PARIS – A photo exhibition sympathetic to Hamas opened in the western French city of Angoulême last Tuesday, despite strong protests from the country’s Jewish leaders.
The exhibition by French photographer Frédéric Soutereau is being held within a photography festival in the Charente region of France.
The town hall of Angoulême has lent the organizers a room at the Hotel Saint-Simon in the city. Eighty-eight photographs, in large format, will stay on the walls for the rest of the exhibition, which is due to close on April 21, the eve of the first round of the presidential election.
The controversial photos have already been exhibited and praised at a previous photojournalism festival in the southern French city of Perpignan in 2010.
The exhibition runs during the cultural Palestinian Fortnight event organized by the Charente Palestine Solidarity Association.
In response to Jewish protests over the exhibit, which has been accused of glorifying the terrorist organization, an organizer of the exhibition announced to the press on the day of the opening that the association had decided to go ahead with it.
Jean-Claude Caraire told AFP that the exhibit was “at the heart of the cultural Palestinian Fortnight” in order “that people could understand better what Hamas really is.”
The exhibition shows the daily activities of Hamas and its “active and positive role” in the social, economic and cultural life of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, he said.
His statement was immediately criticized by Richard Pasquier, president of CRIF, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France and the supreme body of Jewish organizations.
Pasquier unsuccessfully asked for the cancellation of the exhibition on the grounds that, from his point of view it was in fact an “apology for terrorism.”
In an open letter, he has denounced as “worrying” the “complacency of our society with regards to the Islamist terrorist hatred against Jews.”
The photographer answered in an open letter, and claimed he used the word “terrorist” three times in his introductory text for the exhibition.
For the photographer, Hamas is “a terrorist organization for some, a resistance movement for others.”