For years, European nations have been chiding Israel “why can’t you learn from our history ? We used to hate each other’s guts…and look now we are one big happy EU” Europe’s hubris caused them to miss the point, they should have been learning from Israel’s history.
The past few years has seen the EU facing many of the problems that Israel has been dealing with for almost 60 years—a large Muslim population, not comfortable with western ways that will resort to violence and terror to change things. Manfred Gerstenfeld of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs lays out where Europe went wrong and what THEY have to learn about history:
What the West Should Learn from the Assault on Israel and the Jews*
- On many accounts Europe – and the West at large – is facing increasingly unsolvable problems concerning matters such as security, immigration, xenophobia, international law, and civil liberties.
- European states over the past decades did not understand that the threats Israel was encountering in those years were essentially precursors of the menaces they would face as well.
- Had leading European politicians realized that a broader assault by radical Islam was underway – ultimately directed at their countries rather than at Israel alone – they likely would not have made the major errors they committed – particularly in the area of immigration – that have undermined European security today.
- Those who represent a major menace in Western society to the Jews and Israel will also increasingly threaten Western democracy as a whole. They can mainly be found among the extreme Left, the extreme Right, and the radicalized parts of immigrant Muslim populations.
Europeans have often said that the political lessons they have learned from the past are very meaningful for Israelis. This narrative can be summarized as: “European countries have fought wars among themselves for many centuries. After World War II they solved their main problems and live peacefully together in the European Union. Europe can teach Israel how to do this and arrive at the same state of bliss.”
This false narrative should be replaced with a more accurate one. On many accounts Europe – and the West at large – is facing increasingly unsolvable problems concerning matters such as security, immigration, xenophobia, international law, and civil liberties. Not only Israel but also many European Jewish communities have been wrestling with related issues for a long time. Although such situations are never identical, they contain many aspects from which the West can draw useful conclusions.
Many leading European politicians over the past decades did not understand that the threats Israel was encountering in those years were often precursors of the menaces they would face as well. Had they realized that a broader assault by radical Islam was underway – ultimately directly at their countries and not at Israel alone – they likely would not have made the major errors they committed, particularly in the area of immigration, that have undermined European security today.
The approach of learning from others’ political experience is often rather inadequately called the “canary concept.” In the past, when coalminers went down the shaft, they often took a canary underground with them. When the bird ceased singing, the miners knew that the air quality was deteriorating. Poisonous gases were escaping to which the bird was more sensitive than human beings. If the canary was suffering, the miners knew they had to get out fast. The bird had to die so that the miners could live. This is not, however, a service contemporary Jews and Israelis should supply to the West.
It becomes increasingly easy to illustrate that those who are threatening the legitimacy and physical security of the Jewish state are taking aim at others as well. Israel must try to teach the free world that these forces could undermine the liberties and safety of the entire West. If the Western learning process about radical Islam is mainly based on “successful” terrorist attacks it will be far too slow.
European Jews as Prewar Early-Warning Sensors
In any strategy it is important to identify early indicators of what the future might bring. This is particularly so in times of great uncertainty. For painful historical reasons, both European Jews and Israel are good examples of such sensors in many spheres concerning Europe’s present and future.
As far as European Jews are concerned, the most tragic example of their indicator role occurred in the 1930s when Hitler began to persecute and murder them. The Jews were excluded from German society and deprived of their livelihood. The number of Jews murdered in Germany before the outbreak of World War II was already several thousand.
European political leaders and citizens turned a blind eye to Hitler’s maneuvers. They failed to understand that Germany was training hard on its Jewish population for Hitler’s future plans toward them, even if these were less far-reaching. Although the Jews suffered infinitely more than many others in World War II, Germany also brought a huge disaster upon Europe. The early persecution of the German Jews could have functioned as a timely warning for Europeans, but the great majority of them did not want to take heed.
Palestinian Arab Terrorism: The First Wave against the West
There are more recent examples of European Jews functioning as early-warning sensors. In the last decades of the twentieth century there were many terrorist attacks by Palestinian and other Arab groups against Jewish and Israeli targets in Europe. Among these was the murder by Palestinian terrorists of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Yet another example – among many – occurred in 1982 when Arab terrorists killed six people in the Jo Goldenberg Restaurant in Paris. That same year Arab together with European terrorists murdered a one-year-old-child outside the main Rome synagogue and wounded thirty-five other synagogue-goers.
