By Howard Zern
As most people know by now, France convened a Middle Eastern peace conference at the beginning of June that neither provide definition nor peace in the region.
The conference focused on the Israel–Palestinian dispute.
France, not wishing to disclose their motives, did not invite Israel. Direct negotiations are in fact required by the universally accepted Oslo Agreement despite the desire by France and the Palestinians to subvert it; there were no other alternative negotiation arrangements agreed upon. The story line for France is to display their relevance in international affairs, as they have been left out of the discussion.
Today, France sits as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Germany and Japan are not on the Council. The reason is simple. A defeated France was on the winning side of World War II. They were also losing World War I until the Americans turned the tide after entering the war. France’s relevance in international affairs mostly ended with the Second French Empire and their loss in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. As a result of World War II and their nuclear arsenal, France avoided being an afterthought on today’s world stage.
In the context of brokering peace, France’s record has been dismal. In the aftermath of World War II, France was a key player in two dysfunctional agreements: Treaty of Versailles and Sykes-Picot. The former set the table for the rise of Nazi Germany. The latter was a secret pact, which carved up the remnants of the Ottoman Empire and set the stage for many future Middle Eastern conflicts including the Israel-Palestinian dispute.
With regard to their ability to deal justly with Jews, some of the greatest examples of antisemitism have come France’s enlightened, liberal society – The Dreyfus Affair is one example. The French police were complicit in turning Jews over to the Third Reich. More recently, the French government took far too few concrete steps to stem anti-Jewish marches and hatred by their Islamic citizenry resulting in the death and intimidation of Jewish citizens to the point of increasing their exodus to Israel. France’s last official act was their vote at UNESCO that eliminates Jews’ and Israel’s historical ties to Jerusalem.
Over the past number of years, in an effort to display their ‘tolerance,’ France adopted an immigration scheme for their former Moslem colonies, which permitted more immigrants than their ability to absorb them into French society. This helped create ghettos of which many have since become hotbeds of homegrown Islamic terrorism. Their hypocrisy has more recently been turned on its ear as France instituted anti-Moslem legislation such as the ‘headscarf’ law in 2004. France is now heading towards becoming a bi-polar society torn between the liberal left and the new French right of Marie Le Pen, who wishes to restrict immigration.
So, given their internally created realities and continuing antisemitic behaviors, France now feels they are critical to resolving the Israel-Palestinian dichotomy. So why has France taken this path?
1. Willingness to ignore their lack of credibility in diplomacy.
2. Willingness to ignore centuries of in-bred anti-Semitism.
3. Perpetuation of the erroneous belief that an Israel-Palestinian peace would pacify militant radical Islam in France and precipitate the resolution of the many Middle Eastern conflicts that in fact have nothing to do with Israel.
4. Inability to accept their own responsibility for perpetuating the first three points. (If you are blaming Israel, the world won’t be watching France.)
France has never unilaterally demanded an international peace conference as a result of other territorial disputes in other parts of the world, such as the Ukraine, Asia and Africa. Also, France has not called for peace conference on Arabistan that has been occupied by Iran since the mid-1920’s; nor a conference for the establishment of a Kurd State, not addressed by Sykes-Picot.
France continues to bury its head in the sand and tell Israel what it needs to do to resolve the conflict and protect its own people. France has a weak history in foreign relations. It needs to first figure out how they are going to extricate themselves from their own problems – home grown terrorism and economic insolvency – before they condescend on how another country should resolve its disputes. In a manner of speaking, this conference had very little to do with Israel and the Palestinians and everything to do with resurrecting France’s false sense of diplomatic relevance.
Howard R. Zern is a frequent contributor on subjects concerning the Middle East and foreign affairs. He lives in West Hartford.