From Europe: The populist winds are blowing

And other news from Europe.

From Europe (photo credit: REBECCA SHENFELD)
From Europe
(photo credit: REBECCA SHENFELD)
One day before the Sochi Winter Olympics drew to a close in Russia, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted as a result of severe clashes in Kiev, and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko was released from imprisonment. The consequent thaw is a reminder of the present muddy political terrain in Europe, where surging populist parties are on the march from Finland to Greece, at the same time as demands for boycotts against Israel gain momentum.
Jacques Schuster, in the German newspaper Die Welt, questioned last week a few of the outcries in the current unified European protest against Israel. Are we seeing the same primal anger toward the Jews, he asked, and cited Israeli author Amos Oz: “In the past, you could read: Jews go to Palestine, on every other house wall in Europe.
Today, instead: Jews get out of Palestine.”
Schuster makes a point by questioning why boycotts are on the agenda in the first place – accompanied by, for example, an absence of criticism on Russian meddling in Ukrainian politics. He also questions why boycotts have been chosen as the new modus operandi. While noting Israeli responsibility in the peace process and an unquestionable necessity to put pressure on Jerusalem, he simultaneously asks why Europe always – exclusively – blames Israel in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
It was therefore somewhat soothing when German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on Tuesday in Jerusalem, tried to steer the peace-process back on course. She said: “A boycott against Israel is not an option but it is acceptable to label products produced in West bank settlements.” She continued: “Palestinian recognition of Israel as Jewish is critical.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hopes other European countries will follow Merkel’s guiding lights. He said: “There can be criticism of Israel that is legitimate,” adding: “But it’s hard not to notice the fact that those who call for boycotts of Israel are not calling for the boycott of any other country.”
In other news from Europe
More and more European companies refuse to invest in Israel
RFI, France, February 18 Out of fear of being associated with occupation and colonization, the list of European countries refusing to invest in the Jewish state is growing larger. The most important German bank, Deutsche Bank, has blacklisted Bank Hapoalim out of ethical concerns – because it has branches in the settlements.
Olympique Sportif Agenais suspended for six matches due to quenelle
La Depeche, France, February 23 The reserve squad of French soccer team Olympique Sportif Agenais received a suspension of six matches and an 80-euro fine for discriminatory behavior against other players, after a 17-yearold soccer player gave the quenelle salute – a gesture popularized from Europe by French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala and seen to mimic the Nazi salute – during a January match with Marmande.
Carl Bildt must take a stand on the Israeli occupation
Svt Debatt, Sweden, February 19 Representatives from the third-largest party in the Swedish parliament, The Green Party, wrote an article in a well-known Swedish political publication, urging foreign minister Carl Bildt to act upon the illegal occupation in Israel.
“Country after country in Europe is pushing to strangle economic support to the settlements.
Germany has skimmed through its agreements to make sure the trade agreements do not include settlements. The Green Party wants the Swedish government to map out government cooperation, and impose labeling of origin to make sure the Swedish state does not support products from illegally occupied territories.”
Jobbik to Wilders and Le Pen: Liberalism and Zionism are the enemies, not Islam
The Budapest Times, Hungary, February 22 In a surprisingly massive and exhaustive interview, Márton Gyöngyösi – deputy leader of Hungary’s Jobbik parliamentary faction – told The Budapest Times why Jobbik differs from other right-wing parties: because it is expressly against Zionism. The backdrop is the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, where two other famous right-wing parties, the French National Front and the Netherlands’ Party For Freedom, are trying to form a pan-European chokehold on the “Dragon of Brussels,” with the help of alliances with other EU-skeptical parties in Europe. These other parties identify the problems of Europe as a clash between nations and cultures, while Jobbik sees a clash of traditionalists and liberals.
This differs from the tactics of “liberals” such as Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen. Wilders uses support for Israel and Zionism, in the form of economic contributions, as a sort of political lever from which to more efficiently distance themselves, in order to launch a fullon attack against Islam, he says.
Danish anti-kosher and anti-halal law infuriates Jews and Muslims
La Repubblica, Italy, February 20 A satiric article in La Repubblica, a major Italian paper, picked up a story from The Jerusalem Post about how Denmark recently changed the law to prohibit both Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter. All slaughtering of animals which is not preceded by stunning is now forbidden.
“Denmark seems really, really fond of its animals,” it said, alluding to a Danish zoo’s recent slaughter of a giraffe, which drew worldwide attention.
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, speaking to the The Forward, argued that “European anti-Semitism is showing its true nature, and is intensifying even in government institutions.” However, Finn Schwartz, a Jewish communal leader in Denmark, says the relationship with the government is “perfect.”
Security crisis in Egypt has financial impact on Israel and Jordan
El País, Spain, February 20 The Sinai has always been important for Jordan’s energy needs. Since the 2011 uprising through this January, there have been at least 18 attacks that have severely damaged the state of the pipelines, including system crashes with crippling effects on Jordan and its clients abroad; Amman came to lose $1 million for each day of disturbances. The country has therefore allowed two companies to purchase energy from US-Israeli- owned Noble Energy. The company acknowledged that the contract with Israel could be extended up to a sale of NIS 100 million, which would make Israel the leading supplier of gas in Jordan.