European-Israeli Relations: Between Confusion and Change? Part II

, September 5, 2007

The EU and Terrorism

The EU’s political position on the Middle East must also be analyzed in the context of its domestic problems. Although far less than Israel, it is confronted with terrorism against civilians. Yet its position toward various terrorist organizations-and not just the anti-Israeli ones-has been ambiguous. As noted, the EU did not put Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations as it did with Hamas. Van Dam mentions that a European Parliament resolution in March 2005 labeled Hizballah a terrorist organization and called upon the European ministers to include it on the list of these organizations.

This still has not happened. Van Dam adds that, though the meetings of the EU diplomats who discussed the list are secret, it is known that twenty-two of the twenty-five members agreed to put Hizballah on the list. The three opponents were France, Spain, and Ireland.

After the Lebanese confrontation the situation has only become more complicated and confused. Massimo D’Alema, Italy’s foreign minister, does not consider Hizballah a terrorist organization notwithstanding that for years it has massively and specifically targeted civilians. D’Alema is also president of the Democrats of the Left and was a key figure in its predecessor, the Communist Party.

D’Alema said:

An organization that has 35 members of parliament and three ministers cannot be described solely as a terrorist group. Hizballah is not considered a terrorist group by the European Union, nor in my personal view. Hizballah is a military organization, but also a force that participates in elections. The paradox is that we support Siniora, a democratic leader, and Siniora lauds Hizballah as the defender of the Lebanese homeland. It is important to understand the complexity of the situation, because if you have a simplistic view of the enemy, you deal with him incorrectly.[i]

These remarks raise the question of why the EU does not hold Lebanon responsible for anything Hizballah does even though it is a member of the Lebanese government. D’Alema’s statements may presage further confused EU policies in the Middle East.

Francesco Cossiga, a former president and one of Italy’s elder statesmen, launched several attacks on the Italian government and D’Alema in particular. While visiting Israel he said Hizballah was a terrorist movement that was fanatic and inspired by Islamic extremism. Nevertheless, several members of the Italian government erroneously viewed it as a legitimate political party. Cossiga added: “It is nowadays dangerous to be pro-Israeli in Italy.”[ii]

A few days later he went further: “Except for Prodi, who is trying to act as a mediator, Giuliano Amato, Rutelli and Emma Bonino, the general  stance of the Italian government is against Israel because anti-Israelism is the mask of anti-Semitism.” Cossiga observed:

Minister D’Alema is the leading representative of the pro-Arab and anti-Israeli approach. He does so for a number of reasons: for a relapse into old communist anti-Semitism and also because this way he can become the unifying element of the left…. Moreover most former communists like him believe that, now that the myth of the Soviet revolution is over the new myth may be represented by the Islamic Revolution.[iii]   

Media Bias

Beyond European governments’ attitudes, the almost classic anti-Israeli behavior of part of Europe’s elites also came to the fore during the Lebanon war. After the ceasefire, French sociologist Shmuel Trigano analyzed international bias against Israel in an article in the daily Libération. He went through a long list of examples to demonstrate how biased many journalists are. Trigano wrote that for weeks he had been looking in the French papers for condemnation of a bombardment by Sri Lanka’s army in its fight against Tamil terrorists. Forty-three schoolchildren had been killed and sixty wounded. He compared this absence of criticism with the many media attacks on Israel after the Kafr Kana bombing, where far fewer children were killed.

Trigano noted that this did not indicate that Arab Muslim dead were considered more precious than others. If that were so, the French media would have given ongoing attention to the mass murders of Arabs by other Arabs in Iraq. The true issue, Trigano pointed out, was that the media were only interested in what Israel did, or more precisely, the Jews.

Trigano recalled how Reuters had doctored a photograph of Beirut in flames and how US News & World Report had shown a Hizballah terrorist in front of what seemed a downed Israeli plane in flames. When one looked closer at the picture, it turned out it was a burning garbage dump. He also mentioned that French television never showed Hizballah’s bunkers, which were placed in the midst of civilian housing. Thus the press managed to conceal the organization’s character as a fascist militia, its provocations, and its explicit firing at the Israeli civilian population.[iv]

Interviewee Nidra Poller, an American journalist living in Paris, says the French media are government-influenced in a subtle manner. French journalists’ difficulty in finding work creates a powerful incentive to stay in line: “That line is left-wing orientation, Third Worldist, anti-American, and anti-Zionist.”

Amnesty and Hizballah

European and other human rights organizations have often demonized Israel during and since the Lebanon war. Harvard law expert Alan Dershowitz heavily criticized Amnesty International’s announcement that Israel was guilty of war crimes for “widespread attacks against public civilian infrastructure, including power plants, bridges, main roads, seaports and Beirut’s international airport.”

Dershowitz noted that Amnesty was wrong about the law as Israel committed no war crimes by attacking parts of the civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. He added:

In fact, through restraint, Israel was able to minimize the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, despite Hizballah’s best efforts to embed itself in population centers and to use civilians as human shields. The total number of innocent Muslim civilians killed by Israeli weapons during a month of ferocious defensive warfare was a fraction of the number of innocent Muslims killed by other Muslims during that same period in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Algeria, and other areas of Muslim-on-Muslim civil strife. Yet the deaths caused by Muslims received a fraction of the attention devoted to alleged Israeli “crimes.”

