Foreign Affairs, Europe, Travel, Espionage, Fiction, Non-Fiction, In the News
On returning to France after spending almost a decade in Turkey (and not long before the terrorist attacks of January), I discovered that the French—Parisians, in particular—have become surprisingly polite.
I now find myself living in a city in which the following things happen. A kindly Parisienne not only notices that I am mildly lost, but offers to help and insists upon walking with me, well out of her way, to be sure that I am on the right path. A Darty washing machine arrives on my doorstep, exactly on time, presented by deliverymen who seem to live for the privilege of service; without so much as a grumble, they whisk away my old and broken one, too, even though I live on the fourth floor of a building with no elevator. In leaving, they express gratitude with the words, “It is thanks to you, Madame, that we work, which we so much appreciate.” Granted, the waiter at my local café knows me, but usually someone so solicitous of my well-being, so radiantly affable, charges a hundred bucks an hour and proposes to talk about my childhood, not sell me a cup of coffee every now and again.
This post begins and ends with an apology for being guilty of what’s driving me nuts. The other day I wrote what turned out to be a very widely-circulated post in response to a headline I saw on the Drudge Report: “Every Jew I Know Has Left Paris,” which linked to a Daily Mail article attributing the quote to Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle. Now, who should have known better than to trust a sensational headline? Who should have thought, “Drudge and The Daily Mail may not have quoted Mr. Pollard properly? Perhaps I should check to be sure?”
Yep, that would be me.
The American Interest
Is it right that Paris gets a mass rally while Boko Haram’s slaughter of thousands in Nigeria merits hardly a shrug? No. But it’s the response Paris and Nigeria both deserve. This is what civilization looks like.
This morning high mass was celebrated at Notre Dame, an obvious terrorist target. There was no visible security around the cathedral at all.
Today was one of those cold and beautiful winter days in Paris that calls to mind a 19th Century painting by Caillebotte. The police had promised “extreme security measures” for the rally: 150 plainclothes officers, 20 teams of snipers, 56 motorcycle teams, and 24 mobile units. When I read this, I didn’t know whether to be moved or horrified. That is nothing—nothing—like what you need to protect a crowd of the predicted size from a determined group of terrorists. Particularly since their sleeper units—we have been told by the same authorities—may recently have been activated. It is deeply moving that Paris simply has no idea how to become a proper police state. And it also just as clear this city must learn what “extreme security” looks like—it doesn’t look like Paris; and it doesn’t look like this.
If you check the Drudge Report right now, you’ll see a screaming headline:
EVERY JEW I KNOW HAS LEFT PARIS
It links to an article in the Daily Mail. The claim was made by Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle.
Mr. Pollard, it is perhaps true that every Jew you know has left Paris. But it is clearly true that you do not know every Jew in Paris.
I’m a journalist but was only by chance in the vicinity of the massacre at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. I was en route to visit a friend. This took me past the paper’s office and thus put me at the heart of the bloodiest attack France has seen in the past 50 years.
On my approach, it was immediately obvious that there had been a massive terrorist attack. Such attacks have a characteristic signature. Swarms of ambulances. Police vehicles and mobile labs. Grim-faced cops. Crime-scene tape stretching for blocks. A very particular expression on the faces of dazed and bewildered onlookers.
I had no intention of reporting on this from the scene of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I was walking up Boulevard Richard Lenoir to meet a friend who lives in the neighborhood. But the moment I saw what I did, I knew for sure what had happened. A decade in Turkey teaches you that. That many ambulances, that many cops, that many journalists, and those kinds of faces can mean only one thing: a massive terrorist attack.
Erdoğan and Gülen are both dangerous—but only one of them lives in the Poconos.
Until recently, I lived in Turkey. It seemed to me then unfathomable that most Americans did not recognize the name Fethullah Gülen. Even those vaguely aware of him did not find it perplexing that a Turkish preacher, billionaire, and head of a multinational media and business empire—a man of immense power in Turkey and sinister repute—had set up shop in Pennsylvania and become a big player in the American charter school scene. Now that I’ve been out of Turkey a while, I’ve realized how normal it is that Americans are indifferent to Gülen. America is full of rich, powerful, and sinister weirdoes. What’s one more?
My fellow editors asked me if I’d care to comment on Fethullah Gülen’s op-ed in The New York Times. I was uncertain whether I could do it without violating our Code of Conduct. I considered whether I might be able to get away with a few choice words in Turkish, but thought, “No, the Code of Conduct is sacred in every language.” I decided words like the ones I reckoned this inspired in Turkey really were too trashy. No need for that. So I offer just simple a rejoinder, seeing as the Times didn’t see fit to publish a rebuttal side-by-side–or even a clue who this writer is. Had they done so, I would have considered it perfectly acceptable. As it stands, I can interpret it only one of two ways: Charitably, they’re so stupid they don’t even read their own reporting. Less charitably, they’ve fallen in line with Our Thug, but for reasons so cynical–and stupidly cynical–they don’t even rise to the intellectual respectability of the word Realpolitik.
PUBLISHED (IN HIGHLY ABRIDGED FORM) IN US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
If you’re reading the American press, you might think that the protests in Turkey have died down. Nothing could be further from the truth. On July 6—last Saturday—delivering a stern rebuke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Istanbul 1st Regional Court issued a decision cancelling the controversial Taksim construction and the Artillery Barracks project, thus reopening the park for public use. Happy Istanbullus planned to gather in the park to celebrate this victory at 7:00 p.m. But mere hours before, the Governor of Istanbul, Hüseyin Mutlu, issued a Proclamation by Tweet: “We are holding the much-anticipated opening of Gezi Park tomorrow. The park, which was embellished by the Istanbul Municipality, may bring peace and joy.” That was it.
Puzzled, I wrote back: “Pardon me, Efendim, but I understood that the court had decided the park would be open today. I don’t understand, am I mistaken?”