In retrospect it is clear that this was the opening round of a much larger war against the West in general. The late Oriana Fallaci, who in her years as a journalist repeatedly interviewed the leadership of the Palestinian organizations, disclosed one of her most revealing interviews in the 1970s with George Habash, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Habash frankly admitted at the time that “the entire Arab nation must go to war against Europe and America. It must unleash a war against the West. And it will.”
Habash explained to Fallaci that the Arabs’ enemy was not Israel alone but rather the West as a whole. Habash was not an Islamist but a Marxist from a Greek Orthodox family, yet he was confessing to the very worldview that al-Qaeda would embrace a quarter-century later: “America and Europe don’t know that we Arabs are just at the beginning. That the best has yet to come.”1
Nowadays Europe at large is confronted with terrorism of which that of Arab and other Muslim origin is particular lethal. Had European governments understood the Jews’ indicator role, they might have dealt better with the challenge.
Europol, the European police organization, reported that there were 498 terror attacks in the EU in 2006. Most were perpetrated by separatists such as Spanish Basques and Corsicans, many of whom seek to draw attention to their cause without inflicting casualties. Europol also mentioned that, on the contrary, terrorists with a Muslim background typically seek to murder large numbers of civilians. Examples cited were the failed attacks with bag bombs on trains in Germany and the ones employing liquid explosives on transatlantic planes leaving from London.
Half the terror suspects arrested in the EU in 2006 had a radical-Islamist background. Among the countries that have arrested many such potential terrorists are the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Italy; France, Spain, and Britain are the most confronted with this terror. The report also mentioned that right-wing extremism poses an increasing danger in various countries.2 This is another problem from which European Jews have suffered disproportionately in recent years.
The Arafat Error
The mistaken approach that presumes “Europe knows best” has been accompanied by denials, false narratives, and misdeeds. One example of the latter was Europe’s positive approach to Yasser Arafat, probably the leading international terrorist of the last quarter of the twentieth century. The then editor of the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz, Yoel Esteron, warned Europeans in December 2001 that the flattery they bestowed on Arafat during his “European jaunts” led to surges in terrorism and that his men in the field interpreted these trips as meaning that “the time had come to kill more Israelis.”3
The European denial of the deeply criminal characteristics of Arafat’s personality started long before the 1993 Oslo Agreement. This embrace of Arafat continued until his death, though it was well known that he financed suicide bombers to kill Israeli civilians.4 French president Jacques Chirac even gave Arafat full military honors after his death.5
It is highly probable – to use an understatement – that EU money has helped finance Palestinian terrorism. Former Israeli ambassador to the EU, Efraim Halevy, says: “The EU was … paying the Palestinian Authority in a less than straightforward way. They channeled part of the funds semilegally. Some money went directly into Yasser Arafat’s bank accounts.”
Halevy recounts that he was in a meeting with Manuel Marin, then vice-president of the European Commission, when the latter got a call from the German foreign minister who complained that $25 million Arafat had received as “special emergency funding” had been misdirected. It was transferred into the general account of the Palestinian Authority when it should have gone into Arafat’s private one.6
Appeasing the First Wave of Terrorism
Instead of helping Israel pursue and capture Arab terrorists, many European governments choose to appease them. After the 1972 Munich murders the three surviving Palestinians were arrested. A few weeks later they were freed after other Palestinian terrorists had hijacked a Lufthansa plane.7
The mastermind of the 1972 Munich murders was the PLO leader and head of Black September, Abu Daoud. He later claimed the attack had been planned with Arafat’s explicit knowledge.8 Abu Daoud was arrested in Paris in January 1977. The French knew whom they had captured. Four days later, however, he was released and flew to Algeria.9
A second, if possible even worse example of such appeasement occurred in Greece. Abdel Osama al-Zomar, a suspect in the Rome synagogue attack, was arrested there in December 1988. The Italian government asked for his extradition. At that time the Pasok (socialist) Party was in power in Greece.