He concluded that: “if attacking the civilian infrastructure is a war crime, then modern warfare is entirely impermissible, and terrorists have a free hand in attacking democracies and hiding from retaliation among civilians. Terrorists become de facto immune from any consequences for their atrocities.”[v]

International Law

Israel’s enemies frequently use dubious or inverted interpretations of international law. In an analysis of several international law issues in the armed Lebanese confrontation, Dr. Robbie Sabel, former legal adviser to the Israeli foreign minister (also an interviewee), wrote:

Once armed conflict develops, a State is not, however, limited to responding only to measures chosen by its opponent. A State that takes aggressive armed action against another State, or permits its territory to be used for that purpose, cannot dictate the terms of the subsequent armed conflict. An aggressor State risks that its armed forces will be dealt a blow disproportionate to the attack it made.

Sabel concluded that:

Hizballah is part of the Lebanese Government and acts of Hizballah can well be considered to be those of the Lebanese Government, notwithstanding that the Christian elements in the government have categorically disassociated themselves from the Hizballah attack…. some elements of the Lebanese army have collaborated with Hizballah while as to the Lebanese government as such, at the very least it can be affirmed that they have taken no measures to prevent Hizballah activity.

Sabel added:

Even if Lebanon could prove that it had done all within its power to prevent Hizballah activities but failed, this would not negate Israel’s right to take military action against Hizballah and its support mechanism. If a State fails to prevent armed bands in its territory from attacking a neighboring state, the neighboring State, subject to the attack, is entitled to the right of self-defense against those armed bands.[vi]

Reminders from Terrorists

The EU’s behavior during the Lebanon war accentuated problems that had been exposed over many years regarding two related political issues. One is the EU’s timidity toward the more extreme forces in the Muslim world. The other is its mindset about Muslim terrorism in the EU. The latter problem is manifested, for instance, in the EU’s proposal to replace the expression “Islamic terrorism” in its discussions by the misrepresentation “terrorism that abusively invokes Islam.”[vii] Thus the EU has started to make theological judgments about the nature of contemporary Islam’s teachings.

Toward the war’s end, however, Europe was repeatedly reminded that the far from insignificant circles in the Muslim world that promote mass murder and violence are also present within the EU’s borders. And so are hundreds of thousands of those who sympathize with them to varying degrees.

On 31 July, terrorists attempted to blow up two regional trains in Germany. In the following weeks several suspects, all Muslims, were arrested in Germany and Lebanon.[viii] Articles also appeared in the German press saying that Hizballah members were among the 6,200 people repatriated from Lebanon to Germany at the beginning of August. The Interior Ministry denied this. The minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, however, mentioned that Hizballah has nine hundred members in Germany.[ix]

Planning to Blow Up Planes

On 11 August, it was announced that a group of terrorist suspects had been arrested in the United Kingdom. They were reported to have planned to blow up a number of U.S.-bound planes over the Atlantic. All the suspects were British-born Muslims. Soon it became known that the British authorities were searching for additional suspects, and more were arrested in the coming weeks. Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police antiterrorist branch, said thousands of British Muslims were being watched by the police and MI5 under suspicion of possible terrorist involvement.[x]

Some claim that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims are moderates who publicly dissociate themselves completely from the criminals who speak in the name of their religion. The disclosures and  Muslim reactions to them were a reminder of how doubtful such views are. After the arrests of the terrorist suspects, thirty-eight British Muslim organizations, three of the four Muslim MPs, and three of the four Muslim peers wrote an open letter to Blair. Their main message was that Britain’s policy regarding Iraq and Israel had increased the pool of terrorist recruits. The letter asked Blair to change his policy toward Iraq and Israel and said nothing about the major terrorism inciters in the Arab and Muslim world.[xi]

At the beginning of September a number of Muslims were arrested in an immigrant district of Odense, Denmark’s third largest city. Chemical substances were found that, investigators said, could be used to make bombs.[xii]

By now there have been many indications that worldwide Muslim terrorism, however much of a problem for Israel and the Jews, is equally one for Western society at large. The London suicide bombings of 5 July 2005 were a dramatic case. Fifty-two civilians were killed at random and many others wounded. Yet it often seems that, five years after September 11, only a minority of European politicians have understood the terrorist threat in any depth.

It is also untrue that radical Muslims are the sole terrorist problem in the EU. At the beginning of September, a group of far-Right militants, mainly soldiers, were arrested in Belgium who were aiming to perpetrate terror attacks. Police sources said this was the first time they had discovered an extreme-Right group that was so well organized and armed.[xiii]

Appeasers Losing Ground

In August 2006, during both the Lebanon war and the British terrorism debate, the European public discourse kept moving between two poles. On the one hand were those who claim that terrorism can be diminished by accommodating the perceived grievances of the Muslims. On the other were those who consider that the jihad preachers, the violent anti-Western incitement from the Middle East, and the radical Islamic ideology in general will influence many Muslims to various degrees irrespective of what the West does.

These two schools of thought will continue to struggle in Europe as inevitably more terrorist plots are discovered and several may even succeed. Some are not sure who will win the ideological struggle. Developments of the last year or two, however, indicate that the more terrorist threats are revealed, the more likely are the appeasers to lose ground. This is also borne out by a number of the aforementioned polls.

This battle of ideas also relates to European narratives on the Middle East conflict. The appeasers-one might also call them accommodationists-keep insisting that Muslim terrorism and the other problems caused by parts of Europe’s Muslim communities will disappear if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. It is not difficult to demonstrate that this is untrue. Many problems caused by parts of the Muslim minorities in the EU will not be influenced by whatever happens in the Middle East.

The more terrorist plans are discovered or executed, the more the false narrative that there is a fundamental difference between Islamism and Islam will be exposed. Many Muslims who are not Islamists sympathize with some of their goals instead of fervently condemning them. In between strong Muslim opponents of violence and the extreme promoters of jihad there are many shades among Muslims all over the world including Europe.

