(photo credit: Courtesy)
When it comes to Europe’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are some deeply troublesome patterns. One of those is the disproportionate focus on berating the Israeli occupation and condemning Jewish settlements in comparison to condemnations of Palestinian terrorism.
This is exemplified by the nearly nonexistent European reactions to the horrendous Halamish massacre on July 21. A Palestinian jihadist burst into the home of the Salomon family during their Shabbat dinner and savagely murdered the grandfather Yosef and his two children Chaya and Elad, while Elad’s wife hid upstairs with their five young children.
This has to be one of the most horrifying terrorist attacks imaginable, yet the European media and politicians were largely silent or restrained in their condemnations of the attack. When similar terrorist attacks occur in other Western countries, every European head of state issues harsh condemnations of the attack, there is wall-to-wall coverage in the European media, and social media are filled with declarations of solidarity with the victims. However, when terrorism targets Israel, the European reaction is always less supportive. It either ignores the attack altogether, downplays the severity of the attack, or worst of all, turns the Palestinian terrorist into the victim and targets Israel for criticism instead of the terrorist and his supporters.
There are four main reasons for the European whitewashing of Palestinian terrorism: 1) a fundamental misunderstanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 2) anti-Zionism, 3) the inability to correctly identify the cause of radical Islamic terrorism, and fear of Islamophobia accusations and 4) the negative public opinion of Israel and the shortage of true leadership in Europe.
Europeans generally misunderstand the conflict because they have been spoon-fed the Palestinian narrative for the past two generations. The media, politicians and general population have accepted the provable lie that the occupation and settlements are the main obstacles to peace. They are largely unaware of the 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, that the Palestinians have been offered a state on numerous occasions, and that the core reason for the conflict is Jew-hatred and not territory.
Due to the lack of a basic understanding of the history and current realities of the Middle East, most Europeans believe that the Palestinians are innocent victims. Furthermore, because the Palestinians are the weaker party to the conflict, their unorthodox methods of “self-defense” (terrorism) are justified and the burden for solving the conflict lies with the stronger party, Israel.
Undoubtedly anti-Zionism, a modern version of antisemitism, is another key factor in the lack of European condemnations of Palestinian terrorism. Just as Jews were blamed for the ills of society in the past, today the Jewish state is blamed for the ills of the international community.
If Jews could be blamed for causing disease, poverty and sexual deviance in the past, surely Israel can be blamed for causing Palestinian terrorism today.
Although there has been significant progress in the European debate regarding radical Islamic terrorism in the past few years, most Europeans are still struggling to identify the true cause and nature of the threat. Considering how long it took for just segments of the European population to correctly identify a threat that targets its own citizens, it should come as no surprise that the majority of Europeans are lagging in their understanding that Palestinian terrorism is a part of the radical Islamic terrorist threat that threatens not only Israel but the entire democratic world.
A major reason behind Europe’s reluctance to admit the scope of the Islamist threat and that there is a difference between right-wing, left-wing and Islamist terrorism is the fear of Islamophobia accusations. Because racism truly is one of the most abhorrent legacies of mankind, just the possibility of being accused of it is enough for the majority to be silent and for many to actively dismiss undeniable facts, logic and statistics.
Finally, because Israel is viewed negatively throughout most of Europe, politicians know that they gain votes by criticizing Israel and lose votes by condemning the Palestinians. The reason most European politicians submit to public opinion instead of standing with the truth is because they are self-serving and not true leaders. Their main concern is their own power and popularity while the truth and the well-being of their constituents are secondary.
To counter these factors that prevent Europe from taking a constructive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Europeans need to be convinced of the following:
1) The reason for the lack of a Palestinian state is that the Palestinian leadership has refused to establish such a state if it means ending the conflict with Israel.
2) Anti-Zionism is a modern version of antisemitism and must be fought as universally and vigorously.
3) The occupation cannot be the cause of Palestinian terrorism because terrorism against Israel began decades before any occupation.
4) Radical Islamic terrorists, or jihadists, are driven by Islamism – a political ideology with roots in Muslim scriptures that calls for the destruction of non-Islamist societies and the establishment of Islamic law worldwide. The democratic world, including Israel, is a target of jihadist aggression because we represent values that oppose Islamism – such as democracy, equality and freedom of religion.
5) Israel should be supported instead of condemned because it shares the same values as Europe. By condemning the only democracy in the Middle East, one marginalizes democratic values while at the same time emboldening the totalitarian forces of the world.
Both Europe and Israel have much to gain from increased cooperation in terms of trade, technology and security. However, for the Europe-Israel relationship to reach its true potential, Europe must stop discriminating against the world’s only Jewish state and stop applying double standards to Palestinian terrorism.The author is a member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a flagship program of the World Jewish Congress, and a board member of the Zionist Federation of Sweden. Follow him on Twitter: @ GabRosenberg.