In a study on Greek anti-Semitism published under the pseudonym Daniel Perdurant, Moses Altsech wrote that
following a judicial investigation, the Athens Court of Appeals and the Greek Supreme Court decided that Abdel Osama Al-Zomar, an alleged Palestinian terrorist apprehended in Greece, should be extradited to Italy to face charges of bombing the synagogue of Rome in October 1982…. Greek Justice Minister V. Rotis used his authority to overrule the court decisions, stating that Osama’s acts were part of the “Palestinian struggle for liberation of their homeland and, therefore, cannot be considered acts of terrorism.”10
The terrorist flew to Libya. In the Greek socialist government’s eyes, the murder of a Jewish child in Rome had been publicly justified.
Italy has its own record of appeasing Arab terrorists. In 1985, socialist prime minister Bettino Craxi – later a fugitive from justice who fled to Tunisia in 1994, where he died in 2000 – prevented the Americans from arresting the Palestinian terrorists who had thrown the handicapped American Jew Leon Klinghoffer overboard to his death after hijacking the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.
Obsession with the Jewish People: The Return of a Byzantine Motif
Chris Patten served as the EU commissioner for external relations from 1999 to 2004 and in that capacity he experienced the European view of Israel, the Arab world, and the rise of the new global terrorism that Europe has come to realize it must address. From his memoirs, it is clear that Israel was nothing less than an obsession for European diplomats: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that European foreign ministers discussed Palestine and Israel every month.”11
Sometimes even ancient motifs help explain current political behavior of this sort. Rivka Duker Fishman, a scholar of the Byzantine period, tells how in the seventh century when Islam threatened Byzantium, the rulers of the latter were obsessed with attacking the small Jewish minority instead of focusing on the rising Islamic threat from the Arabian Peninsula. This misjudgment would ultimately be a factor in the Byzantines’ demise. The current obsession with Israel among part of the European elite instead of with real threats from the Islamic world – such as Iran and al-Qaeda – may remind us that even the attitude of Byzantine rulers more than a thousand years ago can serve as a strategic indicator for today’s problems.12
Because many modern Europeans were obsessed with the Israeli factor in the Middle East, particularly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Arab oil embargo, they did not understand that they faced a modern-day threat from radical Islam. Important signals were ignored such as the famous warning by Algerian president Houari Boumedienne at the United Nations in 1974: “One day millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it.”13
Nevertheless, Europe ignored this and opened its doors to massive immigration. There were not enough people willing to do, in particular, the dirty work in Europe. This led initially to the solicited immigration of non-Westerners, whose labor Europeans hoped would enable them to keep problematic factories open and also partly pay for their future pensions. Many of the early immigrants eventually returned to their country of origin. The later ones came unsolicited driven by economic factors.
Until today, despite the problem’s magnitude there is no coherent EU immigration policy. As one former EU official cynically remarked: “The European cow gets so much subsidy that it can make a trip around the world in business class. But with the poor immigrant who is washed ashore at the Canaries, it doesn’t know what to do.”14
Here once again the sensor concept could have helped. History tells that Europe has been unable to integrate a small minority of Jews who came to its countries over many hundreds of years. Many desperately wanted to integrate or even to assimilate. Nevertheless, in the early 1940s most European Jews were murdered and European anti-Semitism, even after the Holocaust, is still significant. A recent study shows that it is on the rise in several EU countries.15
Over the past decades in the historically xenophobic environment of Europe many more immigrants have been let in, over a much shorter time, than the Jews were in the past. Most newcomers come from the Muslim culture that solicits converts, whereas Jews do not. Muslim culture is also far more remote from, and partly very hostile to, European culture. A detailed study of similarities and differences between the Jewish migrations in the past and those of Muslims today could yield many important insights on present and future problems of Europe.
After Madrid and Rome
It is hardly speculation to assume that a number of terrorist groups or individuals in Europe are currently planning new murders of civilians. Nowadays, after the mass murders by Islamist terrorists in Madrid and London and several failed terrorist attempts elsewhere in Europe – such as those on 29 June 2007 in London and the next day at Glasgow Airport – gradually more Europeans are starting to understand that appeasement does not work.
The concept that Jews are early sensors for Western society at large proves itself frequently. Since the end of 2000 there has been a major wave of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish institutions and individuals in various European countries. Initially the problem was particularly severe in France. Yet the French government denied that there was anti-Semitism in France. The police and the Interior Ministry tried to represent the anti-Semitic attacks as hooliganism. The justice system hardly brought anyone to court, and even fewer were convicted. Both President Chirac of the UMP party and the socialist Jospin government – until its last day in 2002 – denied that the attacks on the Jews were anti-Semitic.