False Concepts

The European learning process is hampered by false concepts spread among large parts of its population. The African-European insider-outsider Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a sharp observer of Europeans’ underlying thoughts. This former Dutch parliamentarian of Somali origin left for the United States in spring 2006 after her life had been made almost unbearable by ongoing Muslim threats.

She puts it succinctly in her interview in this book:

Colored people, Muslims, and other non-Western immigrants are not victims. They are individuals, like me, who have come to the Netherlands in search of a better life. It is my responsibility to improve my life, and I am not asking the authorities to do it for me. I request only to live in an environment of peace and security. The socialist worldview is different. Those who are not white and Christian, and do not share the ideas of Christian civilization, are victims by definition.

Joffe provides another perspective: “Why do people so strongly condemn Israel, but not Arab terrorism? Because Israel is ‘one of us,’ and the Arabs are…what?: savages we cannot hold to the same rules?”

Pseudo-Humanitarian Racists

Few realize the danger underlying these pseudo-humanitarian views. Implicit in the attitude of substantial parts of the European Left that Arabs, Muslims, and other colored people are not responsible for their deeds is a profound racism. Humanity is seen as divided into responsible people, the whites, and others who are much less so or not at all. The racist character of this attitude is highlighted by the fact that one major difference between humans and animals is that the former can be held responsible for their deeds and the latter cannot.

Many Europeans will always support the weak. They have long lost the ability to discern between perpetrators and victims, democrats and terrorists. Many Westerners who talk about social justice do not distinguish between the weak or poor, and criminals. That makes them de facto allies of the latter.

During the first Iraq war there was a sudden sympathy for Israel in Europe. As the Scud missiles came flying, the Israelis did not react. They sat and waited with gas masks on their faces in sealed rooms. That was how many Europeans like them: as potential victims.

Robert Kagan wrote in his analysis of America and Europe: “Europeans speak with great confidence of the superiority of their global understanding, the wisdom they have to offer other nations about conflict resolution, and their way of addressing international problems.”[xiv]

This European myth is dangerous for many and particularly for Israel.

The Lebanon war has also underlined how much Israel has become a test case for Europe’s problems. The unwillingness to respond other than verbally to Ahmadinejad’s provocations and the mixed reactions to Arab terrorist organizations are all signs of Europe’s structural weakness. The EU’s attitude toward Israel is an indicator of its problems. In complex environments such as the European one, such litmus tests help to analyze the intricate issue of the state of Europe.

Sweden and Ireland

Sweden is among the European countries most critical of Israel. Under Social Democratic rule it has long applied discriminatory policies toward Israel. Moshe Yegar, former Israeli ambassador to Sweden, already analyzed this a decade ago. He wrote: “Sweden’s policy toward Israel was hostile for a long period of time before the [first] Intifada, and the latter merely served as an excuse for further attacks on Israel.”[xv] A key figure in promoting hatred of Israel was the late Social Democrat prime minister Olof Palme.

Sweden is one of several European countries that have only very partly come to terms with their massive collaboration with the Germans during the war. One Swedish inquiry commission concluded that the moral questions involved in wartime Sweden’s business relations with Nazi Germany were never raised in parliamentary or government discussions.[xvi]

Sweden’s record in dealing with its own war criminals since World War II is deplorable. It never prosecuted any of its volunteers for Germany’s Nazi forces during the war. The country also became a haven for Baltic war criminals.[xvii]

Often those who misbehave toward Israel and the Jews show poor judgment on other matters. Palme, who compared Israel’s behavior to that of the Nazis, did not have the common sense to walk with a bodyguard and was murdered.

Another Swedish Social Democrat with a heavy anti-Israeli bias is former foreign minister Laila Freivalds. In a visit to Israel, she criticized it while remaining silent about the widespread anti-Semitism in her own country.[xviii] There are many other known anti-Israeli incidents concerning Freivalds.

Later, Freivalds’s own failures elsewhere would shed further light on her judging others-i.e., Israel-harshly in difficult situations. Freivalds was unable to deal adequately with the Swedish victims of the tsunami in Thailand in December 2004. Later she had to resign after lying about her knowledge of her ministry’s effort to silence a Swedish website that had shown the Mohammed cartoons.

Again, analyzing Swedish attitudes toward Israel brings many other matters to light. There is seldom a single element of anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish behavior. Collaboration with the Nazis, a haven for war criminals, extreme anti-Israeli positions, neglecting anti-Semitism: these are all manifestations of a state of mind that will have many negative consequences, and not only in areas concerning Israel.

Interviewee Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Sweden, relates how he developed a critical attitude toward Sweden in view of the discriminatory sentiments and hostility toward Israel he encountered in large parts of the society’s left-wing elite. In the September 2006 parliamentary elections, a Center-Right coalition defeated the ruling Social Democrats. This is likely to improve Swedish-Israeli relations.

Another EU country where anti-Israelism is widespread is Ireland. Miller says: “Among the 166 members of the Dáil-the Irish parliament’s lower house-and the sixty members of the Senate, not one name springs to mind as a regular defender of Israel. There are either those who do not care or pro-Palestinians.”

Anti-Semitism

Recent developments in the European-Israeli relationship must include an analysis of the substantial European anti-Semitism. When in 2000 the so-far largest postwar wave of European anti-Semitism began, this time focusing on Israel, it became clear that it was driven by three distinct forces.

The strengthening of right-wing anti-Semitism was not novel. The violence of this tendency was already familiar. Despite Germany’s defeat it had continued to manifest itself at lower intensity since the war. Recently, both physical attacks on Jews and desecrations of Jewish cemeteries have increased. Society, always inclined to fight the last war instead of the coming one, was willing to confront neo-Nazis who were considered marginal. It became clear, however, that they were not only relics of the past but perhaps also harbingers of part of Europe’s future. This is implied by the electoral support for extreme right-wing parties in some countries.

