France held a historic rally on Sunday, in which an unprecedented 3 million people took to the streets to advocate for freedom of speech and honor the 17 murdered in the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
Unfortunately, the powerful message behind the French rally was clouded by an immense fog of hypocrisy. France itself has a burgeoning relationship with censorship. It became the first country in the world to ban Pro-Palestine rallies. It also bans forms of religious practice and self-expression such as the wearing of the niqab, turban, and some instances of hijab.
But, most shocking of all was the blatantly hypocritical appearance of several international leaders.
The biggest laugh was the participation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In one particular picture, Netanyahu stands somber and defiant, between two body guards, leading the march. As a French-Arab Muslim and liberal advocate for free speech, I find this offensive.
In his outward and superficial show of support for free speech, the posterboy of civilian war crimes and murderer of Palestinian journalists really thinks he has the world fooled. Or, at least France — a country that Netanyahu recently threatened over its move to recognize Palestine as a state. Humanitarian entities around the globe, at least, see right through it. The non-governmental organization Press Emblem Campaign submitted a statement to the United Nations General Assembly in August 2014 — in the midst of Netanyahu’s massacre in Gaza, remember that? — calling on the world to combat Israel’s impunity in its targeting of journalists.
The document detailed Israel’s killing of 15 journalists, the injury of many more, the loss of journalists’ homes, the destruction of media outlets, the deliberate disruption of media broadcasting, and the arrest of countless journalists — all at the hand of the Israeli Defense Force, under the leadership of the so-called peace-advocating, free speech-condoning, leader of unity rallies Benjamin Netanyahu.
Lest we forget that Israel also bombed Al-Shorooq Tower — also known as The Journalists’ Tower — in Gaza as a part of their other massacre, Operation Pillar of Defense. Eight journalists were injured for attempting to simply report on real issues. Some had their limbs severed. At the time, Israeli Army Spokesperson Avital Leibovich attested:
So, why is Netanyahu leading the rally in France, even after French President, Francois Hollande, asked him not to?
At this rate, we should just invite the King of Saudi Arabia to lead feminist rallies.
Netanyahu isn’t the only hypocrite. There were 40 leaders present at yesterday’s rally, many of whom have proven to actually be enemies of free speech in their respective countries.
Here are just a few, courtesy of @DanielWickham93:
Attorney General Eric Holder of the United States
The United States detained and assaulted Washington Post journalists in Ferguson.
King Abdallah of Jordan
Just last year, Abdallah arrested a Palestinian journalist for 15 years because he stated that the monarch relied on Israel to keep his power.
Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom
The UK destroyed hard drives, files, and prosecuted journalists from The Guardian after linking them to documents provided by Edward Snowden.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu of Turkey
Turkey throws more journalists in prison than any other country, having detained at least 50 journalists in the past two years.
Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz of Poland
Poland raided magazine Wrpost in Warsaw to seize recordings that embarassed the ruling party.
Saudi Ambassador to France Mohammed bin Ismail Al Al-Sheikh
Just last Friday, Saudis sentenced a blogger to 10 years in prison and a public flogging for what they claimed to be insulting Islam.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland
In Ireland, blasphemy is actually illegal under defamation laws — so Charlie Hebdo, the subject of the rallies, could be prosecuted in Ireland for their controversial cartoons.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of Egypt
Egypt detained journalist Mahmoud Abou Zied, also known as Shawkan, for over 500 days in prison, after covering a story on Rabaa Al-Adaweya. Oh yeah, and the Egyptian government is still persecuting three Al Jazeera journalists for doing their job. #FreeAJStaff.
Basically, these world leaders are a joke, and their participation in France’s free speech rally is the biggest punchline. Thanks for the laugh. Don’t you have more journalists’ lives to threaten or something?