Jean-Yves Le Drian’s remarks followed other controversial statements made by French Prime Minister Jean Castex Clashes on the fighting between Israelis and Hamas, in which he never mentioned the launching of rockets from Gaza towards Israel.
Remarks made by French government ministers in the wake of the conflict between Israel and Gaza have not pleased Jewish groups.
In an interview with RTL radio and Le Figaro newspaper, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned of the risk of “long-lasting apartheid” in Israel in the event that the Palestinians fail to obtain their own state. He was referring to the clashes between Jews and Arabs that erupted in several Israeli cities during the conflict.
“It’s the first time and it clearly shows that if in the future we had a solution other than the two-state solution, we would have the ingredients of long-lasting apartheid,” Le Drian said of the clashes.
Le Drian is one of the first senior French officials to use the term “apartheid” in reference to Israel.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre (SWC) said it is ‘’shocked at the undiplomatic and insulting language of Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in using “apartheid” in reference to the State of Israel.
In an open letter to French President Emmanuel Macron, Shimon Samuels, the SWC Director of international relations, wrote that ‘’not since President de Gaulle’s June 1967 “Six Day War” reference to “the Jews as an elite people, sure of itself and domineering,” has a French political leader made such a damaging statement towards the Jewish community.
‘’The Arab rioters in Israel were a minority inspired and ignited by Hamas, designated as a “terrorist” movement by the European Union, among others. They were following the Hamas Charter, which outlines a genocidal policy against all Jews everywhere,’’ said Samuels.
He added, ‘’A majority of Israeli Arabs refused a land transfer deal for peace, lest they come under the Palestinian Authority. They see their Israeli citizen status as far from an Apartheid. Their election of Arab parties and representatives to the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) was never the case in Apartheid South Africa. Israeli Muslim Arabs also integrate the Israeli Defence Forces on a voluntary basis and represent a free and active minority in Israel’s social, academic and economic life.’’
Samuels warned that the minister’s remark ‘’is likely to incite and strengthen French Islamist and Jihadi violence against the Jews of France.’’
Le Drian’s remarks followed other controversial statements made by French Prime Minister Jean Castex Clashes on the fighting between Israelis and Hamas, in which he never mentioned the launching of rockets from Gaza towards Israel.
Speaking in the French parliament two weeks ago, Castex recalled that France ‘’continually highlighted the risks linked to continuation of the settlements policy, especially the evictions in East Jerusalem, and has restated the need to strictly preserve the historical status quo at the city’s holy sites.’’
He declared: ‘’We’re worried about the fate of civilians in Gaza, a territory which has already been hit hard by nearly 15 years of blockade. Moreover, this spiral of violence isn’t confined to Gaza, because in several Israeli towns and cities, tension between [Israeli and Arab] populations has reached an unprecedented level of violence; in the West Bank and Jerusalem, there’s a growing number of clashes between Palestinians, settlers and Israeli security forces.’’
CRIF, the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, denounced Castex’s ‘’very biased’’ position. ‘’We are concerned about the very biased position expressed by Prime Minister. Not a word for the Israeli victims. No mention of the terrorist nature of Hamas. Nothing about the 3000 rockets sent to Israel. A clarification of this position is needed,’’ the Jewish group tweeted.
Meyer Habib, a member of the French Parliament for the 8th constituency of French citizens living outside France and vice-chairman of the foreign affairs committee, who was attending the parliament question session to the government, had decided to leave the Chamber even before Jean Castex had finished speaking, shouting scandal and reproaching him for not saying “a word about Israeli civilians”.
French President Emmanuel Macron, for his part, has reaffirmed his “unwavering attachment” to Israel’s security’’ and of ‘’Israel’s right to defend itself in accordance with international law.’’
Contrary to Castex, he strongly condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and underlined the “urgency of a return to peace.”