October 14, 2012 -- Paris -- AJC is stunned by the decision of the International Organization of the Francophonie (IOF) to admit Qatar as an associate member. Although only one percent of Qatar’s population is French-speaking, the country joined the IOF as a member state without even first becoming an “observer state,” a customary step in the membership process.
“What were the conditions that led to Qatar’s admission to the IOF as an associate member is a serious question for the international organization to answer,” said Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of AJC’s Paris office.
IOF members share a common bond based on use of the French language. The global organization has 57 member states, 3 associate members and 19 observers. Although 20 percent of Israel’s population speaks French, the IOF has long refused to admit the Jewish state as a member.
"Qatar's admission to the IOF is yet another sad example of international organizations practicing double standards when it comes to Israel," said Rodan-Benzaquen. "The Francophonie’s refusal to admit Israel demonstrates the organization's intolerance as it continues to ignore the existence of a million Israelis using French.”
During the IOF’s early years, in the 1960s and 1970s, Israel expressed interest in the Francophonie project and participated as an observer state at the informal intergovernmental conferences in 1969 and 1970. However, Israel was subsequently barred from participating after African IOF members objected.
In the early 1990s Israel tried to join the Francophonie. That effort was supported by France, but Lebanon opposed admitting Israel to the IOF.