It has been a given for “European” politicians that there is only one real problem in the Middle East and that is the problem of Palestine. Well, maybe they are right, though I do not myself imagine that Islamic terrorism would disappear overnight if that were solved and neither would the various unsavoury dictators.
However, beyond reproaching the Americans for not dealing with the Palestinian problem (a tad unfairly) the EU has not exactly covered itself in glory. There is no question about it: the persistent support for the late, unlamented Chairman Yasser Arafat, a man who has given kleptocracy a bad name, has done very little towards untangling the Palestinian knot.
Now Arafat is gone and the Syrian President-for-life Assad Junior has shown his total complete contempt for his supposed patron, France, there has been a certain pulling in of horns. President Chirac has joined President Bush in calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, though whether he will be all that upset if it never happens remains to be seen.
There is still the question of the terrorist organizations that are going to make all attempts to create peace in Palestine rather difficult. Foremost of these is Hezbollah, armed and funded by Iran and Syria, operating in Lebanon and determined to go on blowing civilians up as long as they can get away with it.
Which would not be very much longer if there was some kind of an agreement to put Hezbollah on everybody’s list of terrorists and try to cut off their funding. If Hezbollah were banned in Europe, said Hassan Nasrallah, its leader,
“The sources of funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed.”Of course, it would not happen immediately but, if the EU sincerely believes in supporting the peace process and the democratization of the Middle East (woops no, that’s the crude Bush doctrine not something the sophisticated and nuanced Europeans subscribe to) then surely it would be worth trying to cut off all the terrorist organizations’ supply sources.
Not so but far from it, apparently. The EU, despite a vote to that effect in the European Parliament earlier this month, refuses to put Hezbollah on its list of proscribed terrorist organizations.
The opposition to that move is led by France and is supported by Spain, Belgium and some others. And the reason? Well, Hezbollah, it seems is also a “political force”. It is, indeed, with the emphasis on force.
As today’s Wall Street Journal Europe points out in its editorial, it is not as if any of these countries were chary of banning organizations.
“Just last week, a Spanish court outlawed Aukera Guztiak, claiming they were a reincarnation of the illegal Batasuna party, which itself was banned two years ago for its ties to ETA, the Basque terrorist group.”(Though one must point out that Sinn Fein has not been banned, despite its links with the IRA, but that’s the British and Irish governments for you.)
The WSJE further points out that last year the most popular Flemish party, Vlaams Blok, was effectively forced to disband (only to re-form itself as Vlaams Belang) and there is endless talk of banning various neo-Nazi groups.
But not Hezbollah. Not though it is clearly responsible for a large number of terrorist attacks. Not though it is impossible to envisage a free, peaceful and even remotely democratic Lebanon, while its politics is poisoned by the existence of this group.
As far as the EU is concerned, political organizations in the Middle East do not need to choose between politics and terrorism or democracy and terrorism. Just as long as they do not hurt us. And if they do? Well, we can always blame the Americans or ask them to rescue us, whichever will seem most appropriate.