Over 1,000 people, mainly Jews, demonstrated outside the Israeli Embassy in Paris on Sunday, protesting against the Middle East peace conference taking place in the city.
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Protesters, many holding Israeli flags, said the summit attempts to hurt Israel’s position and to divide Jerusalem, which they said is a concern to Jews worldwide.
“No one can dictate to Israel its future. The only way to reach peace is through direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians,” the leader of the French Jewish community, Francis Kalifat, told the cheering crowd.
“Peace will only come when the Palestinians stop incitement! The pressure should be applied on them, not on Israel,” he added.
“What worries me is that the whole of the Middle East is on fire, that terror has struck us here in Europe – and the Israeli government is being blamed for it,” noted Kalifat.
He told Haaretz that his CRIF organization will always defend Israel unconditionally and won’t criticize settlement expansion, since that’s an internal Israeli policy.
“Next year in Jerusalem: we’ve been saying that prayer for a long time, and international leaders should know that even if every Jew is not in Jerusalem, Jerusalem is in all of our hearts,” he said.
“Two years ago, Parisians marched in massive numbers to condemn terrorism,” Jewish Fund leader Ariel Goldmann told protesters, referring to the January 2015 marches following the Charlie Hebdo shootings and murders at a Parisian kosher supermarket.
“I hoped that world leaders would have commemorated the Paris attacks and be fighting terror, but instead they’re gathering for that conference. No resolution, no conference, can separate the Jewish people and Jerusalem,” he added.
Protesters cheered various criticisms of the Palestinian leadership, and dozens booed any mention of a two-state solution, like when lawmaker Pierre Lellouche addressed the crowd. The booing continued even after CRIF leader Kalifat asked the disrupters to stop.
“Lellouche is not even Jewish. He’s an opportunist. I’m not for a two-state solution. It’s all mine and I’m not giving any of it away,” said protester Guy Hadjadj. “Palestinians and Arabs in general only understand violence. Even my Arab friends agree!”
Not all protesters agreed and some were against the occupation of the West Bank. But they said that during a confrontation, a tougher stance must be taken.
“Naturally, I’d rather see Israel trace a clear border and stay on the Israeli side of it,” said B’nai B’rith member Gerard Bach. “But when you’re facing these types of initiatives, you can’t be that subtle.”
“Settlements are currently vital for Israel, because it will need them as a bargaining chip to negotiate a final peace agreement,” said renowned World War II historian and Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld. “I’ve been going to pro-Israeli protests for 60 years,” he added.
“Of course the Israeli government is not flawless,” said Benjamin, a Jewish student activist. “I think direct talks are the only option, but I admit that there’s a deadlock and both sides are responsible for that. Our organization has met with Arab and Palestinian officials, and we believe dialogue must resume, otherwise hate and violence will prevail,” he added.
Many of the protesters were part of a new Jewish initiative created to counter international resolutions and initiatives on Jerusalem.
“Don’t you see that this conference and all the [UN] resolutions are part of a process?” asked Bach. “They’re trying to disconnect us from our roots and then today they’re passing a rope around our necks to hang us.”
“France is selling its soul, just like [U.S. President Barack] Obama. They want to scalp us. But one day, these nations will pay for that,” said Claude Fain, from the European Jewish Organization. “Look at who’s attending this conference. Some of those countries finance the development of Wahabism and Salafism,” he noted.
Like other protesters, Fain also criticized CRIF for not speaking out. “They’re court Jews,” he said.
“These international bodies are obsessed by Israel, though so much violence is occurring across the globe,” said another demonstrator. “That means only one thing: they’re all anti-Semitic.”
Throughout the protest, groups chanted “Am Israel Hai” (“The nation of Israel lives”), while several Dutch Messianic Jews blew a shofar.
“We’re against the creation of a Palestinian state because it will bring a curse on Europe,” said Jon, one of the Dutch protesters. “Jerusalem is already divided between the heaven and earth. We don’t want it to be divided more than that.”
The peace conference is being attended by representatives of 70 countries worldwide, but not Israelis or Palestinians. The summit is set to include a call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reconfirm their commitment to the two-state solution.
Israel’s ambassador to France, Aliza Bin-Noun, thanked those demonstrators in attendance.
“Today, Israel needs support more than ever!” said Bin-Noun. “The conference organized in Paris will only worsen the situation. It says it wants to appease the Palestinians, but it will worsen Palestinian intransigence.
“Settlements in the West Bank are not a precondition,” she added. “They’re part of the final negotiations.”