Threat to Freedom of Speech in France

 [N.B.  We have removed the name of an employee at the Association France Palestine Solidarité, which originally appeared in this communication.  We have done this at her request and in response a signed statement submitted to us by M. Bertrand Heilbronn, AFPS Secretary General, attesting that the AFPS Executive Board is responsible for the statement and not Ms. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.  We required this attestation before removing the name, because we felt that, in the absence of any disclaimer, and given the option of sending a message with only an organisational name as the sender, the person would be assuming responsibility for the content of the communication.  Now that we have confirmation that this was not the intention and that M. Heilbronn, on behalf of the AFPS, is assuming responsibility for the statement and its inherent hypocrisy, we have agreed to remove the original name from our website. If any party wishes to address concerns about the AFPS defense of free speech in the case of BDS but not in the case anti-Zionism, we suggest that they should be addressed to M. Heilbronn and the AFPS and not to Ms. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.  We also suggest that is prudent not to put one’s name to a statement for which one is not prepared to take responsibility.]

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: FPM Newsletter <>
To: “” <>
Cc: FPM News <>
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2016 6:33 PM
Subject: Threat to Freedom of Speech in France

Threat to Freedom of Speech in France

12 February, 2016
Xxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Association France Palestine Solidarité
Dear Ms. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Thank you for your message of 12 February, 2016.  We take very seriously the threats to freedom of speech in France and everywhere, and we are appalled that the courts have upheld the convictions of French activists for advocating a boycott of Israeli products.  We feel compelled to ask one question, however.  Are you concerned about the freedom to advocate BDS or are you concerned about freedom of speech?

France is the land of Voltaire, whose views have been characterized as “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” We note, for example, that the AFPS never spoke in defense of Dieudonné M’bala M’bala when he was denied his free speech in numerous cities in France and other countries.  You may disapprove of what he says, but do you not defend his right to say it?

And what about Jacob Cohen, doyen of anti-Zionism in France?  You not only never defended him, but also refused to allow him to register as an attendee at a BDS conference in Paris.  What about his freedom of speech?

Why is anti-Semitism a crime in France but not Islamophobia?  We disapprove of both, but recognize hate speech as part of the price we pay for free speech, and we believe that the antidote to racist speech is anti-racist speech, not prohibition of some types of free speech that we might disapprove of.  We also believe that the accusation of anti-Semitism is too widely made, and that those who object to its use against advocates of BDS nevertheless often approve its use against anti-Zionists.

The Free Palestine Movement will happily and enthusiastically endorse a call for free speech which makes all of these considerations explicit, but we are not interested in a false call which is self serving in purpose and selective in application, which is just another way of denying free speech to those of whom we disapprove while keeping it for ourselves, i.e. a form of hypocrisy.

We understand the strategic need to avoid unnecessary confrontation when seeking a particular goal, and we thoroughly disapprove of it.  To compromise principle for the sake of expediency is the worst form of hypocrisy.

Please let us know if you decide to accept our suggestions, but in the meantime, the Free Palestine Movement will not endorse or promote your petition, and we refer you to STYLO France at its website and Facebook page which we helped to create for the purpose of furthering free speech internationally.
The Free Palestine Movement

—– Forwarded Message —–
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2016 6:30 AM


Name: Xxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on behalf of the AFPS



Comment: Hello,

Following the recent court decisions to uphold the conviction of French activists merely for calling for the boycott of Israeli products, and in the very difficult climate that France has endured since the Paris attacks that we all condemn, there is a very real threat in France to freedom of expression in the form of calls to boycott Israel for its violations of international law.

In order to put an end to these despicable measures and to avoid their spread to other countries, widespread action is necessary to protect freedom of expression and the right to call for boycott in France.

Please take a minute to read the full text of our call, (published in French by the journal Politis) which is being signed by major figures around the world.

It is open to the public as part of a large-scale international petition, currently counting over 10000 signatures:
Would you be willing to help us spread the word about our call and petition? If so, can you assist us in contacting any high-profile individuals likely to sign our call?

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

In solidarity,
Sonia from the AFPS (Association France Palestine Solidarité)

Time: February 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm
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