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January 06, 2003
INSTAPUNDIT'S PARIS CORRESPONDENT NELSON ASCHER HAS SOME INTERESTING BOYCOTT-RELATED NEWS:
I was driving home at close to 6 PM from the Rue Des Ecoles to the Island of St Louis, when I was caught in a traffic jam due basically to police cars and vans and lots of policemen running around in riot gear. There had just been a protest in front of the nearby campus of Sorbonne 6, where immediately before Christmas, with half of its 60 or so counsellors absent, a resolution was voted that, in short, called for the EU to boycott Israeli academic institutions.It seems that though this protest wasn't violent (I couldn't reach it) there was another, somewhat angrier, taking place near it, organized by the Palestinians and their friends. All I know, is that half an hour later I went to the neighbourhood's pharmacy and there I found two young Arabs, a short one and a tall one, the second with a bleeding brow being taken care of by the pharmacist: if I understood him correctly, he was obviously "just passing by", though when he said this the pharmacist seemed to be kind of smiling...
It is important to note the conditions in which that Sorbonne resolution was voted, once it was the kind of administrative coup that people unsure of their backing use to perpetrate. A small but growing group of intellectuals, not all of them Jewish, began, as soon as they found it out, to articulate a reaction, and one of the first public results has been precisely today's protest. What's interesting however is that they (those against the boycott) managed to reach high ranking people in the government and their position was quickly endorsed by them. It seems those in the government were privately furious at what the guys in the Sorbonne had done, considering it moronic (une connerie). Their indignation is easy to understand: France wants to play a major role in world politics and, for the time being, its main arm is its diplomacy. In order to have any influence in the Middle East it has to prove it is an honest broker, a friend that understands both sides, have open channels with them and so on. If they accuse the US of not being sufficiently balanced, of taking sides, and then their universities (which, unlike the American ones, are under control of their strongly centralized government) begin boycotting Israel, then all pretense at neutrality vanishes, and instead of being a judge, France becomes a party to the conflict and, actually, the Arabs' hostage. It is no surprise, thus, that exactly today Le Monde published an editorial against the boycott. After seeing what Israel has just done to Tony Blair, they know they're not dealing with amateurs.
What did Sharon do to Blair? Well, he wouldn't receive Netanyahu, because he's just a Foreign Minister, but would be receiving Avraham Mitzna, the Labour candidate? Isn't he witholding spare parts for the Israeli airplanes? Well, then Blair can bid the conference he was preparing about the Middle East goodbye, because unfortunately the Palestinian participants won't be able to attend.
Blackmail can be a two-way street, right? What's really interesting, however, is that both in the US and in Europe the big story is not that there have been people trying to boycott Israel, but how this is simply not working and how strong, immediate and principled have usually been the reactions to it. As far as I can tell, everywhere, even in the UK, for every person who's backing the boycott there's a silent majority ten times larger that's against it. Now, that's amazing and should be front page news.
Yes, it should be. And it is, here at InstaPundit! Oh, and "Paris Correspondent?" Well, he's in Paris, and he corresponds. . . .
UPDATE: Claire Berlinski emails, "I thought I was your Paris correspondent, Glenn!"
It's a big bureau over there.