A major propaganda effort sponsored by the French and Israeli governments has been a failure, Israeli officials are acknowledging.
The so-called Saison France-Israël, or France-Israel Season, was a series of hundreds of “cultural” events backed by both governments, running for six months until the end of November.
“We were hoping that culture would have a diplomatic impact. We put an enormous amount of money into this operation, which had zero success regarding Israel’s image in France, or that of France here,” an Israeli diplomatic source told the newspaper Le Monde last week.
BDS France, a group that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, is celebrating the admission of failure as a victory for activism in support of Palestinian rights.
The France-Israel Season was an attempted “whitewashing operation, cleansing the state of Israel of its crimes against the Palestinian people, its constant violations of international law and universal human rights,” BDS France stated on Saturday, noting that dozens of French artists, including legendary film director Jean-Luc Godard, had declared they would not cooperate with it.
“The French public didn’t fall for the ruse and the propaganda doesn’t work any more,” BDS France added. “The defenders and accomplices of Israeli apartheid are increasingly isolated, and our solidarity with the Palestinian people in the framework of the BDS campaign is stronger than ever.”
Activists held protests against France-Israel Season events all over the country, and one of the first planned events – at the University of Lille – was abandoned as a result.
“Many of the events held in France as part of the France-Israel Season took place before a small audience,” BDS France said. “Preparations were carried out in a semi-clandestine manner and events were announced at the last minute, so much did the two governments fear public protests.”
Adding to Israel’s disappointment, according to Le Monde, is that French President Emmanuel Macron broke his promise to travel to Israel during the season.
In June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a red carpet welcome from Macron for the opening of the France-Israel Season at Paris’ Grand Palais.
Meanwhile protesters calling Netanyahu a war criminal and charging Macron with being his accomplice shut down the Champs-Élysées.
At the grand opening, Macron promised to visit Israel during the France-Israel Season, but ended up as a no-show.
Compounding Israel’s irritation is that French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe also canceled plans to attend the opening of the joint season in Israel.
Although scheduling difficulties were cited as the reason, Philippe reneged on a promise to make his trip in the autumn, and there is still no date in the diary for it.
Although the France-Israel Season was launched with a bang, it ended in a decided whimper, with only the French culture minister and no high-level Israeli officials attending the 29 November closing ceremony in Tel Aviv.
The French government’s snub is a sign that it feels unable to ignore public sentiment, despite the Macron administration’s staunchly pro-Israel policies.
Following the successful campaign against the France-Israel Season, BDS France declared that its “next step is mobilization against the holding of Eurovision 2019 in Israel.”
Protests have been continuing around Europe against allowing Israel to host next year’s edition of the famous song contest.
On 30 November, activists in Paris protested at the headquarters of French public television, urging the broadcaster not to “whitewash Israeli apartheid by transmitting the next Eurovision contest.”
In Britain, activists held similar protests outside BBC headquarters in London and Manchester.
And there were protests earlier last month outside performances by Netta Barzilai, Israel’s 2018 Eurovision winner who has been deployed as part of the country’s officially backed international propaganda efforts.
Even the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is under the control of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, a long-time opponent of the BDS movement, is trying to jump on board – albeit in a limited manner.
The PLO has called on the European Broadcasting Union, the international body that produces Eurovision, not to broadcast the contest to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
It is unclear if selectively stopping the broadcast only to Israeli settlements is even technically feasible.
“Giving Israel the privilege of hosting the 2019 Eurovision amounts to rewarding it for and helping it to conceal its decades-old military occupation and grave violations of Palestinian national and human rights,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Abbas-controlled PLO executive committee, stated last week.
“At the very least, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) must ensure that Israel’s illegal settlements throughout the occupied Palestinian territory are strictly excluded from any broadcast of the Eurovision activities.”