Anti-Zionism as Anti-Semitism in Europe: The Mistreatment of Israel by the Media

by Raphael Israeli (April 2009)
 

Since the 1980s several high level European politicians have made radical anti-Semitic declarations which accorded with Arab and Muslim positions. In a public statement in 1982, Greek Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou compared Israelis to Nazis. But no mainstream European leader went as far as Christian Democrat Giulio Andreotti, many times the Prime Minister and then the President of Italy, who declared in Geneva, during an inter-parliamentary conference in 1984, his support for a Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi motion, which equated Zionism with racism, supported the boycotting of Israel, and defended the right of the “armed struggle for the liberation of Palestine" [that is terrorism]. Italy was then the only Western country to vote with the Soviet Bloc for this motion. Later, such occurrences have become even more frequent. In April 2002, Franco Cavalli spoke at a demonstration of the Swiss-Palestinian Society in Bern. He was then the parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Party (SP), which is part of the Swiss government coalition. He claimed that Israel, “very purposefully massacres an entire people” and undertakes the “systematic extermination of the Palestinians.”  Was he ignorant of the comparatively higher number of Palestinians massacred by the Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, and their own infighting, or his anti-Semitism drove him to ignore the numbers? Or he could not explain why the Israelis were so inadequate and impotent at “annihilating” the Palestinians, if they are stronger and more numerous than ever before. Senior members of the Greek Socialist Party routinely used Holocaust rhetoric to describe Israeli military actions against Arabs, even when they are defensive in nature. In March, Parliamentary Speaker in Athens, Apostolos Kaklamanis, referred to the “genocide” of the Palestinians, forgetting that no one people can undergo so many genocides and still survive. Jenny Tonge, a Liberal Democrat MP in the U.K. declared at a meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in 2004 that she might consider becoming a “suicide bomber” if she lived in the Palestinian territories. But in contrast to the other cases, which remained unrefuted, her party distanced itself from her statement, explaining that it did not condone terrorism.

Raising the very question of Israel’s legitimacy, or even “recognizing its right to exist,” in itself carries a connotation of suspicion, uncertainty, hesitation, temporariness, and remonstration, as if it were under probation, like a criminal on parole, who has to prove constantly that he deserves his freedom. If Israel concedes, withdraws, shrinks back to its “natural size” (as the Egyptians would have it), obeys, effaces itself, admits “guilt” or in short, behaves like a dhimmi of old, or submits to calumniations against it, then it is considered by the nations of the world demanding this from it as peaceful, reasonable, moderate, and conciliatory. But when she stands up to her enemies, demands that her rights, territory, heritage, security, people, way of life, and sovereignty be safeguarded and respected, then the world is amazed at its arrogance, self-assertion, aggression, selfishness, spirit of rebellion, fanaticism, extremism, and disregard of others. When diplomats and world leaders admit Israel’s right to exist (thank you), this is often taken as a special favor do to it and some Jews are happy at the daily confirmation of that favor, which they were never accustomed to take as a matter or natural right. The dhimmi spirit that they perpetuate dictates to them a grateful mode of behavior towards anyone who condescends to affirm what otherwise would have been considered a matter of course. That is the reason why sixty years after independence Jews continue to express in their national anthem the “hope” of attaining freedom in their land. They cannot believe they did already.

Consider this: a world leader or a minor one tells Israel that she has the right to exist, but she ought to evacuate territory, allow Palestinian refugees to go back to their previous homes, give up a certain amount of her defenses, and depend on international guarantees. This means that her right to exist is conditional on her meeting certain expectations even if they run contrary to her interests or to her very chances of survival in her hostile environment. Thus, not only is Israel, of all nations, required to take steps towards her own demise, as a prerequisite to her conditional recognition by others, but this also implies that if she does not comply, her admission into the family of nations may be rescinded. Can anyone tell the British that they would be recognized provided they return the Falklands to their owners, or the Americans, the Canadians, and the Australians that they can be recognized only if they restored rights to the dispossessed natives that they had conquered, or that the Japanese, Syrians, Iraqis, and Sudanese will be accepted only when they recognize their minorities and stop persecuting them, or Iran, China, and Egypt—only if they accepted democracy or stopped threatening their neighbors? Unthinkable?

