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Israel, the bane of Europe

Bill Rinner | Friday, November 7, 2003

The European Commission recently conducted a poll asking citizens inits member states which country poses the greatest threat to worldpeace. Any guesses who took first prize? The United States? NorthKorea? China? Luxembourg? No, no, no and no. The most dangerouscountry, hell-bent on world domination is in fact Israel.Polls should usually be taken with a grain of salt, particularly onesthat only gauge opinions and sentiments instead of potential votinghabits, but this one is quite astounding. Who would have thought thatIsrael, a small country virtually surrounded by nations who resentits very existence, could strike such fear into the hearts of men andwomen alike?Unfortunately, this does not seem to be an aberration, as reports ofthis nature simply echo the rise of a new European anti-Semitism.Personally, I figured that post-modern Europe had moved beyond suchantipathy after its last bad experience which started out as a whole”let’s gang up on the Jews” movement, but recent incidents proveotherwise.A swarm of anti-Semitic crimes is on the rise, ranging from verbalabuse and monument defamation to the firebombing of temples andsynagogues. Normally, one must remain skeptical about the popularityof such movements that could represent only a fringe of thepopulation, but incidents on a national level raise eyebrows as well.At least five countries have banned kosher food production, centralto the orthodox spiritual lifestyle. Germany decided to halt all armssales to Israel, despite being a steadfast supporter for decades. Aninternational conference on sanctions and divestment in London lastyear endorsed a boycott of Israel “not dissimilar to the campaignwhich contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa.”After Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad boldly proclaimedthat “the Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, buttoday the Jews rule the world by proxy,” the European Unionconsidered but ultimately decided against condemning his ignorant,hateful remarks. After instances of this nature, much of the world’sJewish population justifiably fears that the most powerful Europeanofficials are turning a blind eye towards blatant anti-Semitism.Admittedly, these decisions stem from a variety of political factorswith non-bigoted rationales. The issues of Israeli sovereignty andPalestinian statehood are hotly debated throughout the world, asanyone who hears an argument against radical Islamic suicide bomberscould counter with a list of alleged Israeli human rights violationsand vice versa. But come on, my European friends. Almost 60 percentof you have filled your nightmare-void left vacant when the “evil”Soviet Union fell with Israel? There must be something in the water.No level of political enmity towards Israel can validate thisalarming statistic, so one must consider anti-Semitism as a potentialexplanation. When one carefully scrutinizes our national newssources, from The New York Times to MSNBC, Europe comes off as themost enlightened continent in the world with moral authority so highthat many a peacenik object to America’s foreign policy becauseEuropean sentiments are not in our favor. While seriously consideringour allies’ positions on global affairs is an important goal,questioning the Old World’s rational and intellectual integrityshould be as well.The poll is heavily skewed against Israel, but anti-Americanism isalmost equally rampant throughout Europe. Correlation between the twois not unreasonable by any stretch of the mind, which could partiallyexplain why Europeans now hit the streets in droves to protestattacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. These two countries, one a theocracyand the other a secular dictatorship, both opposed Israel for theirown respective reasons, and American action in the region aims todiscourage the rise of military power in Syria, Iran and othercountries with an anti-Israeli agenda.On the other hand, these poll results may simply reflect overwhelminganti-Americanism, with Israel as the temporary scapegoat. A Europeanmight consider challenges to world peace from the United States andits enemies to be rooted in America’s strong support of Israel, andthis relationship leads to crisis after crisis in the Middle East.This argument has some merit, as hating the big bad guy America seemsmarginally more rational but fails to account for such the strongIsrael-fearing majority that the poll suggests.The European Commission knows that the poll results make thecontinent look terrible, and early press reports thwarted anattempted suppression of their findings. Whether this portion ofEuropeans is resoundingly anti-Semitic or just plain anti-American,the most obvious conclusion to draw is that their opinions oninternational affairs may be more rooted in xenophobia or naïvehatred than we previously believed.

Bill Rinner is a junior economics major studying at the London Schoolof Economics. His column appears every other Friday. He can becontacted at [email protected] views expressed in this column are those of the author and notnecessarily those of The Observer.