France. Before 2011, French activists for Palestinian human rights had never seen a French musician cancel a show in Israel. But 2011 saw three famous musicians cancel.
In January, Vanessa Paradis refused to sing in Israel. Her partner, Johnny Depp, also cancelled his trip to Israel. French activists had asked the pop star to cancel her trip, in a highly visible creative protest outside of one of her concerts. In November, Mireille Mathieu made an announcement on her website that she was postponing her Tel Aviv concert. BDS France had written her an open letter, and they encourage her to stand strong against pressure from both French and Israeli booking agents to “reschedule” her concert in the apartheid state. In December famed from opera singer,Oumou Sangaré chose to cancel her planned performance with the Israeli Opera. An informative letter from BDS France was followed by a letter from BDS Italy.
In November, activists for Palestinian human rights appeared in Montpellier, southern France. In an incredible act of courage, they de-shelved enormous amounts of Israeli avocados and oranges. They then rolled the produce through the mega-store chanting Palestine solidarity slogans including “boycott Israel,” “Israel is criminal, Carrefour is an accomplice.” A video of the BDS action clearly shows many shoppers expressing support for the well-organized event.
The Flytilla was a French-led event that took place in July. Five hundred women, children and men flew into Tel Aviv, and stated their intention of solidarity with Palestine. Most were blocked from leaving Europe, and over 150 were jailed in Israel. The Flytilla received international press coverage. A google search yielded over 1 million results, with news articles appearing in countless countries and newspapers.
Veolia, a french company, was investigated by French BDS activists. Veolia chose to make a profit from building and operating a settler-only bus and tramway in Israel. Protest actions in France ensued. BDS actions asking Veolia to stop resulted in Veolia losing other profitable contracts. Veolia was breaking international law by building in connection with illegal settlements.
December brought forth the most encouraging news ever for BDS France. Following a court judgment in Mulhouse (east France) the “Campagne BDS France” made this statement:
“Thursday, 15 December will be a historic date for the Campaign in France. The court at Mulhouse has in effect acquitted the 12 activists prosecuted for their participation in the BDS campaign.
They had been pursued by the usual conveyers of Israel’s policies, as well as by the LICRA [International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism] for “discrimination and inciting hatred and violence toward a group or nation” for having participated in two boycott actions in the Carrefour supermarket in Illzach.”
Palestine solidarity in France is the target of three powerful zionist groups: the National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, known by its French acronym BNCVA, the France Israel Chamber of Commerce and LICRA. All three groups seek to shield Israel from accountability. Though all three groups have stepped up their efforts to protect Israel, Palestine solidarity in France seems only to grow stronger.
French protest in support of Palestine is becoming increasingly bold, and the French form is very public and highly visible. Last November Filmmaker Chris den Hond of Belgium released an 18 minute documentary featuringremarkable footage of huge protests in France that include:
- Many spectacular supermarket actions.
- The French Senator Deleet Smamit, who was not convicted after participating in a BDS action.
- The protest asking Vanessa Paradis not to sing in Israel.
- A “die-in” at an arms sales convention in France in which Israel had drones and other weapons for sale.
- A massive boat full of protesters floating past a ceremony honoring Israel’s President Peres.
- A protest in a famous mall asking a store not to stock “AHAVA” dead sea beauty products.
Chris den Hond calls the BDS movement one of the “most prominent international grassroots movements against the Israeli policy of occupation and colonization of historic Palestine.” Omar Barghouti says the movement is not a “marginal movement, its becoming much more mainstream. “ He says the BDS movement already has “major support from major unions…even in Europe, even in Canada, and starting…in the US, as well.”
BDS France serves as creative model for Palestine solidarity, and might well be leading the way in creativity and sheer size of BDS actions.