When the U.S. Tried to Keep Vichy France in Its Backyard

While France gave up most of its once-expansive North American holdings in the 18th and 19th centuries, it has retained two small islands off the coast of Newfoundland, not very far from Maine. These islands were the subject of a bizarre and troubling episode in World War II history, which took place shortly after the U.S. declared war on Germany. Rafael Medoff writes:

On December 24, 1941, the Free French—the government-in-exile headed by General Charles de Gaulle—sent a naval force that ousted the islands’ Vichyite rulers. A plebiscite held the following day found 98-percent of the islands’ inhabitants supported the overthrow of the Vichyites. Rather than celebrate this small but symbolic victory over Axis occupiers in the Western hemisphere, the Roosevelt administration denounced De Gaulle’s “arbitrary” action and tried to convince the Canadian government to restore St. Pierre and Miquelon to Vichy’s control.

The “nasty little incident,” as Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle called it in his memoirs, threatened to upset the administration’s policy of tolerating Vichy rule over French colonies. Washington hoped its policy would persuade the Vichy to be less pro-Nazi. Like other attempts at appeasing dictators, it did not turn out as hoped.

Vichy officials praised the Roosevelt administration’s stance on the islands as “a severe lesson to the dissidents.” . . . After months of floating rumors that the Free French would agree to leave St. Pierre and Miquelon, the Roosevelt administration finally dropped the issue, when it became clear that neither De Gaulle nor the inhabitants of the islands were willing to surrender to Vichy.

Washington’s policy of appeasing Vichy, however, continued. After the Allies liberated North Africa from the Nazis in November 1942, President Roosevelt agreed to leave the Vichyite Admiral Francois Darlan in power.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Vichy France, World War II

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security