A “Blessing” in Disguise

France has banned  Israeli defense companies from participating  in a huge military expo later this month near Paris called (incongruously, since satori is Japanese for “enlightenment”)  Eurosatory.

It’s kind of obscene  that such events are even permitted. I can understand the need for a book fair. Certainly a toy show. And where would the world be without  fashion expos giving  retailers a heads up on  what shmates they  need to order for  the coming year? But some  indoor mega mall for 1,994 weapons retailers to promote  impulse buying of weapons  to kill millions of people? Seventy-five of these vendors are from Norway, Spain and Ireland that, in order to promote peace, they claim,  “recognized” a Palestinian state. ( Believe me I was as surprised as you  to learn that Ireland  exports anything other than whiskey, beer and the most capable among its own population.)

There should be some kind of law against these  arms bazaars. Where is the U.N. when we need it? Maybe the U.N. General Assembly  could take an afternoon off from rote learning  anti-Israel resolutions to  actually  do something in aid of world peace for the first time since 1956.

In the wake of this ban Israeli defence firms and indeed the Israeli Ministry of Defence are no doubt wringing their hands and wailing woe is us. But I think back to January 6,1969 when Charles De Gaulle, shamelessly prostituting both himself and France to Arab oil, announced a total embargo on sales of arms to Israel, including even spare parts for Mirage aircraft, then  the backbone of Israel’s air force. The pilots of these planes  won the Six Day War in the first half hour.

Israel didn’t  just switch to U.S. planes  but, thanks to De Gaulle, it understood the need to become self sufficient, expanded its tiny arms industry  and  in 2023 Israeli arms firms exported $12.5 billion U.S. in arms. Everybody now buys arms from Israel. China buys from Israel. NATO countries including  France, whose  presidential jet is protected by a built in Elbit anti-missile system, do. Elbit, Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries, the three largest Israeli defence companies, should have giant plaques in their lobbies recognizing De Gaulle  as their  founding father.

So how should Israel react?  Obviously it should set up its own obscene arms bazaar to take place in Israel every two years  during the week before Eurosatory and invite everyone. Let Israel become self sufficient in defence trade shows as well as defence production.

Indeed, one might reasonably ask what business France even has holding a weapons fair since its  military history is simply pathetic.

The last time the French army won a battle all on its own-that is without the U.S. Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Jamaica coming  to its rescue  to liberate all of France in World War II and its north east in World War I from four years of German occupation- was May 28, 1871.

In that battle it fought, not by an army but  its own unarmed or barely armed citizens who had taken control of Paris on March 18 by driving out not only the army but the entire  French government. They declared the Paris Commune which seceded from the rest of France. Even though the French army was fighting civilians it took it a week starting May 21 to defeat them and not because it was trying to avoid civilian casualties. Indeed the week is known as the infamous  semaine sanglante. The French army killed-murdered might be a more apt term- between ten and twenty thousand of its own citizens.

Quel courage!

The fact is that the  French army,  unaided by the entire English speaking world or  battling other than its own civilians, last won a battle on June 16, 1815!!! That was when Napoleon defeated the Prussian army at the Battle of Ligny,  only to be himself defeated  two days later by the Prussians and British at the Battle of Waterloo.

It has lost every time between then and now. It collapsed completely and quickly in the1870-71 Franco-Prussian War. The Prussians laid siege to Paris reducing its population to eating dogs, cats , mice and zoo animals. France  only ended it by agreeing to pay 5 billion francs in reparations and ceding Alsace-Lorraine.

In 1894 it accused  an innocent Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus, of selling military secrets to Germany. During  his court martial, Commandant du Paty de Clam secretly handed a sealed envelope containing documents the army had forged to the President of the Court, Colonel Maurel who did not mention this to Dreyfus or his lawyer. Dreyfus was sentenced to deportation for life to a penal colony where the army hoped he would soon die of malaria.


In World War I Germany quickly overran north eastern France and stayed there until 1918. In World War II France immediately  surrendered and  was occupied. Its despicable collaboration with Germany  included  deporting  to death camps, on state owned SNCF trains,  all the Jews (76,000) it could identify and round up.

On  May 7, 1954  its leitmotif of  surrender continued, this time  to the Viet Minh (Vietnamese Communists) at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, thus ending its colonization  of Indochina.

So where does  a country that has so humiliated itself in war get off  hosting an odious  arms trade show in the first place? An exposition  showcasing  artisanal cheeses  perhaps. Certainly one for perfumed soaps. Or an international symposium of professors discussing the  latest nutty philosophical concept that only ten people in the world care to understand.

But one having to do even remotely  with war? That rightly belongs  in a country that will stand and fight.



About the Author
Murray Teitel works in Toronto as a barrister and writes art criticism and other journalism on a freelance basis.
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