News from France: Resistance Library Palestine in Paris
- Resistance Library Palestine in Paris
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
Thu. Apr. 24, 2008
PARIS The shelves are massed with books on the
Palestinian cause, the walls are decorated with maps
of Palestinian towns and villages in what later became
Israel and the famous Nablus soap and Palestine olive
oil are on sale.
But make no mistake, you are not in Palestine.
Welcome to the Resistance Library in Paris.
The 300-square-meter place, equipped with computers
and a lecture room, is dedicated to the Palestinian
cause, offering information on the conflict, the
occupied territories and the Israeli aggressions.
"The place was originally a garage," Olivia Zemor, the
library's Jewish director, told a recent seminar at
"Now it's a platform for supporting the Palestinians
and their just cause."
Once inside the library, you will be greeted by a
powerful display of information-packed maps
illustrating the lost Palestinian land from 1946 to
The shelves are filled with books on the intifada,
resistance groups and the refugees' plight.
Taking a central stage at the library's main hall is a
picture of a young man.
"This is Saleh al-Hamouri," says Zemor.
"He has been detained by Israel for three years now
without trial. We just learned that an Israeli
military court has sentenced him to seven years in
The library has become a destination for supporters of
the Palestinian struggle from around the world.
Zemor, the director, is one of France's main advocates
of the Palestinian cause.
Born in Paris to Jewish parents, she is President of
CAPJPO, the committee for just peace in the
Middle-East, which was created in 2002 to bring
together people who share the aim of defending the
The library is preparing a big event in solidarity
with the Palestinian people.
Gilad Atzmon, a leading Israeli jazz musician and
Palestinian solidarity activist, will be performing at
the library next month.
"Atzmon will be coming from London, where he is living
in self-exile to protest the oppression practiced by
his country against Palestinians," Zemor said.
"All the revenues of the concert will be dedicated for
aiding the Palestinians."
Last week, the Resistance Library hosted Palestinian
writer and researcher Khaled al-Hroub.
The UK-based academic introduced to the audience the
French version of his latest book, Hamas for
Beginners, in which he warns against allowing the
Gaza-West Bank separation to continue.
The library is currently hosting an exhibition of
French photographer François Legeait.
The exhibition, titled Palestine 141, showcases photos
of 141 Palestinian children killed by Israel in 2006
The Resistance Library also aims at helping
Palestinians survive the harsh economic conditions
imposed by the Israeli occupation.
Traditional Palestinian cultural heritage items, like
Nablus soap, olive oil, and al-Khalil's handmade
pottery, are on sale.
"The price you will pay will go for the people who
need it back in Nablus," reads the label on the soap
bars and oil bottles.
"Made in Palestine."
Jewish Official in French Mosque
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
Thu. Apr. 17, 2008
PARIS Bernard Koch, a Jew, will be striving to
bridge gaps between Jewish and Muslims in France from
his office in the Islamic center in Drancy, a commune
in the northeastern suburbs of Paris.
"I will do my best to serve both minorities and bring
them closer," a moved Koch told IslamOnline.net.
Koch has been appointed by the Islamic Cultural
Society in Drancy as foreign relations officer.
He will have his office in the second floor of the
two-story building that also houses the society's
"I will have an office affiliated to the mosque from
where I will manage Muslim-Jewish relations," said in
"My goal is to project the true image of Islam as
opposed to the misconceptions propagated in the
Drancy, a commune located nearly 10 kilometers from
the center of Paris, has 12,000-Muslim and
2,000-Jewish communities. It has a total population of
Koch recognizes that the appointment could upset some
"I'm sure there will be obstacles along the way not
just from Muslims but Jews as well. But I plan to keep
an open mind."
France is home to the biggest Muslim minority in
Europe, estimated at 5-6 million.
It also has 600,000 Jews, Western Europe's biggest
The appointment of Koch to such a post was warmly
welcomed by all parties.
A special ceremony held on April 15 was attended by
Drancy municipal chief Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the
head of the Jewish community Jacques Aboucaya and
Islamic Cultural Society chairman Hassan Chalghoumi.
