*** UPDATE: ITALY WINS IT, 5-3 on penalties***

From her window she hears
sirens, firecrackers, and no screams of joys

Reading through all the word cup hoopla in France, I noticed scattered accounts of violence and car burnings but very little media coverage of the destructiveness. So I asked the  most "reliable witness" in France, French_bakery_2_1


Paris 10 July

Nidra Poller

A lovely summer Saturday afternoon in St. Germain des Près
yesterday.  The  bargain sales are in full swing—shops in France cannot
run sales whenever it pleases their little heads, the dates are set by
decree, everyone begins at the appointed hour and stops when the
whistle blows—the shops are full, the sidewalk cafés and restaurants
are full, the atmosphere is joyful, there’s not a false note on land or
in the sky.  Blue stockings and anti-capitalists might regard these
sales with scorn, but Atlas Shrugs and I can fight jihad and buy new
sandals without missing a step. 

Women are at their best in summer clothes, everything is going for 50%
off, and some items are reduced by another 30%, bringing them down to
what would have been a fair price to begin with but who cares?  Not
today when all’s right with the world.  The most perspicacious observer
could scrutinize every inch of the scene and not find a single
indication of economic crisis, brain drain, collapse of the public
health system, free fall of the universities, dismal morale, or
anti-Semitism.  You could shred all the articles I’ve written about
France since September 2000 and use them for confetti Sunday night to
celebrate the hoped-for victory of the French team in the final game of
the World Cup.  On the 8th of June 2006 in St Germain des Près you
wouldn’t find even a thimbleful of corroboration of my observations.

Why can’t that sweet summer Saturday be the truth, the whole truth,
nothing but the truth?    I wouldn’t mind earning big money describing
the joys of life in Paris, and spending it on beautiful shoes and
clothes and endless pleasures.  But that pretty picture can’t fool me.
The same pretty pictures exist of Paris in the 40s.

Ever since France beat Spain in the runoffs, the whole country has been
transformed.  National pride swells and balloons, there’s a run on
flags and blue soccer jerseys, the team that was in the doghouse of
public opinion at the beginning of the World Cup five weeks ago is now
a light in the heart of every man, woman, and child.  The excitement
increases with every game.   Jacques Chirac’s decline is lost in the
shuffle, his countrymen only have eyes for Zizou (Zinadine Zidane),
Thuram, Thierry Henry, and the rest of the team, they even love the
selectioner Domenech, and they love each other, and the
French-Portuguese swallowed the loss of their fatherland and bounced
back to support their homeland.  Even the Germans are backing the
French, now that their own team is comfortably settled in its
gemutlichkeit third place.

95% of the prime time newscasts are devoted to soccer.  It’s the be-all
and end-all of life in France today.  Never has a nation taken such
pleasure in contemplating its own enjoyment.  Here’s a group of friends
drinking rosé and watching the game in Provence, here are thousands of
people in the public square of Toulouse holding their breath every time
the opponents get their feet on the ball, and here’s a family in the
projects, and here are kids in day camp, and here are old people in a
Home and here is a greengrocer in the open market and then YOUPIE!!!
WOOOWWWW!!!  HURRAY!!! And endless exclamations when that ball is
glupped into the net and France scores!!!!!

Hundreds of thousands pour into les Champs Elysées to celebrate. La
plus belle avenue du monde is pulsing with fans jiving in one great
huge collective orgasm.  And tens of thousands in Marseille, in Lyon,
Strasbourg, Montpellier, and at the Bastille in Paris, and crammed into
Charlety stadium in the banlieue.
Only a few months ago le peuple was in la rue to protest against that
filthy capitalistic CPE job contract.  Now the same masses have painted
little red white and blue stripes on their cheeks and they are bursting
with pride for their country.  Because their team’s feet–which are, as
any knowledgeable person will tell you, not astronomically more nimble
than the feet of the opponents—got a chance, gave a kick, and scored.
Man o man, they scored!  These World Cup teams are world class.   And
in fact half of the players on the French national team play on the
same team as half of the men on the Italian national team.  And the
same goes for the Spanish, the Portuguese and what all.  They hug and
kiss each other after the games.

You had to have a very alert ear to discover that some unfortunate
incidents occurred on the fringe of these stupendous after-game
celebrations.  Nothing to speak of, so the media prefer not to speak of
them.  Just a brief mention in passing.  Some cars burned, some
policemen attacked, a bit of a fistfight here, a stabbing there,
marginal phenomena, don’t give it a thought, 189 people arrested in
Paris after the victory against Portugal.  In fact, but who cares about
the facts, these squabbles were occurring every time a crowd gathered
to watch the game on giant screens and celebrate the victory in
squares, on avenues, in bars, on riverbanks.  A young man climbed on
top of a metro car and fell to his death.  A bunch of stupid kids dove
into the river in Lyon, and one of them drowned.  A young lady riding
side saddle got killed when the car she was celebrating in rammed into
a bridge abutment.  A postman shot some people who were celebrating in
his small picturesque town.  When the police came to arrest him he
threatened them with a saber, one of the policemen shot him dead.