The other main violent anti-Semitic force in Europe, that of Muslim radicals and hooligans, often verbally supported by religious preachers, was totally misinterpreted by many politicians. It was considered a fallout of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leading to another misinterpretation: that if this conflict ended, all problems caused by substantial parts of Europe’s Muslim minority would cease. A much better interpretation was that these forces only used the Jews as an intermediary target for a much more ambitious one: the white Europeans.

This emerged clearly in the Netherlands. In 2003, amid the many verbal threats and occasional physical attacks on Jews by Dutch Muslims, some Amsterdam Jews told Dutch newspapers that the day was not far when a Dutch Jew would be murdered by a Dutch Muslim. They were right about the basic issue and wrong about the victim. On 2 November 2004, the radical Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri killed the Dutch media maker Theo van Gogh.

The Extreme Left and Human Rights Organizations

The third major anti-Semitic force plays key roles in society’s elite or has allies there. The extreme Left, and some of the mainstream Left, are usually cleverer than others in their anti-Semitic attacks. They know that words can accomplish much of what violence aims to achieve. They use Nazi- and communist-style semantics against Israel, compare it to an apartheid state, present distorted television images, and so on.

Several major human rights organizations focus their criticism on Israel instead of on countries that are severe human rights violators. They pay major attention to Palestinians killed in Israeli military actions while downplaying suicide bombers and other murderers of Israeli civilians. Far fewer of these organizations’ documents report on the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people killed elsewhere, often by Arabs or other Muslims.

Whereas Nazism had to be defeated in an extremely bloody war, the other totalitarian evil, communism, crumbled by itself. That prevented Western society from weeding out communism’s ideology and most extreme adherents. These people and ideas have now permeated many of its major institutions.

Great Britain

An important question about contemporary European anti-Semitism is whether Britain has replaced France as the major country where anti-Semitism thrives. There are several indications for this. The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in 2005 was close to that of France, where the Jewish population is twice as large as the at-most three hundred thousand British Jews. Even if the data are not fully comparable they are significant.

The Community Security Trust, the defense body of British Jewry, reported 455 anti-Semitic incidents in 2005. This was 14 percent lower than the 532 in the record-year 2004. The difference can, however, be explained by the fact that in 2004 two individuals created sixty of the incidents.

Two thousand five was the second year in a row where there were more  violent attacks on Jewish people than acts against Jewish property. One particularly violent incident was in Manchester where a Jewish religious student was stabbed by a man who ran after him with a knife. Another was an attack on a Jew in London by fifteen youths, who thereafter threw a liquid on him and tried to set him on fire.

The report documents that two categories of perpetrators stand out in particular: right-wing whites and Asian youth, the latter probably largely Muslims. Among well-known individuals involved in anti-Semitic acts was the socialist mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who compared a Jewish journalist to a concentration-camp guard.[xix]

The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry

In September 2006, a report on UK anti-Semitism was published that had been prepared for the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism. The Inquiry Commission consisted of fourteen senior MPs and was chaired by MP Denis MacShane, a former Labour minister for Europe.

The report drew valuable conclusions and made many recommendations. It expressed concern that only a minority of police forces in the UK have the ability to record anti-Semitic incidents. It recommended that there should be an annual report on anti-Semitism to Parliament. It asked the Crown Prosecution Service to investigate the reasons for the low number of prosecutions of anti-Semitism.

The report stated explicitly that Jewish people and institutions were being targeted under the pretext of anger over Israeli policies. It pointed out that while in the past the far Right posed a greater threat to Jews than at present, there was no room for complacency. The report gave extensive attention to Islamist and left-wing anti-Semitism. It mentioned that the campaign of George Galloway’s Respect Party during the 2005 general election was marred by “anti-Semitic campaigning on the part of some of its supporters.”

The report recommended that university authorities should record all examples of students reporting anti-Semitic behavior. It concluded that Jewish students feel disproportionately threatened in British universities and that the response of academic authorities has been at best “patchy.” It asserted that: “calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange.”[xx]

Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism

As elsewhere, anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism flourish jointly in the UK. On 29 May 2006, NATFHE, one of the two British university teachers unions voted to boycott Israeli academics who do not condemn so-called Israeli “apartheid” policies. The majority of those voting were from the Left. Not a word was said about Palestinian universities where academics promote genocide, murder, and racism, and student movements compete in elections over which has killed more Jews, mainly civilians.

Both the Anglican church and the Church of Scotland have voted in favor of anti-Israeli measures. They take these positions in an atmosphere of regular attacks on Israel from many quarters. Several articles of a former Guardian correspondent in Israel could be taught at journalism schools as examples of how extreme propagandists can masquerade as reporters.

Gerald Steinberg heads the NGO Monitor published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He mentions how the leading UK charity Christian Aid constantly blames Israel for Palestinian suffering while barely mentioning Palestinian terrorism. This organization has an annual budget of $150 million.

George Galloway, the only member of Parliament from the Respect Party, is also a defender of Saddam Hussein. The many other anti-Israeli parliamentarians come mainly from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The British Foreign Office regularly condemns Israel when a Palestinian civilian is killed in attacks on terrorists. It remains silent about the many civilians killed by the coalition forces in Iraq, of which Britain is part and for which it thus has coresponsibility.

By now it also has become clear that Chris Patten, when he was a British commissioner in the EU, was a key figure in stonewalling detailed investigations of how EU money was diverted for Palestinian terrorism and corruption. Van Dam relates several details of this in his interview.