"We see no problem in appointing Koch for the post,"
Chalghoumi, also the mosque imam, told IOL.
"He is a man of high caliber and is known for his
devotion to work and ability to work with others."
He indicated that Koch will have his office, just like
the Society's other administration officials, in the
second floor of the meeting.
"The first floor is kept for the mosque."
Chalghoumi recognizes that the unprecedented step
coincides with increasing tension in the Middle East
and mounting Israeli attacks against Palestinians.
"Our aim is to improve the image of the Muslim
minority and highlight Islam's openness to followers
of other faiths."
A galaxy of prominent Muslim scholars and interfaith
experts issued in February an open letter for the
world's Jewish community calling for a dialogue to
improve relations between Jews and Muslims who have
common ground of shared beliefs.
"Drancy has a symbolic importance in the history of
French Jews," notes Imam Chalghoumi.
The area is home to an infamous prison camp that was
used to hold Jews before being deported to the
extermination camps under Nazi Germany.
Imam Chalghoumi said Muslims and Jews in Drancy enjoy
good, friendly relations.
"A Jewish delegation visited our mosque a week ago,"
"I had earlier paid a visit to Drancy synagogue and
delivered a speech on tolerance and coexistence in
France Gets New Islamic School
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
Tue. Mar. 4, 2008
PARIS A fourth private Islamic school in France is
to be inaugurated next week to meet the growing needs
of the Muslim minority amid a boom in faith-based
schools in the strictly secular European country.
"The government has recently granted us the license to
start operation," Mahmoud Awwad, the sponsor and
director of the "Education et Savior" school, told
IslamOnline.net Tuesday, March 4.
Starting on March 10, in the middle of the academic
year which started in September, the school will open
just one primary class for 10 students to complete the
"As of the coming academic year 2008/9, we will open
secondary classes accommodating 40 students," noted
He said the new school, located in the southern Paris
suburb of Vitrerie, will follow state curricula in
addition to two mandatory subjects on Arabic and
"Education et Savior" is the second the school to be
opened in Paris after the Reussite school in the
northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, and the fourth
of its kind in France.
The two other private Islamic schools are Ibn Rushd in
the northern city of Lille and Al-Kindi in the central
city of Lyon.
There had been a strong desire among French Muslims,
estimated at six to seven million, to have private
Islamic schools after Paris banned hijab and religious
symbols in state schools four years ago.
French Muslim students who adhered to their hijabs had
been expelled by principals and their future appeared
largely at stake.
They heaved a sigh of relief after the opening of such
Islamic schools, which are recognized by the state.
Awwad said the new school faced no obstacle in getting
the operation license.
"Unlike Al-Kindi secondary school, we faced no
obstacles," he said.
The opening of Al-Kindi in Lyon hit several snags when
it tried to start operation in 2006.
The Academy of Lyon, the highest state educational
body in the city, denied the school the needed
operation license and closed the fledgling seat of
learning, arguing that it failed to meet hygiene and
But the Administrative Court in Lyon overturned the
closure last February, opening the way for the school
to start anew in March 2007.
French Muslim leaders say the Al-Kindi incident has
encouraged Muslim societies to open similar schools.
"The Al-Kindi controversy has helped break barriers of
fear among the Muslim minority to have more schools,"
said Lhaj Thami Breze, chairman of the Union of
Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).
"The French people and institutions have come to terms
with the establishment of faith-based schools in the
Awwad, the director of the new Islamic school in
Vitrerie, said the main obstacle facing his school is
"We need 250,000 euros to meet the school needs next
year," he said. "This year we started with 100,000
euros because we have only one class."
Awwad urged French Muslims to donate generously to
keep the nascent school running.
"We, like other Muslim schools in France, depend on
(Muslim) donations as tuitions only cover 15 percent
of the cost," he said, noting that every student pays
1,500 euros a year.
The finance problem facing Muslim schools came to the
fore last year when the Reussite school in
Aubervilliers nearly closed due to the lack of
The Ibn Rushd school will be the first Muslim school
to get state finance as of next school year.