Skip to comments.Why Europe Hates Israel
Posted on 11/29/2001 3:56:50 PM PST by dennisw
Commentary November 29, 2001
Why Europe Hates Israel
By Bret Stephens, an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.
BRUSSELS -- Yesterday, a Belgian court heard arguments from
lawyers representing 23 Palestinians, survivors of the 1982 Sabra and
Chatilla massacres near Beirut, that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon should be prosecuted in Belgium for crimes against humanity.
Though Mr. Sharon almost certainly will never sit in a Belgian jail,
the trial could hardly be freighted with more significance.
More than a half-century after the Holocaust, a Europe awakened to
the importance of human rights is looking to sanction the leader of
the world's only Jewish state for a crime that was actually committed
by a Christian Lebanese militiaman, later employed by the Syrian
regime of Hafez Assad. And yet blame for the massacres seems to be
apportioned to Mr. Sharon alone. Why?
The short answer is the Belgian legal system, whose well-meaning
laws lend themselves to this sort of opportunistic and sensational
indictment. A slightly longer answer is that many Europeans are
sincerely convinced that Mr. Sharon really is a war criminal, as a
BBC documentary attempted to show last summer.
But the real answer is that
European governments today are,
by and large, tacit enemies of the
state of Israel, much as they
might protest that they merely
take a more "evenhanded"
approach to the Arab-Israeli
Consider a few recent examples.
In April, France voted to censure
Israel at the U.N. Human Rights
Commission in Geneva -- while
abstaining from a vote of censure against China. During his
diplomatic foray to Tehran in September, British Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw offered that "one of the factors which helps breed
terrorism is the anger which many people in this region feel at events
over the years in Palestine." The European Union has so far refused
to follow America's lead by freezing the assets of terrorist groups such
as Hezbollah and Hamas, with the European Commission's external
relations spokesman, Gunnar Wiegand, arguing that "Hezbollah could
play a major role in regional stability."
That Europe today should be hostile to Israel may seem a bit of a
mystery, not least given the usual sympathy of aims between
democratic states. The explanation comes in several parts. First, as
historian Howard Sacher points out, Europe's left sees in Israel's
political evolution a betrayal of its utopian ideals. It's easy to forget
that in the years following the establishment of Israel, many
Europeans looked to it as a model socialist country. They admired its
largely state-run economy and especially its collectivist kibbutzim.
Hundreds of young European leftists, most of them non-Jews, flocked
to these farms in the 1960s, looking for the kind of workers' paradise
they could not find on the other side of the Berlin Wall.
This fondness, however, evaporated after the 1967 war, when Israel
went from being the Middle East's underdog to its Goliath, holding a
colonial-like mandate over the lands that came into its possession.
Partly under the sway of Soviet propaganda, partly in keeping with
the fashion of radical chic, European leftists abruptly transferred their
allegiances to the Palestinians and the PLO, which in the 1970s drew
the likes of current German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to their
meetings. Meanwhile, successive Israeli governments veered to the
right. "The era when Yitzhak Rabin or Golda Meir could address their
European counterparts as 'comrades' at gatherings of the Socialist
International had passed," says Mr. Sacher.
There was also a shift of attitudes on the European right. With the
exception of Britain, whose notoriously Arabist Foreign Office has
dominated its Mideast policy under both Conservative and Labour
governments, much of the Continental right had at one time looked
on admiringly at "plucky little Israel." Thus, beginning in 1952, the
conservative German government of Konrad Adenauer provided Israel
with critical financial support in the form of Holocaust reparations,
while Charles de Gaulle's France helped to build its nuclear reactor at
But it was also de Gaulle who, in 1967, slapped an arms embargo on
Israel for firing the first shot in the Six Day War. Thereafter, the
hostility increased, partly because France fancied itself a champion of
its former Arab colonies, partly out of simple anti-Americanism. But
the chief reason, of course, was Europe's dependence on Arab oil. As
French President Georges Pompidou put it to Henry Kissinger during
the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, "You only rely on the Arabs for about a
tenth of your consumption. We are entirely dependent on them."
Since then, Europe's reliance on Mideastern oil has abated, but the
habit of reflexively seeking to appease the Arabs at Israel's expense
has not. In 1974, French Foreign Minister Michel Jobert toured the
Middle East, seeking to earn price concessions on oil for France by
mouthing a hard anti-Israel line. In 1980, the European Community
formally recognized the PLO despite the fact that Yasser Arafat had
neither made peace with Israel nor dropped his overt sponsorship of
terrorism. Currently, the EU supplies the Palestinian Authority with
the bulk of its foreign aid, even as much of that money goes
indirectly to funding textbooks describing Jews as monkeys and
Given all this, many Jews have been led to conclude that what's at
work here is a thinly veiled form of anti-Semitism. But while there
might be some truth to this, it's easily exaggerated. Mr. Straw, of
German-Jewish descent, is clearly no anti-Semite, and the one bright
spot of Jacques Chirac's presidency has been his efforts to
acknowledge the sins of France's suppressed Vichy past.
