French MP says waving Palestinian flag was protest at 'massacre' in Gaza

Pro-Palestinian protest in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) -A hard-left French lawmaker sanctioned for raising a Palestinian flag in parliament on Tuesday said he would "rather be on the right side of history than stick to the rules of the National Assembly".

The lower house of parliament voted to suspend Sebastien Delogu, a deputy for the La France Insoumise (LFI) party, for 15 days and to halve his pay as a lawmaker over two months, the harshest sanction possible.

"It's the first time that a foreign flag has been raised in the assembly, but it's appropriate given what's at stake, when you have people, who are like us, on the other side of the Mediterranean being massacred," Delogu told Reuters at a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris on Wednesday evening.

LFI has positioned itself as a defender of the Palestinians, making the issue central to its campaign for the June 9 European Parliament election.

Unlike other parties, LFI has not described the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel as a "terrorist" act. Some critics of LFI have accused it of antisemitism, which the party says is not true.

Delogu raised the flag during a session of questions to the government, while another LFI deputy questioned a minister about the situation in Gaza, the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave devastated by Israeli bombardment and invasion since Oct. 7.

There have been protests and spontaneous gatherings happening in Paris everyday this week since 45 people were killed on Sunday in a massive blaze in a tent camp in the Gaza city of Rafah caused by an Israeli airstrike.

Of the strikes, French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X on Monday that he was "outraged" and "these operations must stop". Delogu said the French government is not doing enough.

"I point the finger at France... because they continue to sell arms (to Israel), which means they are complicit in this massacre," he said.

Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu has previously said that France will not stop sending weapon components to Israel. He has said the components are used for Israel's Iron Dome missile defence and others are sold to Israel for re-export. Lecornu has said Paris does not provide lethal weapons to Israel.

The Elysee presidency and the defence ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Delogu's remarks.

Israel's offensive on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7, when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israeli communities, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's military says it is targeting armed militants hiding among the civilian population in the Gaza war and says it does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas denies that its fighters use civilians for cover.

France's National Assembly rules forbid lawmakers from brandishing flags during session. In 2019, a lawmaker from Macron's party held up a white flag with "France kills in Yemen" written in red. He was given a warning.

Another LFI MP, David Guiraud, called a Jewish colleague a "pig" and a "pork" during a heated exchange shortly after the flag-waving incident. That MP, Meyer Habib, who represents French people abroad including in Israel and is an ally of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he will file a complaint over antisemitism.

Guiraud said that he was responding a comment by Habib, who himself had brought up "pigs", and that "the criticism of Israel and those who defend it is often portrayed as antisemitism."

(Reporting by Layli Foroudi, additional reporting by John Irish and Juliette Jabkhiro; editing by Ingrid Melander, William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)