A PALESTINIAN supporter holds a protest leaflet advocating a boycott of Israel in France.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last week, the foreign ministers of 16 European countries sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini asking her to promote the labeling of products made by Jewish-owned industries located beyond the 1949 armistice line. Such labeling would make it easier for Europeans to boycott these products.
There are a number of problems with boycotts that single out Israel for special condemnation. And these boycotts are all the more problematic when they are proposed by countries struggling to contain rampant anti-Semitism threatening the contiguity of ancient European Jewish communities.
Boycotts of Israel tend to be inherently bigoted. Singling out a country for unique condemnation on the basis of a fault that is widespread is nothing less than bigotry. Adopting a measure that seeks to boycott Jewish businesses located in Judea, Samaria and parts of Jerusalem that came under Israeli control during the Six Day War while intentionally ignoring far more oppressive occupations (such as those instituted by China, Russia and Turkey) is unfair.
That European countries’ foreign ministers chose to do this at a time when European Jews are regularly intimidated – and on occasion massacred – on the streets of major European cities for the purported “crimes” perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people is downright reprehensible.
What could have been going through the minds of the foreign ministers of countries such as France and Belgium, two of the signatories of the letter? Both are countries that were recently the scenes of murderously anti-Semitic terrorist attacks. Both are grappling with large Muslim populations that include many who deny the very existence of the State of Israel.
Further compounding the impact of the letter’s nastiness is the fact that it was publicized as Israel was commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The 16 EU foreign ministers who signed the letter must recognize that Israel did not choose to occupy another people. If they are familiar with even the most basic history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they know how the territories beyond the Green Line came under Israeli control. Egypt, Syria and Jordan instigated a war with Israel and then lost miserably. Land that had been occupied by Jordan then fell into Israel’s hands.
On numerous occasions, Israel tried to reach a territorial compromise – first with the Jordanians and later with the Palestinians – which would meet Israel’s basic security needs as a lone democracy surrounded by antagonistic Muslim autocracies while providing Palestinians with political autonomy. Blame for the failure to negotiate a peace deal is at least as much about Palestinian intransigence as it is about Israelis’ unwillingness to take risks.
European foreign ministers, who are acquainted with the challenges of balancing human rights with security needs – particularly in the wake of 2004 Madrid train bombings, the July 7, 2005, London public transport bombings, the 2012 Toulouse and Montauban shootings and the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher massacres, must understand that Israel cannot simply lift movement restrictions placed on Palestinians living in the West Bank as long as Hamas and Islamic Jihad operate in the area and the Palestinian Authority continues to glorify terrorists.
Using economic boycotts to punish and ultimately close down Jewish businesses located in Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem also works under the assumption that only by making the entire West Bank judenrein can there be peace. These boycotts ignore the extensive economic cooperation that exists between Palestinians and Israelis.
Large proportions of Palestinians living in the West Bank are interested in various forms of cooperation with Israel, including economic. In a survey conducted in 2011 by pollster Geocartography Knowledge, 85 percent of respondents said they were interested in cooperation with Israel. Jewish businesses in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem employ tens of thousands of Palestinians.
European nations are engaged in a struggle to protect their Jewish communities from predominately Muslim aggression. When EU foreign ministers issue declarations that are driven by bigotry and distortions, they are feeding into anti-Semitism disguised as criticism of Israel. They are helping to spread lies.