This is a worrisome but not a full picture. There are also many positive aspects in the country. Former Israeli ambassador Zvi Shtauber says that he considers the British government, with the exception of the German one, the most pro-Israeli in Western Europe.[xxi]

Jewish Community Leadership

The  British Jewish community tries to fight anti-Semitism by classic methods-except on rare occasions when it calls, for instance, for public rallies-such as trying to get support from the judicial system, close collaboration with the police in security matters, maintaining good contacts with politicians, and keeping a low profile. Also significant is that, Britain not having been under German occupation during World War II, the conclusions drawn from the Holocaust are far weaker than elsewhere in Europe.

Such defense policies can nowadays only provide very partial answers to the many challenges. Compared to its counterpart in France, the British Jewish leadership seems unimaginative. The recent problems, however, are unlikely to go away. Whether they like it or not, British Jews will have to change tactics against the anti-Semites and expose them far more aggressively.

Substantial anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are usually indicators of countries in trouble. The major enemies of the Jews are also those of British civil society. The extreme Right is still relatively weak but strikes out violently at many groups. A significant percentage of British Muslims want to replace British law with sharia. The extreme Left and parts of the moderate Left undermine society in many ways. Parts of the human rights lobby have become functional allies of potential terrorists and other murderers by trying to block antiterrorism laws.

This takes place in a general environment that is often criminal-friendly. Ken MacDonald QC, director of public prosecutions in the UK, in May 2006 attacked the legal establishment for its patronizing attitude toward crime victims in the UK, where some criminal lawyers think only the rights of the defendants matter. He added that the treatment of victims and witnesses was appalling and also said there might be a rise in vigilantism unless courts are seen to be providing justice.[xxii]

Germany

Germany remains a case by itself because of its genocidal past. The more taboos against the Holocaust fall, the more questions arise about whether Germany has managed to build a lasting new democratic identity in which its criminal past has been confronted in a cathartic way.

American political scientist Andrei Markovits claims this process of self-identity formation has been abandoned in favor of unruffled wishful thinking in which Auschwitz is little more than a minor disturbance. The taboo-violations of the last few years increasingly signal an end to the grace period for Jews, an acceptance of latent anti-Semitism, a defensive mentality about historical memory, and the revival of an uninhibited, unbroken identification with the German nation. The German Left, for its part, has long since become an enthusiastic participant in the trend.[xxiii]

As mentioned in my previous book, in 2004 the University of Bielefeld undertook a major survey of over 2,600 Germans. Thirty-two percent of those interviewed agreed or largely agreed with the statement: “Because of Israel’s policies, I have increasing antipathy toward Jews.” Sixty-eight percent agreed that: “Israel undertakes a war of destruction against the Palestinians.” Fifty-one percent shared the opinion: “The way the state of Israel acts toward the Palestinians is in principle no different from the Nazis’ behavior in the Third Reich toward the Jews.”[xxiv]

Charlotte Knobloch, the newly elected leader of the Central Council of German Jews has complained several times about what she calls “the anti-mood against Israel and the Jews.” Among the politicians she mentioned as supporting this mood are the left-wing Social Democratic minister of development aid Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul and Left Party leader Oskar Lafontaine. In one variant of moral equivalence, the latter claimed that the Germans not only have a moral debt toward the Jews but also toward the Palestinians.

Knobloch said she had never before seen such an anti-mood against the Jews in Germany. She stated that this attitude has permeated all layers of society. As another example, she noted that a senior German official, Herman Schäfer, had in the presence of Buchenwald survivors at the opening of the Weimar Festival spoken only about the Germans who had been expelled after the war.[xxv]

Once again the attitudes toward the Jews probably express more profound problems in German society. According to a poll conducted in 2005 for the Statistische Bundesamt (National Bureau of Statistics), only 71  percent of inhabitants of former West Germany considered democracy the best way of running a state compared to 80 percent who said so in 2000. In the former East Germany, only 38 percent preferred democracy in 2005 compared to 49 percent in 2000. Three out of four polled there considered that socialism was a good concept that, however, had been poorly implemented (by the communists). In West Germany, 46 percent espoused this view.[xxvi]

The Berlin Declaration; the EUMC Definition of Anti-Semitism

A frequent claim of anti-Israelis and anti-Zionists is that they are not anti-Semites. Nevertheless, their motifs and methods are often mutations of earlier anti-Semitic ones. Researchers at Yale University analyzed an Anti-Defamation League survey of five hundred citizens in each of ten European countries. They found that anti-Israeli sentiment “consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed.”[xxvii]

On the more positive side, after years of reluctance many European governments are starting to understand that anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism greatly overlap. In April 2004, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) adopted the Berlin Declaration. This document recognized the new direction from which anti-Semitism comes, particularly the demonization of Israel and Zionism. Despite the support of many governments, the question remains to what extent the declaration’s words will translate into deeds.

The EUMC in its 2004 report on anti-Semitism had noted the lack of a common definition of the term. It requested a small group of Jewish NGOs to prepare one. Subsequently this detailed text has often been referred to.[xxviii]

The EUMC working definition reads:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

The text gives a number of examples of anti-Semitism targeting Jews or Israel.

This is gradually becoming the accepted definition of contemporary anti-Semitism. So, for instance, the Report of the British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism recommended that “the EUMC Working Definition of anti-Semitism is adopted and promoted by the Government and law enforcement agencies.”[xxix]

3. RELEVANT DEVELOPMENTS ELSEWHERE

Several developments outside Europe and Israel over the past two years are also relevant to Israeli-European interaction. Some of these concern Palestinians. Positive predictions about them have again not materialized. As mentioned earlier, terror has continued since the disengagement. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has not fought it, and the present Hamas-led government does not accept previous Palestinian commitments to Israel.

