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More royal than the king: An encounter with French Zionism

Palestinian protesters pray during a demonstration against Jewish settlements in the Palestinian village of Deir Estia in the occupied West Bank on 2 April 2010 [Najeh Hashlamoun/Apaimages]
Palestinian protesters pray during a demonstration against Jewish settlements in the Palestinian village of Deir Estia in the occupied West Bank on 2 April 2010 [Najeh Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

From those who are willing to legitimise killing and torture in support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the fabrication of lies and false accusations to intimidate their opponents is only to be expected.

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My latest encounter with international Zionism was in Paris on 10 March, following the screening of the documentary film “Derriere les Fronts” at Cinema 3 Luxembourg. I was there to participate in the debate that followed the screening insofar as I appear prominently in the film itself. But immediately after one of the spectators asked a genuine and sincere question about the psychopathologies that I encounter as a clinician in Palestine, a friend of Israel took the microphone to occupy the occasion with a very long, hateful and chauvinistic speech about “Palestinian paranoia” and “the Arab’s natural violence and racism”, until finally the audience could no longer tolerate his diatribe and there arose a loud collective outcry demanding that he let someone else speak.

Stopping public debate

This person’s name, gender, colour, religion and appearance are less important than his role: to arrive at every possible time and place to any activity that gives recognition to Palestinians and demonstrates them as standing up for their rights. I encountered “him” countless times in the past – when I spoke as a student at Saint Peter’s University in New York years ago, when I spoke among professionals at the “Thinking Space Special Event” of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in London after the 2014 war on Gaza, and now at a cinema in Paris.

His role is to occupy the time devoted to public debate in order to prevent a meaningful discussion from taking place, to intimidate the speakers and the audience by his aggressive and accusing attitude, and to make use of the occasion in print to defame and threaten the speakers and the people responsible for organising the activity giving recognition to the Palestinian experience.

At this moment, we see Israel is hastily cooking up new laws to criminalise and punish individuals involved in BDS and in exposing Israel’s shameful illegal actions. Within just the past few days, Israel has deported Hugh Lanning, the chairman of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, for his involvement in criticising Israel and has arrested Kahlil Tufakji, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, an expert in mapping and settlement.

Freedom under threat

Meanwhile, Israel’s friends in Europe and the USA are acting “more royal than the king”, with regard to Palestinians and international friends of Palestinians, marking them, weaving lies to smear their reputations and attacking them in their means of livelihood. Everywhere the mighty truncheon of Israel is swayed to threaten all who dare to criticise the occupation or to mobilise nonviolent action to address human right abuses in Palestine.

I have friends who have been receiving threats to their life for their involvement in supporting Palestinian rights. One must wonder what recourse is left for Palestinians when diplomacy fails and nonviolent action is criminalised – to ask this question is not to encourage violence but to observe the way in which supporters of Zionism, through systematically extinguishing all possible avenues of non-violent public responses, are themselves implicated in the episodes of violence that follow.

In this context, the monopoliser of the microphone in the cinema has made the deliberate false claim that the screening of this film had been organised in the framework of “Israel Apartheid Week”. He makes the absurd accusation that both I and the director of the film are agents of terrorism and, by so doing, putting in danger our careers, our personal freedom and our physical safety. He further asserts the colossal inflammatory falsehood that I identify Israeli civilians as legitimate targets of armed resistance!

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Finally, he admits that he finds the film “incomprehensible!” Maybe because in his conscious and mind remains the well-worn untruth: that the Palestinians “don’t exist – where are the Palestinians?” But the film gives life and an undeniable presence to the Palestinians in their beautiful diversity: the Archbishop Atallah Hannah, the hunger striking detainee Sheikh Khader Adnan, former prisoner academic Rula Abu Dahho and Deema Zallooum, the young mother who saved her child from being kidnapped by settlers; all of these Palestinians join me in conveying a unified message: We will continue to share our  variant testimonies about the occupation, no matter what power is used to break the tissues of Palestinian solidarity. We will strengthen our networking with the supporters of justice and extend our hands to the decent friends of Palestine.

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