19 January 2010


The Yanks are coming...

Two groups that ordinarily don’t get a lot of good press in France are the U.S. military and the entire state of Israel. That’s why coverage of the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake has been remarkable: as U.S. and Israeli teams go about the hard work of rescue and relief, French television has been dotted with reports of Haitians chanting, “Good job, Israel!” and “Go, U.S.A.” — for once, without meaning “Go away.” The phenomenon is quite probably unprecedented.

... And they’re monopolizing the landing strips.

The French haven’t quite brought themselves to join in the chanting, and over the weekend, we heard a fair amount of grousing about American control of Haiti’s airport. It seems the Americans were limiting the number of landings, and favoring American planes over those of other countries. (Quelle surprise.) No good deed goes entirely unpunished.

Yet the images are powerful: American troops peacefully securing Port-au-Prince, offering relief, and even playing with Haitian children. In this country, the contrast to the more usual representation of the U.S. military could hardly be greater.

Israeli rescue teams have earned high marks from the French press, and an Israeli field hospital is reportedly the best facility in Port-au-Prince today. It was the scene of a new beginning, this weekend, as a Haitian woman delivered a baby there on Saturday night. For most Haitians, childbirth in a hospital is rare, and since the earthquake, the few remaining medical facilities have been overwhelmed with other, sadder business. Yet in the field hospital, a few people found time to help the new mother, Jeanne-Michelle Gubilande — who has named her son Israël, to display her gratitude. Though we are far away, geographically and politically, France heard the news, and saw Israelis in a different light.

“Good for the Jews,” as the saying goes:
Israël, Jeanne-Michelle, and a few friends

We use the noun miraculé to describe a person whose rescue, recovery, or escape has been miraculous. From the rubble of Haiti, the brighter images of the U.S. and Israel seem miraculées, too.

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