No. 547 October 2006
The European Union has for many years announced its ambition to be a global political actor – to act as a counterweight to the United States on the world scene. The summer war in Lebanon could have been a major opportunity for the EU to show that it could move rapidly to stop a conflict in its tracks by offering a solution in which it would make a major contribution. Yet the discrepancy in the EU’s pretensions and its capability to play a major role gradually became clear during the war.
The Lebanese war was also a chance for Europe to show that it stood behind Israel when it was threatened by a terrorist group with genocidal aims. Yet the EU’s position was lukewarm at best.
The expression “disproportionate use of force” would become a standard for many politicians and commentators in relating to Hizballah’s provocation and Israel’s reaction in the Lebanon war. It became an example of how double standards are applied to Israel by requiring of it a behavior not expected of any other democratic nation.
22 of the 25 EU members agreed to put Hizballah on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations. The three holdouts are France, Spain, and Ireland.
Israel’s policy-makers should understand that many Europeans will always support the Arabs against it whether they are strong or weak. They have long since lost the ability to discern between criminals and victims, democrats and terrorists. Thus, even in situations of great danger to Israel, Europe will remain broadly neutral.
The European Union has for many years announced its ambition to be a global political actor. This large part of a continent with 450 million inhabitants wants to act as a counterweight to the United States and its preponderant role on the world scene. The summer war in Lebanon could have been an important opportunity for the EU to show that it could move rapidly to stop a conflict in its tracks by offering a solution in which it would make a major contribution.
Furthermore, Lebanon is a country where Europe, and in particular France, has a substantial interest. In addition, the United States is currently preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, there were many circumstances conducive to an important European role in the Lebanese conflict.
Israel had withdrawn from Lebanon in 2000 under Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The Lebanese Army had failed to take over the positions Israel left, despite repeated UN resolutions that called on it to do so. Moreover, from the standpoint of the UN, Israel had no territorial conflict with Lebanon. (The new Hizballah claim to the Shebaa Farms in the Golan Heights was dismissed by the UN Secretary General.)
Hizballah attacked Israel on July 12, 2006, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two others. Five more soldiers were killed in the effort to free the soldiers captured. Hizballah also fired Katyusha rockets at Israel from Lebanon. In response, Israel reacted on July 13, inter alia, bombing Beirut’s international airport.
Hizballah was a faction in the elected Lebanese government. It had collected massive quantities of weapons on Lebanon’s territory which the country’s government had ignored. In 2006, Israel was the victim of an unprovoked attack. It had international legitimacy on its side and, therefore, expected unqualified support from Western allies.
On July 13, Finland, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, issued a statement on the EU’s behalf: “The European Union is greatly concerned about the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Lebanon in response to attacks by Hizballah on Israel. The presidency deplores the loss of civilian lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. The imposition of an air and sea blockade on Lebanon cannot be justified.”1
While the EU softened its statement somewhat after the G8 meeting in St. Petersburg the following weekend,2 the expression “disproportionate use of force” would become a standard for many politicians and commentators in relating to Hizballah’s provocation and Israel’s reaction in the Lebanon war. It became an example of how double standards are applied to Israel by requiring of it a behavior not expected of any other democratic nation. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s (EUMC) working definition on anti-Semitism mentions such double standards as an example of this racism.3
The author Frederic Forsyth punctured the European hypocrisy, writing:
Certain of our politicians, seeking easy populism and the cheapest round of applause in modern history, have called the Israeli response ‘disproportionate.’…Why did the accusers not mention Serbia?…In 1999 five Nato air forces – US, British, French, Italian, and German – began to plaster Yugoslavia, effectively the tiny and defenceless province of Serbia. We were not at war with the Serbs, we had no reason to hate them, they had not attacked us and no Serbian rockets were falling on us.
But we practically bombed them back to the Stone Age. We took out every bridge we could see. We trashed their TV station, army barracks, airfields and motorways. We were not fighting for our lives and no terrorists were skulking among the civilian population but we hit apartment blocks and factories anyway. There were civilian casualties. We did not do it for 25 days but for 73. We bombed this little country economically back 30 years by converting its infrastructure into rubble….In all those 73 days of bombing Serbia I never heard one British moralist use the word “disproportionate.”4
There is also another aspect to the accusations against Israel of acting in a disproportionate way. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders have on multiple occasions said that they are willing to sacrifice many millions of Muslim lives in order to eliminate Israel. As there are about two hundred times more Muslims than Israelis, the support for proportionality is also an indirect encouragement for the planned genocide by the Iranians and their allies.
