Europe Versus the Jewish State
By Yuval Steinitz - August 24, 2001
European commitment to Israel's existence seems solid and stable. You would hardly find a European statesman or thinker who expresses explicit support for the annihilation of Israel.
Yet a careful analysis of two common European positions - the support for the Palestinians' "right of return" and the objection to almost any Israeli defense operation - suggests that Israel's adversaries in the Middle East might find some hidden partners to their aim of destroying the Jewish state.
Let's start by analyzing the prevalent European support for the Palestinians' "right of return." Should we be so charitable as to assume that enlightened people in Europe indeed fail to understand that the "right of return" formula means the extinction of Israel?
Of course, most advocates of this Palestinian demand would base their position on a purely moral ground. The fact that the refugee problem is a result of the refusal of all Arab nations, including the Palestinians, to accept the 1947 UN resolution on establishing both a Jewish and a Palestinian state, seems entirely irrelevant to their humanistic approach. Even the ensuing Arab offensive, which was explicitly aimed at destroying the embryonic Jewish state and exterminating its people, is not the issue.
The only thing that does appear to matter to some Europeans is that, according to their views, the rights of Arab-Palestinians who left their homeland 53 years ago are fundamentally superior to the rights of Jews who left their homeland almost 2,000 years ago.
Ignoring, for the sake of argument, the dubious validity of the above reasoning, since our aim is not to refute it but rather to explore its cultural background, two important aspects emerge. First, that by advocating the above, those Europeans, in fact, withdraw their historical support for the 1947 UN resolution on the establishment of the State of Israel.
Second, this humanistic approach reiterates one of the key principles of classical European anti-Semitism: that Jews are foreigners by nature, and hence, they are inferior vis-a-vis the natives, whether in Europe or in the Middle East.
The claim that many Europeans see the Jews of Israel as fundamentally inferior in their national rights to their Arab neighbors, exactly as they used to be inferior to their European neighbors in the past, is supported from yet another perspective. Most European leaders vehemently criticize Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, which means that they negate the Jewish right of return to central territories of their historical homeland. The main justification for their demand to freeze the settlements is that they might "jeopardize the forthcoming Palestinian state."
Yet many of the same leaders do support the Palestinian right of return to territories inside Israel, thus supporting the Palestinian demand that freezing Jewish settlement in the territories will be accompanied by the process of sending hundreds of thousands of Arab-Palestinians to settle inside the Jewish state.
Can they innocently ignore the presence of a symmetrical threat jeopardizing the Jewish state?
As a former activist in the Peace Now movement I, together with my friends, shouted the slogan "two states for two people!" in the name of justice and equality. In our innocence, we never imagined that, concomitant with the process of establishing the Palestinian national homeland, we would be asked by some of our former European allies to slaughter - in the name of the selfsame principles of justice and equality - the precious lamb of the Jewish national homeland.
Another issue that might shed some light on the real intentions of some European leaders toward Israel is their overwhelming objection to the right of Jews to protect themselves whenever required. Of course, it will be difficult to find a public figure in Europe who explicitly asks the Jews to sacrifice themselves without fighting back, as they did in the Holocaust. Yet, despite some general statements about Israel's natural right of defense - like any normal state - there is hardly an Israeli military operation that escapes their condemnation, while all the while refusing to take into account the brutal terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, or the bold violations of all arms-control commitments by the Palestinian Authority.
If Israeli soldiers return fire on Palestinian policemen who are shooting at a neighborhood of Jerusalem, our European friends express "sorrow" concerning "the violence on both sides." If Israel's F-16 airplanes target proper military installations as a response to the massacre of civilians in a shopping mall near Netanya, the European reaction is that it is "an improper excessive use of force, that might lead to unnecessary casualties."
When Israel shifts its policy to pinpointing and striking at prominent terrorists, in an effort to minimize the danger to the entire Palestinian population, they consider it "execution without trial." When Israel imposes a closure on the territories to prevent suicide bombers from entering the country, they feel "uncomfortable" with "collective punishment."
In short, Israel enjoys the universal right of self-defense, but not in a concrete way. Here again, one can observe the double standards of many Europeans, who would hesitate to dispute the right of other nations to fight their enemies, and all the more so when their civilians are being purposely targeted. When it comes to Israel, however, it is only restraint that derives some consent. It would thus seem that the old habit of seeing helpless Jews persecuted by their adversaries might still play some role, albeit unconsciously, in some modern minds.
No doubt anti-Semitism is out of fashion nowadays in enlightened European circles. But if one can disguise a good old tradition under the cover of humanistic support for the Arabs in the Middle East, why not give it a try?
(The writer, a Likud MK, is chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee for Defense Planning and Policy.)