In August 2006, Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority, wrote that the Palestinian armed groups should be blamed for the crisis in Gaza rather than Israel. Describing the situation in Gaza City as “unimaginable chaos,” he added: “Gaza is suffering under the yoke of anarchy and the swords of thugs,” and said that “the culture of life” there before the Israeli disengagement had turned into a “nightmare and intolerable burden.”[xxx] The article drew some attention because it is so rare to find a Palestinian, in a responsible position, who does not blame all his society’s plight on Israel and shows some introspection.

The developments in the Iraq war have many implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The West now realizes that attacking primarily civilian targets is not a specific Palestinian trait. Such atrocities have been much more frequent in Iraq and elsewhere in Muslim societies.

Nowadays suicide bombing emanates predominantly from parts of Muslim culture. Its main victims from a global perspective are Muslims, with Westerners and Israelis a distant second. Civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are the main targets, but Muslim terror attacks or foiled attempts have also come to other Arab countries including Saudi Arabia,  Jordan, Yemen, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia.

Western countries, especially the United States, Britain, Spain, and some others, have had to face the realities of this asymmetric warfare. Like Israel, they have not found foolproof counteractions. Also relevant is that Western treatment of enemy prisoners is far harsher than in the Israeli case. All this pales, however, compared to the widespread cruel behavior of Arab regimes and terrorist groups.

Another important consideration is that if Western troops were to leave Iraq, most likely a new terrorist state would emerge. This should give pause to those who want to weaken Israel and strengthen the Palestinians, particularly as the latter have been prime exporters of international terrorism.

4. EUROPEAN-ISRAELI INTERACTIONS

When assessing how European-Israeli interactions have changed over the past eighteen months, two important matters stand out. The first is that European political pressure on Israel has diminished somewhat since the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. That also happened in the past when Israel gave up territory in exchange for no lasting gains-for instance, after the Wye agreements.

A second significant change is that Europe now has a small involvement in the Gaza area, with Europeans monitoring the border between Gaza and Egypt. On one occasion their positions were occupied by Palestinian militants and the European soldiers had to flee. They thus acquired some additional experience with the nature of Palestinian civil society.

Eran points to an additional factor that concerns more the packaging of European attitudes than their contents. He says: “One notices a growing realism in the EU that their megaphone diplomacy is counterproductive to any constructive role they want to play in the Middle East.”

Regarding changes in European-Israeli political relations, another substantial issue merits attention. The European narrative and the European semantics concerning the Middle East and Israel have been negatively influenced for decades by Arab and other incitement. The foundations of this narrative were mainly fallacies. Recent events increasingly expose this fact.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Solves Everything?

A few examples illustrate the point. One basic concept that has been promoted by Arabs and Muslims worldwide as well as their Western friends is that if there were Israeli-Palestinian peace, the West’s problems with the Muslim world would disappear.

Yet the four Muslim suicide bombers in London as well as the suspects captured in July 2005 before they could blow themselves up did not act out of anger over Israeli actions. They were driven by their abysmal hatred of the Western world.

Another example already mentioned: in the autumn 2005 riots in France about ten thousand cars were torched. Assuming that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been solved, would one French car less have been set ablaze? Would the hooligans and criminals have burned one less shop?

Would fewer European embassies have been attacked and less people been killed in the Mohammed-cartoon riots if there had been peace between Israel and the Palestinians? And would the Muslim world’s reaction to the words of Pope Benedict XVI about Islam and the Prophet Mohammad in September 2006 have been more benign if there had been such a peace?

Joffe points out that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also would not lead the Saudi government to become more democratic, nor would it reform Wahhabite thinking.

Are Arab Rhetoric and Violence Different?

The second collapsing component of the European narrative on the Middle East is that Arab and Muslim violent rhetoric differs from their real intentions. In the past, for example, many EU politicians have suggested that Arab and Muslim threats against Israel should not be taken at face value.

Those British who assisted the wounded after the July 2005 suicide attack in London by young Muslims probably have a different view. So do those who collected the remnants of those who were killed, some of whom were Muslims. They understand the reality of extremist pronouncements much better than many politicians. There is no gap between the rhetoric of extreme Muslims and their intentions.

A third fallacy known as “land for peace”-this one mainly promoted by the Israeli Left-is that peace between Israel and the Palestinians could be achieved by exchanging it for territory conquered in the Six Day War. But actual territorial concessions to the Palestinians have probably distanced peace by making Arabs think that time works in their favor.

Can Europeans Solve the Problems of Others?

A fourth element of the crumbling European narrative about Israel concerns many European politicians’ harsh criticisms of Israeli policies. Thus they claimed, again inspired by voices from the Israeli Left, that Israel had to be saved from itself by dictates from the wise Europeans.

Since the terrorist attacks of the last few years in Europe, more and more Europeans have come to the conclusion that many European countries have an unsolvable problem with substantial parts of the mainly Muslim minorities that cannot be integrated in the foreseeable decades. This problem is of Europe’s own making through its immigration and absorption policies. If Europe could not see that these policies were creating problems for itself, how wise can it be in analyzing others’ problems about which it understands even less?

Yet another failing element of the European narrative, already mentioned,  derives again from its left wing. It says that the colored are always victims, and as such are always right. European postcolonial guilt feelings also foster this sympathy for the underdog.