Equivalence between Democracy and Terrorists
The initial Finnish statement did not even place the EU in an even-handed, “the truth is in the middle” position between an attacked democracy and the attacking terrorists. Frequently thereafter one could hear additional European voices of moral equivalence between Israel’s behavior and the Hizballah actions. How European statements de facto help terrorists was shown even more by the Spanish socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero who said: “From my point of view, Israel is wrong. One thing is self-defense, and the other is to launch a counter-offensive consisting of a general attack in Lebanon and Gaza that is just going to further escalate violence in the area.”5
At a rally which took place during the war, Zapatero was photographed with a kaffiyeh which had been put on his head by a member of an al-Fatah youth group. This headdress symbolizes the radical anti-Israel left. Zapatero later stated that he did not regret posing for the photo and would do it again. Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League in the United States, said: “the Spanish prime minister wears his anti-Israel bias on his sleeve.”6
On August 2, the Finnish presidency announced that the EU would not put Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations. Earlier that day it had also said that it considered Israel’s decision to step up military actions against Hizballah unacceptable.7
Closest in their positions to Israel were the governments of Germany, Great Britain, and the Czech Republic. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a speech in Los Angeles that reactionary Islam had seized its opportunity first in Gaza, then in Lebanon: “They knew what would happen. Their terrorism would provoke massive retaliation by Israel. Within days, the world would forget the original provocation and be shocked by the retaliation.”8
EU Pretensions and Capabilities
The discrepancy between the European Union’s pretensions and capabilities to play a major role gradually became clear during the war. The EU had difficulty in reaching internal agreement on the proposed procedure toward a ceasefire.9 Nor could it decide rapidly what it would contribute to the solution of the problem. The divisions in opinions between EU member states made a strong, united position impossible.
The Lebanese war was more than a litmus test for Europe’s capabilities. It was also a chance for Europe to show that it stood behind Israel when it was threatened by a terrorist group with genocidal aims. The EU’s position, however, even now, was lukewarm at best.
When the UN decision about a multinational force was reached, it soon became clear that it would not undertake one major task required to bring peace to the area, the disarming of Hizballah. This it intends to leave to the Lebanese army, which means that it will not be done. Nor is it clear that the UN force will be able to prevent a new flow of arms to Hizballah from Syria. The best one can expect is the mitigation of the terrorist problem. The way the force will function may determine whether it will become a source of friction between Europe and Israel.
It would have been reasonable to assume that the EU member states would rapidly provide most of the 15,000 soldiers required for the force. However, reactions were slow. In particular, France, which had presented itself as the EU’s political leader in the days preceding the ceasefire, initially offered 200 soldiers, far fewer troops than expected, and the European lead thus passed to Italy which promised 2,500 soldiers.
Former British defense minister Michael Portillo scathingly attacked the French. He recalled that a French general, Philippe Morillon, had pledged on behalf of the UN forces in the former Yugoslavia to protect Srebrenica, without having the resources to do so.
Portillo said he and the other NATO defense ministers “found a word to describe the French habit of making impressive statements with no means to put them into effect. We called it ‘grandstanding.'” Regarding the Lebanon UN force, he added: “Late last week, after wasting valuable time since hostilities ended nearly two weeks ago, President Chirac gave way. Having attracted the world’s scorn, he raised his country’s offer to 2,000.”10
In October 2006, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP party (who wants to succeed Chirac – who is from the same party – in the 2007 presidential elections) said that France was too arrogant in its foreign policy. “It wants to be an example, while on many points it is no longer.”11 He did not explicitly mention Chirac, but the message could not be mistaken. In the French governmental system, it is the country’s president who is responsible for foreign policy.
