The Electronic Intifada / December 18, 2022
Israel on Sunday kicked aside protests from France and expelled Salah Hammouri from his homeland.
The son of a Palestinian father and a French mother arrived in Paris to a spirited welcome from his wife Elsa Lefort and supporters and vowed to continue struggling on behalf of Palestinians.
Israel’s goal is to “empty Palestine of its citizens,” Hammouri, who was born in Jerusalem, told journalists at the airport in Paris.
“Today I feel that I have a huge responsibility for my cause and for my people,” Hammouri added.
“We are not giving up on Palestine, especially since we will not let generations suffer from what we have suffered. Our right is to resist.”
Asked if he would try to return to Palestine, the visibly emotional Hammouri said, “I left my soul in my homeland. And for that I will fight, I will continue the fight, because for me it is my right to live in Jerusalem, to live in my homeland and it’s my family’s right to be there.”
“The fact that Hammouri has citizenship status in another country – France – in no way mitigates the gravity of removing him, against his will, from his city and homeland,” Israeli human rights group B’Tselem stated, warning that his expulsion sets “a dangerous precedent for further deportation of Palestinians from the occupied territories.”
Israel’s pretext for expelling Hammouri is the human rights lawyer’s “breach of allegiance” to an occupying power that has subjected him to various forms of persecution including several terms of imprisonment since he was 15 and to which he owes no loyalty whatsoever.
From March until his expulsion, Israel held him in “administrative detention” – imprisonment without charge or trial based on supposed “secret evidence.”
Before his forced removal, Hammouri also issued a voice message to supporters in Palestine:
French condemnation and inaction
There remains much anger at the inaction of President Emmanuel Macron’s government to prevent Israel from perpetrating a war crime.
Patrice Leclerc, mayor of the Paris suburb of Gennevilliers, and one of several elected officials who received Hammouri at the airport, expressed his “shame at the impotence” – presumably of the French government.
“Today we condemn the decision, contrary to law, by Israeli authorities to expel Salah Hammouri to France,” the foreign ministry in Paris said on Sunday.
The foreign ministry boasted that it had told Israeli authorities repeatedly “in the clearest manner that it opposes this expulsion of a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, an occupied territory within the meaning of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
As Amnesty International France said on Sunday, the expulsion of Palestinians by Israel from occupied territories “constitutes a grave violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention and a potential war crime.”
The expulsion may amount to a crime against humanity, Amnesty added, noting that all these crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
But rather than affirming how diligent and active France has been on Hammouri’s behalf, the foreign ministry’s statement reads as a declaration of failure.
This is not surprising since at no time did the staunchly pro-Israel Macron administration hint that Israel would face any consequences for expelling Hammouri.
Appeals to airlines
In recent days, Addameer, the Palestinian prisoners rights group where Hammouri works, joined campaigners to urge Easy Jet, Air France and Transavia not to assist in Hammouri’s expulsion.
“We call on commercial airlines to do everything in their capacity to refuse to assist in what could amount to a war crime by refusing to transport individuals undergoing unlawful forcible deportation and making a public statement,” Addameer said.
There is a recent precedent for that when a number of airlines refused to help the British government transport asylum seekers to Rwanda – a policy that has been challenged as cruel and illegal.
Ultimately, Hammouri’s expulsion was carried out by Israel’s national airline.
The Electronic Intifada has learned that Hammouri remained handcuffed from the moment Israeli authorities took him from Hadarim prison and forced him aboard an El Al flight, until the door of the aircraft was opened in Paris.
Meanwhile, Israel’s supporters in France took their efforts to defend Tel Aviv’s actions to absurd levels.
Jacques Attali, a prominent public figure and former adviser to the late President François Mitterand, chided a lawmaker from the left-wing parliamentary bloc La France Insoumise (LFI) for describing Israel’s expulsion of Hammouri as a deportation.
“Whatever one thinks of the situation in Palestine and the policies of the Israeli government, using the word ‘deportation’ here is despicable, and once again reveals the numerous slippages into anti-Semitism of LFI elected officials,” Attali asserted in response to a tweet from the lawmaker, Ersilia Soudais.
Attali was presumably alluding to how the French word “déportation” is used to describe the acts of French collaborators who sent thousands of French Jews to their deaths in German government concentration camps during World War II.
But the official French-language text of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which even the Macron administration acknowledges applies to the territories occupied by Israel including East Jerusalem, uses the word “déportation” to describe the prohibited forced removal of civilians from occupied territories by an occupying power – exactly what happened to Hammouri.
Despicable would therefore be a more accurate description of Attali’s deployment of the horrible crimes committed by French collaborators with the Nazis to deflect attention from Israel’s present-day crimes against Palestinians.
Israel propagandists are also calling Hammouri a “terrorist” because Israel charged him in 2005, claiming he was part of a plot by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to kill Ovadia Yosef, a prominent Israeli rabbi who habitually incited genocidal levels of violence to “annihilate” Palestinians.
Hamouri always maintained his innocence. He was held for three years in administrative detention, before accepting a plea deal from Israel’s military court in order to obtain a shorter sentence than the 14 years military prosecutors wanted.
Israel’s military court has a conviction rate for Palestinians of nearly 100 percent.
Now that he is back in France, Hammouri is likely to face continued campaigns of slander and defamation by Israel lobby groups.
But taking inspiration from other anti-colonial struggles he remains certain that ultimately Palestinians will win their freedom.
“The Israelis are not stronger than the Americans and we are not weaker than the Vietnamese. We will continue the fight until the end,” Hammouri said at the airport in Paris. “As long as we resist, it means we exist.”
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)