michael freund 88.
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Even for a continent with such a dishonorable record of appeasement, Europe has been outdoing itself. For the first time in more than two years European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana will pay a visit this week to President Bashar Assad at one of his numerous palaces, marking a resumption of high-level EU contact with the Dictator of Damascus.
And what exactly has Mr. Assad done to deserve this diplomatic prize? Let's see. His track record includes the murder of political opponents, allowing foreign fighters to traverse Syria and join the insurgency in Iraq and playing host to terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The Assad regime is believed to have orchestrated the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri; it has funneled arms and financial support to a cast of nasty characters including Hizbullah, and it has openly threatened to wage war against the Jewish state.
Syria's government also continues to suppress the most basic and fundamental rights of its citizens, and it has been steadily building up a military arsenal bristling with chemical warheads.
So how exactly have Europe's guardians of civilization decided to respond to Assad and his appalling record of behavior? By rewarding him, of course.
It doesn't seem to matter one whit to Solana that he will be sipping tea and exchanging pleasantries in Damascus with a man who has arguably done more than any other head of state to sow chaos in the Middle East over the past 24 months.
And if that weren't enough, the EU diplomat will likely fawn all over his host, pleading with him to play a "more constructive role" in the region, as if such blather is likely to convince an autocrat like Assad to stop causing trouble.
I don't know about you, but I've had it. I am sick and tired of Europe's haughty hypocrisy, its maddening myopia and its duplicitous double-standards when it comes to the war on terror and the Middle East.
IT'S TIME we stopped deluding ourselves into thinking that Europe can be counted on to stand by Israel and the United States in times of crisis, and start realizing just how unprincipled and unscrupulous European foreign policy has become.
Take, for example, the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out last month, "The European Union - led by Germany, France and Italy - has long been Iran's largest trading partner," with the EU accounting for more than one-third of Iran's total imports.
Even after the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed in 2003 that Iran had been conducting a secret nuclear program for 18 years aimed at enriching uranium, Europe went ahead and expanded its trade with the mullahs. The Continent's exports to Teheran rose 29% between 2003 and 2005 to nearly 13 billion euros.
So while publicly they wring their hands about the Iranians possibly obtaining a nuclear weapon, the Europeans are busy earning a fast buck by doing business with them, in the process pumping a steadily-increasing stream of revenue into the Iranian treasury's coffers.
The fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems intent on using these funds to replicate the results of the European Holocaust of six decades ago does not appear to enter into the equation.
AT THE same time we are witness to an increasing array of insults, invective and verbal abuse hurled at the Jewish state by prominent Europeans. Earlier this month, on a visit to Jerusalem, German Bishop Gregor Maria Franz Hanke had the gall to compare Israel to the Nazis, and likened Ramallah to the Warsaw Ghetto. This from a man whose nation systematically murdered millions of innocent Jews.
Then there is the brouhaha over the Eurovision song contest, where organizers have said they may bar Israel's entry in the May competition because it expresses opposition to being incinerated by Iranian nuclear weapons.
Does the fact that Jews wish to live sit heavily on the collective European conscience?
In light of all this, it is time for Israel and the US to stop giving so much weight to European political preaching and diplomatic pontificating. With their record of cozying up to dictators and pursuing commercial deals at the expense of Western strategic interests, European leaders have lost the moral right to tell us how best to run our affairs.
Instead of courting people such as Solana and his ilk, Israel and the US should publicly and aggressively call the European leadership to task for its shameful stance on various key issues.
Just because a relationship goes by the name "alliance" does not necessarily make it so. Europe has a long way to go before being worthy of such a description.
AND WHEN the EU starts bossing us around, as it inevitably will, telling us to accommodate the Palestinian Authority or negotiate with the ayatollahs, we should politely but firmly say: "Shut up, Europe!"
In the mid-19th century, Czar Nicholas I of Russia coined the phrase "the sick man of Europe" to describe the decline of Ottoman Turkey. I would suggest adapting that expression to reflect the reality of the Continent today.
The sick man is Europe, and it is time we started treating it as such.
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