View Point:European bias

The EU consistently singles out Israeli policies for condemnation while totally ignoring more egregious Palestinian behavior.

European bias (photo credit: RUBEN SPRICH / REUTERS)
European bias
(photo credit: RUBEN SPRICH / REUTERS)
For some time now, Europe has sought a more assertive role in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Israel, however, having long suspected the EU of a pro-Palestinian bias, has been reluctant to see increased European involvement. Sadly, recent developments only reinforce the notion that Europe, rather than helping to advance peace, remains incapable of serving as an honest broker.
It’s no secret that the EU has for years considered the Jewish settlements in the West Bank the main obstacle to peace. Thus, in late October, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, strongly “deplored” the Israeli announcement of expansion plans for four Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. “Any actions that could hamper or undermine the ongoing negotiations must be avoided,” Ashton said. “The EU has repeatedly stated that settlements are illegal… It has also called on Israel to end all settlement activity, including natural growth.”
This condemnation followed public comments by former British foreign secretary and current Member of Parliament Jack Straw, claiming that the greatest impediment to a political settlement is the undue influence of the pro-Israel lobby in the US. At a forum held in the House of Commons, Straw reportedly stated that “unlimited” funds available to AIPAC and other Jewish groups are used to control American foreign policy in ways that block peace.
In other words, the conflict could be resolved but for Jewish settlements and Jewish pressure. Granted, European criticism of the settlements, unlike Straw’s use of an anti-Semitic stereotype, isn’t beyond the pale. Even among Israelis, there’s constant debate about the wisdom of the settlement enterprise though few oppose building homes in Jerusalem’s existing Jewish neighborhoods.
The problem is that the EU consistently singles out Israeli policies for condemnation while totally ignoring more egregious Palestinian behavior. Right around the time the EU’s Ashton was getting all worked up about Israeli construction plans in areas likely to come under Israeli sovereignty in a final peace accord, there was sheer jubilation at the Mukata, the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah.
Thousands were gathered there to give a heroes’ welcome to 21 Palestinian men who had just been released from Israeli prisons as part of the deal that got the PA to agree to renew negotiations last July. These weren’t prisoners being held because of their political beliefs; these were violent criminals convicted of murdering innocent Israelis. They were greeted with cheers, celebratory gunfire and music blasting from loudspeakers, and then embraced by PA President – and so-called moderate – Mahmoud Abbas.
It’s hardly a stretch to argue that making peace with a society that routinely honors terrorists is virtually impossible. It’s even less of a stretch to argue that the glorification of cold-blooded murderers would, at a minimum, constitute an action that could, in Ashton’s words, “hamper or undermine the ongoing negotiations.” Yet, there was no denunciation from the EU, only silence.
Perhaps the Europeans are too preoccupied with the planned building of homes in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo and Pisgat Ze’ev to be bothered with such mundane matters as celebrations honoring terrorists. Moreover, given the absence of an outcry against MP Straw’s anti-Semitic slur, is it any wonder the Europeans seem indifferent toward the vile anti-Jewish incitement that has been standard fare in PA-controlled newspapers and TV programs? Not only is harsh condemnation reserved exclusively for Israeli actions, but should the peace talks fail, the EU will certainly hold Israel responsible. It might then move ahead with new punitive measures, such as promoting an EU-wide boycott of goods produced in the settlements and requiring visas for Israeli settlers wishing to travel to Europe.
It’s bad enough that this one-sidedness, which in taking reprehensible Palestinian behavior for granted, fuels Palestinian intransigence.
But it also demonstrates an alarming lack of understanding of the conditions necessary for a lasting peace. After all, do the Europeans seriously believe that if Israel withdrew today to the 1967 lines, peace would suddenly break out? To be sure, the settlements are a complicating factor, but those that won’t become part of Israel can be dismantled within a reasonable time frame. By contrast, it could take generations to dismantle Palestinian cultural norms that revere terrorists and demonize Jews.
Which, then, is the most significant obstacle to peace?Robert Horenstein is Community Relations Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Oregon