As a charter member of the European community, officially France espouses the “standard” political positions the European Union has adopted on the Mideast conflict: The need for a two-state solution, an end to Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria, a halt to all terrorism by Palestinian Authority Arabs, and a boycott of PA terror groups like Hamas. In addition, France has sided with Israel on several important issues, such as demanding that Iran's nuclear weapons program be halted, at all costs.
However, according to NGO Monitor, the French government also funds many groups whose stances contradict its own tenets – radical leftist groups that actively demonize Israel, spreading incitement against Israelis and even advocating terror attacks.
In one case, a French court ruled against an NGO that sued French companies that were working on the Jerusalem Light Rail, claiming that the companies were violating French and international law by “abetting the occupation.” The court ruled against the Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) – which had funded the lawsuit with money it received from none other than the French government.
Several French NGOs, including AFPS, CFD-Terre Solidaire, Secours Catholique, and others receive millions of dollars from the French government, which they distribute to groups in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Nearly all these groups are radically anti-Israel, advocating a complete withdrawal of Israel from all of Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem, the full repatriation of descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948, reparations to the PA for “six decades of suffering,” and so on. The influence of anti-Israel groups on the French government has been substantial, judging from the actions of French officials in Israel in recent months.
One group receiving substantial funding, for example, was the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), which received $334,859 in 2011-2012. This group is supposed to assist farmers and villagers in rural parts of PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, but according to its founders, PARC's “mission” goes much farther.
“The occupation continues its aggression, settlement policies, building of the Apartheid Wall, the Judaization of Jerusalem, the siege and restriction of the entire Palestinian people movements on the checkpoints that aim to penetrate and disrupt the unity of collective, national and liberal consciences.” PARC, the group says about itself, will do what it can to prevent these Israeli “war crimes.”
An Israeli group that received over NIS 250,000 in funding in 2011, Zochrot, has as its mission “raising public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba,” referring to the establishment of Israel as a state in 1948, which is popularly referred to in the Arab world as the "nakba", meaning "disaster".
Zochrot advocates a full return of the descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 to their original homes - effectively putting an end to Israel's Jewish majority - along, of course, with the establishment of a "Palestinian state" in all of Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem.
To achieve that, Zochrot publishes books and papers about the Arab villages which were largely abandoned when Arabs fled what would become Israel, mostly at the urging of Arab armies who asked them to “clear a path” to allow the armies of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, and four other Arab countries a free hand in their planned wholesale massacre of the 600,000 Jews in the Land of Israel.
“The memory and responsibility that the Jewish public should take on the Palestinian Nakba are basic conditions to peace between people, but it is not enough. Along with it, the rights of the refugees to return must be accepted,” Zochrot says, adding that Israel has been guilty of “ethnic cleansing” and the “forcible displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people.”
Another radical leftist Israeli group, Hamoked, received nearly 130,000 euros in French assistance between 2010 and 2012. The group's mission, it says, is to record “Israeli human rights violations.” During the 2011 Operation Pillar of Defense, which was preceded by the firing of thousands of rockets by Gaza Arab terrorists at southern Israel, the group accused Israel of “war crimes” for its response to what it called “sporadic” Hamas rocket fire at Israel. Israel, it said, used “phosphorous and cluster bombs” against Gaza civilians (a charge that many radical leftists have made, but have never proven).
In an ironic court case, AFPS joined with the PLO several years ago in suing French companies Alstom, Alstom Transport, and Veolia Transport over their involvement in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail. The suit also named the government as liable for giving the companies permission to work on the project. The rail line, which serves all Jerusalem residents, traverses the entire city, including areas of Jerusalem liberated in the 1967 Six Day War, and the groups accused the French companies of abetting Israel's “war crimes” and “occupation,” in violation of international law.
In its decision last March, the court decided that the construction of a transportation infrastructure even in “occupied territory” was not illegal, and that AFPS was not an authority to be taken into consideration when determining the legality of a contract. The issue of the French government's funding a group to sue it did not come up in the trial.
NGO Watch's investigation comes less than two months after a French diplomat physically assaulted an IDF soldier during an anti-Israel demonstration she was taking part in. That incident resulted in the diplomat's expulsion, and raised questions over the role played by EU countries in stoking, rather than solving, the Arab-Israeli conflict.