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French press review 13 August 2015

Text by: William Niba
7 min

The celebration of Tel-Aviv on the River Seine ignites angry debate about human rights abuses in Israel and international sanctions, and world players are on their marks as Russia re-launches a scramble for the Arctic.


Le Figaro reports that Moscow has tabled a petition at the United Nations demanding the recognition of its sovereignty over the 1.2m-square-kilometre territory containing huge reserves of hydrocarbons and minerals.

According to the right-wing publication, the claims are bound to fuel new rivalries and tensions with Denmark, Canada, the Unites States and Norway, countries with vested interests in the virgin territory of multiple treasures.

However Le Figaro observes that "tsar" Vladimir Putin, who is notorious for the high-handed land grabs, opted for a soft and legitimate approach. The publication recalls that he has extended his empire from the southern flanks of Georgia to Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia where the demarcation line has surreptitiously been shifted at the expense of Tbilisi, allowing him to confiscate a strategic pipeline.

This is on top of his annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea and the Donbas and the stirring up of separatist sentiments in Moldavia and Transnistria, where he is combining economic pressure and military intervention to destabilise sovereign states.

Libération takes up the uproar over the decision by Paris to dedicate one day on the makeshift beach known as Paris Plage this summer to the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. The event known as Tel-Aviv sur Seine is the very first organised by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo since she decided this year to devote each day on Paris Plage to a famous beach around the world.

While the Israeli government should be pleasantly surprised by the bit of PR that Paris is serving up on a plate, pro-Palestinian groups are furious, warning that it sends a very bad message of support for Israel’s policies, notably its colonisation of Palestinian territories.

Left-wing Paris Councillor Danielle Simonnet says it was immoral to go ahead with such an event in a public space, adding that it was "not about religion but about international law, human rights and human dignity." Simmonet, who heads the Euro-Palestine group CAPJPO, wants the event to be cancelled or reorganised into "a peace protest, in support of fraternity, the fight against all forms of racism and anti-Semitism, and to back recognition of the Palestinian state."

Paris needs to do a lot in appeasing Israel after a perceived impression of rising anti-Semitism in Paris, in the wake of the violence in the suburban city of Sarcelle.

But as Libération points out the Tel-Aviv sur Seine event has instead ended up becoming quicksand in Paris. For the left-leaning newspaper, it has transformed into a political controversy and rekindled the debate on the boycott of Israel and how to fight against Israel’s policy of colonisation.

A top official in the mayor's office sought to downplay the uproar, saying people should distinguish between "the brutal politics of the Israeli government and Tel Aviv, a progressive city".

Libé believes Israel has serious reasons to be irritated by the growing campaign for economic sanctions against the Jewish state. It observes that the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions Initiative launched by Palestinian civil society has taken to an international scale costing the local Israeli economy 2.3 billion euros and 10,000 jobs every year.

The left-leaning publication also reports that in July the Council of European Union foreign ministers submitted a report calling for a boycott of banks with offices in the occupied territories.

This is added to a petition by rights activists in London calling for the arrest and indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu when he pays an official visit to the United Kingdom next month. It has garnered 30,000 signatures within days and the numbers to grow further as the date of the visit closes in, according to Libé.

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