During a recent trip to Washington, I was introduced to an Israeli diplomat as the JPost''s European Correspondent. The diplomat issued a tart reply laced with biting sarcasm: "My condolences."The diplomat''s comments followed me throughout my experience at American Jewish Committee Global Forum event, where lively pro-Israel sentiment was palpable and evident.In short, after being stationed for the past ten years in Europe, it is hard to reconcile my experience of the largely bi-partisan, pro-Israel solidarity AJC event with European attitudes toward the Jewish state.To illustrate the differences in what it means to be "pro-Israel" on either side of the Atlantic, take the example of Jerzy Montag, a Green Party deputy, who serves as the head of the German-Israel friendship group. A few years ago, while serving as the head of this group, Montag attacked the policies of the Jewish state at a pro-Israel event.
His attacks prompted outrage from seasoned Israeli diplomats. I recall when one embassy diplomat turned to me and said: Can you believe what Montag said? The Israeli official chalked it up to an embarrassment for German-Israel relations.More recently, Montag has consistently refused to advocate unilateral German sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran. Equally disturbing, according to his comments at a Bundestag hearing on combating anti-Semitism, he seems to not understand that anti-Zionism is an expression of anti-Semitism.
After my over 10 year presence in Europe, I appreciate that I may be stating the obvious for folks who have experienced the anti-Israel mini-movements that punctuate Europe. However, for those that thankfully lack this experience, it is worth stating very clearly: in the US and Canada, there are major countervailing forces that help stymie the kind of modern Jew-hatred—namely, the loathing of Israel—that contaminate broad swaths of Europe''s populations.After having read about Germany''s Jerzy Montag, an apparent friend of Israel, consider now Canada''s conservative Foreign Minister John Baird—a different kind of friend of Israel—and the speech he delivered at the AJC conference. There, he equated Canada''s staunchly pro-Israel positions with core values such as "freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law" that are shared by the north American democracies "the US and Canada" with Israel.My experience at the AJC conference caused me to reconsider the works of German Jewish social philosophers Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who produced research on anti-Semitism after WWII.These two philosophers had recently fled the Hitler movement, when the AJC commissioned these two world-class geniuses to write a study about anti-Semitism. I don''t think it''s an exaggeration to say that in order to understand German anti-Semitism—and European Judeophobia in general—Adorno and Horkheimer are practically pre-requisites.Here is a section from Adorno''s famous lecture in 1962 about combating anti-Semitism. He noted that, "A particularly disingenuous argument is: ''You can''t criticize Jews today.''"The public taboo on anti-Semitism is turned into an argument for anti-Semitism, as it were: if you can''t criticize the Jews, the associative logic continues, there must be something to the things people could be criticizing."This is an effective projection mechanism: those who were, and potentially still could be, the persecutors, act as though they were the victims."Now replace "Israelis" with "Jews" in the Adorno passage and the modern expression of anti-Semitism within anti-Israel sentiment surfaces. Günter Grass'' "poetic" diatribes against the Jewish state (and his defense of Iran''s jingoistic regime) neatly express Adorno''s insights fifty years ago.After experiencing the deep anti-Israel hate of the German left student movement in the late 1960''s, Adorno was filled with concern about a revival of fascist attitudes.Adorno''s counterpart, Horkheimer, declared that, "To be radical today means to be conservative." (In German: Radikal sein heißt heute konservativ sein.).In light of Horkheimer''s dictum, it is unsurprising that German Chancellor Angela Merkel from the conservative Christian Democratic Party may very well turn out to be the most pro-Israel politician since the creation of the Federal Republic in 1949.The Iranian nuclear weapons crisis will test Ms. Merkel''s strong words in Israel''s Knesset in 2008. She proclaimed Israel''s security to be "non-negotiable" for her administration.Back in the US at the AJC event, the concern that a slice of US liberals in Congress are showing signs of soggy support for Israel''s security interests was on display. However, while States-side the argument involves both sides of the political-spectrum demonstrating the smartest and most unshakeable support for Israel, in Europe, it''s a challenge to find any genuine—much less active—pro-Israel sentiment whatsoever. When considering this juxtaposition, I can''t help but recall what Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol—who actually debated Democratic Congressman Barney Frank at the AJC—famously said about US pro-Israel conservatives in 2010: “We''re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community.”
Sadly, Europe still needs to build a pro-Israel community.
I am back in Europe on Thursday to write fresh Jpost dispatches.