Friday, June 03, 2005

Keeping the peace

It seems that Lord Haskins has again come up with that old chestnut about peace in Europe thanks to the glorious EU. I wish, I wish, but I wish in vain, that they would think of a few new lies … woops I mean new arguments … in favour of the project.

Still, there is one international treaty organization that can claim the credit for keeping the peace in some parts of Europe and helping the rest of it to free itself from its shackles a.k.a. as the unmentionable supranational system of Communism.

More recently, there have been certain questions posed about NATO, not least whether it can survive the influx of East European countries, including Romania and Bulgaria, whose military structures and equipment are hard to integrate and whose intelligence officers are perceived as unreliable.

NATO’s other big problem is the European Defence Identity, which is busy building rival structures without putting any real money into the nitty-gritty of defence. Thus, if it is ever challenged, NATO and, specifically, the Americans will have to come to its rescue, which they might or might not do.

There has been one more interesting development. A couple of weeks ago, the Israeli navy took part in joint exercises with NATO.

This Tuesday, during the spring session of the organization, held in Ljubljana, Israel became a member of the Parliamentary Assembly. In itself that does not mean a great deal, the Assembly not being one of the important decision-making bodies.

It does show, however, that NATO is looking towards other allies and even members as the main thrust of the struggle to protect that much-discussed peace in the West shifts away from the Soviet Union (if, maybe, temporarily) to Middle Eastern terrorist groups and states.

This raises some interesting political problems. One of the sources of tension between the EU and the United States has been behaviour in the Middle East. The EU has been resolutely anti-Israeli to the point of ignoring the welfare of the Palestinian Arabs (as for Israeli Arabs, they are not on the European radar screen) by supporting the late unlamented Chairman Yasser Arafat, who, single-handedly, destroyed all political and economic structures in the Palestinian territories.

Parallel to this there has been a worrying rise of very real anti-Semitism in Europe, coming mostly from the left as well as the Muslim communities in some countries.

The largest number of attacks on Jewish targets appears to have taken place in France. We are not, however, talking just about hoodlums desecrating cemeteries, torching schools or, even, attacking people.

We are talking about highly regarded publications. To no publicity whatsoever the Versailles Court of Appeal ruled last week that Le Monde was guilty of whipping up anti-Semitic feelings in an article published in 2002, entitled “Israel-Palestine: The Cancer”. No prizes for guessing what the cancer was.

According to an account by Tom Gross in the Wall Street Journal Europe yesterday, the article
“ … was a nasty piece of work, replete with lies, slanders and myths about ‘the chosen people’, ‘the Jenin massacre’, describing the Jews as ‘a contemptuous people taking satisfaction in humiliating others’, ‘imposing their unmerciful rule’ and so on.”
Le Monde has not yet published a condemnation of the article that the court requires from it.

Interestingly the court decision went almost entirely unnoticed. No coverage in the French press; Reuters and Agence France (in trouble in the past for their biased reporting from the Middle East) ran short stories in French but not on the English language news services. Associated Press did not run the story at all. Our own media, obsessed with the importance of Tony Blair in Europe, the ritual hara-kiri of the Conservative Party and the new series of Big Brother, did not touch it.

Yet, this is an important decision and should have triggered some sort of a discussion about the way Israel and its people seem to be exempt from all other considerations of fairness, decency and honesty.

We all know about the outrageous decision of the AUT to boycott two Israeli universities and its academics regardless of who they are and what they do. The decision, now happily for Britain’s reputation abroad, overturned, was based entirely on a tissue of lies supplied by what Harold Wilson would have described as “politically motivated group of people”.

We have all seen cartoons in the Guardian, which could have come out of Der Stürmer. We have all been assailed by articles, screeching statements that described Israelis as Nazis, Gestapo, SS, what have you. Sensible argument or discussion about the Palestinian problem is barely possible in most European countries and, alas, that includes Britain, where ridiculous plays are produced at the Royal Court about stupid American girls who get killed while helping terrorist organizations and even stupider reviewers drool about her beautiful soul and selfless humanity.

(One rather dumb critic quoted with approval the eponymous Rachel’s description of the Palestinians, especially the organization she was working with that built up a network for distributing arms, as being Gandhi-like. Whatever one may think of Gandhi, he did not advocate suicide-homicide bombings.)

Tom Gross lists a horrific number of articles in the mainstream European media that goes a long way beyond criticism of Israeli policies and erupts into neither more nor less than hatred of Jews.

Admittedly, some of this has lessened since the death of Arafat (apparently not quite the saintly character he was depicted in some West European media), the attempts made by Mahmoud Abbas to rebuild the shattered Palestinian community and the doomed attempts to retrieve Palestinian money from Arafat’s widow and other friends and relations.

Yet the basic antipathy to Israel persists, not least because of the erroneous European perception of that country as being an American client (more American money is pumped into Egypt and that is not investment) and the idea that somehow American foreign policy is motivated entirely by its desire to protect Israel. Actually it is motivated by a desire to protect America and its allies.

Somewhere along the line, the Europeans lost sight of the fact that Israel is a democratic pro-western state with a free media and free politics – a rarity in that part of the world.

Furthermore, Israel is a necessary ally in the fight against terrorism, indeed, the front-line country just as Germany was in the fight against Communism.

That Israel and NATO should draw closer together is entirely logical. But will it drive the wedge between those who want to build separate European defence structures (against whom, precisely?) and the rest of NATO even deeper in?

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