An Open Letter to Emmanuel Macron, President of France

By Shimon Samuels

Paris, 6 January 2021

Mr. President,

You recently called Islam “a religion in crisis.” You also shut down mosques allegedly frequented by extremists, as centres emanating a hate that encouraged a wave of violence and terrorism.

Your policy was met by anger and anti-French boycott demonstrations across the Muslim world, reminiscent of just such an eruption in response to the Charlie Hebdo Mohammed caricatures.

The decapitation of a teacher – who dared to show the cartoons in a school class on freedom of expression – led you to further sanctify values of the Republic, especially laïcité (secularism) and free speech.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s Erdogan and Pakistan’s Imran Khan expressed rage against France. Imagine them calling for a boycott of French products, spreading damage to trade from North Africa to Central Asia, during an already costly pandemic.

Mr. President, your Jewish community wondered where is the antisemitism in this scenario?

The boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish State is illegal in France and acknowledged as antisemitic by the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) Definition of Antisemitism, adopted by the French National Assembly in December 2019.

Yet an epicentre of BDS is the “Collectif Palestine Vaincra” (Association Palestine Will Vanquish) based in Toulouse, but active across France.

In 2012, Toulouse was the scene of a Jihadist murder of three children and their teacher at a Jewish school. In the same city, in 2017, an Imam, reportedly, called on his flock “to murder Jews.” His trial has been frozen for four years.

BDS invokes hate, which inspires violence.

Now follows the unthinkable: the French Foreign Office, through the AFD (French Development Agency) – whose mission statement claims to support “climate, biodiversity, peace, education, health, governance, etc.” allocated 8 million Euro (about $10 million) to the NGO Development Centre (NDC), a Palestinian association that, allegedly, promotes BDS.

AFD Spokeswoman, Magali Mevellec, told JTA that the funding “conforms to French law.” She was also quoted that France “supports strengthening local capabilities that improve the lives of populations”... in what France considers Palestinian territories... “The sole purpose of France and AFD is improving the welfare of [those] populations.”

Apparently, the well-respected NGO Monitor thought differently, when calling for the French government to “revise its grant in line with France’s clear rejection of BDS.”

Mr. President, we urge you to close down the “Collectif Palestine Vaincra,” just as you did with apparent mosques of hatred. Also, to take measures to investigate the policy of AFD and to discipline infractions under the Lellouche Law against boycott.

Mr. President, there must be one policy against boycott and hate, whether against France, French Jewry or the Jewish State of Israel.

Most respectfully,

Dr. Shimon Samuels
Director for International Relations
Simon Wiesenthal Centre