Pro-Palestinian protesters call on Olympic officials to limit Israel's participation in Paris Games

PARIS — Several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters gathered near the Paris Olympics organizers’ headquarters on Tuesday and called for limiting Israel’s participation at the Summer Games in the French capital.

About 300 people attended the rally at the headquarters of the Paris Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the suburb of Saint-Denis, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against Israel’s “institutional participation” in the Games because of the war in Gaza.

Citing the example of Russian athletes, who will be competing at the Olympics under a neutral flag and with no Russian government officials allowed at the Games, protesters said the International Olympic Committee should apply the same protocol for the Israelis.

“They didn’t need more than four days to decide to ban Russia and Belorussia from the Olympics after the invasion of Ukraine,” said Nicolas Shahshahani, a member of the EuroPalestine activist group, who took part in Tuesday’s protest. “They are prepared to welcome the Israeli delegation.”

In an interview earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron backed the IOC’s decision to allow Russian athletes to compete in the Olympics despite the Ukraine invasion, but under a neutral flag.

He defended the participation of Israeli athletes under their country’s flag despite its offensive in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel and killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the subsequent Israel-Hamas war, according to the health officials in Gaza.

“We cannot say that Israel is attacking,” Macron said. “Israel was a victim of a terrorist attack to which it is now responding to in Gaza.”

Tuesday’s protests came days after pro-Palestinian students, inspired by Gaza solidarity encampments at campuses in the United States, staged protests and tried to occupy campus buildings at France’s two prestigious universities in the Paris region.

On Monday, French police removed 50 students from the Sorbonne university after pro-Palestinian protesters occupied the main courtyard. Last week, protests broke out at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, known as Sciences Po, as pro-Palestinian students attempted to occupy an amphitheater.

On Friday, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators faced each other in a tense standoff in the street outside the school. Riot police stepped in to separate the opposing groups. The protest ended peacefully, when students reached an agreement with the administration and evacuated the building late on Friday.

The Olympic Games in Paris will take place in July 26-Aug. 11 followed by the Aug. 28- Sept. 8 Paralympics.


Associated Press writer Barbara Surk in Nice, France, contributed to this report.


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