The new conference on Palestine by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the “rebellious” candidate for the European elections Rima Hassam, scheduled for Thursday April 18 in a room in Lille, after the cancellation of the one initially planned at the university, was banned by the Northern Prefecture. “The new location chosen by the same organizer is placed under unfavorable opinion by the safety commission and can only legally accommodate a capacity of 328 people, not allowing the public announced and re-invited by the organizer to be accommodated,” explains the prefecture in its press release.

“This relentlessness is completely intolerable. In the middle of an electoral campaign, the decision to cancel a public event in which members of the political opposition must participate is an extremely serious precedent for our democracy,” denounced the coordinator of La France insoumise, Manuel Bompard.

Consequently, LFI said it had filed with the prefecture an appointment for a public gathering at the same time in the street “with a speech by Jean-Luc Mélenchon against censorship and for peace”. The party denounces “intolerable relentlessness” and “an extremely serious precedent for our democracy”.

Several elected officials called for the conference to be banned

Since the start of the week, several elected officials from Renaissance, the National Rally (RN) and the Republicans (LR) have called for the cancellation of the conference at the University of Lille. The logo of the organizing association, Libre Palestine, which was on the conference poster is one of the grievances raised. It shows a territory encompassing Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, on which the name of the association is affixed.

The president of Hauts-de-France, Xavier Bertrand (LR), had called for the conference to be banned. “We cannot tolerate, in a French university, such a conference by La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Rima Hassan who, through the Free Palestine logo, deny the existence of the State of Israel,” he said. The boss of LR, Eric Ciotti, denounced a “provocation” which “stirs up a conflict and imports it onto national territory” and welcomed a cancellation that had become “indispensable” in his eyes.

For his part, the vice-president of the National Assembly, Sébastien Chenu (RN), had affirmed that “anti-Semitic remarks would probably be made” on this occasion. The MP from the North Violette Spillebout (Renaissance) had written to the president of the university to underline the “very heavy responsibility” of LFI “in the anti-Semitic explosion in France”.

For the association, its logo “in no way denies the existence of Israel”

The logo in question was visible on the poster alongside photos of Mr. Mélenchon and Franco-Palestinian activist Rima Hassan, seventh on the list of “rebellious” in the European elections. Raphaël Glucksmann, candidate for the Socialist Party and Place publique, regretted on TF1 on Wednesday that Mr. Mélenchon “appears” with the logo of an association “which denies the existence of the State of Israel”, while refusing to call for the cancellation of this conference.

In a press release sent to Agence France-Presse by LFI, the Libre Palestine association, created in November 2023 in the wake of the attacks of October 7, 2023, assured that its logo “in no way denies the existence of Israel”.

“We have simply mobilized a map which represents a region of the world crossed by an undeniable process of colonization and whose definition of borders is an issue of unstabilized struggles”, specifies the association, adding that it has “never promoted hatred or uttered anti-Semitic remarks.”

“This conference was, however, supported by an association registered with the prefecture and approved by the university and organized in strict compliance with the rules established by French universities,” specify the “rebellious” in their press release. Nantes, Créteil, Nanterre, Clermont-Ferrand… Jean-Luc Mélenchon has increased his number of conferences in universities in recent weeks.