French Jewish Students Face Off in Legal Battle With Far Left MP Following Clashes at Paris Meeting
by Ben Cohen
France’s Jewish student union on Friday was locked in a bitter dispute with a far left member of parliament over mutual accusations of violent and intimidating behavior at a public meeting in Paris on Tuesday night that featured a convicted Palestinian terrorist.
A group of activists from the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) led by the organization’s president, Samuel Lejoyeux, protested at the meeting, staged by a group of pro-Palestinian NGOs and headlined by Salah Hamouri, a Palestinian with French citizenship who was expelled from Israel last year. Hamouri — a lawyer for Adameer, a Palestinian prisoner organization — was sentenced in 2005 for a plot to assassinate Israel’s then Sephardic chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, serving six years in jail before being placed by the Israeli authorities in administrative detention until 2022.
When the UEJF activists confronted Ersilia Soudais — a member of parliament for the far left La France Insoumise (“France Rising” — LFI) party — she accused them of violent behavior and filed a legal complaint. In response, the UEJF filed a legal complaint against Soudais for defamation on Thursday.
In an interview with her party’s website, Soudais claimed that security staff at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, where the meeting took place, were attempting to remove the UEJF activists just as she arrived at the venue with her husband. She said that one activist had approached her with a raised fist, shouting “your ideas are disgusting,” before her husband stepped in to prevent an escalation. Once the meeting ended, she continued, she left the building through a back entrance where Lejoyeux and other UEJF members were waiting. The group tried to engage her in discussion, she said, but she refused, telling them “I don’t debate with people who assault me.”
However, the UEJF responded that they had been victims of violent conduct, posting three videos to Twitter that showed members of the audience engaging in abuse. “We stand for peace,” Lejoyeux commented alongside. “Supporters of Salah Hamouri apparently only know violence.”
One video showed Lejoyeux violently pushed by another attendee. A second showed a UEJF activist lying on the ground following a scuffle. A statement from the UEJF noted that the activists had protested Hamouri’s affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a hardline terrorist group, asserting: “We were victims of violence and prevented from expressing ourselves.”
Soudais is no stranger to disputes with the French Jewish community. In February, she was appointed as a vice-president of the French parliament’s study group on antisemitism, sparking concern among Jewish groups over the anti-Zionist stance of NUPES, the coalition of which LFI is a part, which has included tabling a parliamentary resolution in July last year denouncing Israel for its alleged “apartheid regime.” A few days after that announcement, Soudais caused outrage when she tweeted about her meeting with three Palestinian solidarity activists to discuss “the fight against antisemitism and solidarity with the Palestinian people.” The tweet ended with the hash tag “Free Palestine.”