OpinionIsrael at War

Fickle feckless France

The French Foreign Ministry advanced two claims as the rationale for its decision to support the ICC, both equally risible and ridiculous.

An illustrative image of French soldiers in the Algerian War. Source: DeepAI.
An illustrative image of French soldiers in the Algerian War. Source: DeepAI.
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project.

“The French Army burned 326 houses and murdered more than half of the village’s residents. French soldiers raped many women and girls before murdering them.” — From Wikipedia’s account of the massacre of civilians by French forces in the first Indochina war.

“Atrocities committed by the French during the Algerian War during the 1950s against Algerians include deliberate bombing and killing of unarmed civilians, rape, torture, executions through “death flights” or burial alive, thefts and pillaging.” — From Wikipedia’s account of the atrocities committed by French forces during the Algerian War of Independence.

The latest surge in antisemitic sentiment has once more pushed the issue of Judeophobia to the center of public debate.

Animosity towards the Jewish people—a.k.a. antisemitism—has been described as the oldest form of hatred, mutating over time from one form to another.

Gallic gall

In recent decades, the focus of anti-Jewish bias has shifted from the Jewish individual to the Jewish collective, i.e. the Jewish state. Lately, yet another mutation has emerged: “judicial antisemitism.”

One of the most blatant examples of this was the recent support France expressed for the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan to issue arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

In a statement late last month, the French Foreign Ministry stated it supported the independence of the ICC and its fight against “impunity”.

Significantly, this astounding step by France reflects a stark break from the positions of its Western allies, such as Britain and the U.S., whose President Joe Biden denounced the ICC’s decision as “outrageous.” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the ICC move as “deeply unhelpful,” remarking that it would do nothing to improve the provision of aid to Gaza or the prospect of reaching a sustainable ceasefire.

What is particularly galling about Paris’s decision is that France arguably has the worst post-World War II record of any Western nation regarding the preservation of human rights, with a chronicle of gory atrocities stretching from Indochina to North Africa (see introductory excerpts).

Risable rationale

The French Foreign Ministry advanced two claims as the rationale for their decision—both equally risible.

Regarding “impunity”: As Col. Richard Kemp (former commander of British forces in Afghanistan) remarked, no other army has ever exercised such care in avoiding civilian casualties than the IDF, achieving the lowest ratio of civilian-to-combatant deaths in the history of modern urban warfare.

Similarly, the chairman of urban warfare studies at West Point, John Spencer, described Israel’s minimization of collateral casualties as “unprecedented,” asserting that it was setting the “gold standard” for avoiding civilian casualties. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find any other example of a country supplying food and humanitarian aid to an enemy population as Israel is doing in Gaza.

Regarding the preservation of ICC independence: Despite its prime facie merit, this also has a distinctly hollow ring to it. After all, if it means granting the ICC unlimited discretion to make any fanciful decision, unshackled by constraints of veracity, fairness or decency, what is to prevent it from sentencing some luckless defendant to be burnt at the stake for disputing that the world is flat? Or that Israel is “using starvation as a weapon” despite regular conveys of trucks bringing in thousands of tons of food to the Gazan population—many of whom took an active part in the Oct. 7 atrocities.

Blatant bias

This gross anti-Israel bias is reflected in France’s restrictions on its military supplies to the Jewish state precisely after it was subjected to a barbarous attack from Gaza. An attack in which much of the general public participated or at least endorsed.

Thus, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu stated that he had ordered government officials to be “even stricter” in examining exports to Israel following Oct. 7. This leaves one to ponder how France, with a population about seven times that of Israel, might have responded had it suffered an unprovoked attack that, proportionately, left almost 10,000 of its citizens dead.

This sense of anti-Israel animosity is reflected in the perceptions of France by the Israeli public. In a recent survey of 1,000 Israeli adults, 55% said French society was antisemitic, significantly higher than their rating of such sentiments in Poland, Germany and Britain.

This blatant bias seems to have spread to other areas as well. Recently, I published an analysis that underscored some of Paris’s “adverse” patterns of conduct, detrimental both to Israel and its strategic ally Azerbaijan. 

In it, I underscored the danger of French military equipment sent to Lebanon falling into the hands of Hezbollah, the prospect of French armaments provided Armenia, a bitter Azerbaijani adversary, falling into the hands of Russia, Iran or Syria, Israel’s most dangerous foes.

Ironically, Paris is trying to shore up lingering remnants of its colonial past by undermining the indigenous population of its Pacific possessions of New Caledonia.

Its anti-Azerbaijan animus appears to lurk behind its claims that Baku instigated recent pro-independence rioting there. Indeed, as The New York Times sardonically commented: France provided no specifics to support the allegation that Azerbaijan vehemently denies.

Difficult to decipher

It is difficult to decipher the logical code for what appears to be rash and myopic behavior on the part of Paris.

Indeed, France recently barred Israeli participation in a premier arms exhibition, yet welcomed countries with more-than-questionable democratic/humanitarian credentials, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and China.

Whatever the rationale, as I wrote previously, ominous clouds of Franco-Israeli tensions appear to be gathering on the horizon.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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