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Protest in Spain against spending cuts Photo: Reuters
Protest in Spain against spending cuts Photo: Reuters
 
 

Darkening clouds over Europe

Op-ed: Holocaust memory no longer strong enough to compel European societies to condemn all anti-Semitic acts

Riccardo Dugulin
Published: 12.13.12, 18:02 / Israel Opinion

In the early days of the 20th century, Theodor Herzl warned European Jews of an impending catastrophe which would strike at the heart of the continent. A catastrophe like nothing seen before based on an ensemble of factors ranging from racially motivated nationalism, economic interests and a deep crisis at the heart of the European cultural system. The current wave of anti-Israeli and more or less open anti-Semitic behavior in the Old Continent's social structure would have been likely to trigger the same kind of reasoning in Theodor Herzl's mind.

 

This is not to say that Europe is actually bracing itself for events similar to the ones that happened in the 1930s and 1940s, but there is nevertheless the presence of an indubitable fertile ground to irrational and possibly dangerous thinking which in the long term may lead to incontrollable events. This tendency is verified through two key factors: Actions taken by governments to forcefully act against Israel's security and legitimacy and events or incidents marking the propensity of European societies to fall back into old and dangerous anti-Semitism.

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On November 29, 1947 the world addressed the question of establishing a state for the Jewish people in their historical homeland. Some 72% of the represented countries, along with all major powers, voted at the United Nations General Assembly in favor of a plan that was meant to settle decades of violence between Arabs and Jewish populations in what was then the British Palestinian Mandate.

 

The two-state solution may certainly be argued against on the bases of social, political, security and religious tendencies, yet what is obvious is that, in the spirit of the Balfour Declaration, the UN attempted in 1947 to solve the crisis by adopting a positive step, a step that was supposed to benefit both the Jews and the Arabs, enabling all parties to have a state recognized by the international community.

 

The war started by Arab powers with the sole intent of annihilating the hope of the Jewish people to have a national homeland was the start of the modern cycle of a prolonged period of instability and insecurity.

 

Oblivious to six decades of counter-productive policies and terrorist warfare by the Palestinians, on November 29, 2012 the great majority of EU member states surrendered their reason when they chose to directly or indirectly support the PA push at the United Nations General Assembly in a move that wasn't aimed at carrying any long term positive effect.

 

Non-negotiable truth

The EU has abandoned, in a logic of self-immolation, the basic tenets of foreign policy which should have been structuring its relations with the Near East. For this, the Italian government rewarded the same organization which in 1985 staged an attack at the Rome international airport, killing 20 civilians and the German government rewarded the same organization which staged a massacre in Munich during the Olympic Games of 1972. Regardless of history and its realities, European bureaucrats and policy makers have repeatedly chosen to uphold a weak discourse based on politically-correct stereotypes branded by radical European intellectual classes and a basic view of the Middle East linked to rudimentary wishful thinking rather than a clear analysis of the situation.

 

In European elite circles, the Palestinian aspiration for statehood has lately been seen as an untouchable and non-negotiable truth. No one dares to ask the real question: Will this bring peace? This question is not asked, as the answer is so expressively negative. The weight of the debate has indeed been shifted almost silently from a quest for peace and stability to an undeniable and visible frontal attack on Israel's political legitimacy.

 

The growing economic hardships in Europe are going hand in hand with an undeniable fall of traditional and moderate political parties. In this environment, values and principles which have structured the European ethos since the end of the Second World War are now being eroded and are not replaced by any viable option.

 

Recent UNGA vote recognizing Palestine (Photo: AP)
Recent UNGA vote recognizing Palestine (Photo: AP)

 

An underlying example of such a reality may be found in the latest surreal incident which took place in Sweden. The utterly repulsive use by a Swedish "artist" of ashes stolen from the Madjanek concentration camp in one of his works is instrumental in describing the growth of a dangerous relativism and highly perilous sense of disregard toward Europe's darkest moments.

 

These cases of blunt anti-Semitism may remain limited for the moment, yet the broad lack of attention they receive from the general public leads to the following conclusion: European societies have been growing tired of the sense of guilt developed in the post-Holocaust era. The memory of the worst atrocities that ever took place in the continent is no longer strong enough to push its societies to loudly condemn all acts of anti-Semitism. The strong anti-Israeli feeling which has been slowly built up by parts of the political sphere and the civil society is increasingly playing into the hands of radical elements taking the European socio-political sphere back to its darkest ages.

 

Limiting the critical thinking

An example of blatant anti-Israeli activism can be seen clearly in the language used by newspapers and media outlets every time a round of violence lights up in the Near East. The syntax used in articles is instrumental in misleading unprepared readers and in enabling them to draw false conclusions regarding the situation. A headline in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, the most read newspaper in the country, illustrate this issue perfectly. "Gaza under siege, 85 missiles in 45 minutes, 3 civilian casualties."

 

An average reader with limited knowledge of the region was pushed during Operation Pillar of Defense to understand that a besieged Gaza Strip had been hit by 85 missiles in 45 minutes, leading to the death of 3 civilians. In fact, 85 rockets had been fired from Gaza toward Israel, and the victims were from an Israeli family.

 

Such misinformation deprives the individual from properly understanding why these military operations are taking place and why the Israeli Defense Forces are forced into action to protect the Israeli people and their territory.

 

This ongoing and structured conditioning of the Western European public opinion does an effective job in limiting the critical thinking of single individuals and creating a mass of citizens which increasingly opposes Israel's policy and unapologetically shows hate toward the Jewish State.

 

The combination of anti-Israeli governmental policies and a growing indifference toward anti-Semitic incidents in European societies should be a cause of great concern to all good willed citizens - regardless of their faith or political affiliation - for two reasons. As was the case in the past, when tacitly accepting the irrationality of the anti-Semitic discourse, Europeans surrender themselves to the darkest aspects of the continents socio-political thinking.

 

As the EU is receiving a wide array of praises due to its recent Nobel Peace Prize, it is necessary to question the role of its member states and its societies in the Near Eastern region. Is there a clear will to enable Israel and its neighbors to live in peace with one another? Or has an underlying state of mind been developing which may put in danger some European societies as well as further decrease the slim chance of peace and stability in the Middle East?

 

Riccardo Dugulin holds a master's degree from the Paris School of International Affairs (Sciences Po) and is specialized in International Security. He is currently working in Paris for a Medical and Security Assistance company. He has worked for a number of leading think tanks in Washington DC, Dubai and Beirut. Personal website: www.riccardodugulin.com

 

 

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