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Anti-Israel Activism Criminalized in the Land of Charlie Hebdo and "Free Speech"

By       Message Glenn Greenwald     Permalink
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From Freedom of Speech -- unless we say so...
Freedom of Speech -- unless we say so...
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The post-Charlie Hebdo "free speech" march in Paris was a fraud for multiple reasons, as I wrote at the time. It was led by dozens of world leaders, many of whom imprison or even kill people for expressing prohibited views. It was cheered by many Westerners who feign upset only when free speech abridgments are perpetrated by Muslims, but not -- as is far more common -- by their own governments against Muslims.

Worst of all, the march took place in a country that is one of the most hostile to free speech rights in the West, as France quickly demonstrated in the days after the march by rounding up and prosecuting Muslims and other anti-Israel activists for the political views they expressed. A great, best-selling book by French philosopher Emmanuel Todd released this year argues that these "free speech" marches were a "sham," driven by many political sentiments -- nativism, nationalism, anti-Muslim bigotry -- that had nothing to do with free speech.

The absurdity of France's celebrating itself for free expression was vividly highlighted by this week's decision from that nation's highest court, one that is a direct assault on basic free speech rights. The French high court upheld the criminal conviction of 12 political activists for the "crime" of advocating sanctions and a boycott against Israel as a means of ending the decades-long military occupation of Palestine. What did these French criminals do? This:

The individuals arrived at the supermarket wearing shirts emblazoned with the words: "Long live Palestine, boycott Israel." They also handed out fliers that said that "buying Israeli products means legitimizing crimes in Gaza."

In France -- self-proclaimed Land of Liberte -- doing that makes you a criminal. As The Forward reported, the court "cited the French republic's law on Freedom of the Press, which prescribes imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000 for parties that 'provoke discrimination, hatred or violence toward a person or group of people on grounds of their origin, their belonging or their not belonging to an ethnic group, a nation, a race or a certain religion.'" Because BDS is inherently "discriminatory," said the court, it is a crime to advocate it.

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Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place (more...)

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