France Keeps Blackening Israel
Relations between France and Israel have been ambivalent and complex for decades. Among the most prominent are those where the French government sets out to blacken Israel. President Emmanuel Macron is seemingly a new type of Frenchman. He reached the presidency without having risen through the ranks of an existing political party. He is a suave, intelligent politician with an excellent education, an international outlook, many ideas, and good public relations.
However, analysis has to concentrate on facts and not packaging. A good point of departure are the French reactions to the recent Gaza border violence. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Macron in Paris in April, the French president told him that the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem “led to people dying and did not advance peace.” With this transparently manipulative statement Macron showed his skills in distorting the truth in a few words. What provoked the violence was the terror organization Hamas’ initiative to send civilians to the border and mix terrorists among them. Among the more than 115 Gazans killed by Israel, more than half were confirmed terrorists. That many of those killed were terrorists was confirmed by Hamas itself.
France also supported an UN Security Council resolution which called for protective measures for Palestinians, but didn’t mention Hamas. Deputy Israeli Minister Michael Oren summarized it in a tweet: “Shame on France for supporting it. French government cannot say it’s against anti-Semitism and vote for this anti-Semitic resolution.”
During the violence in April, France urged Israel to show restraint and told Israel that it was its duty to protect civilians. Their spokesmen knew full well that Hamas had sent terrorists to mingle among the civilians and that many civilian demonstrators did not have peaceful intentions. This French behavior was in particular hypocritical because of the many deadly terrorist attacks by Arabs in their country. The most deadly took place in Paris in 2015 and resulted in 130 deaths. In 2016, 86 people were killed in Nice.
When the IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis spoke to French parliamentarians this month, he reminded them that along with other countries, French donations had helped Hamas to build terror capabilities.
French reactions to the Gaza violence have deep roots in Middle Eastern history. In 2008, David Pryce-Jones published his book, Betrayal: France, the Arabs and the Jews. He had access to the archives of the French Foreign Ministry, better known as the Quai d’Orsay. His conclusion can be summarized as: France throughout modern history has done more damage to the Middle East than any other country.
France’s reactions to the Gaza violence reminded me of a visit to a conference in Paris in the autumn of 1961, a few weeks after French policemen had murdered an estimated 150-200 non-violent Algerian demonstrators in the French capital on October 17, 1961. Some of the corpses were found in the Seine River. Historians have called it the most violent repression of a demonstration by a Western European state in contemporary history. After more than fifty years of government silence, in 2012 then-French President François Hollande finally acknowledged the killings. The resulting publicity over the years about this crime was so major that Macron and those who issued the recent condemnations of Israel must have been familiar with many details of these mass murders by the French police.
There are other aspects which should be taken into account when judging the French blackening statements of Israel. France is the most dangerous country in Europe for Jews. Of the fifteen Jews killed for ideological reasons in Europe — of which the perpetrators, all Muslims, are known — twelve were murdered in France in six different attacks. The two mass attacks by violent Muslims on synagogues in the EU were both carried out in France, in Paris and Sarcelles.
Frequently exposing the ongoing French hypocritical blackening of Israel is unlikely to stop it, but it may make it less worthwhile for the country’s official perpetrators.