French-Palestinian EU Parliament candidate faces attacks over Gaza solidarity

French-Palestinian EU Parliament candidate faces attacks over Gaza solidarity
Rima Hassan is a prominent pro-Palestine figure in France, where she has come under attack from the center and right for her stance over Gaza.
3 min read
11 March, 2024
Rima Hassan is a new candidate of French far-left party LFI in the upcoming European elections. (Photo by VICTORIA VALDIVIA/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images)

French-Palestinian lawyer Rima Hassan has faced a wave of attacks online and from other politicians after her name appeared on a tentative list of candidates fielded by the far-left party "La France insoumise" (LFI) for the upcoming European Parliament elections.

LFI's list of candidates, which was published on 6 March, includes all of its outgoing members in the European parliament alongside several new faces including Hassan. She ranks 7th on the list, meaning she is likely to earn a seat in parliament if her party wins more than 5% of votes.

The list is tentative until party members finish approving it through an online vote, which ends on 15 March.

News of Hassan's provisional nomination has sparked controversy in France, where Hassan has been repeatedly attacked in recent months by centre-right to far-right aligned public figures and politicians over her statements on Gaza.

"She symbolises the ideas promoted by Hamas," Sylvain Maillard, who leads deputies of the ruling Renaissance party, told French TV channel CNews on Friday. He accused LFI of trying to appeal to "antisemite voters", an accusation echoed by Nathalie Loiseau, currently an MEP for the Renaissance party, who said LFI was "toying with what they believe to be a French-Muslim electorate".

The campaign against Hassan was immediately picked up by a number of conservative and right-wing media. French conservative weekly Le Point called Hassan an "anti-Israel" activist, while the far-right website Le Causeur accused LFI of trying to "help Hamas enter the European parliament".

Born in the Palestinian camp of Neirab in Syria, Hassan moved to France at the age of nine after her mother was resettled to the western countryside town of Niort.

An international jurist by training, she worked for six years for France's national asylum court, which she left a year ago. In 2019, she founded the Observatory of Refugee Camps, a non-profit that monitors living and legal conditions in refugee camps.

Attacks against Hassan initially erupted in the wake of a filmed interview she gave to local media outlet Le Crayon, in which Hassan said it was "false" that Israel has a right to defend itself after the 7 October attacks or that a two-state solution was possible.

Hassan subsequently explained that she had answered Le Crayon's questions by putting them in their legal context, and accused the media outlet of cutting the interview in a way that significantly altered her responses.

Her decision to join LFI was likely prompted by its stance towards Gaza. LFI, a far-left party that ranked third in the last presidential election with around 22% of votes, is a long time supporter of a two-state solution and is one of few political parties in France that took part in pro-Palestine protests.

On 9 March, multiple party figures, including Hassan called on the European Union to implement sanctions against Israel in order to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

Since fielding Hassan on 6 March, LFI leaders have made multiple statements to support Hassan as she came under fire from political opponents.