Friday, November 15, 2013

Arms dealers sniff opportunities as French president visits Israel

François Hollande will give his blessing to closer military cooperation between France and Israel when he visits the Middle East next week.

The French president will be the "guest of honor" at the "France-Israel innovation day" in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. Ubifrance, an enterprise promotion agency sponsoring the event, has arranged for French entrepreneurs to meet sales representatives from the arms-makers Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries.

An information note prepared by the agency applauds the Israeli aeronautics sector for record annual sales of more than $6 billion in 2009 and 2010. Although it lists drones as one of that sector's key products, it neglects to mention that they have been tested in bombing attacks against children in Gaza.

The note also says that Israel's aeronautics sector presents many opportunities for French firms. Airbus, the Toulouse-based corporation, "opened a gap" in the Israeli sky in 2009 by selling planes to the airline Israir. Until then, Israel's three commercial carriers had been exclusively supplied by Airbus' American rival, Boeing.

"Guaranteed success"

According the France-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the "innovation day" will be a "guaranteed success." IsraelValley, the chamber's technology-focused website, reports that it's "almost certain" that Hollande will discuss cooperation on drones with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

In a recent policy paper on "defense," France made a commitment to boost the number of drones in its arsenal. While the French government announced plans to buy a consignment of Reaper drones from the US in June, it is still shopping around for other types of these pilotless warplanes. The Paris-headquartered firm Thales has already teamed up with the aforementioned Elbit to make drones known as Watchkeeper for use by the British Army in Afghanistan.

No problem with humiliation

Admittedly, this cooperation requires the French elite to gobble up a few helpings of humble pie. A few months ago, the French National Assembly was informed that Israel has now taken over France's position as the fourth largest weapons exporter in the world.

Yet France doesn't seem to have a problem being humiliated by Israel. In September, a French diplomat, Marion Castaing, was pushed to the ground by Israeli soldiers when she accompanied a convoy delivering aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

If a hostile nation's forces had attacked a French diplomat in this way, you can be sure that retaliatory measures would be taken. In this case, Israeli and French journalists alleged that Castaing provoked the soldiers; the diplomat herself was soon recalled to Paris.

The European Union is another sponsor of the "innovation day." That is despite how the EU supposedly caused an existential crisis for Zionists when it published guidelines during the summer declaring that firms and institutions active in the settlements built by Israel in the West Bank were ineligible for the Union's subsidies.


Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, carried a story this week indicating that the row is nearing resolution. This isn't surprising. No sooner had the guidelines been leaked than EU mouthpieces tried to downplay their importance and promise they would be implemented in a "sensitive" manner (sensitive towards Israel, that is).

Hollande is scheduled to address Israel's parliament, the Knesset, during his sojourn. We can expect him to fawn before his hosts, while celebrating Israel as a beacon to the world.

The French political elite, after all, has an ignoble history of facilitating Zionist aspirations. In 1917, Jules Cambon, then secretary-general of the French foreign ministry, assured the World Zionist Organization, of France's support for the colonization of Palestine. The French government "cannot but feel sympathy with your cause, the triumph of which is bound up with that of the allies [then fighting Germany]," Cambon wrote.

François Hollande is a modern-day Jules Cambon, determined to help Zionists continue dispossessing the indigenous Palestinians.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 15 November 2013.

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