Friday, February 04, 2005

Europe and Israel

In December 2004, the polling firm YouGov conducted a survey of British popular attitudes toward various nations. A total of 23 countries were listed in the poll. An article in the January 4th Daily Telegraph summarized the results:

More surprising is how little regard Britons are found to have for Israel.


It is also the country thought least deserving of international respect. Despite being the only fully democratic state in the Middle East, it is also thought to be among the world's "least democratic countries".

Of the 12 criteria set out in YouGov's check-list, Israel comes out bottom in four cases and among the bottom five in a total of eight. Only Russia has a worse overall score.

(link courtesy of LGF)

You can see the survey results for yourself by clicking here (PDF). Particularly mind-boggling is the fact that the respondents considered Israel "less democratic" than Hosni Mubarak's corrupt dictatorship in Egypt.

This poll is emblematic of the irrational hatred of Israel that exists in Britain and throughout Europe. Criticism of Israeli policies and actions is one thing, but the attitude of many Europeans towards the Jewish state goes well beyond that warranted by any objective analysis. Robin Shepherd, in a piece in Sunday's Washington Post, noted Europe's "Unhealthy Fixation on Israel":

Go to a dinner party in Paris, London or any other European capital and watch how things develop. The topic of conversation may be Iraq, it may be George Bush, it may be Islam, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction. However it starts out, you can be sure of where it will inevitably, and often irrationally, end -- with a dissection of the Middle East situation and a condemnation of Israeli actions in the occupied territories. I can't count how many times I've seen it. European sympathy for the Palestinians runs high, while hostility toward Israel is often palpable.

And the anger is reaching new -- and disturbing -- levels: A poll of 3,000 people published last month by Germany's University of Bielefeld showed more than 50 percent of respondents equating Israel's policies toward the Palestinians with Nazi treatment of the Jews. Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed specifically believed that Israel is waging a "war of extermination" against the Palestinian people.

Germany is not alone in these shocking sentiments. They have been expressed elsewhere, and often by prominent figures. In 2002, the Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning writer Jose Saramago declared, "What is happening in Palestine is a crime which we can put on the same plane as what happened at Auschwitz." In Israel just last month, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Irish winner of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize, compared the country's suspected nuclear weapons to Auschwitz, calling them "gas chambers perfected."

Moreover, in a Eurobarometer poll by the European Union in November 2003, a majority of Europeans named Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. Overall, 59 percent of Europeans put Israel in the top spot, ahead of such countries as Iran and North Korea. In the Netherlands, that figure rose to 74 percent.

In part, these attitudes are a reflection of traditional Euro anti-Semitism, which has sadly made a resurgence in recent years. However, as Shepherd notes, the roots of anti-Israel sentiments in Europe transcend mere bigotry:

Many European intellectuals see Israel, perhaps rightly, as one of the central pillars of U.S. hegemony in the modern world. European leftists implacably opposed to America are implacably opposed to Israel as well, and for exactly the same reasons. Over dinner in Berlin not long ago, a Frenchwoman told me emphatically that Israel was "America's policeman in the Middle East." Her companion, nodding in furious agreement, insisted that the two countries are partners in a "new imperialism," leading the world inexorably into war.

In the contorted universe of the chattering classes, Israel is at once America's servant and the tail that wags the dog -- doing America's bidding while forcing it into madcap adventures such as Iraq. As Peter Preston, the former editor of Britain's Guardian newspaper, put it in an op-ed last October, bemoaning both U.S. political parties' alleged servility toward Israel: "Republican policy is an empty vessel drifting off Tel Aviv, and the Democratic alternative has just as little stored in its hold."

Europe's hatred of Israel, in other words, is intimately tied to its anti-Americanism, a sentiment that preceded the Bush 43 Administration and whose reemergence after 9/11 occurred months before Iraq became an issue. Both viewpoints are a consequence of the very different way that most Europeans see the world.

When Europeans line up to condemn Israel (and the US) while yawning at the likes of Saddam, the Iranian mullahcracy, and the Stalinist monstrosity known as North Korea, they display their utter lack of moral and intellectual seriousness. Many in Europe would much rather blame that "shitty little country" or the "cowboy" Bush for what's wrong with the world, than accept the fact that the West is at war with a fanatical totalitarian adversary that seeks our destruction.

The plurality of Spanish voters who chose the path of appeasement in March 2004 may have thought that they bought their country a respite from the jihadists. Their "reward" for Spain's decision to withdraw from Iraq, however, was to have been an onslaught of simultaneous bombings that, to quote PBS Frontline, "would have eclipsed the carnage of March 11th." For the jihadists, Europeans are every bit the infidels that Israelis and Americans are. At long last, some in Europe are finally beginning to wake up to the Islamist threat in their midst. It is high time that Europeans abandon their irrational hatred of Israel and the United States, and come to terms with who the real enemy is.


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