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