For whom the bells tolled in Europe

The killings of yeshiva students were covered differently in European news outlets.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet at a March press conference in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet at a March press conference in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘La bataille de l’opinion.” Hélène Sallon’s sentence in the French daily Le Monde could summarize Europe’s reactions in social (or perhaps anti-social) media of the tragic killings of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah.
The battle of opinions was being fought on all sides in the media arena. A selection of questions from an ocean of opinion: Could this possibly lead to an escalation of the conflict? What long-term effects does this have on the peace talks? Does this mean that Israel will invade the West Bank? The French president and the British prime minister condemned the kidnappings with the strongest political vocabulary possible: François Hollande called it a “cowardly murder.” David Cameron spoke of an “appalling and inexcusable act of terrorism.”
If the horrific news unified hearts and minds across the political chart in Israel, it divided the news community in Europe. The commentaries and analyses often took the shape of an apparent balance check.
Rainer Solich in Deutsche Welle initially wrote: “Outrage from the Israeli side is understandable: the murder of three innocent people – teenagers and civilians – is a heinous crime for which there can be no justification,” although he later ended up condemning Israeli “overkill” or “collective punishment.” He stated: “It is and remains a heinous murder, perpetrated by alleged Palestinian hard-liners (even though Hamas has not yet admitted the crime and Israel has supplied no evidence.) However, collective punishment is not acceptable!” Sallon, writing in Le Monde, argues that any potential peace activists in Israel would lose in a hypothetical battle against more stout admirers of the national religious party of Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, Bayit Yehudi, or even against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, because the recent killings will have bolstered support for Netanyahu’s government as well as the settlements.
Winds of war on the Gaza Strip
La Stampa, Italy, June 29
Following a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip which struck Sderot and other places, Israeli aircraft bombarded 12 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets. The smoke from two burning factories could be seen from many miles away as firefighters did their best to combat the growing fire. Despite their efforts however, two factories burned down. In addition, the Israeli military ordered the reinforcement of the Iron Dome defense battery as well as calling in an unknown number of units from the mechanized divisions in preparation for eventual conflicts in the Gaza Strip.
‘No business with colonies’: Brussels exerts pressure on EU-member states
Il fatto quotidiano, Italy, June 27
The EU has asked citizens and European businesses to refrain from investing in what Brussels considers “illegally occupied territories.” The stated reason is that such activities entail legal and economic implications, among others. The initiative marks the beginning of a “joint action” involving the five largest EU countries: France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.
“Financial transactions, investments, acquisitions, contracts and tourism in the settlements only benefit the settlers,” read the statement.
This move could lead to a de facto economic boycott of the settlements in the occupied territories, especially following the bogging down of the peace talks.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO, stated: “This is a very reassuring sign from European countries. It’s clear that European countries do not wish to take part in the Israeli settlement policy and seek to apply international law.”
Refugees in Israel to fight for rights
Deutsche Welle, Germany, June 29
Ten thousand refugees from Eritrea and Sudan recently demonstrated in Israel. Their goal is for Israel to recognize their – and their children’s – rights as asylum seekers. Fifty thousand refugees from Eritrea and Sudan are currently living in Israel. But Israel does not want to grant them permanent residency in the country.
The Israeli government has set up temporary housing locations in the Negev hosting 3,300 migrants for an unlimited period of time. The migrants are not allowed a work permit, and must follow restrictions on their personal life.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is worried that the number of migrants may disrupt the social fabric of Israel. Since Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, neither the government nor the population wants the country to get too influenced by other religions.
Ever since a barrier made out of steel and barbed wire was completed between Israel and Sinai two years ago, the number of arriving refugees has plummeted.
‘Only one reliable and steadfast democracy exists in the Middle East: Israel’
Der Tagesspiegel, Germany, June 29
(An interview with David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee)
DT: There has been some turbulence between our countries [Germany and US], especially with the National Security Agency scandal. Do you believe a good relationship can prevail?
Harris: Yes, convincingly so. Our world is getting more crowded and dangerous. Where there was a perceived or real power vacuum, irresponsible states or non-state actors have emerged and have caused waves of violence and extremism.
DT: Iran and Jordan have put their armies on alert. What are the consequences of the conflicts in the region for the Jewish state?
Harris: The problems in the Arab world still are democracy and education. Those who believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the key to understanding the Middle East are simply wrong. The differences between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites are more deciding factors.
Europe can simply not ignore the fact that only one reliable and steadfast democracy exists in the Middle East – Israel. This should not be taken for granted. Indeed, it should rather be praised.