Sunday, September 03, 2006

The chic of Israel Bashing

Bar Refa'eli makes French writer hot

Two days ago, I found myself in dire need of some divertissement on my long trans-Atlantic flight from Tel Aviv to Montreal via Paris. The first few hours of my flight went quite well. I passed the time enjoying my Air France dinner, watching another ridiculous movie ("Nacho Libre") and reading a stack of newspapers. Tired of Le Figaro and the Herald Tribune, I got up and went to the magazine stack where I picked up a copy of the weekly Le Point. Gracing the first page was a picture of none other than the somewhat controversial Israeli super-model, Bar Refa'eli. The piece accompanying the picture was a fluffy article by Patrick Besson about his summer vacation in Serbia. In addition to several patronizing and mocking remarks about Serbia’s transition to democracy, most of the one-page piece was devoted to an oh-so supercilious "analysis" of the Serbian "press", the focus being on the local version of Elle magazine. Refa’eli figured into the story because she happens to have been on the front cover of the magazine’s August edition and because her first name drew Besson’s attention. In a rather lame bit of French humour, Besson, who is exalted as a star of French satire on a French foreign ministry web site, writes that he could not help but be attracted by a woman whose first name is "Bar" (haha).

Besson, who turns out to be a real connoisseur of women’s magazines (perhaps he should write for Elle, rather than a news magazine that competes with L’Express), devotes an entire paragraph to Refa'eli. I personally don’t care much for Refa'eli, her Victoria’s Secret commercials or her acting. What caught my attention was the way in which Besson used Ref'aeli in his story as a cover for some hard core Israel bashing. Talking about Refa'eli’s newest project, Besson writes:
”Elle [Refa'eli] tourne son premier film en Afrique du Sud où il n'y a plus d’apartheid, ce qui risqué de la surprendre car dans son pays il y en a encore un.”

She is shooting her first film in South Africa where there is no longer any apartheid, something that might surprise her given that it still exists in her country
I don’t want to get into the injustice of the apartheid lie. Anyone who thinks that accusing Israel of being an apartheid state is a legitimate critique can look up my earlier post on the subject or look up a piece published in the Guardian last year by former South African anti-apartheid activist Benjamin Pogrund. What disgusts me in Besson's writing is the glibness with which he bashes Israel. For him, it's another colourful comment for his "pastiche". Besson feels no need to reflect about his words, because for him, bashing Israel is as banal and chic as putting down a super-model. To me, this article is another indication of Israel’s dire position. The apartheid myth is an attack on Israel's legitimacy and its use by Besson in a mainstream news magazine attests to the fact that it resonates with the French public. What makes the whole thing rather ominous is that I can think of very few other countries that would be so readily demonized by people like Besson, other than the United States. To many Europeans, Israel is already a pariah state. How much longer will it take until the first European governments begin to openly support a boycott of Israel?


Amos said...

Banality and glibness are exactly right. I have been amazed time and again at the ease with which many UC Berkeley faculty members and graduate students, from astronomy to sociology, deny any legimacy at all to a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Diana said...

"How much longer will it take until the first European governments begin to openly support a boycott of Israel?"

I don't know but I do know that a French politician actually called for Israel to be attacked.