In surprise move, France rejects Israeli drones

Activists stage “die in” near Elbit Systems pavilion at Paris Air Show, 20 June 2015.

BDS France

Campaigners in France are welcoming a decision by their country’s military not to buy the Watchkeeper drone, which is based on a model Israel has used in hundreds of lethal attacks on Palestinian civilians.

Watchkeeper is built by a joint venture between Israel’s biggest arms maker Elbit Systems and the UK subsidiary of France’s Thales.

Defense News reported that “Watchkeeper was widely expected to be selected,” but instead the French government picked the Patroller drone made by domestic consortium Sagem.

Somber win

More than 8,000 people had signed a petition launched by BDS France in September calling on the defense ministry not to pick the Israeli drone.

BDS France says that as part of its campaign against the Israeli drone, thousands of postcards were sent to President François Hollande.

“If the choice of Sagem does not represent total independence from Israel, dumping the Thales-Elbit drone is a success for the BDS campaign,” the activist group says.

Sagem’s Patroller has more than 80 percent French content, according to Defense News, while Watchkeeper has as little as 10 percent. It is unclear if any of the Patroller’s parts are Israeli.

Unlike with other wins, BDS France is striking a somber tone: “We cannot celebrate the choice of such weapons which could open the way for armed drones in the French army, when such weapons could kill or contribute to killing civilians, as the Israeli army did in Gaza.”

Defense News said that Sagem, Thales and the French government’s military procurement office declined to comment on the decision.

“Field tested” on Palestinians

In 2014, the UK deployed its new Watchkeeper drones in Afghanistan.

Watchkeeper is based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 drone, which Israel “has ‘field tested’ in attacks on Gaza which left many Palestinians dead, including children,” the UK charity War on Want stated in a 2013 report.

The report, “Killer Drones: UK complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people,” says more than 800 Palestinians were killed by Israeli drones between 2006 and 2011.

They included 12-year-old Mamoun al-Dam, who was killed by an Israeli drone strike in the occupied Gaza Strip on 20 June 2012 as he played football.

Last July, during the first anniversary of Israel’s summer 2014 assault on Gaza, activists in the UK shut down four Elbit Systems factories.

This included a factory that made engines for drones used in Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

Weeks earlier, French activists staged a “die-in” outside the Elbit Systems pavilion at the Paris Air Show, one of the world’s biggest annual events for military and civilian aircraft sales.

Tags

Comments

picture

It is gratifying to see at long last the European community turning away from Israel and its savagery against the defenseless Palestinians. BDS is working. Decency is prevailing in these steps toward total disengagement with the war criminal state of Israel. It has been a long time coming.

picture

It is not clear what kind of considerations played a role in the decision of the French not to engage with Elbit.
Costs. performance, Lifespan ore POLITICAL REASONS . Of course the last would be the best. I personally believe that political considerations didn't play a role at all, because it is just a few months back that a French court forbade BDS actions.

picture

Palestinians under siege do not have the luxury of insisting that only the "right reasons" be acceptable to any small advance in their dignity and life situation. Any small movement in their direction is worthy and a very good thing. Go there and you will appreciate how much the minuscule little efforts loom large in lives there.

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.