French boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigners have called on their government to abandon a €318 million deal to buy Heron TP drones from Israel Aircraft Industries. Meanwhile, senior members of France’s Senate have called publicly for the country to abandon the purchase on grounds that the Israeli drones are unsuited to the needs of the armed forces.
Campaign against Israeli drones
A petition launched by Campagne BDS France urging the government to end the deal and calling for an immediate military embargo on Israel has already garnered more than 1300 signatures. The text states:
No to the purchase by France of 318 million euros worth of Israeli drones!
An immediate military embargo against Israel!
On 20 July the French Ministry of Defence took the scandalous decision to buy from Israel more than 318 million euros worth of war weapons. When this outlaw state is guilty, day after day, of grave violations of international law, when there is a climate of austerity, when there are calls for demilitarization and for sanctions against Israel’s impunity, we are outraged by the disgraceful choice made by the Ministry of Defence.
Israel has a well established record of violations of international law and human rights, on display in its various military operations and aggressive attacks, incursions and occupations of Palestinian territories and other Arab countries, in its abusive and indiscriminate use of force and in the deliberate targeting of civilians and infrastructure. All of which result in a ceaseless repetition of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The BDS French Campaign joins the Palestinian BNC in calling for an immediate military embargo against Israel, similar to that imposed upon South Africa in the past. We demand the immediate cancellation of the contract to purchase drones from Israel.
Decision to buy Israeli drones “surprises” French Senate
Earlier this month, the vice-chairs of the foreign affairs and defence and armed forces committees of the French Senate wrote an open letter in Le Monde strongly opposing the decision. The four senators, two from President Nicholas Sarkozy’s UMP party and two from the Socialist opposition, wrote (my translation):
On July 20, the Minister of Defence, Gérard Longuet, chose to equip our forces with the Heron TP, manufactured by the Israeli company IAI [Israel Aircraft Industries] and imported by Dassault. This decision caused surprise in the Senate. When a state undertakes to equip its forces it must be done impartially, in a rational, that is to say, measurable manner: at what price, what specifications, and what industrial sovereignty? If possible it must reconcile all these objectives, otherwise it must prioritize the security of its soldiers and the effectiveness of its armed forces.
The senators added that the Israeli drone was unsuited to French needs. The Heron TP, they wrote, is “big, slow and vulnerable in degraded weather conditions.” They advocated purchasing the US-made Reaper drone instead.
Their support for the Reaper underscores that the senators, while strongly opposing the Israeli drone, did not raise any ethical concerns about the purchase. Their opposition – according to their words – is strictly on technical merit.
Nonetheless, with a significant core of opposition to buying from Israel already in place it may well be easier for BDS campaigners to bring more public pressure to abandon the deal.
French campaign follows in Finland’s footsteps
Last July, the European Network Against Arms Trade (ENAAT) came out publicly in support of an arms embargo on Israel and called for an end to “all military-related training and consultancies with the Israeli army, military companies and academic research institutions.”