By the end of August, even Chirac had admitted that Europe had been more than necessarily absent during the Lebanon conflict. He said that on several occasions he had recommended that Javier Solana, the EU’s representative for foreign affairs, should be given a mandate to act on behalf of the EU member states, as is the case with the Iranian nuclear affair.12 In view of the disagreements between the member countries on the Lebanese crisis, this was not accepted.13
The French Minister for European Affairs, Catherine Colonna, noted that the EU was affected by a sickness of listlessness and of general fatigue, which did not augur well for its capacity to respond to peoples’ needs. Colonna added that the EU was in fact 25 states living next to each other, aiming at difficult compromises rather than searching for a common interest.14
During the war, at the end of July, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy referred to Iran as “a great country…which plays a role of stabilization in the region.”15 Thus he referred to a country which promotes genocide, murder, Holocaust denial, and arms terrorists. A senior Israeli diplomat responded: “What planet is he on? It’s not planet Earth if he thinks Iran is a stabilizing force.”16 In 1995, fifty years after the end of World War II, Chirac finally admitted that France had helped Germany to collect the Jews in the Paris cycling stadium from where they were sent to be murdered. He said that France had incurred an unforgivable debt.17 Yet in 2006, a minister of democratic France praised another genocidal state.
A few days later, Douste-Blazy was asked to react to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that the solution to ending violence in the Middle East was “the elimination of the Zionist regime.” He told France-Inter radio: “I totally condemn these words,” adding that they were “absolutely unacceptable on anyone’s part, especially from a head of state.” The crisis had presented an opportunity for Iran to “show that it can play a positive and stabilizing role in the region,” and that Ahmadinejad’s statement “confirmed that this is not the case.”18
France’s anti-Israeli bias continued after the Lebanon war. At the Francophone summit in Bucharest in September, a one-sided motion was proposed which deplored the effect of the Lebanon summer war on Lebanese civilians. Chirac said it was “backed by a majority of countries at the table.” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper opposed it. To avoid lack of unanimity, a revised motion was adopted which “deplores the tragedy in Lebanon and the dramatic consequences for all civilian populations.”19
Such attitudes further increase the profound Israeli distrust of French intentions. An interesting perspective on the relationship between Europe and Israel, and in particular France and Israel, was given by Gerard Araud, the outgoing French Ambassador to Israel. He said: “Europeans have no idea what Israel is….They come here and meet more or less the same circles of the intellectual left, and hear more or less the same ideas in the same English, and go back home thinking that the only thing that interests Israelis is the conflict and that their lives are wonderful and everyone goes around the world from conference to conference….I am sad to see that in France and in Europe in general they do not see you in a realistic light.”
About Israel’s attitude toward France Araud said: “You hate us so fundamentally and passionately, you forgive the Dutch for helping to kill the majority of the Jewish community, the Belgians for their high rate of membership of the Nazi party – and we are the worst in your eyes. That makes me angry, I am hurt, I am helpless, France is my country, it is my homeland, and I don’t think it deserves so much shame.”20
European Civil Society
There were also new lows reached in European civil society. Two among many examples illustrate how low some prominent Europeans can stoop. On July 25, 2006, Sir Peter Tapsell, a British Conservative MP, compared Israel’s behavior in Lebanon to that of the Nazi atrocities in the Jewish quarter of Warsaw.21 Yet such a comparison is baseless. The Polish Jews had not announced for years that they would eradicate Germany and acquired weapons to attack it. It was the opposite. Hizballah, part of the Lebanese government, wants to eradicate Israel. In this it resembles Nazi Germany. Tapsell’s remark is telling mainly about himself, as it was not Hizballah that reminded him of Nazis.
One wonders why he did not look closer to home, to the bombing by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) of Dresden between 13 and 15 February 1945? An estimated 25-35,000 civilians were killed in the town. Of the 220,000 apartments in Dresden, 175,000 were destroyed or damaged.
In Norway, anti-Semitic racism is rife among large parts of the contemporary left-wing elite. Cartoons about Israel published in leading papers often resemble Nazi ones.22 A well-known writer, Jostein Gaarder, wrote in Norway’s leading daily, Aftenposten, on August 5, 2006: “It is time to learn a new lesson: We no longer recognize the State of Israel. We could not recognize the South African apartheid regime, nor did we recognize the Afghan Taliban regime. Then there were many who did not recognize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing. We must now get used to the idea: The State of Israel in its current form is history….The State of Israel has raped the recognition of the world and shall have no peace until it lays down its arms.”23 Thus the pseudo-humanist Gaarder became Ahmadinejad’s de facto ally.