And now we learn that hospital emergency rooms all over the country are
gearing up for tonight’s celebration–or wake, if sacré bleu the French
team should lose.  And we discover in passing that after each match
they had to call in personnel who were already on vacation, to take
care of the wounded.
My friends, you know what’s lacking here?  We need some Hamas PR men to
zoom in on the ambulances and display s the bloodied bodies. 

My own sources report that the atmosphere at Charlety stadium was so
tense, a doctor who went to watch the game on the giant screen left
before the end of the match, he felt like he was going to be lynched,
the tension was more than palpable, it was physical and brutal.  That
was Charlety from the inside: seen from a distance in the evening news,
it is all joy and celebration, the atmosphere is always “plutôt bon
enfant” (= good clean fun).   

Defense Minister Michèle Alliot Marie, interviewed on Radio J today,
said the Bleus are a reflection of French society.  I didn’t know she
read Eurabia!  Les Bleus are black and beur, with a few token whites.
I’m not suggesting the team was composed according to what the French
call “positive discrimination,” no, if they followed those rules I
might be goalie.  No, the team is just made up of good players.  MAM,
as she’s called, was asked what France is doing to liberate the
Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped two weeks ago and held
hostage in Gaza.  Note that Gilad is Franco-Israeli on the Jewish radio
station.  He is just plain Israeli in the mainstream media.

The charming Defense Minister let it be understood that French
diplomacy was essentially encouraging Egyptian diplomacy to encourage
Hamas to release the soldier while encouraging the Israelis to
eventually release a thousand or five thousand Palestinian prisoners.
The diplomacy is all in the “eventually.”  Because everyone knows that
Israel won’t bargain with Hamas today.  So French diplomacy is
exceedingly discreet, that’s why no one here in France knows it’s doing
anything.  On a more general level, French diplomacy has, according to
MAM, asked the Palestinians to unconditionally liberate Gilad Shalit
and stop “sending” rockets to Israeli towns.  Yes, that’s the word she
used, “sending.”  And don’t forget, she’s Defense Minister, she has the
whole military vocabulary under her hat.   And, simultaneously, France
has asked Israel to end the Gaza incursion and liberate the Hamas
leaders they captured.  Asked in which order these things should be
done she replied that whoever could should begin.   Can you guess who
could?  Who always can?  Because you’re older and you know better, so
even if your little brother stabbed you in the back, you should give
him back his knife and stop quarreling.

MAM went on to explain that everybody on both sides, Israel-Palestine,
wants peace and the good life.  Everything should be done to calm the
tensions.  And of course get back on the negotiating path.
Utter nonsense.  But did anyone tell you that the Defense Minister has
a beautiful soft elegant voice?  She speaks French at its best.  It is
a pleasure to listen to her.  She articulates clearly but without
artifice.  Her discourse is free of all tics and mannerisms.  It is
clear as a mountain stream and elegant as porcelain.  And, by contrast,
the Ségolène Royal that everyone loves to adore has a harsh voice that
breaks and tatters.  Every second word is dipped in humanism,
socialism, caring for the downtrodden, but her voice is sharp and
shallow.  She looks young and graceful, she is a model mother, but her
voice closely resembles the querulous spinsterly tones of that old
far-left battlehorse Arlette Laguillier.  Ségolène has taken a back
seat to Les Bleus these days.  Her paramour François Hollande  is
campaigning for the French Beur vote with a two-day a visit to Algerian
president Bouteflika, who recently declared that the French
colonization of Algeria was the most brutal in human history,   You’ve
got to understand, he wasn’t around for the jihad conquest.

The French can’t worry about a kidnapped Israeli soldier (they say he
was captured) and nobody really has time to linger over the Palestinian
victims of the Israeli incursion.  The usual remonstrations are
pronounced, but it stops there.  The pro-Palestinians can’t get it up
at the UN this time.  Only the audience of the Méditerranée FM talk
show are still devoted to the cause.  Host Tawfik Mathlouti outdoes
his callers in spewing fire at the Zionist entity, that brutal,
criminal, colonial, oppressive, genocidal, army guilty of every war
crime in the book.  Their logic is worth examining.  Palestinians have
the right to elect a Hamas government, Hamas has the right to fight to
exterminate the Zionist entity, smash it with rockets, kidnap its
soldiers, call for UN protection and international condemnation of the
Zionist enemy.  Israel might eventually have the right to toss a few
rockets at Gaza and kidnap one soldier.  But that’s all.  Otherwise
it’s not a fair fight.  And that’s why if only Hamas had the military
might it deserves, it would massacre every inch of the Zionist entity.

Pro-Palestinian mobilization is at an all-time low in France and the
Jewish community is standing up for itself with exceptional
determination and unity.  Everyone from the Chief Rabbi Joseph Haim
Sitruk to the Jewish Defense League will be supporting the rally Monday
night at the Bataclan organized by the Union des Patrons et
Professionnels Juifs de France and LIBBY.  They expect thousands inside
and thousands in the street to express our utter exasperation with the
way the media are covering events in Gaza.  I won’t be able to attend
but I’ll post a note on how it went. 

