European Press: Dividing line

European media debate sanctions, settlements and fear of a new intifada.

German economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier talk to Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on November 12. (photo credit: REUTERS)
German economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier talk to Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on November 12.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘An intifada is like wildfire. When it’s loose in all directions, it’s not easy to extinguish,” Inge Günter wrote in the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau last Saturday.
Günter’s use of the word “wildfire” also describes the way media speculation piled up. In Germany alone, the following headlines appeared: In Der Tagesspiegel, “The fear of another intifada”; in Die Zeit: “Nobody wants to speak of intifada”; and in Frankfurter Rundschau, “No intifada, but the conflict continues.”
Despite how European media agreed or disagreed on the dawning of a new intifada, news outlets from the continent have duly reported the recent attacks on Israeli civilians over the last weeks. At the same time, most news stories from Europe reflected the increasingly stale relationship between Israel and the EU.
For example, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported the EU was losing patience with Israel as a result of plans for new settlements, suggesting they are mutating into a real dividing line between Israel and Europe. Likewise, German daily Der Tagesspiegel quoted high-profile direct sources from the EU who claimed top officials within the institution are planning on exerting new, far-reaching sanctions against Israel. A source told the paper: “[The settlement plans] are the reason we are considering increasing the pressure on Israel. This will not only be limited to economic sanctions, but even to the possible suspension of trade agreements or the termination of a major Israeli research agreement with the EU.”
Several stories also focused on German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s 48-hour visit to Israel, in an attempt to ease the mounting tension between Israel and the Palestinians. Shortly after sitting down with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to discuss the new settlements, Steinmeier flew back to Brussels to attend a meeting of foreign ministers where the topic of Israel would be addressed directly. In anticipation of that meeting last Monday, Steinmeier relieved some pressure by stating: “Israel does not have to worry about the meeting.”
While the majority of news stories from Europe were critical of Israel, stories directly condemning the recent acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians were scarcer.
A rare exception was an article published in L’opinione della libertà by Italian journalist Stefano Magni. He referred to the recent situation in Israel “as something out of a horror movie,” addressing the new, modern challenges a third intifada could pose – where ordinary citizens can become threats, and easily respond to a call to arms on television or even the Internet.
“[Palestinian] fighters are not integrated inside a real framework of political parties; there are not even suicide bombers who can be stopped by walls,” Magni wrote. “…There are organizations that cannot be discovered or dismantled by the police, not even irregular military that can be faced by regular military.”
Israel must justify its decision to ban Mads Gilbert
Aftenposten, Norway, November 15
Aftenposten, Norway’s largest paper, published an op-ed last week which demanded Israel justify its decision to deny Norwegian doctor-activist Mads Gilbert entry into Gaza. The story attracted vast media attention in the country. Gilbert has been traveling to Gaza for more than 30 years to offer medical aid to injured Palestinians; during this time, he has also expressed radical political views and profound sympathy for the Palestinian people. “Seen from the Israeli government’s point of view,” the paper’s editorial staff wrote, “it’s easy to understand why Gilbert is perceived as troublesome. He has told a very different story about the responsibilities and consequences of the devastation than the image portrayed by Israeli authorities.”
Gilbert’s status as both a doctor and an activist is “legitimate,” they wrote, as “Gilbert should be able to use his freedom of speech.” Israel’s reason to refuse Gilbert’s entry to Gaza is that the doctor posed a security risk, but the Israeli government has hitherto refused to explain why, according to Aftenposten. Since Norway contributes to restoring Gaza’s infrastructure in the wake of this summer’s war, the paper claims that any link between Gilbert’s activism and Israel’s ban as a security threat is “unacceptable.” The Norwegian government is demanding Israel reverse its decision.
Jerusalem – the chokehold strangling the Palestinians
La Repubblica, Italy, November 17
An article unusually critical of Israel was published in the global Emergenza section of the Italian daily last week. Manuela Ecate, an activist with ARCS, an Italian NGO offering humanitarian aid in conflict zones, wrote: “Every day, the Palestinian people feel the trauma of humiliation and discrimination caused by the Israeli system. A tangible difference can be felt between the west and east side of the city, formally under Palestinian control.” Ecate included recent acts of terrorism in Jerusalem to illustrate the rising tension between the eastern and western parts of the city; the writer profiled Ibrahim al-Akkari, who ran over a group of pedestrians at the light rail station in Sheikh Jarrah, and Abdel Rahman al-Shalodi, who killed a three-month-old baby and injured seven others when running over a group of Israeli civilians. “The two episodes may perhaps be useful to give an interpretation and understanding of what is happening in the extremely heterogeneous and highly stratified [city of] Jerusalem: The Israeli system is structured this way, Palestinian people feel the trauma of humiliation and discrimination every day,” Ecate wrote, continuing that Palestinians are cut off from the city, have trouble obtaining citizenship, suffer from poverty and discrimination, and lack basic infrastructure.