France Crackdown on Boycott Israel Activists Sparks Backlash

How Does Anti-Israel Protest Amount to Hate Speech?

getty images

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published February 14, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — When Farida Trichine and 11 of her friends burst into a French supermarket in 2009 and began applying stickers with anti-Israel slogans to vegetables imported from the Jewish state, she expected to be escorted from the store by police.

What she didn’t expect was to be convicted of inciting racial hatred and slapped with a $650 fine.

Three months ago, a court in Colmar convicted the 12 activists under a French law that extended the definition of discrimination beyond the expected parameters of race, religion and sexual orientation to include members of national groups.

What Trichine, who was wearing a “boycott Israel” shirt during the protest, saw as a protected act of political speech was being treated by the authorities like a hate crime.

“It’s surprising that our actions are considered a crime when the real criminals are the colonists, the butchers of Gaza,” Trichine said in a video message in 2011, soon after her legal troubles began.

Trichine, 54, is one of approximately 20 anti-Israel activists who have been convicted under France’s so-called Lellouche law. Named for the Jewish parliamentarian who introduced it in 2003, the law is among the world’s most potent legislative tools to fight the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, and has catapulted France to the forefront of efforts to counter the movement through legal means.

“The French government and judiciary’s determination in fighting discrimination, and the Lellouche law especially, are exemplary for Belgium and other nations where discriminatory BDS is happening,” said Joel Rubinfeld, co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament and president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism.

French authorities have acted aggressively in recent weeks to crack down on anti-Israel and anti-Jewish speech, most prominently by banning a tour by the comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who has been convicted multiple times of belittling the Holocaust and alleging that a Jewish mafia runs France, among other offenses. But the dragnet has also swept up BDS protesters whose actions have targeted Israel, not Jews.

Pro-Israel activists in neighboring Belgium are pushing for a similar law to Lellouche, hoping it might also put a dent in BDS activities in that country. No other countries have followed France’s lead.

In France, the official crackdown is sparking a backlash from activists who argue that the Lellouche law is too restrictive of free speech.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.