No Unequivocal Support, No Pressure
Jeffrey Gedmin, the American president of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, has noted in the past: “The typical European approach to Israel is to wait until Israel reacts to an attack and then criticize it….One would expect the Europeans to say at least once: ‘This is what we would do. Our proposal is credible for a number of sound reasons. We will support it in the following ways. If you accept it and it fails, we will protect you by taking a number of major actions.’ On that front, however, the Europeans are totally absent.”24
Gedmin’s assertion showed itself accurate once again. When the Israelis accidentally bombed civilians on July 30 in Kafr Kana, the Europeans strongly condemned it on the same day, but there were no European suggestions on how to better handle the situation. For instance, how should Israel fight an enemy who locates his rockets intentionally among civilians in a country where the government is incompetent and unwilling to deal with this matter?
Oded Eran, Israeli Ambassador to the EU, describes the EU position during the war: “While there has not been an unequivocal support for Israel’s battle against the Hizballah, there has not been any significant pressure either on Israel to end the military campaign in a way which would leave Israel exposed in the future to similar threats.”
This rather neutral position has to be seen against a background of ongoing hostile declarations by the EU which by now have acquired an almost ritual character. Eran added: “Every month statements critical of Israel keep coming out of the monthly meetings of the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs. These are written by mid-level diplomats of the member states. It rarely happens that they are not automatically approved by the ministers.”25
The EU and Terrorism
Why did the EU not put Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations like Hamas? Rijk van Dam, a Dutch former EU parliamentarian, recalls that a parliament resolution in March 2005 labeled Hizballah a terrorist organization. It called upon the European ministers to put the group on the list of terrorist bodies, but this has not happened. Van Dam adds that while the meetings of the EU diplomats who discuss the list are secret, it is known that 22 of the 25 members agreed to putting Hizballah on the list. The three holdouts are France, Spain, and Ireland.26
Not surprisingly, Hizballah has a very positive view of France. During the war the Lebanese minister of labor, Trad Hamade, a Hizballah member, said to Le Figaro: “France is a friend of Lebanon, but since ten years it is also a friend of Hizballah. The Shiite community is more and more francophone.”27
Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, continued to claim during the Lebanon war that there was not sufficient data to tie Hizballah to terrorist activities. This led to a letter from 210 members of the U.S. Congress – Democrats and Republicans – to him which renewed the call to add Hizballah to the list of terrorist organizations. The congressmen also wrote that they “were dismayed” by Solana’s statement.28
After the Lebanese confrontation, the situation has only become more complicated. Massimo D’Alema, Italy’s foreign minister, has said he does not consider Hizballah a terrorist organization, despite the fact that it has for years targeted civilians. D’Alema is head of the DS Party (Democrats of the Left), which consists mainly of members of the former communist party, in which he was a key figure.
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.”29 His remarks raise the question as to why he does not hold Lebanon responsible for anything that Hizballah, a non-terrorist organization, does. His statements may induce 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. When visiting Israel in August he said that Hizballah was a terrorist movement which was fanatic and inspired by Islamic extremism, although several members of the Italian government saw it erroneously as a legitimate political party. Cossiga added: “It is nowadays dangerous to be pro-Israeli in Italy.”30
A few days later Cossiga said: “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.”31
The EU’s behavior during the war accentuated problems which had already been exposed over many years concerning two related political issues. One is its weak attitude toward the more extreme forces in the Muslim world. The other is its mindset about Islamic terrorism in the EU, as expressed in the EU’s proposal to replace the wording “Islamic terrorism” with the misrepresentation “terrorism that abusively invokes Islam.”32 Thus, the EU has started to make theological judgments about the nature of contemporary Islam’s teachings.
European reactions to several events in recent years have helped to clarify where it stands on Muslim terrorism and violence. After Yasser Arafat’s death at the end of 2004, former Israeli diplomat Freddy Eytan wrote about the honor French President Chirac paid to Arafat. “Chirac went far beyond the requirements of protocol. It would be difficult to find in modern times another head of a democratic country who paid such homage to a warrior chief of a virtual state.”33
Arafat and the PLO have been major innovators of international terrorism. He was by any standards a major war criminal. Arafat authorized payments to families of suicide bombers who killed Israeli civilians. Yet Chirac and many other European leaders paid homage to the man who fostered international terrorism more than anybody else in the last decades of the twentieth century. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan went even beyond most Europeans and laid a wreath on Arafat’s grave while on his way to the opening of a new Holocaust museum in Israel.34
A second important litmus test is the European attitude toward Iranian President Ahmadinejad. On October 26, 2005, Ahmadinejad called for the elimination of Israel at a meeting where terrorist leaders Hassan Nasrallah of Hizballah and Khaled Mash’al of Hamas were also present. While this genocidal call led to a number of condemnations by Western governments, not a single Western country recalled its ambassador from Tehran.35
Having gotten away without many problems with his repeated calls for genocide against Israel, Ahmadinejad then attacked the Jews by denying the Holocaust. There were again verbal condemnations by Western governments.
