Article on Europe and Israel (2): a complicated relationship

From a few years ago, but still relevant.  Raises an interesting issue about the European Left, which loved pre-1967 scrappy, little Israel surrounded by nasty enemies, but now hates an Israel it views as strong and oppressive of the Palestinians, ignoring the surrounding Arabs and Muslims.  Same Israel really, different European view. Some might say that Europeans prefer their Jews weak…

Seeds of destruction

The small bombs that exploded during the past few days in the face of the European community, first in Bologna at President Mario Prodi, then at Trichet, president of the Central European Bank, and lastly at the Europol of AJA, fortunately did not hurt anyone, yet they could not have been more symbolic. Europe has erred in its calculations, and its political and intellectual line of conduct is in the process of drowning it. Its betrayal of Israel that began in 1967 has enveloped it in a torrent of lies, exaggeration and cynicism that has the potential to destroy its moral and cultural fibre. The filth that has risen from its sewers of history is known as anti-Semitism. The origins of anti-Semitism lie in age-old factors and therefore we will return to it only fleetingly. Current anti-Semitism in Europe is the fruit of the continent’s resistance to Israel’s non-compliance with its dictates. In other words, unlike its older counterpart, today’s anti-Semitism has a strictly political origin. In 1967, Charles De Gaulle left Israel defenseless at a time when no one predicted it would emerge from the Six Day War successful. In 1973, American aircraft bringing aid to Israel during the Yom Kippur War were refused permission to fly over European skies. Such behavior heralded an era of pure cynicism, in which Israel came to be viewed as culpable for every political hardship it endured, from Yasser Arafat’s rejection of then prime minister Ehud Barak’s peace offering at Camp David and Taba to the war of terror the Palestinians waged in its aftermath. In order to justify this bizarre moral position according to which the victim is the culprit, Europe has resorted to accusing Israel of monumental sins. The name of “Jenin,” then, has become far more significant than that of “Degania” where characterizing the Israeli spirit is concerned. In addition, Muslim immigration to Europe has played a major role in accelerating Israel’s delegitimization, as it encouraged the direction of leftist, anti-global, Third World discourse against Israel. This has not come without a price for European leaders. Following numerous attacks against Jews in France, for example, President Jacques Chirac had no choice but to go overboard in declaring his dedication to fighting anti-Semitism. Then, following the release of shocking reports on the rise of anti-Semitism, European politicians and media elites hypocritically express dismay – as though their own promotion of the idea that Israel is the most dangerous country in the world had nothing to do with the phenomenon.

It is not surprising, then, that the European community is busy organizing a major international conference on anti-Semitism, scheduled for next month. It is providing politicians of all political persuasions the opportunity to declare their determined opposition, their horror and their contempt for the phenomenon. Due to the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is a luxury that no political movement – regardless of how cynical – can afford. Whoever is recognized as an anti-Semite becomes a cultural and ideological pariah, illegitimate, one who is not invited to dinner parties – one who loses elections. IT WILL thus be interesting to see how this palpably anti-Semitic community manages to slither out of the trap of its own making – how the scenario of anti-Israel policies of the past years will play itself out.

According to European thinking, anti-Semitism in Europe is a marginal phenomenon, divorced from legitimate criticism of the State of Israel, and utter disdain for the “bloody and repugnant” Sharon government (that is engaged in building a “wall of apartheid”).

All Europeans, particularly the French and the Germans, would have laughed three years ago – before the outbreak of what the Palestinians call the “Al-Aksa Intifada” – at anyone predicting the burning of synagogues and Jewish schools, the beating up of Jews in the streets, or the advice of rabbis to their congregants to stop wearing kippot or any other recognizable sign of their Judaism in public. This, in itself, is laughable, given the political mechanism through which anti-Semitism has been funneled and given legitimacy. That the annual prize from the British cartoon society was awarded in November to a drawing of Sharon biting the head off a Palestinian child is just one frightening expression of this. Others abound. The good news is that because of the blatant anti-Semitism, a wider discussion has opened up in Europe on the subject of Israel’s legitimacy and politics. When institutions of higher learning expel Jewish or pro-Israeli professors at universities, for instance, the authorities are forced to act. It is also true that Italian President Silvio Berlusconi was honored in the US with a dinner by the Anti-Defamation League for taking a stand that is opposed to the typical European position. Indeed, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited Rome recently, he was welcomed sympathetically. Yet Italy is not the only country that leaves cause for optimism. Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Denmark, the Czech Republic and the countries of the “New Europe” – Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta (that will join the community of European nations in May) – understand that an anti-Semitic Europe is unpresentable and unacceptable to the United States, whom they consider their most loyal friend. The Christians in Europe have also been unconvinced that the path taken by the church allowing the Palestinian propagandists to present Jesus as one of theirs, as this endangers the relationship that makes Judeo-Christian culture the basis for human rights. In short, anti-Semitism is creating discord, encouraging terrorism and making the ideological crisis with the US much more acute. Jews must stop giving European politicians an alibi by inviting them to their synagogues to listen to them defend their anti-Israel bias without being accused of anti-Semitism. For its part, Europe has two choices: either to try and understand Israel’s legitimate security concerns in its attempt to achieve peace, or to continue living in denial and attributing to Israel the wicked intent of dominating others. If it opts for the latter, more and more anti-Semitism will erupt, and Europe will be destroyed, as it was in the past.

The writer is an author and correspondent for the Italian daily La Stampa.


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