Not in the case of Israel, even though it cannot be reproached for any of those violations or improprieties. Take for example the question of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years. In December, 1995, the General Assembly of the UN adopted a resolution, with an overwhelming majority, as in previous years, denying the validity of the Israeli laws, which confirmed united Jerusalem as the capital of modern Israel once again. That resolution also condemned the “Judaization” of Jerusalem as if someone blamed the Chinese for the Sinification of Beijing or the French for the Francisation of Paris, or Saudi Arabia for the Islamization of Mecca. When the Arabs dominated East Jerusalem, which they never made their capital, not only did they effect a full Arabization of the city, but they did that at the detriment of Jewish sites such as Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, the Jewish Quarter, and no one complained ( that is except for the Israelis, but those are not counted). But as soon as the Jews restored their sites to their sovereignty, without as much as touching the Aqsa compound, which the Muslims had knowingly constructed upon the holiest site of the Jews, then outcries about “Judaization” began, which was heralded as “threatening world peace.” So, when the UN declares that the Israeli measures were “null and void,” one wonders whether the restored Jewish Quarter, which had been destroyed by the Arabs, should have remained in ruins, or demolished again after it was repaired, or that the reparations of cemetery of the Mount of Olives, which had been demolished by the Jordanians and its tombstones used to pave a road, should revert to its state of profanation in order to qualify for the terms of that resolution.

In October 1996 the European community demanded that Israel should rescind all those measures of restoration and construction and return things to their “original state.” Original since when? If the splendor of Jerusalem is returned to its Davidic and Solomonic original, then al-Aqsa Mosque should have been removed to allow for the original Temple to re-emerge. Or perhaps they meant that the latrines that the Jordanians had constructed on the sites of the synagogues that they destroyed in the Old Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem should be reinstituted on the ruins of those now reconstructed sites? The occasion for those European demands was
the reopening of an ancient tunnel, dating back 2,400 years in history, to the times of the Jewish Hasmonean Dynasty, before there was any idea of Europe, of Christianity, Islam, Arabs, or Palestinians. And because the Muslim Palestinians who had usurped the holy Jewish Temple Mount, now claim that the tunnel endangered their holy sites, themselves built on the ruins of the ancient Jewish Temple, the Europeans moved to make Israel close it again. And all that, under the Palestinian threat of violence if Israel would not conform. Which one of those new European nations would have acquiesced in a situation where its right to relate to its past heritage was called into question?

Jerusalem is but an example. At stake is the self-imputed right of Western countries to determine the standards of behavior to which Israel is held and their presumption to act as self-appointed supreme arbiters of that conduct. Exactly like the Jews in their midst, who were suspicious and accused until proven innocent, so is the Jewish state. It is in this sense that the Jewish state has become the Jew among states. For decades, most nations took the right to call Israel “the Jewish State,” or the “Tel Aviv Government,” lending to it the same legitimacy as the “Vichy Government” had; they made their representations and sent their representatives to that non-existing address; the international media also dispatched their reports from Tel Aviv, while the pictures they showed often originated from Jerusalem, the seat of the government of Israel. All that in order to avoid recognition of Jerusalem, the ancient capital of, which had predated their own respective capitals, as the reconstituted center of modern Israel. So widespread has been that fiction that many people ended up believing that it was Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, that was the capital of Israel. What other country in the world would have been submitted to such a treatment, or accepted the systematic negation of its legitimacy of which the choice of a capital city is part?

This inordinately critical view of the Jews in history has somehow carried over and rubbed off on Israel as well, and directly aided the Arabs and Muslims in their rejection of Israel, lock, stock, and barrel. The intense scrutiny and obsessive coverage of Israel’s every fault and detail sends to Tel Aviv (but more to Jerusalem) regiments of reporters and correspondents, more than to any other world capital save Washington, DC. And all those journalists have to justify their presence in Jerusalem (under the Tel Aviv disguise) and hunger for news to feed their avid media. Thus, the most absurd of gossip can become reported news, and the most insignificant events can become “history.” In reports about the Intifadah, for example, articles were written about the special wood used to manufacture police truncheons to maintain order, and the workshops where they were made. Similarly, we have seen that the tedious and repetitive detail that is of no interest elsewhere finds its way to international media.

The nature of the “Jewish” truncheon, which caused suffering to the Palestinians and also tarnished Jewish reputation, was only a symptom. No one has ever checked the truncheons used by the British police in Northern Ireland or by the French police in quelling street riots in the Parisian slums. But a Jewish truncheon deserves a special scrutiny. Palestinian children and adolescents can throw Molotov cocktails at Israeli police, occasionally killing, wounding, or maiming them, but those are “only kids” standing up courageously against their oppressors; to be repressed by police wielding those redoubtable Jewish truncheons, that is quite another matter, for Jews have to submit to special standards of conduct, unlike all others. A Palestinian spokesman made the remark: “We are so lucky that our enemies are the Israelis. If they were Singhalese, who would care to mention us?” The late Father Marcel Dubois, Head of the Dominican Order in Jerusalem, made a similar comment: “Had the occupied territories been under Margaret Thatcher’s responsibility, the Intifadah would have lasted three days only and no one would have talked about it any more.” Both statements were corroborated by a former member of the foreign press corps in Jerusalem Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times, 
who repeated the same observation in almost the same words: “the great luck of the Palestinians is that they are in a state of conflict with Israeli Jews.”



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