France-Israel. Lobby or Not Lobby?

Is Israel winning the battle of influence in France? It is easy to believe it is. Before the pandemic, our elected officials flocked to Jerusalem, paying tribute to “the only democracy in the Middle East” before taking a tour of the colonies. Corporate leaders waxed enthusiastic over the hi-tech prospects, most of them developed for the army. Artists, intellectuals and journalists poured in for discovery trips, festivals, conferences and productions of TV series.

All seemed convinced that the defence of Israel has become essential in a world under dire threat.

Bur French public opinion remains sceptical and a majority continues to show sympathy for the Palestinians’ cause. Is this the sign of a partial failure of the many circles of influence favourable to Israel? How to describe the achievements, the setbacks and the disappointments of a discreet lobby involving so many different actors that many of us wonder about its form and indeed about its very existence? From hi-tech trade fairs to working-class suburbs, from trendy soirées to top secret partnerships, from the National Assembly to the Paris City Council, the lobby seems to have the wind in its sails. It is the way it works, its tools, its relays that Orient XXI intends to reveal in this series of articles.

In Paris, there is no army of appointed lobbyists as in Washington, DC: the friends of Israel are a variety of personalities, on the right, on the left, in the “centre,” who operate by skilfully manipulating the subterfuges of the artificial debate over anti-Semitism versus anti-Zionism, in an effort to disqualify those people, little heeded but far from silent, who refuse to support the policies of the ruling right in Israel.