France gears up to help Israel whitewash its crimes

BDS France activists leafleted outside the Institut Français in Paris on 26 October to protest the “France-Israel 2018” propaganda festival planned for next year.

BDS France

Earlier this month, the French government issued a condemnation of Israel’s rapid expansion of its colonies on occupied Palestinian territory, calling its actions “illegal under international law.”

But like similar statements from other European governments, it was only words.

France’s real policy is to give Israel unconditional support and rewards no matter what crimes it commits.

A prime example of that is the Saison France-Israël 2018 propaganda festival planned by the Institut Français, the international cultural arm of the French government, in collaboration with Israel.

Blaming Palestinians

“The France-Israel 2018 Season will mark a new and important stage in relations between the two countries,” according to the Institut Français. “It will honor in all domains of creativity the close and high-level ties that already exist while mapping out horizons for the future.”

With glitzy events in France and Israel, the initiative aims to “present the image of the two countries through the most contemporary forms of expression.”

The chief Israeli co-organizer of the festival is Emmanuel Halperin, a TV presenter and former diplomat who has promoted anti-Palestinian propaganda.

Completely absolving Israel of its responsibilities, Halperin claimed last year that Palestinians seek the “destruction of Israel” through a “very perverse strategy.” According to Halperin, Palestinians want to “let the situation rot” in order to bring Israel under international pressure.

He has also claimed that Palestinians want Israel to maintain its brutal decade-long siege of Gaza in order to “tarnish Israel’s image in the international community.”

Covering up the Nakba

The choice of 2018 for this propaganda festival can be no coincidence. Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist militias in order to establish the Israeli state on the ruins of Palestinian society.

Last week activists from BDS France, a group supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, rallied outside the Paris headquarters of the Institut Français “to denounce the scandalous propaganda operation France-Israel 2018, which aims to enhance relations between France and the Israeli apartheid regime.”

“We do not let ourselves be fooled by calls for dialogue when they concern a state that uses culture for the political goal of restoring its international image,” BDS France said. “Culture can never whitewash Israel of its crimes, persecutions and discrimination, whether against the populations of Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians living in Israel, or refugees.”

Officials questioned

Meanwhile the campaign of repression by French authorities against citizens aiming to hold Israel accountable continues.

Earlier this month police summoned four municipal officials from the town of Ivry, including the mayor, for investigation over statements they made supporting a boycott of Israeli settlement goods.

The statements were made during a debate last year, when the Paris suburb’s town council voted by a large majority to call on the French government to end its repression of the BDS movement and to ban the import of settlement goods.

The police complaint was filed by BNVCA, an Israel lobby group that masquerades as an anti-racism organization.

The town’s resolution is in line with a growing international consensus that trade in settlement goods should be banned.

But now the Ivry officials could face charges of “publicly provoking discrimination” merely for supporting this consensus that Israel should be made to abide by international law.

Philippe Bouyssou, one of the officials targeted by the complaint, called the police intervention “an intolerable attack on the freedom of expression.”

During his election campaign earlier this year, President Emmanuel Macron vowed that if elected he would continue his predecessor’s campaign of repression against the BDS movement.

In contrast to France’s enthusiasm for promoting Israel’s interests, it stayed silent for two full months about Israel’s ongoing detention without charge of Salah Hamouri, a Palestinian-French human rights defender.

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Some 5 months ago, the community council of the Brussels commune, Molenbeek, voted a decree that its administration cannot sign contracts anymore with firms collaborating with the Israelian occupation / colonisation policy in Palestine. This decree was confirmed by the Brussels regional government.

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I never thought France would reduce itself to honoring this occupying country that is in violation of human rights and International Law. I am horrified and will not make my annual 3 month visit to the south of France this year.

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Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.