Monday, January 26, 2015

Why Israel rankles Europeans so much...leftist white liberals

Why Israel rankles Europeans so much


JERUSALEM — “It’s only Europe that gives us a hard time,” an Israeli minister told me last week, genuinely puzzled. “Yesterday, I had the Canadian foreign minister sitting where you’re sitting now. I had a cross-party delegation from the U.S. Senate. I had ministers from India and Japan. All of them understood that Israel was facing a terrorist threat. But the EU starts from the assumption that we’re in the wrong. Why?”
Good question. Many Israelis have two pat answers at the ready: anti-Semitism and Muslim immigration to Europe. I almost wish it were that simple. It’s true that anti-Semitism lingers in parts of the European Union: I have heard comments on the Continent that would be unthinkable in Britain or America. But only from a handful of blockheads. France roared its approval when, in a moving speech, Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the National Assembly that “without French Jews, France would not be herself.” Many of those doing the roaring are supporters of the Palestinian cause, and it won’t quite do to say that their applause was forced.
Nor is anti-Zionism just a sop to Muslim voters. There is scant correlation, across Europe, between levels of Muslim immigration and policy toward Israel. Gaza, in any case, is not always a burning issue for people whose family origins are in, say, Bangladesh or Indonesia. If anything, hostility to Israel is strongest among white, middle-class Euro-Lefties.
Israel, like all countries, sometimes makes mistakes and sometimes brings criticism on itself. But the obsessive focus on this tiny strip of land — barely a month passes without the European Parliament passing some critical resolution or other – is disproportionate. Where does it come from, this intensity of feeling?
Both sides like to internationalize their quarrel. Israelis do so by linking their cause with the wider struggle for Western values against jihadi barbarism, and they’re on to something. Jews are often the first targets of totalitarians. Michel Houellebecq’s novel Soumission, which imagines France under a Muslim Brotherhood president, came out, by an uncanny coincidence, on the day of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It contains an eerily apt moment. When the narrator’s Jewish girlfriend tells him that she has had enough and is moving to Israel, he glumly remarks, “For me, there is no Israel.” I suspect some of French gentiles are starting to think the same way as the fictional François.
Palestinians have internationalized their cause differently, seeking European recognition as a state, promoting boycotts of their opponents and now launching a case at the International Criminal Court. Of the two sides, it’s the Palestinians who are making the running in the EU, which recently voted to treat the 1967 line as the legal frontier.

Part of the reason that opinion has hardened is that the Jewish state is no longer seen as the underdog. In 1948 and in 1967, Israel was — for once the cliché is apt — David against Goliath. These days, in most international media, Israelis are presented as conquerors, Palestinians as helots. A surprising number of people, especially on the Left, approach virtually every question by trying to establish a hierarchy of victimhood and, having picked their side, become almost indifferent to anything else.
But what, to return to the Likud minister’s question, makes Europe different? One thing above all. The EU’s ruling ideology is supra-nationalism. Its founders detested the national principle, which they regarded as one step away from fascism and war. They were wrong: The misalignment of national units with state frontiers is arguably the chief cause of conflict in the world, from Chechnya to Kashmir, from Sri Lanka to South Sudan. But they sincerely believed that national loyalties were irrational, transient and dangerous, as do their successors today.
Israel represents the most vivid vindication of the national principle that humanity has witnessed. A people who were stateless for 2,000 nears never lost their aspiration to nationhood: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Then, extraordinarily — providentially, even — they fulfilled it. To a Briton or an American, it’s a heartening story. But it strikes at the Euro-integrationist's entire worldview.
When people in the Anglosphere look at Israel, they see familiar characteristics: civilian government, property rights, a market economy, the common law and even, at least as far as intellectual and commercial life goes, the English language. They are sympathetic in the literal sense of having fellow- feeling rooted in similar experiences. They like the fact that, unlike surrounding states, Israel has remained a cussed, disputatious democracy.
A few days ago, the retired paratrooper who had installed a security barrier showed me a place where he had to alter its course because Israel’s supreme court ruled that his proposed route gave too much weight to security and too little to the quality of life of local Palestinians. In how many neighboring countries do judges get to overrule generals like that?
Israel’s story is by no means unblemished; but it is uplifting. It’s a story of how freedom can take root in even the most unpromising conditions. Such a story appeals to optimistic types, but repels the envious, the eternally aggrieved, the gloomsters who see free markets as some kind of racket — the same people, indeed, who tend also to be anti-British and anti-American, whether they be Left Bank intellectuals or Putinite nationalists or Bolivarian revolutionaries.
I know who I’d rather have on my side; and it’s not the Bolivarians — or the Eurocrats. Israel has its problems, but it will still be around when the EU is one with Nineveh and Tyre.
Dan Hannan is a British Conservative member of the European Parliament. 

No comments: