10 December 2009
Europe has forsaken Israel

It was ironic but no surprise to learn that immediately after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s settlement freeze, the response of the Swedish head of the European Union was to preempt negotiations with the Palestinians and make further harsh demands upon the Israelis.

This brought to mind a dramatic verbal exchange I encountered as a participant in the Europe Israel Dialogue which took place recently in Jerusalem under the auspices of Lord Weidenfeld.

I had disagreed with those who were arguing that we should seek support from the Europeans and rely less on the US. I said that notwithstanding the problems Israel faces with the Obama administration, our dependency on support from a superpower rested with the US and that the Europeans had proven to be untrustworthy allies and repeatedly betrayed us.

I also noted that in contrast to the American people who overwhelmingly support Israel, opinion polls taken in Europe confirm that the prevailing consensus perceives Israel as a rogue state posing a greater threat to world peace and stability than even Iran or North Korea. I also related to the craven European appeasement of the Arabs and their willingness to sacrifice Israel on the altar of expediency.

My views were not well received by the predominantly liberal gathering, many of whom shared the illusion that if only Israel were to employ better PR, the enlightened Western traditions which we purportedly share with Europe would somehow enable us to overcome all differences.

TO MY astonishment, one of the leading participants, Dr. Mathias Dopfner, the highly charismatic chief executive of the powerful German Axel Springer Company, entered the discussion and not only endorsed my views, but passionately stated that I had in fact understated the depth of hostility against Israel radiating from Europe. He provided a chilling evaluation of the situation and warned that even Germany, now still bound to Israel because of its special relationship, would in all likelihood also distance itself from us in the future. It was extraordinary hearing a prominent German speaking in such frank terms and warning Israel not to rely on Europe.

Subsequently, I read Robin Shepherd’s fascinating new book A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel, an in-depth analysis of Europe’s relationship with Israel. The book makes painful reading.

Shepherd, who is not Jewish, was formerly a senior executive of Chatham House, the Royal Institute for International Affairs, heading its European desk. He was unceremoniously dumped when he wrote an article in The Times favorable to Israel. Today he is the director of international affairs at the Henry Jackson Society and among other pursuits, publishes a daily blog dealing with the double standards employed against Israel in the United Kingdom.

The basic thesis of Shepherd’s book is that without discounting the appalling inroads of the new anti-Semitism and the impact of Islamic extremism, the real source of the problem in Europe rests with the indigenous opinion makers who have become profoundly tired and discontented. He observes that many of the elites had absorbed ideological strains from the far left, including nihilism, pacifism, colonial guilt, moral relativism and an antipathy to nationalism. This eroded their will to defend their values and fight for the maintenance of their civilization and culminated with an unholy alliance between the radical left and Islamism.

People who had spent their lives campaigning for the rights of women, homosexuals, ethnic minorities and pacifism are now making common cause with some of the most violent religious bigots on the planet. This has also encouraged European elites to labor under the false illusion that they can coexist with radical jihadist elements by appeasing them.

Shepherd also describes how the Jews, who in the immediate post-war era still enjoyed warm relations with liberals and the left, have now been rejected by them. He shows in brutal terms, how these groups continue expressing concern and commemorate dead Jews, but are less inclined to support the living, especially when it comes to those residing in their Jewish homeland where, to use the lexicon of Engels, they became transformed into a “reactionary people.”

Shepherd says that “something has clearly gone wrong when it has becomes increasingly difficult to tell the difference between some of the language, tone and content of mainstream commentary on Israel in Europe from the daily polemic against the Jewish state in the Arab and Muslim world.”

He observes that the vilest depictions of Israel such as “shitty,” “Nazi,” “apartheid” and “war criminal” have been absorbed into the everyday chatter of elite groups.

He concludes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is effectively a litmus test of Europe’s failure to survive in the face of Islamic extremism. He says that “the anti-Israeli agenda in Europe is a stain on its integrity… There are hundreds of reasons for Europe to clean up its act on Israel. Self-preservation and self-respect are just two of them”.

This superbly written and meticulously documented book is possibly the best study published analyzing the obsessive and virulent bias which Europe radiates toward Israel. It should be read by scholars and laymen alike, especially those engaged in Middle East affairs.

ANOTHER RECENT book release which complements that of Shepherd is Christopher Caldwell”s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West. Caldwell, a highly regarded London Financial Times journalist, deals with Islam in Europe and depicts how uncontrolled Muslim immigration has resulted in catastrophic unintended consequences. He highlights the abject failure of multiculturalism, noting that second-generation Muslim immigrants have become less integrated than the first and that the third generation is even worse.

The demographic future he projects is very gloomy. Native Europeans have insufficient children to maintain replacement, while Muslim immigrants continue having large families. He demonstrates how, unless current trends are reversed, within half a century Islam will be the majority religion of young people in many European countries.

He describes how a combination of complacency and a refusal to face up to reality, combined with moral relativism, has encouraged European governments to stand by while agents of radical Islam made headway in many communities and are now in the process of displacing Western civilization and transforming Europe.

Caldwell is emphatic that as a determined adversary culture, Islam has the potential of conquering Europe unless European governments display the courage to demand that migrants accept the secularism, tolerance and equality of Western culture.

In this context, one would expect Europeans to be concentrating their energies on devising strategies to retain their heritage and way of life, rather than appeasing the extremist Islamic groups which are undermining their Judeo-Christian civilization.

Were they to move in this direction there is every probability that the European penchant to demonize and try to delegitimize Israel might also be directed toward more constructive objectives.


This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post

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Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler is a veteran international Jewish leader with a distinguished record of contributions to the Jewish world and the cause of human rights, including the struggle for Soviet Jewry. He was head of the Jewish community in Australia for many years and made aliya in 1999. Leibler has held senior roles in the World Jewish Congress, including chairman of the governing board and senior vice president. Today, he writes prolifically and is a regular columnist for The Jerusalem Post and Yisrael Hayom.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. To the European Union Representatives Do not Bully Israel!
    The European Union is boycotting, divesting and sanctioning against any Israeli goods or services originating beyond the 1967 borders. If they call these boycotts a smart move, they should inform their descendants.
    Those delegates or the leaders, who initiated this somber idea to punish Israel, are damn wrong. They forgot what they did to the millions of Jews for centuries, not to mention during WW2. For the generation which witnessed at least a part of these injustices the bad, the discriminatory and the criminal behaviors are still alive in their minds, despite all the suffering, and their spirit is high. All these malicious undertakings against Israel will fall back on those who initiate them. Not any Jew will avenge his suffering, as in our belief and culture is not allowed the keep any grudge against a human being, but your descendants will one day have to pay back. Shame on you! Those who came with this irresponsible idea, you will not be able to sleep during the night, until you feel your conscience. The people of Israel are not only in Israel but everywhere and among you. The noise of the mass of the people who screamed “death to the Jews” is still resounding in my ears and certainly in the souls of those who suffered from it and not to forget all the dead who lost their lives by the Europeans.

    Please tell your children that you are unjust in your mind and in you behavior because you know the reality and the truth but you chose what is in fact a lie and not the truth. You know too that this land of Israel never belonged to any nation, including the Arabs. Have they not enough land in the entire Middle East to let their brothers, the children of Abraham live in peace? You know that the name “Palestinians” in that place never existed. Never the name Palestine belonged to any Arab nation. This is the creation of the British. Israel never attacked any nation called Palestine. You think we forgot the truth? All the Arab nations know the truth, but they prefer to conquer without any effort what does not belong to them, as they did it in many countries of the world.

    I came from North Africa which belonged to the Berbers and the Arabs conquered them and converted them to Islam with the power of the sword. We know that well, as we were with the poor Berbers. But since then the Jews lived among the Berbers and the Arabs peacefully for thousands of years and now the Arabs cannot tolerate the Jews as their neighbors? We left all our belongings, our real estate, and our businesses in these Arab countries. We never complained. Some went to France, some to other European countries, some to Canada, to South America and the United States. I wonder why the Arabs didn’t do like the Jews who helped each other. Are the Arab countries poor? Not to the point of not being able to help their Arab brothers. They will be the losers. The Berbers were brothers in arms with the Jews when the Arabs conquered North Africa. We never claimed the land where the Jews lived for thousands of years. Since Israel regained its ancestors’ land, they brought prosperity to the Middle East, as never before. We all were refugees and we never complained. The Jews helped each other.

    The European countries rarely go deep into the Arab cultures, which do not derive from Christianity. They certainly know the history of each people, country or nation and all historical facts, but in order to better appreciate other cultures and civilizations one needs to have lived with the Arabs and Berbers and immersed oneself in their daily life, in order to realize certain values and the feeling of each civilization.

    Men feel strong when they know their subject but they withdraw into themselves when they approach an unknown subject. It is actually a weakness not to respect another culture. The weakness is dangerous as it invites men to aggression or to supremacy dreams.
    Today I am trying to sort out among certain cultures and civilizations which I have come to know. I have barely learned to distinguish between the deep values and the superficial ones.

    In fact there is good in every culture and in every civilization. It is upon us to know how to extract it. One needs to find the links that unite us. Tolerance and respect for others is the elementary base of coexistence and of peace.

    One should accept people as they are, without trying to force upon them our will and our way of life. As Oriental wisdom has it: “Those who do not honor the stranger and the man of another tribe, are not worthy of being called the sons of a great nation.” Those who do not respect this principle harm others.
    We recognize that democracy does not have the same meaning in every culture. It varies from nation to nation and depends on their culture and their way of life. What is good for one nation is not always good for another one. It is essential that each nation should be able to blossom and realize its potential according to its way of life, in security and in peace.

    I feel that it is a pity that Israel and the Arabs are fighting each other. In fact they have much more in common, which could unite them, than the differences that divide them. But there are other countries which are neither Jewish nor Arab and which are trying to divide them. Feisal mentioned in his letter at the Paris Peace conference in 1919: “We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them [the Jews] through: we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home.” Feisal himself recognized in this letter that the land is the home of the Jews.
    As Bourguiba said it when he was in Jordan, the Arabs should make peace with Israel; they can only gain.
    The Jews do not object that the Arabs live among them but to pretend that the land belongs to them is wrong. Over sixty five years have passed since the Arabs chose to fight the Jews in Israel instead of receiving the Jewish refugees with the word “Marhaba” (welcome) to your land. They fought them altogether.

    Now the Arabs from almost the entire Middle East made a kind of revolution called the “Arab Spring”. They should have called it the “Arab Winter”. The Westerners helped the Arabs in many countries to revolt without any brain or guidance. The Jews could have helped them in the right direction.
    Where is the European brain? We the Jews gave them hundreds of years without asking anything in return. In fact they owe the Jews a fortune for these hundreds of years of work and scientific discovery and development.

    As for the United States, my country which I love so much I can tell the Obama Administration and its leader: “I would advise you not to bully either the Jews or Israel and not to use the Europeans to help you with that. We know them better than you know them. For them, to have anything to say to Israel, they have first to wash their hands from all the atrocities they committed during centuries. Is the US no longer capable of saying the truth? Do not deceive our American Jews or Israel, who trusted us from the beginning. We promised Israel not to let it down in reference to Iran, and you, Mr. President, didn’t stop reassuring the Israelis and their government in reference to Iran. This is not the time to interlink borders and a nuclear armed Iran. This is a dangerous game. The Israelis mean business.”

    Copyright 2013 Emile Tubia

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