President Emmanuel Macron was given a little taste of what it’s like to be a Palestinian living under Israel’s illegal occupation during a heated row yesterday with an Israeli guard blocking his entry to a medieval church owned by France in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The fiery altercation between Macron and the Israeli guard took place at the entrance of the Church of St. Anne. It was gifted to the French in 1856 by Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I for its help in the Crimean war.
While the grounds of the Catholic Church are still considered French territory, Israel’s exclusive claim to Jerusalem and Palestine as a whole, as the indigenous community have discovered at great cost, traduces any sense of international norm and justice.
“Please respect the rules. They [have been in place] for centuries. They will not change with me,” Macron snapped at the Israeli guard obstructing his entry to what is effectively France.
Visibly angry, Macron directed his frustration at the Israeli guard saying: “I don’t like what you did in front of me.” He again insisted that norms be respected. “Go out. Outside!” ordered Macron “I’m sorry, but we know the rules. Nobody has to provoke! Nobody!”
Macron’s team was forced to clarify the status of the Church of St. Anne by insisting that it is the property of the French government. Anne is already managed by France, the Élysée said. “It is the role of France in this city to protect this place,” the spokeswoman added. “The Israeli security forces wanted to enter it while security was assured by French security forces.”
A spokesman for Israel’s Internal Security Agency (ISA) attempted to dismiss the standoff outside the church as a “discussion”. He also claimed that Macron apologised to Israeli security officers. The Élysée did not confirm this.
Yesterday’s fiery encounter was almost a perfect re-enactment of France’s then-President Jacques Chirac’s visit to the same church in October 1996. Like Macron, Chirac was given a little taste of Israel’s claim to every inch of Jerusalem; a position which many say can only be supported by a fundamentalist biblical assertion while dismissing thousands of years of history.
Refusing to enter the church until all gun-wielding Israeli soldiers exited the building, Chirac said: “I don’t want people with arms in France.” He appeared to mock the Israeli soldier with a dramatic wave of the hands to signify that he was standing on French territory.
Chirac was also heard saying to the Israelis: “What do you want? Me to go back to my plane and go back to France? Is that what you want?”
“This is not a method,” he said. “This is provocation.”