French court bans Israeli defence firms from attending arms fair

The Eurosatory international defence and security trade fair begins on 17 June in northern Paris [GETTY]

Israel has been banned from an international security and defence exhibition in France after a court ruled that all Israeli companies and delegations must be excluded, following a case brought by rights groups in the wake of its brutal assault on Gaza.

A French district court ruled on Saturday that Israeli arms companies, affiliates and delegations are barred from Eurostatory 2024 in Paris, after legal action was sought against the organiser of the arms fair to prevent Israeli companies from attending as the Israeli military is facing accusations of war crimes.

The biannual trade show is running from 17 to 21 June in Paris and will see the world’s top defence and security companies showcase latest developments and hold conferences for some 62,000 visitors.

In May, a coalition of rights NGOs and civil society groups, led by Palestinian human rights NGO Al-Haq, had brought a case successfully against COGES, the organiser of Eurostatory 2024, for Israeli arms companies to be banned from the show.

In a win for the movement, the French defence ministry last month barred the stand for the Israeli defence industry at the fair, saying that the “the conditions are no longer right to host Israeli companies at the Paris show, given that the French president is calling for the cessation of IDF operation in Rafah.”

But Al-Haq said the order did not go far enough to prevent the companies’ presenting through subsidiaries, and Israeli businesspeople were still able to attend.

In a statement on Saturday, Al-Haq said: “There was therefore still a high risk that the exhibition would contribute to international crimes, and violations of international humanitarian law, the compliance with which was nevertheless required under COGES’ general terms and conditions of sale and French criminal law.”

France’s Bobigny district court ruled in favour of Al-Haq’s case and ordered a ban on all Israeli delegations, intermediaries and companies at the June show, the group said on Saturday.

“They also ordered the decision to be posted at all entrances to the show,” the statement added.

Al-Haq described the court’s decision as an “important precedent”, which holds private firms accountable to the law and prevents “any risk of contributing in any way to serious international crimes regardless of the measures taken by the executive.”

As many as 74 Israeli firms were due to take part in the event, which will see attendees from 150 countries, according to the Times of Israel.

Israel’s defence industry is one of the key components of its economy. Its military exports rose to a record $13 billion in 2023, up half a billion from the previous year, according to government data.

It manufactures missiles, rockets, air defence systems, electronic warfare aerospace and drone systems.

Israel has historically invested in the manufacturing and development of weapons that have played a major role in contributing to its own military. Continuous wars have led to a high need for domestic production, though in more recent decades Israel has established factories in the UK.

Israel’s eight-month long war in Gaza has seen the military drop an unprecedented number of bombs into the dense territory. It has flattened towns and cities and decimated agricultural areas, with humanitarians describing it as an ‘ecocide’. The UN recently estimated that at least 60 percent of homes have been destroyed.

One human rights NGO, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, estimated that Israel has dropped more than 70,000 tons of explosives since October, surpassing the World War II aerial bombing campaigns of Dresden, Hamburg, and London.

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