Abdellali Hajjat
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Comités Palestine (1970–72)
On the origins of solidarity with the Palestinian cause in France
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This chapter sheds light on a forgotten chapter of the long sixties: the origins of solidarity with the Palestinian cause in France. In the historiography of May ’68 in France, solidarity with Palestine and the activist role of Arab migrant workers and students have been largely sidelined. While conventional accounts (in French and English) might suggest that the radical sixties focused on the Vietnam War and was led by white students and workers, this chapter argues that the Israel-Palestine conflict and Arab colonial migrants held an important role in French radical politics, both in factories and in universities. Indeed, solidarity with Palestine played a catalyst role in the politicisation of many activists, French and immigrant, still active today. Offering the first historical account in English of movements of solidarity with the Palestinian cause in France, this study contributes to undoing the silence on the topic in French historiography in particular and in the literature on the global sixties more broadly.

Drawing on public and private archives (the Ministry of Interior, radical organisations, newspaper articles, etc.), this chapter examines the activism of Arab immigrants in France, focusing particularly on the Committees in Support of the Palestinian Revolution, known as ‘comités Palestine’ (Palestine committees). Created in reaction to Black September (1970) and dissolved in the spring of 1972, Palestine committees, composed of mostly Arab workers and students, were among the first French-based organisations of solidarity with the Palestinian people. The committees preceded the Mouvement des travailleurs arabes (Movement of Arab Workers or MTA) which was established in 1972. This chapter explores four key aspects of Palestine committees: the politicisation of Arab activists in a broader Arab revolutionary context and in the ideological framework of Marxist Arab nationalism; the late 1960s socio-political French context when solidarity with Palestinians was extremely controversial; the organisation and actions of these committees; and finally, the factors explaining their dissolution and the transition to the MTA.

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Transnational solidarity

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