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From the “refugees’ problem” to the recognition of a “Palestinian people”. French policy toward the Palestinian issue from 1967 to 1974.

Open Panel

Abstract

This contribution aims to understanding the evolution of French policy toward Palestinians from 1967 to 1974. We try to grasp the different factors which interact during this period in policy change. We examine the controversies about the meaning of this public problem. We show how France reconsidered its policy in the Middle-East during the crisis of May-June 1967 by underlining the refugees’ problem in order to legitimize its neutral attitude toward the belligerent states. This attitude and the condemnation of the Israeli assault gave rise to controversies in the arenas of public debate. A coalition of eminent actors from different parts of the political field gave public support for Israel. Scholars, journalists and political actors were therefore incited to prop up the Arab point of view and advocate the Palestinian issue. They united by publishing an appeal in the press, by providing an historian expertise and by founding an interest group. These controversies concerned a conflict of interpretation about the meaning of the refugees’ problem. Some argued that they are “voluntary refugees” which fled at the appeal of the Arab armies. Others considered in contrary that the Palestinian refugees were expelled during the conflict of 1947. The result of these divergent views makes it difficult to attribute a political responsibility to resolve this complex problem. The permanency of violence in the Middle-East and the extension of the conflict in Europe, the rise of a Palestinian nationalism supported by a coalition of “non aligned” States in the United Nations’ Organization, led France to recognize the existence of a Palestinian people at the end of 1970 and to accredit the PLO four years later. France played a major role in the making of a common European position on this issue. We take into account the activity of defining and formulating a public problem by analyzing foreign policy statements, parliamentary debates and public declarations in the media. We refer these discourses to the context of their enunciation, to the social characteristics of the speakers and to their relative position within their field of activity. This intervention is part of a political science thesis conducted under the direction of Annie Collovald, and entitled “Social-history of the Palestinian problem in France, from 1964 to 2008”.