Wednesday 18 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 18/10/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Members of the public pay tribute to Dominique Bernard in Arras, France

Image: Alamy


Talking tough

On Thursday, Emmanuel Macron will attend the funeral of Dominique Bernard, the literature teacher who was killed last week in a knife attack by a radicalised former student. Bernard was stabbed to death while trying to prevent the 20-year-old from entering classrooms at the Lycée Gambetta-Carnot in Arras, northern France.

The suspected perpetrator is a Russian citizen of Chechen origin whose family was twice denied asylum status. The murder comes at a time of heightened tension after the recent Hamas incursion. Macron, who condemned the attacks on Israel with uncharacteristic strength, has been trying to tighten up France’s counterterrorism measures.

In an emergency Élysée meeting, Macron told ministers, “The French state must be ruthless against all those who spread hate and terrorist ideologies.” In a case of frantic micromanagement, he also ordered civil servants to specifically examine records of Chechen community members “with a fine-tooth comb”.

This isn’t the first time that Macron and his home secretary have ramped up this kind of rhetoric. Three years ago, another French teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded by a radical Chechen Islamist in a suburb of Paris. Compounding the public anger, it has been revealed that Bernard’s killer was already on a French watchlist collating the names of about 10,000 potential jihadists and had been interrogated by the security services a day before the murder.

Macron’s words, however, won’t be enough to fix the national malaise – and the French public is becoming impatient. Educators are regularly insulted and threatened while trying to teach secular principles and speak openly about important aspects of history, such as the Holocaust. If this latest murder teaches us anything, it is that it’s up to the president to break from a long tradition of administrative spinelessness and conformism, and deliver acts, not just talk.

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet is a French journalist and broadcaster. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Affairs / Middle East

Crisis deepens

As the Israel-Hamas war intensifies, a huge blast at a hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. Authorities in Gaza blamed an Israeli air strike for the deadly attack on the Al-Ahli hospital. Israel has denied any responsibility, pointing the finger at a wayward missile fired by another Palestinian militant group called Islamic Jihad (which has also distanced itself from the tragedy). The attack has been widely condemned. The World Health Organization (WHO) called for better protections of civilians, while Egypt called it a “violation” of “basic human values”. Protests have erupted around the region and the strike poses a significant hurdle for US president Joe Biden who visits Israel today. An "outraged" and "deeply saddened" Biden issued a statement from Air Force One, which said: "The United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict and we mourn the patients, medical staff and other innocents killed or wounded in this tragedy.” A summit due to be hosted by Jordan was cancelled following the hospital strike, further narrowing the opportunity for de-escalation.

Defence / South Korea

Up in arms

The sky above the South Korean capital is buzzing with military aircraft performing flyovers for the region’s premier defence expo. The Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Industry Exhibition kicked off yesterday at an air base to the south of the city and concludes on Sunday. The latest edition of the biennial event, which was first held in 1996, is expected to be the biggest yet.

Image: Getty Images

Flying start: a South Korea Air Force KF-21 Boramae fighter takes to the sky in Seongnam

Image: Getty Images

Alongside several US aircraft, attendees will see the debut of the KF-21 Boramae, South Korea’s first domestically developed fighter jet and a flag bearer for the nation’s ambition of becoming the world’s fourth-largest defence exporter by 2027. Achieving this feat within such a short timeframe would be a significant victory for South Korean heavy industry and technology but it could come at a cost. Exporting tanks and rocket launchers carries significant political risks and the soft power that the country has earned with its catchy K-pop tunes and TV shows could become collateral damage.

Field work: Touring the first section of New York’s Freshkills Park

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / USA

Trash talk

New York’s Staten Island has just celebrated the opening of the first section of Freshkills Park, a new green space created on what used to be the world’s largest pile of rubbish. The area was the city’s main dumping ground from the late 1940s until 2001, when residents’ complaints about the stench finally forced the then-mayor, Rudy Giuliani, to close the facility.

Freshkills Park, which is named after the landfill that it covers, will be almost three times bigger than Central Park and will become New York’s second-largest park when it is completed in 2036, behind Pelham Bay Park. The first section includes cycling paths and pedestrian walkways, as well as zones dedicated to wildlife rejuvenation. The site’s reincarnation serves as a model for other land-reuse projects and proves that even mountains of trash can be transformed into examples of urban ingenuity.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Paris+

The List / Paris

Playing to the gallery

Paris+ par Art Basel is returning to the Grand Palais Éphémère tomorrow and runs until Sunday. After a successful first edition celebrating the French capital’s cultural scene, the fair’s latest iteration will showcase 156 leading French and international galleries. Here, the event’s director Clément Delépine shares four highlights that visitors should look out for.

New York-based contemporary-art gallery PPOW’s exhibition takes a look at the works of Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz, which explore notions of impermanence and connectedness during the Aids era.

International gallery Blum is presenting a solo booth of paintings and sculptures by Atlanta-based multimedia artist and musician Lonnie Holley. His artworks celebrate African American culture, as well as the women who have strengthened it.

London gallery Richard Nagy pays homage to the Viennese avant-garde of the early 20th century by bringing together masterpieces by Egon Schiele, Otto Dix and Oskar Kokoschka, as well as other works.

The fair is expanding its public programme throughout Paris, including at a joint exhibition at the Palais d’Iéna that highlights the work of conceptual artists Daniel Buren and Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Image: Frieze

Monocle Radio / On Culture

Twenty years of Frieze London

We raise a glass to celebrate Frieze London’s 20th anniversary. François Chantala of Thomas Dane Gallery tells us what it’s like to have taken part since its very first edition, while we ask up-and-coming galleries and artists how significant Frieze is on the art scene today.


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