The French philosopher André Taguieff is among the few Europeans who saw at an early stage that a distinction must be made between real victims and criminals. He also recognized the dangers of blind pacifism, which places the aggressor and his victim at the same moral level and thereby turns legitimate self-defense into a crime. Future violence will lead more and more people to understand that a functioning civil society requires that criminals remain as weak as possible.[xxxi]

The Abyss Remains

The EU votes in the United Nations demonstrate that the major political abyss between Europe and Israel remains. Again, in 2005, European countries voted to condemn Israel in a series of resolutions in the General Assembly-a recurrence of this classic annual manifestation of Europe’s bias against Israel.

Major EU-Israeli political disagreements also remain. Some of these concern the legality of Israeli settlements and of Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Ruth Lapidoth, former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, discusses these in an interview hereinafter.

Amid the reigning confusion, however, there are some indications of a change. As noted, after the disengagement from Gaza, Israel agreed to give Europe a small role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by stationing monitors on the Gaza-Sinai border. This may be considered a test case. Now a bigger test has emerged with the UN force in Lebanon. If Europe performs well there, it will create some confidence in Israel, which over the past decades has had no reason to believe in Europe’s political impartiality. A failure of the UN force is likely to further increase Israel’s distrust of Europe.

Robbie Sabel considers that one way to improve Israeli-European relations is that Israel should aim to become a full member of the Council of Europe. He says Israel should strive in general to join clubs of democratic states. If Israel were to be accepted by the Council of Europe, it would be another step by Europe to close the abyss that many of its political positions create.

Former Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar goes further than Sabel, actively promoting the enlargement of NATO membership to include Japan, Australia, and Israel. In his interview, Bardaji explains Aznar’s reasoning.

Israel and Jews: Indicators of Europe’s Troubles

As time passes, it becomes clearer that many problems faced by Israel and the Jews are indicators of much wider ones in Europe and other parts of the West. Looking at a small identifiable subgroup that has historically been a convenient victim of European tensions may give sharper and different insights on certain problems of a confused Western society.

This has become most clear in France.[xxxii] The autumn 2005 riots were directed at white French society at large. Almost all the rioters were North African or West African Muslims. The fallacy that there is only one type of racism, that of whites against the colored, could no longer be maintained. During the turmoil several rioters told the media they were driven by anti-French and antiwhite feelings.

This minority racism had already manifested itself several years earlier, often against the Jews in France. What France experienced in autumn 2005 parts of the Jewish community, who lived close to Muslim communities, had gone through since late 2000. The socialist government closed its eyes to the many attacks on Jews by Muslim and right-wing racists. The authorities often called it hooliganism and denied its specific anti-Semitic character.

The Jospin government, supported by Chirac, thought it would protect social peace by making no significant efforts to uphold the Jews’ civil rights. Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine said while Jews were being attacked in January 2002: “One should not necessarily be shocked that young Frenchmen originating from the immigration would have compassion for the Palestinians and are excited by what is happening [in the Middle East].”[xxxiii]

The socialist leaders did not understand that the violence initially aimed at the Jews as a vulnerable substitute for the prime target of resentment, the white French majority. In autumn 2005, those who were willing could see better see the real factors behind the unrest in part of the Muslim community.

Other Indicators

There are many other matters where studying the Jewish community yields insight into current or prospective developments in Europe. The motif of the Jew as a canary in the mine will likely become increasingly useful as the situation in Europe becomes more confused. This does not mean the Jews are a universal litmus test for what will happen in Europe at large. They are far from being the only such indicator, yet are probably as good a one as any.

Slowly, an increasing number of Europeans are starting to understand that the forces attacking Israel are also those undermining the fundamentals of European society. Often these forces act alone and often they march together, such as the extreme Left and Muslim radicals. If they succeed, the society they create will not be an improvement.

They will, however, partly destroy what has been achieved. European leaders would do well to attend more systematically to the damage caused to their countries by radical Muslims, the extreme Left, and the extreme Right, and to consider what measures to take.

5. CONCLUSION

Israel can draw several important lessons from the EU’s current mindset and internal divisions, which the Lebanon war has further highlighted. The main lesson is that even in situations of great danger to Israel, Europe will remain broadly neutral.

Another is that a continent that has created many problems for itself and cannot adequately deal with them is also a very bad guide to tell Israel and others how to solve their own problems. Europe’s role in the Lebanon conflict yet again demonstrates the great gap between its pretensions and reality.

At the end of 2004 when Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? was concluded, there was a clear gulf between Europe and Israel. The question then was: how will Israel interact politically with a possibly increasingly hostile Europe? This abyss today continues to exist, but the uncertainty about Europe’s future has greatly intensified. Haze covers part of the precipice.

What many Israelis see today in Europe are indications that confusion may be partly overtaking hostility. This leads to the difficult question: how should Israel deal with a confused and changing Europe?

New Assessments

Confused and changing situations require new assessments. As far as Europe is concerned, the starting point could be that Israel has much more experience with the ideology and practice of violent Muslim tendencies than Europe has so far. European Jews also have more experience with the problems caused by part of the European Muslim community than does society at large. The latter is only at the beginning of its learning curve. One logical question, then, is what can Europe learn from Israel-and the Jews-in this area?

A second question for Europeans to ask is: what methods has the European extreme Left used in its attacks against Israel and the Jews? The answer should be: the same methods it will further develop to undermine Western society. That makes studying them particularly worthwhile.

As far as Israel is concerned, the situation is even more complex. As a small nation with many problems, Israel lacks both leadership and resources to profoundly assess the complex situation in the EU. Yet it needs to be done; one needs to understand as much as one can. This includes trying to identify weak signals of the future and monitor whether they are intensifying.

