The European Union was never popular in Israel and with good reason. Its officious meddling has already well exceeded the bounds of commonplace harassment and has edged ever closer to an infringement on our sovereignty, a suborning of our democracy and the undermining of our vital self-preservation interests.
So despite our government’s fawning felicitations to Brussels, many Israelis frowned on the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the overbearing EU.
By that decision, the Nobel Peace award has finally been equated in stature and gravitas with the Napoleon Prize satirically contrived by the matchless sitcom writers who gave us the BBC’s Yes, Minister back in the 1980s.
The fictional honor, we were informed in the series’ fifth episode, is earmarked “for the statesman who's made the biggest contribution to European unity.” That prompts the supercilious Sir Humphrey to interject: “since Napoleon, that is, if you don’t count Hitler.” (The fuehrer, by the way, was nominated in earnest for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1938, but blew his chances by launching WWII).
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, apparently out to prove that real life can rival the most side-splitting spoof, had already bestowed its peace accolades on frustrated genocide-promoter Yasser Arafat, as it did on Al Gore for scorning the ecological sins of other folks and on Barack Obama for... Well, we haven’t figured that one out yet.
In a preposterously pathetic way it’s no less funny to pay tribute to the Brussels bureaucracy.
Sir Humphrey’s nominal boss, Jim Hacker, characterized it as an amalgam of “the organizing ability of the Italians, the flexibility of the Germans and the modesty of the French. And that's topped up by the imagination of the Belgians, the generosity of the Dutch and the intelligence of the Irish.”
It would be no more than annoying if all EU energies were exclusively spent on the shape of bananas and cucumbers. For those blissfully unaware, Commission Regulation 2257/94 stipulates that bananas must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature” (which is still undefined and a source of sporadic squabbles). The rule of thumb is that no curvature is allowed for “Extra class” bananas, but Class 1 bananas may have “slight defects of shape”, and – in the spirit of true liberality – “defects of shape” are tolerated in Class 2 bananas.
Things are a tad more pliable with cucumbers (Commission Regulation No.1677/88), where “Extra class” and Class I cucumbers may sport a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length. In Class II, a 20mm arc is permitted for the same 10cm size.
Sounds persnickety? It sure is but EU officials compulsively cramp their schedules with lots such busywork. Examples abound, like the notion of harmonizing all definitions for yogurt. This generated quite a hullabaloo but had to be dropped due to too much resistance to calling anything which didn’t conform to strict yogurt standards “mild, alternate-culture, heat-treated fermented milk.”
But the EU does more serious damage than merely fraying nerves. Some of its failures are colossal, like the euro zone’s current economic unraveling. Then there was abundant bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia where the EU didn’t distinguish itself, to say nothing about its silence regarding the occupation by Turkey of a huge chunk of Cyprus (a member state).
There’s no getting away from the fact that besides being intrusive and fussy, the EU also exudes hypocrisy and haughtiness. That’s where we come in, big time.
The EU is a member of the Quartet purportedly overseeing our moribund peace process and has way prior to that already unilaterally appointed itself an uninvited arbiter in the Mideast dispute, it premise being that Europe conceives of Israel as a crooked banana that fails to conform to Brussels specifications.
The EU has taken it upon itself to straighten Israel out and cram us into the uber-narrow bounds of the 1949 green-tinted armistice lines, the ones which ultra-dove Abba Eban once dubbed “the Auschwitz borders.”
This isn’t just declarative. The EU is the single greatest donor to the Palestinian Authority, something which ought to trouble taxpaying denizens of the cash-strapped euro zone.
Although the EU is Israel’s major trading partner, it assiduously excludes anything manufactured beyond the Green Line from customs exemptions granted Israeli-made goods under the Association Agreement with the EU. Not everything manufactured in Jerusalem is considered Israeli and EU officials pedantically check out factory addresses and postal codes.
An EU report of a few months back proposed that Europe challenge Israeli control of Area C (agreed upon in the Oslo Accords) by funding Palestinian construction there without permits, in defiant contravention of Israeli planning regulations. Another report this year advocates European divestment from any Israeli enterprises suspected of involvement in settlement projects.
Given Oslo’s own anti-Israeli predilections, such bias in itself ought to recommend Brussels for the Peace Prize. But there’s more and this time right inside that Green Line sanctified by Europe.
