Crowds of demonstrators gathered to give voice to the ongoing tragedy that diaspora members with loved ones in Gaza have been experiencing for more than two months
Dec. 29: While most of Paris is busy with preparations to celebrate New Year’s Eve, locals in the suburbs of the French capital came together with members of the Palestinian diaspora in Europe in solidarity with each other and people in the Gaza Strip, devastated over the past 12 weeks by relentless Israeli attacks, reports Anadolu Agency.
According to the Anadolu report, several of the gatherings were organized in Paris by the Palestinian Emergency Collective, a grassroots rights group that has been a vocal advocate for an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza and immediate ceasefire to the onslaught that has cost over 21,000 lives.
To exert pressure on Tel Aviv and its supporters for an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories, the collective has also been demanding boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel and the French government, which it accuses of “complicity” over restrictions on showing solidarity with Palestine.
The first gathering took place in the Nanterre area, where crowds of demonstrators gathered to give voice to the ongoing tragedy that diaspora members with loved ones in Gaza have been experiencing for more than two months, said the report.
This is the case for Abdel Aziz Zaid, a student from the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, who told Anadolu about the difficulty communicating with family and friends still in the enclave amid frequent network outages often lasting several days. He also criticized the restrictions France has placed on expressing pro-Palestinian sentiment.
“We are now speaking in Paris, France, and as we all know, they have taken very harsh measures against everyone who supports the Palestinian cause,” he said.
Soon after the Israeli bombardment commenced in early October, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin asked all prefects in the country to ban all “pro-Palestinian demonstrations,” judging them “likely to generate disturbances to public order.”
While demonstrations in support of Palestine have been consistently blocked, a government-backed march in support of Israel under the banner of protesting antisemitism has sparked controversy.
Left-wing party “La France Insoumise” (LFI) has called on President Emmanuel Macron several times to demand an immediate cease-fire and stop supporting Israel.
“Yes, there is anger. Yes, there is resistance. Yes, we will remain here and we will raise the voice of truth and freedom for the Palestinian people, to end Gaza’s suffering, lift the siege, and halt the aggression immediately,” Abdel Aziz said.
The choice for Nanterre as the tour’s first stop was no accident. The area is known as a stronghold for the Algerian resistance movement during the French colonization of the North African nation.
Selma, a midwife by profession and a Gazan exiled in Brussels, highlighted the grim conditions that mothers and pregnant women in Gaza face every day under bombardment.
“As a Palestinian from Gaza and an expatriate, I lived through several wars before I moved to Belgium five years ago. But this war is much crueler and more destructive,” she told Anadolu.
“I live every day with a heavy burden on my heart, and I fear bad news will come about my family who are still in Gaza,” she said.
Like Selma, her husband Ismail lives in constant anxiety about potentially devastating news of his family in Gaza, where he worked for almost 12 years as a journalist.
Speaking to Anadolu, he accused the international community of double standards, particularly the UN Security Council which has so far refrained from demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, with multiple resolutions turned down or revised particularly due to opposition from the US.
“The tragedy of being far away and my family under bombardment is very hard to bear, with constant hope that they are well day and night,” he said.
“All we can do for now is watch the news. When we learn that the bombing targeted an area where family or friends live, we feel intense fear and anxiety,” he added.
It is estimated that nearly 2 million residents of Gaza have been displaced to the south of the enclave since the beginning of the conflict on Oct. 7, following a cross-border attack by Palestinian group Hamas against Israel.
Outside of Palestine, there are approximately 6.7 million Palestinians living in various countries. Jordan is home to around 4.2 million Palestinians, while 1.7 million reside in other Arab countries. Additionally, there are over 760,000 Palestinians scattered across different parts of the world, according to the Palestinians Central Bureau of Statistics.
The Palestinian Emergency Collective plans to utilize the large gathering on Champs-Elysee Avenue during New Year celebrations as an opportunity to organize a massive demonstration. The aim is to draw attention to the difficult situation faced by civilians enduring bombardment and shelling in Gaza.