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Israeli Minister of Defence Cancels Trip Due to Possible International Charges for Role in Attack on Freedom Flotilla

By Tania Kepler
for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)

Israel`s Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled an official visit to Paris on Sunday (13 June), announcing he would stay in Israel while the government establishes an investigative committee to explore Israel`s deadly naval attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

The announcement comes after French activists who were aboard the Gaza bound aid convoy threatened to bring charges against Barak over the raid that killed nine. The suit would be filed under the principle of universal jurisdiction, a principle that allows the prosecution of suspected war criminals in countries that have no direct connection with the events, in France and in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, according to the Associated Press. Three members of French parliament have also joined the effort.

`We must stop this bloody Israeli escalation and the only way is international judiciary. We want to stop Israel through punishing its leaders who partook in the operation. We will mainly target the leaders who gave the orders and those who executed them,` said Lilian Jalok, who represents the French activists.

Barak was set to dedicate a new Israeli booth at the Eurosatory arms fair, which opens in Paris this week.

`We believe it is unacceptable and unjust that the French government hosts Ehud Barak honoring him with official ceremonies after he claimed responsibility for the attack on our flotilla and the bloodshed,` said Tomas Hud, one of the Freedom Flotilla activists.

A small French cinema chain also took action to protest the Freedom Flotilla attack. The Utopia art cinemas canceled screenings of the Israeli comedy `Five Hours from Paris` and replaced them with the documentary `Rachel,` about an American student crushed to death by a bulldozer in 2003 while protesting Israeli house demolitions in Gaza.

“It was a protest of our whole company,” Anne-Marie Faucon, the co-founder of Utopia, said in an interview. “We show many Israeli films, we organize a lot of debates on what happens in the world, but this time we reacted very strongly and in a very emotional way.”

“Rachel” is a documentary made by Simone Bitton, a Moroccan-born, French-Israeli director who emigrated to Israel with her family as a child, served in the Israeli army, became a pacifist and mostly lives in France, wrote the New York Times. Bitton is also the director of “Wall,” a 2004 documentary about the Israeli Separation Wall that is dividing Palestinian communities and carving up land.

After Israeli-Dutch director Ludi Boeken told the Utopia he planned to withdraw his film, “Saviors in the Night,” from the cinemas “in solidarity with the censored,” and Culture Minister of France, Frédéric Mitterrand, contacted Ms. Faucon voicing his “incomprehension” and “disapproval,” the cinemas relented.

It “was a symbolic and limited gesture” Ms. Faucon said, stating that Utopia had planned to eventually release the Israeli comedy. She called “Rachel” “a film that corresponds perfectly to this mission of participating in democratic debate.”

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