Europe is not hostile to Israel

Europe is not hostile to Israel

By Nadav Tamir 
10.2.2015
via Haaretz [click here for the original article] 

Israel has a supreme interest in drawing close to Europe for ethical reasons - shared Western values - and practical ones - an export-based economy in which Europe is the biggest commercial partner.

As calls to establish a Palestinian state rise in Europe, the narrative that links the Continent’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to anti-Semitism and to the growing number of Arab immigrants to Europe is gaining strength here. 

This narrative is wrong at best and manipulative at worst.
 
The gap between Israel’s perception and Europe’s stems from differences in approach toward nationalism, the use of force and human rights. This gap widens as the occupation continues, as Israel’s governments remain uninterested in ending it, and as they increasingly appear not to share Europe’s liberal outlook.
 
The lesson that the European countries learned from World War II differs from the lesson that Zionism learned.
 
The countries of Europe, which previously shed one another’s blood, realized the dangers of nationalism, worked for unity and advocated for the rights of minorities. Israel arose from the lesson that national feeling and military might were sacrosanct.
 
Until the Six-Day War, Europe saw Israel as a threatened democracy that shared its liberal values. Since that war, Israel’s image has gradually changed and the country is now seen as an aggressive regional superpower.
 
So long as Israel adhered to liberal values and pursued peace, and so long as rejectionism remained the province of the Arabs, Israel could depend on Europe tolerating the occupation. Even now, the Europeans follow a policy that distinguishes their criticism of the occupation and the settlements and their desire to embrace Israel within the 1967 borders, while supporting its security needs and admiring its abilities in science and technology.
 
With no connection to their political position, the European countries share our concern about old and new anti-Semitism and they work against it, even if their means sometimes fall short.
 
Israel has blurred the gap between the Europeans’ attitude toward Israel and their attitude toward the settlements. The country does this to avoid addressing the criticism, while accusing the Europeans of anti-Semitism.
 
And the Israeli public has accepted this narrative, along with commentators’ assertions that Europe’s policy is influenced by its large Arab population.
 
Perception vs. reality
 
But the reality is different, even the opposite.
 
Influenced by the immigrants, Europe’s nationalist right is gaining power. In the recent elections for the European Parliament, the nationalist right-wing parties won unprecedented success.
 
This movement, motivated by xenophobia and traditionally associated with unabashed anti-Semitism, has recently become an enthusiastic supporter of Israel in light of what it sees as a common enemy: Muslims and Arabs.
 
The nationalists in Europe and their peers in Israel share an admiration for populist belligerence. Their admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin is evident, as is their scorn for U.S. President Barack Obama, particularly because of his tendency to avoid military solutions.
 
Today the nationalist right wing in Europe seems to love (conservative) Israel but hate Jews (and foreigners), while the liberal left wing on the Continent loves Jews and hates Israel.
 
The problem with this narrative is that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy: It strengthens Israel’s tendency toward victimization, which distances us from Europe.
 
Unlike other countries, Israel has no natural coalition based on language, religion or geographic region. Our only coalition in the international arena, like our desire to belong to Western organizations, is based on holding liberal values in common. The farther away Israel moves from these values, the more we are losing our natural allies.
 
Instead of creating a dialog - through which the Europeans could learn the threats against Israel and its security needs while Israel internalizes the importance the Europeans place on the rights of minorities and their preference for diplomatic solutions - Israel is drawing farther away from and letting go of the base of shared understanding.
 
Europe’s opposition to the occupation and settlements is not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.
 
Besides the authentic concern for the Palestinians’ rights, many people in Europe and the world say the stance is pro-Israel, since the continued occupation harms Israel’s security and its ability to remain a democracy and a national home for the Jews. Even those among us who do not agree with this approach need to realize that it does not stem from hostility.
 
Israel has a supreme interest in drawing close to Europe for ethical reasons - shared Western values - and practical ones - an export-based economy in which Europe is the biggest commercial partner.
 
The approach that has become accepted in Israel lately, that “Europe is against us no matter what we do,” perpetuates a dangerous gap instead of narrowing it. This attitude needs to be changed from the ground up.