Europe’s historic responsibility: Proscribe terror

The lessons of history are inescapable: The Jews may be the first victims of such ideologies, but they are rarely the last.

June 10, 2013 21:50
4 minute read.
Lebanon's Hezbollah supporters gesture as they march in Beirut, November 2011

Hezbollah march, fighters 370. (photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)

Three cheers for Dutch courage. At present Holland is the only European country that has followed the lead of the US and Canada and designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Britain has blacklisted its “military wing” but not its “political wing” (implying a distinction which does not actually exist) and has just been rebuffed in its efforts to persuade the European Union to follow its lead.

Europe often gets short shrift from Israelis. For the least forgiving it is irredeemable, “a Jewish graveyard.” For many more there is frustration at the seemingly endless patience and sympathy shown for the Palestinians, with no commensurate feelings displayed toward Israelis at the receiving end of Hamas’ rockets.

Sometimes the criticism of Europe in Israel is disproportionate and self-defeating.

It is infuriatingly stupid of certain Israeli politicians to condemn genuine friends of Israel like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or British Foreign Secretary William Hague when they criticize Israeli settlement policy.

But Europe does have an eternal debt to pay the Jewish people, and the currency is this: It must, now and always, adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward anti-Semitism.

That does not just mean being on guard against the frightening emergence of far-right nationalists like the Jobbik Party in Hungary, or the Golden Dawn in Greece. It should also extend to the new fascism in our midst: The Islamist far-right.

Like secular fascism, extremist Islamism is profoundly anti-democratic, implacable and all-too-willing to countenance mass-murder in the pursuit of its aims. And while Sunni jihadists hacking a British soldier to death on the streets of London understandably grabs the headlines, it is Shi’ite Islamism, led by the ayatollahs in Iran, that has the ambition and the organization to pose a serious threat to the liberal democratic west.

The US State Department has said that it is not al-Qaida, but Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, that is the most effective and dangerous terrorist organization in the world today. This makes the EU’s de facto appeasement of it an act of alarming stupidity, but what makes it inexcusable is Hezbollah’s record of poisonous, and sometimes lethal, anti-Semitism. Lest we forget, Hezbollah has murdered Jews, and attempted to murder more, on European soil, in Bulgaria and Cyprus.

And let no one say this is about Israel.

The Iranian-orchestrated, Hezbollah perpetrated terrorism in Argentina in 1994 was not against an Israeli target, but targeted the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. Eighty-five people were killed not because they were “oppressing Palestinians,” or “occupying Muslim land.” They were killed because they were Jews.

All of this is known by European leaders.

France, one of the most powerful and influential EU member states, long ago banned Hezbollah’s Al Manar television station because of its Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style anti-Semitic propaganda.

They know. And yet they still refuse to call evil by its name and to formally designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

There are sections of European society that have long since abandoned the post-1945 commitment to fight anti- Semitism. Nothing typified the moral bankruptcy of the “anti-imperialist” European Left better than the mass demonstrations against Israel in the summer of 2006, during the days of the Second Lebanon War; young people, purportedly committed to progressive ideals, marching alongside the misogynistic, gay-hating, anti-Semitic Islamist far-right. The most popular banner, held aloft by leftists and Islamists alike, read: “We are all Hezbollah now.”

Europe’s leaders do not share such repellent views. But, in the name of realpolitik, they are turning their backs on morality, justice and on their historic responsibility to the Jewish people. And if they know their history, they may just realize that the responsibility here is not just to the Jews. For anti-Semitism is not just another hatred. It is not just another form of racism.

The late writer Christopher Hitchens, delivering a masterful lecture on anti-Semitism for the 2010 Daniel Pearl Memorial event, described it as well as anyone: “ ...anti-Semitism is... somewhat like a version of mental illness.... The Nazis thought of Poles and Slavs and Gypsies as racial inferiors by all means, but the organizing principle of their racism, the thing that gave it its energy and its consistency, was the hatred of the Jew...

“Because anti-Semitism is the godfather of racism and the gateway to tyranny and fascism and war, it is to be regarded not as the enemy of the Jewish people, I learned, but as the common enemy of humanity and of civilization....”

From the Nazis to Stalin, and now to the Sunni Islamists of Hamas and the Shi’ite Islamists in Iran, we can see that the exponents of Jew-hatred are also brutal and bloodthirsty oppressors of their own people. The lessons of history are inescapable: The Jews may be the first victims of such ideologies, but they are rarely the last.

The author is the director of the Israel Government Fellows program of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center (, an elite internship and educational program for Jewish university graduates. He is writing in a personal capacity.

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