February 2006— the window of a cell phone shop on boulevard
Beaumarchais, not far from the Bastille was decorated with  a photo of
Ilan Halimi z”l , haver in Hebrew and Latin letters, N’oubliez jamais
[never forget].  The manager of the shop told me he was Ilan’s best
friend.  And he would keep the poster on his window for one whole
year.  We had a long talk, he said he’d tell the family I wanted to
meet them.  I explained–I’m not looking to advance my career by
interviewing Ilan’s mother.  If she wants to see me, I’ll communicate
her message to readers in the US and worldwide.  Nothing came of it.
Like a half dozen similar leads.  Everyone was close to the family,
everyone had inside information, everyone knew I could be helpful,
everyone would put me in contact, no one ever came through.

I passed in front of the shop often.  Recently the memorial to Ilan
disappeared.  Today there’s another decoration, written in the same
handwriting.  It says; VIVE LA FRANCE.

My predictions for the game?  If ever France should lose, there is
going to be some nasty business against local Italians.  If France
should win, the multiculturals will make us pay for it.

10:45 PM  9  July  2006 

If the French team had won, it would have been one more night of
festivity and then back to normal.  But France lost in a terrible
dramatic disgrace, and the consequences will be dramatic.  Zidane, the
hero, the providential man, the emblem of successful integration,
raised to the heights, Zidane the demi-god disgraced his team, his
nation, and his people.  If the team had lost with honor, he would have
retired with honor.  Instead, he was chased from the field like a
bandito.  He knocked down Mazzerati with a coup de tête (I don’t know
how to say it in English, it’s like a kick, but with the head) a
lowdown gangster gesture, the kind of thing you expect to see in a bar
fight, not on the field in the finals of the World Cup.   Zidane turned
ugly in the next to the last minute of his career.  I’m afraid the
night will turn ugly too.

Quarter past midnight
N. B/
not Mazzerati (that’s the name of a car!) but Materazzi.
Troubling reactions to Zidane’s gesture in the clothespin smile
post-game coverage.  The first to spin the coup de tête was president
Chirac himself.  Asked how he felt about the defeat he explained with
his usual  pomposity that it wasn’t really a defeat, the Bleus were
extraordinary, real winners, we are all proud of them, and it was just
a stroke of fate—he meant a stroke of luck but that’s the way he
talks—that the winners didn’t win.  Duh.  That’s the idea of the game,
prez, everybody’s skilled from head to foot, and the outcome is decided
by a stroke of luck.  Chirac doesn’t know exactly what happened but…

…neither does anyone else, which is pretty strange, because I’m sure
the whole story is already out, and I could get it from someone who was
very close to the action but I can’t reach him yet.  So no one knows
what happened but almost every one questioned was sure that it could be
excused.  Zizou is still the greatest.  Bernard Tapie is sure that
Materrazi insulted Zidane’s mother.  Wouldn’t that be original?  Unless
he called him an impotent queer.  Doesn’t that about sum up the locker
room insults these guys must throw at each other when they aren’t
hugging and kissing?  A journalist from Marseille who knows Zidane from
his beginnings 17 years ago agrees that the red card was a terrible
injustice.  Opponents are always provoking Zidane.  Provokers, says the
journalist, should also get red cards.  Oh?  So now the journalists
make up new rules for the referees.  A bit like they do with the
Arab-Israeli conflict; instead of reporting on it, they decide how it
should be settled.

Djamel Bouras says Zidane is only human, it’s easy to understand that
he’d blow a fuse.  If I’m not mistaken, Djamel’s brother is the father
of Chirac’s grandson. 

Everyone understands the gesture but hardly anybody is celebrating.  42
companies of riot police are on duty in Paris alone.  There was an
incident at Charlety Stadium (ha ha, we’re not surprised) but it was
quickly calmed.  Same goes for the Champs Elysées, not many people, not
many incidents, not like the terrible incidents after the semi-final
match, says the reporter, who forgets that no one reported those

The selectioner Raymond Domenech was not so tender for his disgraced
captain.  Asked if he would miss Zidane, who had already announced that
he would retire after this game, Domenech shrugged his shoulders and
mumbled “mmm, well, we already missed him in the last twenty minutes of
the game.”
A lone fan was interviewed in front of the hotel where les Bleus are
staying.  She had watched the game on a giant screen at the Brandenberg
Gate.  What did she think of Zidane’s gesture?  She thought it was

All of these comments were intermixed with forced grins from the
anchorman, answered by forced grins from correspondents who had been
sent to all the hotspots to report on the gigantic victory celebrations
that were sure to occur.  Funny, there were no interviews with
proprietors of cafés and restaurants.  I guess they can’t be counted on
to grin and say what a terrible injustice.  Zidane’s red card must have
cost them a fortune in lost income from revelers.
The night is quiet except for the occasional firecracker and a wail of
sirens.  Let’s see what revelations tomorrow will bring.

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