France rejects apartheid label for Israel [Jerusalem ‘eternal capital’]

French Prime Minister Jean Castex (File)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  February 25, 2022

President Emmanuel Macron has rejected the finding by several major human rights organizations that Israel perpetrates the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people.

“It is not acceptable in the name of a just struggle for liberty that organizations misuse historically charged, shameful terms to describe the State of Israel,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said at the gala dinner of CRIF, France’s main Jewish communal and Israel lobby group, on Thursday.

Castex was reading a speech that Macron had planned to deliver in person. However, the president sent his prime minister instead due to the crisis in Ukraine.

“How dare anyone speak of apartheid in a state where Arab citizens are represented in the government, parliament and occupy positions of responsibility and leadership?” Macron’s speech states.

The token presence of Palestinian citizens of Israel in various Israeli bodies is often deployed by Israel apologists as a shield for the systematic and legalized discrimination and oppression indigenous Palestinians face at the hands of a state that constitutionally grants superior rights to Jews.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International joined Human Rights Watch and Israel’s B’Tselem in concluding that Israel perpetrates apartheid against the Palestinian people as a whole.

The rights group said that “since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights and obstructing their ability to challenge this dispossession.”

Amnesty joined Palestinian groups urging the International Criminal Court to “investigate the commission of the crime of apartheid” – one of the most serious crimes against humanity listed in the tribunal’s founding Rome Statute.

 Jerusalem “eternal capital”

The speech of Macron – who is up for re-election this year – also declares that “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”

“That does not stop anyone from recognizing and respecting the attachment of other religions to this city,” the president’s statement adds.

This is bizarre on a number of fronts. France does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, only countries have capitals, not peoples or religions.

Is Macron therefore claiming that Jerusalem is also the “eternal capital” of French Jews living in France?

If so that would constitute an anti-Semitic conflation of being Jewish with being Israeli.

And while Macron recognizes the “attachment” of other religions to the city, he pointedly does not declare Jerusalem to be the “capital of the Muslim people” or the “capital of the Christian people.”

To do so would be just as absurd and chauvinistic as declaring it the “capital of the Jewish people.”

Indeed if any French Muslim were to declare, for instance, that Mecca is the “eternal capital” of French Muslims, that would likely bring the police to their door. They would be accused of “separatism” – the modern French version of the anti-Semitic accusation of “dual loyalty” made against Jews.

Macron’s statement about Jerusalem is a clear endorsement by France of the very Jewish supremacy that underpins Israel’s brutal French-backed system of apartheid, and especially its ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem in order to Judaize the city through illegal colonization.

The French president’s speech contained not a single word of criticism of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, even the ones France purports to oppose – the construction of Jewish settler-colonies on occupied Palestinian land and the annexation in violation of international law and UN resolutions of Palestinian and Syrian territory.

That is in marked contrast to France’s denunciation of Moscow’s recognition of separatist regions in Ukraine – preceding Russia’s military invasion – as a violation of international law and an attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty.

 Censorship and repression

Macron also reaffirmed his intention to continue his war on France’s Muslim population and supporters of Palestinian rights under the guise of fighting “anti-Semitism” and “separatism.”

The president’s speech boasts that the French parliament in 2019 adopted the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, a document promoted by Israel and its lobby which conflates criticism of Israel and its racist state ideology Zionism with anti-Jewish bigotry.

As a result, Macron claims, “Our security forces, our judges as well as our schools are learning better how to unmask its new faces, the words in which anti-Semitism, often tainted with anti-Zionism, are concealed.”

The attack on anti-Zionism – which can be heard in the video of Castex reading the speech – is absent from the officially published text.

This is not however the first time that the French president has equated opposition to Israel’s Zionist political ideology with hatred of Jews.

Macron’s declaration to the French Israel lobby came the same day his interior minister – acting on presidential orders – moved to outlaw two Palestine solidarity groups on the grounds that they are “promoting hatred of Israel.”

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)