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The punishment for raising the Palestinian flag in the French Parliament

June 4, 2024 at 7:40 pm

Protester with keffiyeh and ‘Gaza silence on genocide’ sign during the rally in support of the Palestinian people of Gaza held in Toulouse, south-west France, on April 27, 2024 [PAT BATARD/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images]

A harsh punishment was imposed on Sebastien Delogu, a Member of Parliament for France Unbowed (LFI) Party, preventing him from doing his job as a people’s representative for two weeks, and reducing his salary by half for two months, because he raised the Palestinian flag last Tuesday, during a parliamentary session dedicated to discussing the war on Gaza. The representative’s goal was to send a message to the French government, in coincidence with Spain, Ireland and Norway’s recognition of the Palestinian State, demanding that it take the same step. He succeeded in creating a media and political uproar that lasted for several days, drawing attention and sparking demonstrations against the massacres in Gaza. It is strange that the Speaker of Parliament, Yael Braun-Pivet, immediately responded to it and held a quick meeting to condemn the action and punish the MP, who “behaved inappropriately”, as she described it.

I must note that the Speaker of the French Parliament was one of the first to visit the Gaza Strip settlements after the operation on 7 October, 2023, and issued statements that sparked reactions that were considered not expressive of France’s position. The leader of LFI, Jean-Luc Melenchon, stated at the time, that Pivet is “camping in Tel-Aviv to encourage the massacre” in Gaza, adding, “Not in the name of the French people!”  No one has tried her or officially condemned her. This was unlikely and unthinkable, since the official stance was in favour of Israel before Paris resorted back to its balanced position on the conflict, based on the two-state solution.

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In Italy, representatives from the opposition Five Star Movement stood and waved five Palestinian flags inside Parliament, while their colleague, Riccardo Ricciardi, a member of their Party, delivered a speech in which he called for the recognition of a Palestinian State. The Parliament’s presiding officer contented herself with reminding the MPs that displaying any partisan symbols, regardless of their importance, in impermissible. The MPs immediately handed over the flags without being punished, while no one, including the friends of Israel, protested. The matter did not cause media and political turmoil, as was the case in France. The action was seen as an expression of solidarity, nothing more. It may have been a violation of Parliament’s rules, which prohibits raising any flag other than the country’s flag, but it is not a crime, because its intent is not to insult the official flag. Therefore, the behaviour of the Speaker of the French Parliament remains harsh and isolated, and it is seen as an exploitation of the issue of “anti-Semitism”, where it is used as a toll to suppress critics of Israel.

Raising the Palestinian flag is not prohibited at the official level in France, and there has been a Palestinian representation in Paris since the late 1970s, with the flag flying over it. It has received diplomatic treatment at the embassy level since 2010. Relations are considered to be quite special, and Paris was the first to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), pushing for this on the European level, through the Venice Declaration in 1980. President Francois Mitterrand was the first foreign leader to demand that Israel recognise the two-state solution, and he did so from the Knesset podium during a visit to Israel in 1982. He received the late President, Yasser Arafat, officially in Paris in 1988. Until 7 October, there were no discriminatory French measures against the Palestinians, and even the Interior Minister’s decision to prevent pro-Palestinian demonstrations was reversed. Hence, it the Speaker of Parliament’s behaviour was disgraceful, and disproportionate to the MPs gesture of solidarity, nothing more. Her actions are not reflective of her job as much as they are reflective of her support for Israel, which has had negative consequences at the level of the French public opinion that has developed, to a large extent, in favour of the Palestinian people, who are facing a genocidal war in the Gaza Strip.

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This article appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby on 1 June, 2024.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.