Ahmadinejad could interpret this as indicating that the West, and Europe in particular, is either incapable or unwilling to go beyond words. With his genocide calls and Holocaust denial statements he had served the West a few provocative test cases. Ahmadinejad understood Western reactions to them as a sign that little is likely to happen if Iran goes ahead with its nuclear development program.
Iran represents multiple threats to all of humanity, not only to Israel and the Jews. Exporting terrorism is just one of these. Would Hizballah have carried out its attack on Israel had earlier Western reactions to its patron Iran been stronger? So far Ahmadinejad seems to have read Europe rather well. Negotiations with Iran on its nuclear plans did not lead anywhere, and by the end of September the West had not managed to discuss a condemnation of Iran in the Security Council. Chirac, in the meantime, had suggested additional talks.
The Mohammed Cartoon Affair
A further test case for the current mind-set of Europe was the Mohammed cartoon controversy. In September 2005, the Danish daily Jyllands-posten published twelve cartoons on the subject of the Prophet Mohammed. Attention to them was rekindled by Danish imams who traveled to the Arab world to agitate against Denmark. Throughout February 2006 the cartoons sparked violence in many Muslim and several other countries. Several European embassies and missions were burned down or attacked. The logical reaction of the EU would have been to condemn the anti-European violence in Muslim countries and stress freedom of the press in Europe. However, the EU issued a statement of regret that the Muslims had found the cartoons offensive.36 This position, reflecting weakness, was well-noticed in the Islamic world, including in Iran.37
After the ceasefire, French sociologist Shmuel Trigano analyzed international bias against Israel in the daily Liberation. Trigano wrote that for weeks he had been looking in the French papers for the condemnation of a bombardment by Sri Lanka’s army in its fight against Tamil terrorists in which 43 schoolchildren had been killed and 60 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 added that those who thought that perhaps Arab Muslim dead were more precious than others were wrong. If that were so, the French media would have given ongoing attention to the mass murders in Iraq where Arabs were killing other Arabs. The true issue was that the media were only interested in what Israel did or, more precisely, the Jews.
Trigano also mentioned that Hizballah’s bunkers, located in the midst of civilian housing, were never shown on French television. The press managed to hide Hizballah’s character as a fascist militia, its provocations, and its shooting at Israel’s civilian population.38
Amnesty and Hizballah
European and other human rights organizations often demonized Israel during and after 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 wrote 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.”39
Dubious or inverted interpretations of international law are frequently used by Israel’s enemies against it. This was also the case concerning the Lebanon war. Dr. Robbie Sabel, former legal adviser to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote in an analysis of international law issues in the armed Lebanese confrontation: “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 noted: “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.”40
A Reminder from Terrorists
During the Lebanese war, the EU behaved as if its main concern derived from the fact that the two countries directly involved are on the fringes of Europe. Toward the war’s end, however, Europeans were reminded once again that the currents in the Muslim world which promote mass murder and violence are also present within the EU’s borders, and that substantial parts of the European Muslim population sympathize to some extent with these currents.