One important action Israel should take in any scenario is to try and organize its friends in Europe. A first step was the establishment of the European Friends of Israel, which unites hundreds of parliamentarians in European countries.[xxxiv]

At this juncture, there is another important conclusion Israel should draw. Over the past two years, under the influence of a new bout of Europessimism and increasing domestic threats, the EU has lost part of its self-assuredness. An Israeli-European dialogue has become more possible and can be useful to both sides. That is why Israel should invest efforts in it.

Notes 

[i]. Meron Rapoport, “Italian FM: Harsh U.S. Approach to Mideast Failed,” Haaretz, 25 August 2006.

[ii]. Gallo Giuliano, “Cossiga in Israele: gli Hizballah terroristi ma nel mio governo c’e chi li crede legittimi,” Corriere della Sera, 24 August 2006. [Italian]

[iii]. AGI, “Italian Government Anti-Semitic,” 29 August 2006, www.agi.it/english/news.pl?doc=200608291745-1208-RT1-CRO-0-NF82&page=0&id=agionline-eng.italyonline.

[iv]. Shmuel Trigano, “Guerre, mensonges et vidéos, ” Libération, 31 August 2006. [French]

[v]. Alan Dershowitz, “Amnesty International Redefines ‘War Crimes,'” Jerusalem Post, 30 August 2006.

[vi]. Robbie Sabel, “Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon and the Law of Armed Conflict,” Jurist Legal News and Research, 27 August 2006, jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2006/07/hezbollah-israel-lebanon-and-law-of.php.

[vii]. Julia Gorin, “The EU Idiot’s Guide to Islamic Extremism,” FrontPageMagazine.com, 15 August 2006.

[viii]. “Weitere Festnahme im Libanon,” Frankfurter Allgemeine, 28 August 2006. [German]

[ix]. “Hisbollah-Kämpfer schmuggelten sich unter die Krieg-Flüchtlinge,” Die Welt, 27 August 2006 [German]; “Hizbullah sickert nach Deutschland ein,” Frankfurter Allgemeine, 27 August 2006. [German]

[x]. Philip Johnston, “Yard Is Watching Thousands of Terror Suspects,” Daily Telegraph, 2 September 2006.

[xi]. Will Woodward and Stephen Bates, “Muslim Leaders Say Foreign Policy Makes UK Target,” The Guardian, 12 August 2006.

[xii]. Jasmina Nielsen, “7 Charged in Terrorism Plot in Denmark,” The Guardian, 5 September 2006.

[xiii]. Mark Eeckhaut, “Extreem-rechts plande aanslagen in ons land,” De Standaard, 8 September 2006. [Dutch]

[xiv]. Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 62.

[xv]. Moshe Yegar, Neutral Policy-Theory versus Practice: Swedish-Israeli Relations, 2nd ed. (Jerusalem: Israel Council on Foreign Relations, 1998), 173.

[xvi]. Sven Fredrik Hedin and Goran Elgemry, “Sweden’s Financial Links to Nazi Germany,” in Avi Beker, ed., The Plunder of Jewish Property during the Holocaust: Confronting European History (Hounslow: Palgrave, 2001,) 207-08.

[xvii]. Efraim Zuroff, “Sweden’s Refusal to Prosecute Nazi War Criminals: 1986-2002,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 14, Nos. 3 & 4 (Fall 2002): 85-117.

[xviii]. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The Deep Roots of Anti-Semitism in European Society,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 1 & 2 (Spring 2005): 28-29.

[xix]. Community Security Trust, Antisemitic Incidents Report 2005 (London, 2006).

[xx]. Report of the British All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Antisemitism (London: Stationery Office Ltd, September 2006).

[xxi]. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Zvi Shtauber, “British Attitudes toward Israel and the Jews,” Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss?, 183-92.

[xxii]. “DPP Attacks ‘Fundamentalist’ Liberal Lawyers,” Daily Telegraph, 28 August 2006.

[xxiii]. Andrei S. Markovits, “A New (or Perhaps Revived) ‘Uninhibitedness’ toward Jews in Germany,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 18, Nos. 1 & 2 (Spring 2006): 66.

[xxiv]. Wilhelm Heitmeyer, ed., Deutsche Zustände (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005). [German]

[xxv]. Mariam Lau, “Enttäuschung nach 100 Tagen,” Die Welt, 31 August 2006. [German]

[xxvi]. Deutsche zweifeln an die Demokratie,” Die Welt, 14 September 2006. [German]

[xxvii]. Edward H. Kaplan and Charles A. Small, “Anti-Israel Sentiment Predicts Anti-Semitism in Europe,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 50, No. 4 (August 2006): 548-61.

[xxviii]. Whine, “Progress in the Struggle.”

[xxix]. Report of the British All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Antisemitism.

[xxx]. Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas Spokesman: Gaza Is Caught in a Nightmare of Anarchy and Thuggery,” Jerusalem Post, 28 August 2006.

[xxxi]. Pierre-André Taguieff, Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2004).

[xxxii]. Manfred Gerstenfeld, The Autumn 2005 Riots in France (Jerusalem: JCPA, 2006).

[xxxiii]. Itamar Eichner, “The Anti-Jewish Aggressions Can Be Understood,” Yediot Aharonot, 15 January 2005.

[xxxiv]. Ronny Sofer, “Gala Launches ‘European Friends of Israel,'” Ynetnews, 14 September 2006.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is emeritus chairman (2000-2012) of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The author was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. His latest book is The War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle against the Delegitimization of Israel and the Jews, and the Growth of New Anti-Semitism (2015). His previous books include Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism; Judging the Netherlands: The Renewed Holocaust Restitution Process, 1997-2000; and The Abuse of Holocaust Memory: Distortions and Responses.