“Louvre, other Paris sites refuse Israeli students.” When I read the headline last week I was reminded of a recent guest on Israel Channel 2 televisions’ morning show.
The guest, a lawyer, sat next to another guest, a university lecturer who said he feared the June 2 vote by Britain’s National Union of Students to boycott Israel and affiliate with the BDS movement signaled an expansion and escalation of the boycott, divestment and sanctions trend.
The teacher argued that if Israeli scholars were isolated from their colleagues abroad, prevented from publishing their research and refused invitations to conferences overseas, this would deal a mortal blow to Israeli academia. It would be a death sentence, he said, his face betraying his concern.
But the lawyer was clearly made of tougher stuff. Nonsense, she reprimanded him in an authoritative tone, they need us more than we need them. The lecturer looked at her as if in disbelief, but she just nodded vigorously and continued her speech. Yes, she said, if they don’t want us we’ll publish and hold conferences here. That’ll show them. What are Oxford and Harvard worth without Israeli research?
It could be that the Louvre’s refusal to arrange a visit for the Israeli students was the result of a misunderstanding, rather than a policy of boycotting Israeli educational institutions.
In either case, the incident provides an opportunity to examine the theory, which is quite popular here, that the best response to a boycott is a counter-boycott. “Boycott whoever boycotts us,” proposed Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
And so, why not start with the Louvre? This museum is full of exceptional art treasures. It is one of the most famous and powerful cultural institutions in the world, with the most visitors — 10 million a year. From the perspective of public relations and propaganda, there could be no better target for an Israeli counter-boycott. Imagine the media buzz that would follow Israel’s declaration of a boycott against the Louvre, in order to make an example of it. If we could break the Louvre, bring it to its knees, what foreign boy band would dare cancel a performance in Hayarkon Park?
How long could the Louvre hold on without any Israeli visitors, and knowing that it will never again be able to show the work of Israeli artists? Without Israeli tourists — who are known as fervent art lovers, who demonstrate an exceptional knowledge of art history and remarkable skill in analyzing works of art and in placing them within their historical and cultural contexts — the museum will lose its standing in the eyes of visitors from the remainder of the world.
The pointed absence of Israelis, who are considered the most desirable of all foreign tourists, will undoubtedly tarnish the prestige of this important institution. And what will its collection be worth without paintings and sculptures from Israel? Clearly, Israel has the Louvre by the short hairs. If we squeeze, it will beg us to stop.
There is another reason the Louvre is a perfect target for an Israeli boycott that will teach the whole world a lesson. The famous glass pyramid at the museum’s entrance, which at night is illuminated as befits the City of Lights, is an obvious anti-Semitic symbol. The pyramid, after all, symbolizes the Children of Israel’s enslavement in Egypt. Its beauty is nothing but anti-Semitism in the guise of aesthetics. Furthermore, it expresses the ancient European idea that anti-Semitism is beautiful, or that a world without Jews is good. When the Louvre capitulates, we’ll demand that a Star of David be painted across the Louvre Pyramid.
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