On July 31, 2006, an attempt was made to blow up two regional trains in Germany. In the following weeks, several suspects, all Muslims, were arrested in Germany and Lebanon.41 The press also reported that Hizballah members were among the 6,200 people repatriated from Lebanon to Germany at the beginning of August. The Interior Ministry denied this, yet the minister, Wolfgang Schauble, mentioned that Hizballah has 900 members in Germany.42
Plans to Blow Up Planes
On August 11, 2006, a group of terrorist suspects were arrested in the United Kingdom after reportedly planning to blow up a number of U.S.-bound planes over the Atlantic. All of the suspects were British-born Muslims. Peter Clarke, the head of the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist branch, said that thousands of British Muslims are being watched by the police and MI5 for possible terrorist involvement.43
After the arrests, 38 British Muslim organizations, three of the four Muslim MPs, and three of the four Muslim peers wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Blair, charging that British foreign policy on Iraq and Israel increased the pool of people from which the terrorists found their recruits. Yet they remained silent about the major inciters of terrorism in the Arab and Muslim world.44
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 which, according to investigators, could be used to make bombs.45
Within the European public discourse, the appeasers claim that one has to accommodate the perceived grievances of the Muslims and then terrorism will decline. On the other hand, there are those who consider that the Jihad preachers, the violent anti-Western incitement from the Middle East, and radical Islamic ideology will negatively influence many Muslims to different degrees irrespective of what the West does.
This battle of ideas also influences European narratives with respect to the Middle East. The appeasers claim that Muslim terrorism and the problems in Europe’s Muslim societies will disappear if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is solved. Yet the riots in France in autumn 2005 by North and West African Muslims had nothing to do with the Middle East conflict. They were the combined result of socio-economic problems, anti-white racism, and the criminal character of a significant number of the rioters. Had there been peace in the Middle East, not a single car less would have been burned in France.46
Nor would European embassies have avoided attack in the Mohammad cartoon riots if there had been peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Neither would the reaction in the Muslim world to the words of Pope Benedict XVI about Islam and the Prophet Mohammad in September 2006 have been more friendly if there had been such a peace.
False Ideological Concepts
During the past decades, Europe has allowed immigration of large numbers of non-Western Muslims, many of whom are unable or unwilling to integrate into its culture. With this, the rather xenophobic European society has created a major problem for itself which will at best fade away in several decades. 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. In reality, between opponents of violence in Islam and its promoters there is a continuum of shades, including in Europe.
The European learning process is hampered in part by false ideological concepts prevalent among sizable parts of the population. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian of Somali origin who left for the United States in spring 2006 partly due to ongoing Muslim threats on her life, explained: “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.”47
Israel’s policy-makers should understand that many Europeans will always support the Arabs, irrespective of whether they are strong or weak. They have long since lost the ability to discern between criminals and victims, democrats and terrorists. There was a sudden sympathy in Europe for Israel during the first Iraq war. The Scud rockets were coming in, and the Israelis did not react. They were sitting and waiting with gas masks on their faces in sealed rooms. That is 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.”48 This European myth is dangerous for many and in particular, Israel.
For Israel, there are several important lessons to be drawn from the EU’s mindset. The major one is that even in situations of great danger to Israel, Europe will remain broadly neutral. Another one is that a continent which has created many problems for itself and which cannot solve these is also a bad guide for telling Israel and others how to solve their problems. Europe’s role in the Lebanese war has been yet another demonstration of the great gap between its pretensions and reality.
1. “Russian defense minister says Hizballah uses ‘terrorist methods’,” Haaretz, 15 July 2006.
2. Yossi Lempkowicz, “EU softens stance on Israeli action against Hezbollah,” European Jewish Press, 17 July 2006.
3. Michael Whine, “Progress in the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism in Europe: The Berlin Declaration and the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 41, 1 February 2006.
4. Frederic Forsyth, Daily Express, 11 August 2006.
5. Lopez Alba, “Zapatero Acusa a Israel de no Respetar la Legilidad Internacional,” ABC, 16 July 2006 [Spanish].
6. Jerome Socolovsky, “Spanish leader in kaffiyeh spurs backlash after fierce criticism of Israel,” JTA, 3 August 2006.
7. “EU issues call for ‘cessation of hostilities’ rather than cease-fire,” Haaretz, 2 August 2006.
8. Tony Blair, Speech at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, 1 August 2006.
9. “EU issues call for ‘cessation of hostilities’ rather than cease-fire,” Haaretz, 2 August 2006.
10. Michael Portillo, “France about-turns into a bigger military mess,” Sunday Times, 27 August 2006.
11. “Nicolas Sarkozy s’attaque au ‘domaine reserve’ du chef de l’Etat,” Le Monde, 6 October 2006 [French].
12. “Les Europeens divises, multiplient les efforts diplomatiques,” Le Monde, 22 July 2006 [French].
