Consulate General of France in Jerusalem
History and Missions
From the beginning, the action of France in the Levant closely mixes religious and political considerations. When, in 1535, Francis I concluded the first alliance ever signed between a very Christian King and a Muslim monarch, he took his rivals around Emperor Charles V in reverse, but he shocked the Christians. To redeem himself, he gets from Soliman the Magnificent the right to protect the Christians of the Holy Land. By the treaty of 1536 and the following, called Capitulations, it can maintain churches, appoint consuls in all the cities of the Ottoman Empire, guarantee the commercial, civil and religious freedom of subjects. As and when they are renewed, the Capitulations extend the protectorate of France to all the Christians of the Roman Empire.
In Jerusalem, France defends the rights of the Latins in charge of the Holy Places. Following an incident between Franciscans and Armenians at the Cave of the Nativity of Bethlehem, King Louis XIII, called to restore the threatened right of the Latins, decides to appoint a French consul in Jerusalem "for the glory of God and the relief of the devout people who go by devotion to visit the Holy Places ". This first consul, the Sieur Jean Lempereur, must face, from his arrival in 1623, to the combined hostility of his protégés, local authorities and foreign powers, in this case the Venetians. His task and that of his successors is so difficult that the French consular presence in Jerusalem remains episodic until 1843 when it becomes continuous.
At this time, the weakening of the Ottoman Empire exacerbated the competition between the great nations for the sharing of his remains. The regime of capitulations allows the Christian powers to extend their protection to an ever larger population. Each consul counts his proteges and the representative of France must redouble his vigilance to enforce the rights and privileges conferred on him by his diplomatic anteriority. The religious rivalry around the Holy Places is so acute that a simple quarrel of monks over the disappearance of the star of the Nativity cave is one of the causes of the Crimean War of 1853, where the Russia, protector of the Orthodox, and France, protector of the Latins.
To increase its influence, the French Consul draws on the powerful French Catholic missionary movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, encouraged by successive governments, including the most anticlerical. Many French religious congregations come to open houses in Jerusalem and around the Holy Places. The agreements of Mytilene (1901) and Constantinople (1913), which entrusted France with the diplomatic protection of a certain number of religious establishments, numbered nearly 130. That they devoted themselves to the care, teaching, and collection of orphans. , to study biblical history or to pray, these communities strengthen the French presence in the region before the First World War.
In addition, because of the French colonization in North Africa and black Africa, the Consulate extends its protection to many Muslim or Jewish nationals from these countries, who settled in the Holy City. The opening of the first schools of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Palestine from 1880, protected and subsidized by the Republic, contributes to the cultural influence of France in the Jewish population.
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918, the Consulate General in Jerusalem emancipated from the French Embassy in Constantinople, which he had previously reported. Although the British Mandate, established in 1922, suspends its protectorate over the Christians of Palestine, the Consulate General maintains an important area of influence. It continues its cultural action through religious congregations, schools of the Alliance, its cultural centers and subsidizes the French department of the brand new Hebrew University. Its new autonomy gives it, alongside its consular tasks, an increased diplomatic role within a Middle East in the midst of recomposition. It is in this context that starts, in 1929,
The partition of Palestine in 1947 profoundly changed the constituency of the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem. The territorial definition considered takes up the special status reserved for the city by the partition plan of 1948. Even if this plan, which places the city (increased from Bethlehem) under the authority of the UN, has never been applied, it remains the source of international law pending a comprehensive settlement. As a result, the constituency of the Consulate General includes Jerusalem and the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 (West Bank, Gaza Strip). This territorial jurisdiction gives it a special position, which it shares with the other consulates general in Jerusalem, which report directly to their capitals.
Dans le cadre de sa circonscription, le Consul général continue à assumer un rôle de protection des communautés religieuses dans la ligne des accords signés avec les Ottomans, toujours en vigueur par le jeu de la succession d’États. A cette proposition diplomatique s’ajoutent des subventions, la mise à disposition de coopérants et, dans le cas des domaines nationaux, la prise en charge de l’entretien et du gardiennage. En échange, le Consul jouit, au nom de la République, des honneurs liturgiques, comme en témoignent la cérémonie de son entrée au Saint-Sépulcre qui rappelle la protection française sur les Lieux saints, les messes consulaires, ou encore sa présence en uniforme aux célébrations de Noël et de Pâques, aux côtés des autres consuls des pays catholiques. Si ce rôle religieux assumé par le Consul général devient moins central, il demeure utile non seulement eu égard à la tradition mais aussi au maintien d’équilibres communautaires délicats et à l’avenir toujours incertain des Chrétiens dans la région.
Its consular task itself is addressed to a French-speaking majority French-Israeli community and, as in the past, to the many French tourists and pilgrims passing through as well as to representatives of French religious congregations, to which were added members of non-governmental organizations present in his constituency. This work is carried out in accordance with United Nations resolutions under which diplomatic contacts with the State of Israel are the exclusive domain of the French Embassy in Tel Aviv.
The autonomy of the Consulate General also has the effect of giving it an unusual role of political representation with the Palestinian authorities. Even before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the Consulate General conducted a major cooperation policy in the Occupied Territories in the medical, humanitarian, educational, cultural, economic and financial fields. The establishment of a Palestinian administration has strengthened this cooperation by redirecting it towards more formal channels. From now on, the cultural service of the Consulate General manages a large cooperation budget while the French Development Agency and the sales department implement the financial mechanisms of French aid. Finally,
The Consul General in Jerusalem thus combines religious, consular and political functions. This alliance faithfully reflects the specificity of a city which, since its founding, has always closely linked the spiritual and the temporal. It is to be expected that the future of the region will not escape this double religious and political dimension in which France keeps assets and major interestsSee more