AFP / PATRICK KOVARIK, Le Monde, 2017

French Minister refuses to present award to Palestinian NGO

French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet chose not to attend a ceremony in Paris on Monday where the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, were awarded the French Republic Human Rights Award 2018.

The prestigious award, entitled ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’, is presented annually by the French government to Human Rights defenders, and the presentation ceremony this year celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The decision to present the award to two organisations fighting to expose the unlawful actions undertaken by the Israeli state in occupied Palestine has come under attack by pro-Israel French groups.

Francis Kalifat, the president of French-Jewish organization Representative Council of the Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), wrote to Belloubet urging her not to present the award. He claimed ‘the two organisations [are] known to call for the boycott of Israel […] which is banned by [the French] criminal code.’

The Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely wrote a similar letter, calling the selection of Al-Haq and B’Tselem ‘a badge of honour to anti-Israeli organisations’. He claimed ‘B’Tselem is an organisation that bases its activity on unreliable sources in order to harm Israel, while Al-Haq promotes a boycott against Israel and some of the organisation’s members are linked to terror groups, such as the Palestinian Liberation Front.’

Despite Belloubet’s absence, the presentation ceremony went ahead yesterday, and B’Tselem’s Executive Director Hagai El-Ad, upon accepting the award, spoke out against the ‘organised, prolonged state violence’ represented by the occupation.

El-Ad also addressed the pressure that Israeli government officials tried to exert on decision-makers in France over the award: ‘The hysterical response by Israeli government officials, attempting to prevent this prize from being awarded, illustrates the reality within which we work: propaganda, lies, and threats by a government which believes that silencing and cover-up will enable further human rights violations. In the face of this moral bankruptcy, we are here not only to further expose the truth – but also to bring an end to the injustice.’