First Published: 2009-01-10

Ten thousands march against Israel in France

French protesters march through Paris, other French cities to denounce Israeli's offensive in Gaza.


Middle East Online

Supporting the Palestinian cause

PARIS - Tens of thousands of protesters marched through central Paris and other French cities Saturday to denounce Israeli's offensive in Gaza and express support for the Palestinian cause.

Thousands of French men and women carried Palestinian banners, amid cries of "Israel murderer."

As the various groups gathered, portraits of slain Hamas chief Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah were carried behind those of revolutionary Che Guevara and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

A banner strung along a truck carrying a sound system declared: "Support for Hamas," as all the chants laid the blame for the fighting at Israel's door.

"We are all Palestinians. We are all children of Gaza," the cortege chanted as it set off down a treelined boulevard separating eastern Paris' districts from the Marais, the city's oldest Jewish quarter.

"I have no problem marching with Hamas. Hamas has been victim of a campaign of disinformation," Mark Cramer, a 62-year-old a former journalist from New York and founder member of Paris group "Americans Against the War."

Cramer put the blame for the collapse of the Middle East ceasefire on Israel. "There was a mediaeval siege against Gaza. That siege was violent. People were starving," he said.

Some 3,800 police were deployed, equipped with riot shields and body armour, but remained discreetly in side streets as the crowd marched on under a sea of Palestinian and Hezbollah flags.

Despite the biting winter chill, organisers claimed a turnout of 100,000.

"We want to point to the hypocrisy of an international community which votes for tons of resolutions that it never enforces," declared Olivier Besancenot, the well-known leader of France's Revolutionary Communist League.

While the groups organising the demonstration focused their slogans on the suffering of Palestinian civilians, many homemade banners declared "Zionism equals Nazism" and depicted Israeli flags emblazoned with Swastikas.

Elsewhere in France, smaller crowds gathered for similar demonstrations in several cities. In Nice, on the Mediterranean Riviera, protesters smashed the windows of a McDonald's restaurant and threw stones at the Ruhl casino.

"McDonald's because they're American, they're the paymasters," one marcher said.

In the northern industrial city of Lille around 10,000 protesters gathered, according to both police and organisers.

Other protests took place in Toulouse in the southwest and Mulhoise in the east.


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