"No Israelis allowed": France stiffens anti-Israel stance

Emmanuel Macron  credit: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis
Emmanuel Macron credit: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis

A French court has extended the ban on Israeli companies at the Eurosatory defense event to any Israeli representative.

No Israeli company will be allowed to exhibit at the Eurosatory 2024 defense and security event due to open in Paris tomorrow (Monday). Nor will any representative of Israel or its defense establishment be allowed to enter the exhibition site. This is in accordance with the decision of a French court, as reported by daily newspaper "Le Parisien". The court gave a strict interpretation to the announcement by the French Ministry of Armed Forces two weeks ago barring Israeli companies from exhibiting at the event, implying a fear that Israel was involved in war crimes. The court hearing was on a petition brought by pro-Palestinian organizations. Lawyers for the company organizing the event, COGES, tried to persuade the panel of judges that the Ministry of Armed Forces decision applied to companies but not to individuals, and that barring Israelis would be discriminatory, but to no avail. 

Furthermore, the court ordered the exhibition organizers to display large signs at the entrance stating officially and prominently that Israeli companies, representatives, and agents may not enter. In the exhibition halls, African dictators will cut deals for receiving French protection through arms contracts in the billions of euros; Iranian representatives and agents on Iran’s behalf will roam freely; but Israel will be banned.

This is an unprecedented low in commercial relations between the two countries, which up to now have mostly remained above political conflicts and differences of opinion on the Israel-Palestinian dispute. The French government, through the announcement by the Ministry of Armed Forces on May 31, in effect gave its backing to those who consider that Israel is committing war crimes or even genocide, in the grounds that it gave for barring at the last minute the 74 Israeli companies that were due to participate at Eurosatory. "The conditions for accepting Israeli companies no longer exist, because of the fact that the president of the Republic has called for a halt to the Israeli operation in Rafah," was the official explanation. This is an unparalleled political decision, to which the French justice system has now added a significant layer, turning Israel into a pariah state.

Gili Cohen, a reporter for Israeli public broadcaster Kan, reported, citing Israeli sources, that an appeal had been lodged against the decision, and that a final ruling would be given on Monday (the opening day of the exhibition), but in any event, the damage has already been done.

The French cannot say that they didn’t mean it. Defense industry sources told "Globes" that the question whether they would be able to participate at Eurosatory was an open one this year, unlike in the past. "We received hints of something unusual when we were suddenly asked to provide customs clearance for everything that we were going to display at the exhibition," an Israeli source said, "but the Ministry of Defense managed to overturn that requirement." After that, the Israeli companies were taken by surprise by the announcement of a ban on them, which, under the court decision, has now been extended to "any person employed by or representing Israel arms companies" and "any person who might serve as an agent or broker on behalf of the Israeli companies."

More damaging than any recognition of a Palestinian state

The support that the French decision gives to the anti-Israel axis in the European Union is immense. Not just marginal countries such as Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia are suggesting that Israel is committing war crimes, but also the second largest economy on the European continent and the leading power in the EU together with Germany. The proof is that it has derived commercial conclusions from that notion in the defense business. It makes no difference what the real reason was for the decision - a wish to send a sharp message to Israel, a wish to make Israeli defense companies unacceptable in Europe in order to benefit from new commercial opportunities, or a wish to curry favor with Muslim countries - the clear message is that Israeli is not a legitimate defense partner.

In fact, the distance between that stance and support for suspending the association agreement between Israel and the EU, a step that was once unimaginable, is shrinking. The agreement requires a commitment from both sides to international humanitarian law. The pro-Palestinian axis in the EU says that Israel is not abiding by that term. France’s grounds for barring Israeli participation in Eurosatory speak for themselves. This is why the pro-Palestinian organizations celebrated the court ruling, and said in advance that a positive decision by the court "will exert escalating pressure on companies and organizations throughout Europe."

Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant entered into the crisis in relations between France and Israel when, in clear and unprecedentedly sharp terms, he attacked French involvement in an attempt to reach a settlement on Israel’s northern border. "At a time when the State of Israel is fighting its most just war ever, France has demonstrated hostility and enmity towards us, blatantly ignoring the atrocities committed by Hamas against women and children simply because they were Jewish. We will not join a committee to settle the security situation on the northern border if France takes part in it," Gallant said. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rushed to distance itself from Gallant’s stamen, and the Élysée Palace denied that it had "chosen sides" in the current war.

In fact, France’s message concerning the war has been confused at best, and misleading and full of double-speak at worst. President Emmanuel Macron did stand in solidarity with Israel after the October 7 terrorist attack, but he quickly switched from support for an international coalition against Hamas to condemnation of "the killing of innocent women and children" in the Gaza Strip. "This has to stop," said Macron, the first Western leader to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Following this, France supported several resolutions concerning a ceasefire in the UN Security Council, and Macron himself repeatedly spoke out against "what is happening in Gaza." He did promise French intervention in Lebanon, but failed to provide details of the steps that France proposes to take to achieve this.

Now, deeds speak louder than words. France is still supposedly committed to its declarations on ending Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, the release of the hostages, and Israeli victory. In practice, the actions of the French administration place Israel beyond the bounds of legitimacy. They hurt the image of the State of Israel more than any recognition of a Palestinian state by Norway and Spain, more than any Italian arms embargo, and stand in contrast to the support Israel receives from the Germany, Britain, and the US. France has now become part of the most critical camp in Europe vis-à-vis Israel.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 16, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Emmanuel Macron  credit: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis
Emmanuel Macron credit: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis
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