by Ari Lieberman
There is perhaps no country on the European continent that has done more to harm Israel’s political and legal standing than France.
Last week’s rancid pro-BDS statements to an approving Cairo audience by Orange CEO Stéphane Richard, indicating his desire to immediately sever his company’s links to Israel, should come as no surprise to those who follow French politics. Orange, which maintains a licensing agreement with the Israeli cellphone company Partner Communications, is partly owned by the French government, making France at least indirectly complicit with Richard’s anti-Semitic, pro-BDS statement.
Since spewing those ugly sentiments, Richard has performed a complete about-face, claiming that he “loves Israel,” “invests in Israel,” “radically opposes” any form of boycott against the Jewish State and has announced plans for an immediate trip to Israel to meet with business leaders and political officials. Of course, these new adoring sentiments fly in the face of what he said in Cairo, but Richard, ever the businessman, likely realized that his comments were counterproductive for the bottom line and had to adjust his remarks accordingly. Moreover, technology companies are keenly aware that the road to innovation goes through Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and not through Cairo or Baghdad. In other words, morality played no part in Richard’s miraculous transformation. It was strictly a matter of dollars and euros.
More disturbing than Richard’s initial repugnant comments however, were comments made by Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United States. In response to a stinging backlash from Israel as well as its supporters, including prominent Democratic supporter and Partner shareholder Haim Saban and Republican mogul Sheldon Adelson, Araud tweeted the following; “4th Geneva convention: settlement policy in occupied territories is illegal. It is illegal to contribute to it in any way.” Rather than expressing revulsion over Richard’s Cairo comments, Araud seemed to be expressing support for them.
Naturally, Twitter goers pointed out Araud’s hypocrisy, noting that he was quick to criticize Israel while failing to acknowledge other, infinitely more egregious occupations like those of Tibet, Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus. Others (including this writer) pointed out that Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to Israeli “settlements.” Prominent law professor and recognized international law expert Eugene Kontorovich noted that Araud’s position was not consistent with past legal precedent.
Rather than engage with his critics or defend his views, Araud took the coward’s way out and blocked all who disagreed with his tweet, sparking the comical creation of the hashtag, #BlockedByAraud. Araud’s infantile action in blocking his detractors, all of whom were civil, was predictable. Those who espouse morally repugnant and legally indefensible positions prefer the echo chamber of hate to arguments grounded in equity, logic and morality.
Ultimately, the French government belatedly issued a repudiation of BDS, but qualified its repudiation by including red herring nonsense about the “illegality” of Israeli settlements. Whether one agrees with the Israeli settlement enterprise or not – and I count myself as a staunch supporter – the BDS movement has nothing to do with “settlements” and everything to do with the eradication of the State of Israel. Even if Israel withdrew from every square centimeter of Judea & Samaria, the BDS movement would not cease in its efforts to isolate Israel. BDS is a pernicious group motivated by age-old anti-Semitism whose mantra is “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free,” and to link BDS with settlement activity, even in an indirect manner, is disingenuous and beyond asinine.
There is perhaps no country on the European continent that has done more to harm Israel’s political and legal standing than France. In fact, it is safe to say that France, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has caused more political harm to Israel than the entire Arab world collectively.
Both in private and public forums, French political leaders have consistently been dismissive of Israeli political concerns and insulting to its leaders. In private, French leaders have been caught on hot microphones bashing Israel or its leaders. In one such instance, President Nicolas Sarkozy, knowing that he had an approving audience, told President Obama, “I cannot stand [Netanyahu]. He is a liar.”
In another instance, the French ambassador to London disparagingly referred to Israel at a private dinner function as, “that shi*ty little country.” That characterization embodies the zenith of impudence considering that it was France that brought humanity such lovelies as the sordid Dreyfus Affair and collaborationist Vichy and whose post-WWI colonialist machinations planted the seeds of dysfunction in today’s Arab world.
In public too, France has been the nation most aggressively pushing for “Palestinian” statehood at Israel’s expense. Putting aside for the moment its nauseating displays of affection for arch terror chieftain Yasser Arafat and its generous funding of numerous anti-Israel NGOs, France was the first major Western power to publicly announce that it would vote in favor of Palestinian statehood at a 2012 UN General Assembly vote.
All this anti-Israel French activity is occurring as anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in France continue without letup. In May, two Parisian Jews were set upon by a mob of forty and beaten in broad daylight. A week prior, another Jew was attacked while leaving his synagogue. In April, a female Israeli journalist (identified as such by the Hebrew lettering on her equipment) reporting on a plane crash in the French Alps, was harassed by a group of French Muslims in full view of passersby who did nothing to intervene.
France’s rancid anti-Israeli foreign policies coupled with rampant anti-Semitism within its borders are demonstrative of a sick and diseased nation that has irreversibly lost its moral compass. It is difficult to imagine France plunging any deeper into the abyss but then again, up until a few days ago, I thought that France had hit rock-bottom. Clearly, I was badly mistaken.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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