Following up on our blog post last week about our disappointment with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls – who has a sterling record on fighting antisemitism, yet presided over France recently backing a vile UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem which effectively denied any Jewish connection to any of the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem including the Western Wall and Temple Mount – we are happy to report that Mr. Valls has now strongly distanced himself from that vote.
Indeed, Valls and the country’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve have now both unequivocally repudiated France’s vote for the resolution.
As we noted last week during Valls’ visit, Australia might be celebrating the signing of a $50 billion deal for France to build Australia’s next generation of submarines, but Israel was furious with France for backing the resolution. In contrast to France, the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom voted against, and most other European states at least abstained.
Not only did the resolution declare the Temple Mount as strictly a Muslim holy site (Haram a-Sharif) and include the Western Wall also as a Muslim holy site, it also falsely accused Israel of planting fake Jewish graves in Muslim cemeteries, amongst other easily disprovable accusations.
Speaking to the National Assembly, the French parliament, Valls said:
“This UNESCO resolution contains unfortunate, clumsy wording that offends and unquestionably should have been avoided, as should the vote.”
And addressing the Jewish link to Jerusalem, Valls also said:
“I want to repeat once again and clearly, with conviction – France will never deny the Jewish presence and Jewish history in Jerusalem. It would make no sense, it is absurd to deny this history.”
Meanwhile, at an event in Paris organised by the CRIF, the representative group of French Jewish communities, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the resolution “should not have been adopted”, stressed that he did “not take a supportive view of the text,” and added that the resolution “was not written as it should have been.”
CRIF President Roger Cukierman captured the mood of anger, condemning the resolution as “an insult to the Jews in the world,” adding that, “France cannot help build peace by denying thousands of years of Jewish presence in Jerusalem or accusing Israel of having fabricated false Jewish graves.”
Valls’ apology comes ahead of his forthcoming three-day visit to Israel starting on May 21.
The visit will be followed by a meeting France is organising for May 30 to be attended by ministers from 20 countries who will discuss how to relaunch Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
France’s position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict has also perturbed Israel, underpinned as it is by the threat to recognise a Palestinian state if one is not created at the conclusion of peace talks. Critics have noted that such a process places no pressure or expectation on the Palestinians to make the compromises necessary for peace.
While the clarification and recapitulation by Valls and Cazeneuve that France acknowledges the three thousand year relationship between the Jewish people and Jerusalem is obviously welcomed, the sad fact remains that the historical record will permanently show that on April 16, 2016 France backed this despicable historical and factual revisionism in a body dedicated to the global preservation of the integrity of culture and history.
This is not only a significant blot on France’s honour and reputation, but a strong argument against France being able to play any productive role in fostering Middle East peace in the short to medium term.