Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:29 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:29 | SYDNEY

Diplomatic faux pas throughout history


Sam Roggeveen


20 February 2008 14:55

I just discovered Time magazine's promising China blog, which includes this wonderful anecdote:

The Mao-Kissinger conversation also includes an utterance of one of the Chairman's favorite phrases from that era, 'God has sent me an invitation.' The meaning was that he was near death. He said the same thing three years later to Gerald Ford, who missed the point. 'I hope you get your invitation soon!' Ford replied.

This  got me thinking about some of the history's great diplomatic faux pas, and I am hereby inviting my colleagues and readers to make submissions. Here's my first entry, by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder:

The German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, yesterday accidentally extinguished Israel's memorial flame for the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. At a sombre ceremony in the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Mr Schröder turned a handle that was supposed to make the flame rise. It went out instead. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, who had accompanied the German leader to Yad Vashem's hall of remembrances, stepped forward to try to help, but was unsuccessful. A technician eventually ignited the flame.