“Why am I demonstrating for Palestine? » The man raises an eyebrow, thinks for a moment: “The question is why aren’t more of us doing this? For anyone on the left, for any humanist, this is an obvious cause. And not just right now. » René, 65, is a young retiree. Every Saturday since the beginning of October, in Paris, he takes to the streets. Whether it rains, whether it winds, whether the demonstration is banned or not, he is there. Like most other demonstrators, he prefers not to give his last name, “so as not to get into trouble (s)we’re quartering. People are so tense that it’s difficult to have a discussion on the subject.”.
René has already visited the Palestinian territories several times for solidarity missions with various organizations, including the France Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS), notably during the olive picking, often disrupted by settlers in the West Bank. A form of committed tourism which developed after the second Intifada in 2000.
The AFPS, which is the association most invested in the long term and the most credible on the Palestinian question in France, is based on a solid but aging network of just over four thousand activists, who form the hard core of the current mobilizations against the war led by Israel in Gaza. The typical AFPS activist is a man or woman over 60 years old with no family, religious or community ties to the Arab-Muslim world. There are many civil servants and teachers, and union activists. In short, the historic left.
For the first time since October 7, the left marched in full on Saturday November 18, despite a relatively weak mobilization – around forty thousand people in Paris on the first three Saturdays of November. Marine Tondelier, national secretary of Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV), Fabien Roussel, national secretary of the French Communist Party, Olivier Faure, first secretary of the Socialist Party, and Mathilde Panot, leader of the deputies of La France insoumise, were present. The dramatic deterioration of the situation of civilians in the Gaza Strip temporarily silenced the dissensions that followed October 7 over the classification of Hamas as a terrorist or resistance movement.
Women present in large numbers
Schematically, there are two audiences at the demonstrations for Palestine: those who came out of conviction and those who come out of identification. The first come from political, union or association activism, including among young people. The latter, who mobilize especially in periods of crisis, are there by cultural, linguistic or religious affinity. It is a public that is less ideologically structured, but acculturated from early youth to the Palestinian question. For these North African immigrants and descendants of immigrants, Palestinians are not distant strangers, but cousins whose fate is sometimes seen as a paroxysmal reflection of their own situation, regardless of age or social status.
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