Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 25, 2005

Joe takes on the French Consul

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:38 pm

The French Consul General to New England, Thierry Vankerk-Hoven, made a visit to Dartmouth College, and during the question period Joe of Joe’s Dartblog asked him some rather pointed questions.

When he was done I asked, “Will you comment on why France, and consequently the EU, has refused to name the Islamist militant group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.” I got more than a few stares from the consul’s assistant and Prof. Rassias, who was sitting next to her.

The consul’s answer was absolutely laughable. He went on for a while about how sensitive an issue this is in France- in an attempt, I presume, to temper his response by putting it in the context of, “Well some French people disagree”- but in the end his response was this: Hezbollah is not merely a militant organization. They are also a political organization, and thus they cannot be considered terrorists.

As far as Hezbollah is political, their only tenet is that Israel must be destroyed. To the French, whose obstruction prevented the EU from listing the group as terrorists, ‘the destruction of the Zionist state’ is simply a political objective.

A simple counter might have been, “Would France consider a British organization with the stated goal of destroying France and all of the French people, and which has successfully carried out homicidal missions in the past, but which happens to state these goals in political rhetoric, a terrorist group?” But I wasn’t feeling all that snarky.

The Consul General also discussed EU enlargement, “soft power,” and the to what extent the EU is meant to be a counter to US power. Read the whole thing.

Joe concludes with some comments that reflect very well on his French professor (who is both a professor of French and a professor from France), but rather poorly on the intellectual climate at Dartmouth:

I must add that my French professor, Brigitte Mosenthal, who I am certain disagrees with me politically, was very supportive. After the talk was over, she thanked me for livening it up. She acknowledged that everyone seems to have the same opinions at Dartmouth and so some questioning of the norm is healthy. Being as she was the one who brought me to the talk, she could have been angry that one of her students bucked the liberal hardline in front of the department chair, but she wasn’t. That was awfully big of her, and I was impressed and thankful.

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