It started out innocently enough for a Monday in the rapid-fire age of Twitter, with France’s affable and highly social media aware ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, posting to his 27,100 followers the translation to English of one of his foreign minister Laurent Fabius’ statements.
The context was the failing peace talks on Syria, which the United Nations described this week as “extermination” and the Washington Post is calling an “uncontrollable military, diplomatic and humanitarian disaster.”
For the ever vigilant pro-Israel community of twitterati, as the denizens of twitter are known, the ambassador’s post was one provocation too far. Tweeting in French, Yaacov A. Sultan, (247 followers) the president of Yeshiva University Israel on Campus, accused France of allowing Palestine, via its UN mission, to terrorize “innocent citizens and condemn my country Israel.”
The usually adept ambassador decided to respond, in English, thus amplifying his audience.
The “ultimatum” Sultan referred to was Fabius’ declaration last month
, that France will recognize the State of Palestine if new peace efforts the European Union is spearheading fail. The back-and-forth continued for a couple more prickly posts and then seemed to die down, in the manner of surf waves that billow and fall.
Which is when Israel’s ambassador to the United States, the no less twitter adept Ron Dermer, (46,200 followers) decide to step in.
This unleashed a veritable storm of tweeted sloganeering, which in turn provoked Matt Lee, the Associated Press’ Diplomatic Correspondent to ask his 27,900 followers if DC could handle it.
The outrage blossomed inexorably, eventually including a cartoon from the New Orleans Times- Picayune posted by @HaLeVia, arguing that Israel always gets blamed, no matter what.
By the next day, Ambassador Araud took back to his original medium, wearily tweeting
Jonathan-Simon Sellem, an elected representative of French citizens living in Israel, retorted that the ambassador had a point “unless we're talking about terrorists (as recognized by France) facing an army of defense. What exactly are you looking for?
Later Tuesday, possibly even more weary than he’d been in the morning, Araud tried to step back and restate his original intent.
Finally, responding to the tempest wrought by the quote from his boss, Araud, who previously served for many years as France’s ambassador to Israel, complained about the general level of on- line rhetoric that attends the ongoing conflict.
On Wednesday, in an unrelated real-world development, the French Foreign Minister who unwittingly started the virtual war announced his resignation. Laurent Fabius will henceforth be the head of the Constitutional Council, the equivalent of the US Supreme Court.
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