The EU has made it its adamant objective to change Israel from within, obviously for the good of the benighted local masses themselves, as they cannot be expected to rise to the omniscience of the Banana-unbenders from Brussels. The latter will impose upon us their ideas of what’s best for us, regardless of our domestic democratic processes and clearly demonstrated electoral preferences.
The banana-unbending brigade has been investing much lucre in attempting to influence our opinions and swaying us to embrace its choices rather than ours.
Pro forma, the EU expands much effort and resources on spreading democracy to those dark corners where it’s absent. One would therefore expect it to focus on the oil-rich Arab and Muslim realm. However, confoundingly, it is oil-poor Israel that’s invariably in Europe’s righteous sights, regardless of the fact that the Jewish state has always been inherently and effervescently democratic.
Why would a democratic union so obsessively undertake to derail fellow-democracy? Could it be that it has never been kindly disposed toward the chief ethnic constituent of said democracy?
Europe’s dark past and farcical proclivities are never allowed to douse its professed anti-colonial ardor to manipulate our public discourse, circumvent our elected representatives, unbalance our political procedures, delegitimize our institutions and reeducate us to rely on the judgment of Europe’s unassailable banana-shape adjudicators.
Strident sounds from the outermost margins of the Israeli political spectrum are artificially amplified by massive EU financial largesse, deliberately drowning out the majority consensus and excluding it from the ears of European public opinion and policy-makers. At stake, needless to stress, aren’t banana curves but our life-and-death complexities.
And so European money is literally poured into the most extreme anti-establishment left-wing Israeli NGOs, in most cases united only by their unbridled antagonism to all democratically empowered Jerusalem governments, to the state’s Jewish identity, raison d’être and security prerequisites.
Outfits like Arab-based Adalah and Mossawa unremittingly vilify Israel with the unconcealed rationale of delegitimizing its continued existence as a Jewish state, i.e. its very existence altogether. That isn’t distasteful to Brussels, which similarly buttresses the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, B’Tselem, Ir Amin, Breaking the Silence, Machsom Watch, Yesh Din, Gisha and too many more of the same ilk.
The aforementioned radical fringe isn’t only anti-Israel but consistently also anti- Western. All its aggressive components receive an indispensable leg-up from the EU at the expense of the Israeli mainstream. Israeli sovereignty seemingly doesn’t deserve European respect and may be treated with the contempt and distrust theoretically reserved for oppressive autocracies.
Profuse financial transfusions render these NGOs unnaturally vocal and visible, enabling them to maintain a profile disproportionately high for their real microscopic dimensions, to churn out media propaganda, stage demonstrations and petition our courts to uphold their distinctly unambiguous agendas. Israeli society is exceptionally vulnerable to external intervention precisely because it is so intrinsically pluralistic.
The distorted eminence these NGOs gain via foreign financial support likewise serves them in the international arena where they spearhead anti-Israel media onslaughts, sponsor overseas litigation and lobby inimical international bodies like the misnamed UN Human Rights Council. Their titular Israeli identity deceptively adorns these NGOs with a veneer of validity.
The EU’s meddling technique is moreover the antithesis to transparency. No information is easily obtainable regarding NGO endowments, with the recurrent cop-out being that funds are funneled for particular programs, making the wider-ranging perspectives of the bankrolled NGOs apparently irrelevant. Surely the EU’s squandered euros could be better used in Greece or Spain.
Worse yet, under the guise of human rights activism, the EU achieves the precise reverse of advancing the cause of peace. By, for example, advocating the redivision of Jerusalem, the EU becomes a force for heightened confrontation rather than for pragmatism and compromise. By hyping the belligerent Arab narrative, the EU becomes its enabler. By presenting as Brussels’ own position papers factually false reports verbatim from its favorite NGOs, the EU fans the flames of Arab rejectionism.
This doesn’t quite appear to fit the bill for Peace Prize laureates, but united Europe’s logic likely resides elsewhere. For the final enlightenment we’ll return to Yes, Minister’s original script for episode 12:
Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.
Sir Humphrey: [laughs]
Hacker: May we share the joke, Humphrey?
Sir Humphrey: Let’s look at this objectively. It’s a game played for national interests and always was. Why do you suppose we went into it?
Hacker: To strengthen the brotherhood of free Western nations.
Sir Humphrey: Oh, really. We went in to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans.
Hacker: Well, why did the French go into it, then?
Sir Humphrey: Well, to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition.
Hacker: That certainly doesn’t apply to the Germans!
Sir Humphrey: No, no. They went in to cleanse themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race.