The hypocrisy behind France's shunning of the inauguration ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

[Originally published under the headline "France's Hypocrisy on Israel, the U.S. and International Law"]

France shunned the inauguration ceremony of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. So did most other European Union countries, with the remarkable exception of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

The Czechs, the Hungarians and the Romanians went so far as to block, on May 11, a newly drafted EU statement reiterating the Union’s condemnation of the American embassy transfer.
The French and mainstream European stand runs against plain logic.


They opine that such a transfer is still a violation of  "international law," inasmuch as it departs from an aggregative corpus of United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. In particular, Paris and Brussels point to Security Council Resolution 470, passed on August 20, 1980, which condemned the enactment by Israel’s parliament of a constitutionally binding law enshrining Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and called on the governments that had already established embassies in that city to withdraw them. Resolution 470 was largely based on the previous Security Council’s Resolution 252 of May 21, 1968, which in turn was based on the General Assembly’s Resolution 303 (IV) of December 9, 1949.


Yet there is a definite argument against the French and European reliance on UN resolutions on Jerusalem: the fact that France superbly ignored other UN resolutions directed at her.

The case story is Mayotte, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean halfway between Mozambique and Madagascar. In geographical, anthropological and cultural terms, it belongs to the volcanic Comoros Archipelago, which was settled in turn by Polynesian, Melanesian, Malay, African, Arab, Persian and South Asian sailors, traders and slaves, and converted to Islam in the 16th century. A French dependency from 1841 on, the Comoros were granted independence in the early 1970s as a single Islamic Republic.


Mayotte, however, unanimously insisted in two successive referenda, in 1974 and 1976, to stay French. Paris grudgingly acquiesced, at least as a temporary solution. Finally, a third referendum, in 2009, confirmed the local population’s wishes: in 2011, Mayotte was reorganized as the 101st full-fledged French département, or county. In spite of the distance, it is as French as Hawaii and Alaska are American. By the same token, it was recognized in 2014 as an integral part of the European Union.

The Republic of the Comoros rejected Mayotte’s "secession" and its "continuing occupation" by France. This was a consistent move within the context of the "decolonization process," as defined by General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of December 14, 1960, and by General Assembly Resolution 2621 (XXV) of October 12, 1970.

The issue was deferred to the Security Council, which overwhelmingly voted on February 6, 1976, for Mayotte to be "returned" to the Comoros, by 11 votes against 3 abstentions (the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy). For the first time ever, the French resorted to their veto powers as a Security Council Permanent Member -- and blocked the draft.

However, France could not prevent the General Assembly from passing a similarly worded resolution a few days later, nor from voting again every year until 1995 on the "Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte."

While no further resolution has been voted since 1996 (after all, France is very big, and the Comoros are very small), the previous resolutions are still in force -- as the Comoros have not failed to recall to this very day.
Admittedly, there might be more to be said for the continuation of French rule in Mayotte than for the implementation of "decolonization" there. And the French may be right, in many ways, to ignore the United Nations resolutions pertaining to this Indian Ocean island.

However, what the French cannot possibly do is scold Israel -- or the United States -- for not abiding by absurd United Nations resolutions while acting exactly like Israel or the United States when it comes to Mayotte.
In other words, they cannot found their foreign policies on double standards. Nor can the European Union.

Michel Gurfinkiel is a Ginsburg-Ingerman fellow at the Middle East Forum