In light of the Belgian legal system's decision that action may proceed against Ariel Sharon over the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, much has been made of Belgian hypocrisy and over whether or not Belgium (or any other state) has the right to try foreign citizens for crimes committed outside their jurisdiction.
I believe that attention to these details, while somewhat valid, is a distraction and harmful to Israel.
The very real hypocrisy of the Belgians - whose complicity in the genocide in Rwanda and snail-pace on action against Yasser Arafat compromise their credibility - aside, Belgium - and all other liberal democracies - should have the right to try foreign citizens for crimes committed outside their jurisdiction (for example, Israel's trial of Adolf Eichmann). The interests of justice dictate this.
Yet, these issues are a sideshow.
The real issue is that the Belgian Sabra and Shatilla trial has nothing to do with justice. It's a witch hunt. If the Belgians were serious about bringing to account those responsible for the Sabra and Shatilla Massacre, they would be knocking on doors in Beirut, Jounieh and Damascus, not in Jerusalem.
Let us be perfectly frank about the issue here: Christian Maronites massacred approximately 800 Palestinian Arabs in two Palestinian suburbs in Beirut. And the Europeans want to crucify a Jew over it.
Why is Belgium seeking to try Ariel Sharon over a massacre that had little to do with Israel and much to do with the cycle of internecine atrocities that had been occurring in Lebanon for the preceding 7 years (of which the Sabra and Shatilla massacre was by no means the first or worst)?
The simple answer is that the Belgian courts were presented with a petition by survivors of the massacre, which sought to charge Ariel Sharon (who was the Israeli defense minister at the time) with the massacre. The Belgian courts then had to consider the matter before them - they could either take the hard route and say that Ariel Sharon had nothing to do with the massacre, and in any case had already been exonerated by Israeli and American courts, or they could take the path of least resistance, and play along with the Palestinian Arab charade of blaming Jews for an Arab-on-Arab massacre.
The more complex question is why did Belgium take the path of expedience?
It must be noted that Belgium is certainly not the only nation where blaming the Jews (and only the Jews) for all the ills in the Middle East is now not only tolerated, but almost 'fashionable.' From France to Scandinavia, it is only Israel which is responsible for the multitude of misfortunes which have befallen the Arabs. Whether it is the Chirac government's sycophantic pandering to the Palestinian cause, or Denmark's vituperative attacks on Israel, Europe is beset with rising anti-Semitism, or more correctly, anti-Jewish hate.
Europe - the traditional birthplace of institutional anti-Semitism - has now given the world a new phenomenon: while 'the Left' was once seen as the champion of human rights, it is now associated with rabid anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism.
This rise in anti-'isms' has its root - as always - in fear. At every juncture in history, where societies have been gripped with fear and uncertainty, the Jews have been the mine-canaries.
The fear of 'the Left' around the world - and especially in Europe - has been fueled by two major events: the fall of the Soviet Bloc, and the massive demographic change in European nations over the last 20 years.
With the fall of the Soviet Bloc in the late 1980s, 'the Left' lost its flagship: a dubiously 'viable' example that socialist/communist policies produce a socialist utopia. The tangible evidence that socialism/communism produces bankrupt economies and failed societies, has left the 'the Left' with a crisis of confidence.
In order to re-focus and gain relevance, 'the Left' has had to find a new issue with which to concern itself, and social change has arrived as the messiah. A resurgence of right-wing parties in Europe in the 1990s has been observed, in many cases as a backlash to the large and increasingly militant Muslim communities in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. As right wing groups (such as the Front National in France and the Vlaams Blok in Belgium) increasingly called for Muslim communities to "shape-up or ship-out", 'the Left' mobilized into action to gain the support of one of the few groups in society still willing to tolerate them. As prosperity in the 1990s grew, the relevance of social welfare programs (the mainstay of 'the Left') fell. As economies shifted from the traditional to the 'new', unionism (another mainstay of 'the Left') lost ground. The only sectors in which these issues remained current were the so-called 'intelligentsia' (the arts and education sectors), and the depressed communities of Arab immigrants in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, where crime and systemic dependence on welfare were the result of massive unemployment rates.
And so 'the Left' shifted to accommodate its new constituency - a constituency where anti-Semitism was ingested with breast-milk. The transformation of 'the Left' was complete, from a movement advocating social justice and workers' rights, to a flagship for the economically impotent.
While 'the Left' is paranoid about doing or saying anything that may alienate their new friends, politicians on the centre-right are equally mindful of not wanting to offend the Muslims (who now make up approximately 10% of the population in many Western European nations).
The result is a wide range of parties which are hostile to Jews.
In this climate, it is not difficult to see how governments on the left and right ignore crime that is almost solely based on ethnicity. How else would the once-proud French tolerate large areas of their cities being turned into Muslim ghettos where even police fear to tread? In this climate, it is not difficult to see why governments on the left and right adopt a mea culpa attitude with regard to the massive unemployment in Muslim communities.
As an illustration, why are French politicians indignant at the suggestion that there is rising anti-Semitism in France? Is it perhaps because they would implicitly have to admit that the vast majority of anti-Semitic attacks in France are perpetrated not by Francois or Gaston, but by Djemal and by Mohammed?
The result is that European governments from the left to the centre-right have been universally hostile to Israel at a time in its history when it is so clearly and unambiguously the victim of Arab aggression and violence.
In this context, the state-sponsored witch-hunt against an Israeli guilty of nothing more than defending his country at a time when Christian Arabs decided to slaughter Palestinian Arabs seems more explicable (note: not rational, but explicable).
In order to appease their Muslim constituencies, the Belgians have ignored the overwhelming evidence concerning who perpetrated the massacre, and have instead followed the trail laid out by Israel's implacable enemies. Europe - the traditional birthplace of democracy - instead of saying loudly and clearly in a court of law that Ariel Sharon cannot be charged with crimes relating to the Sabra and Shatilla massacre, and that the charges against him constitute frivolity and mischief, has instead become party not only to the Arab libel, but the debasement of a law which should provide for the prosecution of real war criminals.
The Belgian court, instead of pursuing justice in relation to the massacre, has become a tool of the process by which Muslims are appeased though attacks on Jews.
The issue therefore is clearly not whether Belgium should have the jurisdiction to try war criminals (it should), nor is it whether the Belgians are hypocrites due to their refusal to try the real perpetrators of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre (they are).
The real issue is why Belgium - or any other European nation - should be so obsessed with apportioning blame to Jews that it loses sight of justice. An analysis of this question would reveal far more about Europe than about Ariel Sharon or the history of Lebanese massacres.Doron Kescher is an Israeli strategy consultant, originally from Emek Hefer, he is currently based in the Asia-Pacific region.
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