13. “Jacques Chirac deplore que l’Europe ait ete trop absente de la crise libanaise,” Le Monde, 28 August 2006 [French].
14. “Catherine Colonna s’alarme des derives de l’Union Europeenne,” Le Monde, 29 August 2006 [French].
15. “A Beyrouth, Philippe Douste-Blazy prône des contacts avec l’Iran,” Le Monde, 31 July 2006 [French].
16. Herb Keinon, “French FM praises Iran as ‘stabilizing force’ in region,” Jerusalem Post, 1 August 2006.
17. Discours du President de la Republique, M. Jacques Chirac, lors des ceremonies commemorant la grande rafle des 16 et 17 juillet 1942 (Rafle du Vel’d’hiv) Paris, 16 juillet 1995, www.ambafrance-us.org/news/statmnts/1998/wchea/vel2.asp [French].
18. “Ahmadinejad’s call to destroy Israel draws French condemnation,” Haaretz, 3 August 2006.
19. Allan Woods, “Harper blocks Lebanon resolution,” CanWest News Service, 29 September 2006.
20. Avirama Golan, “Hurt and Angry,” Haaretz, 30 September 2006.
21. “Tory MP: Lebanon raid reminiscent of Nazi atrocity on Warsaw ghetto,” Haaretz, 26 July 2006.
22. Erez Uriely, “Jew Hatred in Contemporary Norwegian Caricatures,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 50, 1 November 2006.
23. Jostein Gaarder, “God’s Chosen People,” Aftenposten, 5 August 2006 [Norwegian].
24. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Jeffrey Gedmin, Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2005), pp. 153-4.
25. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Oded Eran, to be published.
26. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Rijk van Dam, “Anti-Israeli Bias in the European Parliament and other EU Institutions,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 48, 1 September 2006.
27. Georges Malbrunot, “Trad Hamade: Les armes du Hezbollah ne sont pas sacrees,” Le Figaro, 3 August 2006 [French].
28. Yossi Lempkowicz, “Adding Hezbollah to EU’s terror list needs unanimity,” European Jewish Press, 31 July 2006.
29. Meron Rapoport, “Italian FM: Harsh U.S. approach to Mideast failed,” Haaretz, 25 August 2006.
30. 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].
31. 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
32. Julia Gorin, “The EU Idiot’s Guide to Islamic Extremism,” FrontPageMagazine.com, 15 August 2006.
33. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Freddy Eytan, in Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? p. 176.
34. Meghan Clyne, “Annan’s Bow at Arafat’s Grave Sparks Outrage in City,” New York Sun, 17 March 2005.
35. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Ahmadinejad Calls for Israel’s Elimination and Declares War on the West: A Case Study of Incitement to Genocide,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, 536, 1 November 2005.
36. “EU says it regrets Muslims offended by the cartoons,” Reuters, 27 February 2006.
37. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “The Mohammed-Cartoon Controversy, Israel, and the Jews: A Case Study,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 43, 2 April 2006.
38. Shmuel Trigano, “Guerre, mensonges et videos,” Liberation, 31 August 2006 [French].
39. Alan Dershowitz, “Amnesty International Redefines ‘War Crimes,'” Jerusalem Post, 30 August 2006.
40. 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.
41. “Weitere Festnahme im Libanon,” Frankfurter Allgemeine, 28 August 2006 [German].
42. “Hisbollah-Kampfer schmuggelten sich unter die Krieg-Fluchtlinge,” Die Welt, 27 August 2006 [German]; “Hizbullah sickert nach Deutschland ein,” Frankfurter Allgemeine, 27 August 2006 [German].
43. Philip Johnston, “Yard is watching thousands of terror suspects,” Daily Telegraph, 2 September 2006.
44. Will Woodward and Stephen Bates, “Muslim leaders say foreign policy makes UK target,” Guardian, 12 August 2006.
45. Jasmina Nielsen, “7 Charged in Terrorism Plot in Denmark,” Guardian, 5 September 2006.
46. Manfred Gerstenfeld, The Autumn 2005 Riots in France: Their Possible Impact on Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2006).
47. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Ke’ev Harosh shel HaHollandim,” Makor Rishon, 28 July 2006 [Hebrew].
48. Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), p. 62.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world’s largest corporations. Among his ten books are Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003); American Jewry’s Challenge: Conversations Confronting the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005); and Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? (JCPA and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2005).