Underlying European policy is an uneasy sense of guilt. In the
immediate postwar period, Europe's guilty conscience worked in
Israel's favor. But in the postcolonial spirit of the '60s, the balance of
guilt switched to the Arab side: It was they who were being oppressed;
and it was Europe that, with its previous support for Israel, had
helped inflict the oppression. So Europe pressures Israel to withdraw
from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, heedless of the dire security
consequences that such withdrawal would entail. That Israel has so far
refused to accede to this pressure stands as an infuriating rebuke to
modern Europe's fundamental conception of itself as the virtuous
defeated, free to pass judgment while absolved of the moral
responsibilities of wielding actual power.
Whatever the case, a foreign policy based on a combination of
left-wing disillusionment, French opportunism and all-around
cravenness cannot yield good results. With the U.S. State Department
increasingly leaning toward the European line on Israel, it's well that
the basis of that policy be properly understood.
I cant remember the exact date I think it was Autumn 1984 but I went parachuting with a number of your guys in Peterborough. It would be funny if you were one of those guys.
America stands for "All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."
Israel stands for "We are God's chosen, and can do with the land and the people in it what we please."
The two couldn't be more diametrically opposed.
America has a God that treats everyone the same. Israel has a god only for the Jews.
Whatever it is that's in this country that's supporting Israel, it's not America.
That's rather a farfetched fantasy, don't you think? Where did you come by it?
How.. informative. Anything specific?
Hmmmm. Do you think they read their own scriptures?
Yes, I'd think so. Do you read them?
You all sure are getting desperate to have begun attacking, Bush, Powell and Zinni.
I expect that rhetoric will escalate. Poor plan, but go ahead.
It's easy to throw around names like "frauds" and "cowards." Why does the paleoconservative part of the movement upset you so? I sense a lot of passion in your post. I've read "Republic not an Empire," and thought it an excellent case for putting America first. I await PJB's "Death of the West" with eagerness. So you know what side I'm on...but why all the invective and hysteria from you? What's at stake for you? What are you afraid of losing if PJB had become president...as remote a possibility that may be? I'm interested in the source of your passion about the issue, and would enjoy the dialogue, so if you respond, try to take a deep breath and keep it civilized. I'll do the same.
Oh, EU sure has cared enough in the past, wouldn't you say, Patria? Regular carebears, both ol' Adolph (the failed wussy painter :) and his modern descendants. Seems ol' Adolph also had friends in Arabia, hmmm?
No wonder the Euros are only too happy to transfer the guilt for this mess to the Israelis. And besides, the Euro economies now depend on the oil their former colonies produce. They gussie up a policy of ruthless self-interest with a bunch of socialist, progressive-sounding, slogans.
The Saudis have shown their true colors in this war and the US is not amused.
How many of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis again?
And if this article is too probing for you try the Pee Wee Herman thread.
Maybe you should not conflate "paleoconservatism" with "America first" rhetoric. Most of the time around Free Republic the latter is used as as SWORD against U.S. foreign policy supportive of Israel and such a foreign policy no more vitiates the notion of "paleoconservatism" then does any foreign policy which is supportive of democratic processes. With respect to "passion", so what?
I've read "Republic not an Empire," and thought it an excellent case for putting America first.
Nothing wrong with putting "America first". But when its used as a political ploy for anti-Israel propaganda (and I assure you it has almost exclusively been used in that context on Free Republic) then it is a vacuous notion.
So you know what side I'm on...but why all the invective and hysteria from you?
Why don't you ask you "buddies" that? Better yet, if you think rhetoric and invective is a one way street here then stick around for a further education. Moreover, given the posts I have made against this AGAviator character, for you to chime in for him, in whole or part, makes me believe you don't give a flying *&*^(^ about the U.S. (how do you like that invective?) But maybe you missed all his anti-American propaganda which I pasted above.
What are you afraid of losing if PJB had become president...as remote a possibility that may be?
It looks like the guy couln't make dog-catcher right now.
I'm interested in the source of your passion about the issue, and would enjoy the dialogue, so if you respond, try
to take a deep breath and keep it civilized. I'll do the same.
Don't patronize me. Read the anti-American propaganda and maybe you'll understand the "passion". Or maybe you haven't gotten excited or concerned about anything in your life. Welcome to Free Republic
It was Nov of 83. By Autumn of 84, I was already at Travis AFB, CA. I was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany at the time, and went on Temp duty to Lakenheath, Mildenhall, and Geenham Common. It was just a few weeks after the Marine barracks in Beirut was bombed. I have never jumped before, but would love to try it.
There. Just read them cover to cover. So what is it about this region that produces such ghoulish literature?
You read Hebrew?
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