Today there is no argument anymore in France about the fact that the many assaults on Jews were indeed anti-Semitic. President Chirac, in November 2003, was the last senior politician to admit it. It took three years of attacks, however, to reach this point.16
The 2005 Autumn Riots
In October 2005, major riots erupted in France. They were directed at French society at large rather than the vulnerable Jewish minority. Although almost all the rioters were North African and West African Muslims, they did not express any demands related to Islam.17 The reasons for the disturbances were not solely socioeconomic as many French intellectuals claimed. The philosopher Alain Finkielkraut made an insightful remark: “There are Chinese, Portuguese and Vietnamese also who have economic difficulties. But they did not riot.”18
The French autumn riots had three major reasons: socioeconomic, criminal, and antiwhite racist. The racism against white Frenchmen among part of the immigrant population was expressed by a number of rioters in talks with journalists. It had already been identified in 2003 by an author who wrote under the pseudonym Emanuel Brenner. In a book titled The Lost Territories of the Republic, he exposed anti-Semitic and antiwhite racism among Muslim pupils in French public schools.19
After the autumn 2005 riots, Israeli internal security minister Gideon Ezra and police commissioner Moshe Karadi departed for France in December 2005. Israeli media were informed that they would “share with their French counterparts lessons Israeli security services have learned from experiences with rioting. The French were said to be highly interested in Israeli know-how on the matter of dealing with Arab riots.”20 Israelis who had been criticized for their riot-control measures in the past now were among those the French sought to learn from.
Yet another illustration of Israel’s sensor function for the West concerns security issues, a subject about which worry has greatly increased in recent years. European security models in many places are often partly based on Israeli ones, because Israelis have frequently been targeted.
For instance, in the West not so many decades ago one could board a plane without a security check. At the time such checks were already the norm in Israel. El Al’s security approach has become a model for many other airlines. The same goes for Ben-Gurion Airport. In anticipation of the summer 2007 travel season, directors from a variety of American airports visited Israel to study its successful passenger- screening system.21 Such visits are frequent but only few make the newspapers.
Often items that receive only minor media attention further illustrate how the European situation has come to resemble the Israeli one, not necessarily for the same reasons. For many years now in Israel, guards checking visitors have been posted at the entrances to schools. In February 2007, a somewhat similar approach was announced in the UK. The British Department of Education is advising schools to use airport-style security scanners to randomly screen entire classes. British teachers will be trained to search children suspected of carrying knives and guns.22
In February 2007, The Guardian referred to another item with which Israelis have long been familiar. The paper told how in an Iraqi city gunmen were hiding behind women and children, knowing that the American soldiers had instructions not to shoot at civilians.
The Guardian wrote: “Not to shoot would be to imperil their own lives or those of their colleagues, both American and Iraqi. To shoot would risk killing civilians who have been shoved in front of their guns to shield insurgent fighters.” The paper commented: “This is the horrible reality of a brutal and unconventional war in Iraq’s north – where jihadi fighters use human shields and force children to run weapons for them.” The article also tells how finally the American soldiers decided to shoot.23
Palestinians were among the early pioneers of the human-shield method, exploiting the moral strictures of the Israeli army. The Israel Defense Forces already confronted such problems many decades ago. A well-known case occurred in the Jordan Valley in 1969 when Major Hanan Samson, Major Joseph Kaplan, and Sergeant Boaz Sasson were killed in a chase after terrorists. The latter had been hiding behind a Bedouin woman who was nursing a baby in a cave the Israelis entered.
Human shields were widely used, for instance, by Hizballah in 2006 in the Second Lebanon War. This Shiite terrorist organization installed many of its militants and facilities close to civilians. The Guardian, an anti-Israeli paper, has much less understanding when it concerns the moral problems Israeli soldiers face.
Civilians as shields are now also sometimes used by Arab terrorists against Arab soldiers. In spring and summer 2007, the Lebanese army fought the Fatah al-Islam terror group in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp. The army accused the group of using civilians as human shields.24
Another murderous technique that was first used by Palestinian terrorist groups – the use of child-decoys to prepare bombs – was copied in Iraq in March 2007 in a bombing in the northern part of the country. Three Iraqi civilian bystanders were killed, as well as the children used as decoys.
Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, Deputy Director for Regional Operations on the Joint Staff, said the vehicle used in the attack was waved through a U.S. military check point because two children were visible in the back seat. He said it was the first reported use of children in a car bombing in Baghdad. “Children in the back seat lowered suspicion, [so] we let it move through, they parked the vehicle, the adults run out and detonated it with the children in the back,” Barbero told reporters in Washington.25
Palestinian terrorist organizations have not only used children but also women and ambulances as decoys. These methods justify Israel’s meticulous controls at checkpoints. Yet these have come under major criticism from so-called Western human rights activists.
An Israeli approach – much criticized by many Westerners – to fighting terrorism has recently been copied on a small scale by the U.S. army in Baghdad. A three- mile-long concrete wall is being built to cut off one of the Sunni Muslim districts from the Shiite areas.26
Three Contemporary Threats from Within
In view of the many indicator functions that Israel and the Jews have fulfilled for Europe, it is worth asking what problems Israel and European Jews confront today that Europe may face tomorrow. This could enable Europeans to better anticipate dangers.
The problems Israel and the European Jews face in Europe come from three major segments of society. One consists of parts of the European Muslim community that are deeply anti-Semitic and some of whose members use or preach violence against Jews. Children are incited against Jews and also Westerners by their parents, teachers in Muslim schools and mosques, and by the endless stream of hatred from Arab and some Muslim television stations.
The second threat derives from the reemergence of the extreme Right. It is wrong to assume that all or even the majority of anti-Jewish violence in Europe has Muslim origins. It is, however, correct that anti-Semitic violence by Muslims in a number of European countries is far larger than their share of the country’s population. Much of the anti-Semitic hatred and violence, however, also comes from the far Right.
The third threat to European Jews and Israel is much more complex but no less dangerous. It comes from the extreme-Left elites, which have penetrated parts of the European mainstream, as well as from members of the more moderate Left who are infected by extreme-Left ideas.
The Mainstream Mass Media
Statistics show that the Extreme Left and the Left are often overrepresented in the Western media compared to their share of the population.27 In April 2007, for instance, a majority of delegates of the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ) “called for a ‘boycott of Israeli goods similar to those boycotts in the struggles against apartheid South Africa led by trade unions, and [for] the [Trades Union Congress] to demand sanctions be imposed on Israel by the British government.'”28
When the boycott motion was passed, many less extreme but quiescent journalists claimed that the delegates did not represent their views. In the executive, however, the hard Left had achieved dominance. Nevertheless, finding itself under criticism, in July the executive softened its stance and decided that it “would take no further action” to implement the resolution.29 The NUJ’s position confirms once more the longstanding claim of a profound anti-Israeli bias among part of the media community.
News agencies and the mass media can set the agendas for societies by deciding which stories are important and which they do not report. To verify this, one only has to check how much attention European media give to a single Palestinian death by an Israeli soldier compared to the estimated hundreds of Palestinians killed in Iraq by other Arabs.
Many European media manipulate Middle Eastern news in an anti-Israeli fashion. The BBC is probably the most powerful single media in Europe. It is also among the most anti-Israeli ones. Therefore its behavior requires close scrutiny.
The BBC’s attitudes on the Middle East have been analyzed in detail by Trevor Asserson, an international lawyer who has documented in many hundreds of pages its systematic bias against Israel. Asserson accused the BBC of often creating news instead of reporting it. He also mentioned that in private conversations with senior BBC journalists, he was told that anti-Israeli sentiment is rife within the BBC.30 Such is the power of these attitudes within the organization that one journalist there, sympathetic to Asserson’s analysis, decided not to meet with him for fear of damaging his career in the BBC.31
A media organization that has so many flaws when reporting about one subject would presumably misbehave on others. In 2003 there was a judicial inquiry in the UK, chaired by Lord Hutton, a leading jurist, into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. David Kelly, a British expert on biological warfare. Lord Hutton’s report suggested that the BBC had invented a story that Prime Minister Tony Blair had deliberately misled Parliament.
Criticism of the BBC’s anti-Israeli bias continues. In October 2005, reporting on Arafat’s terminal illness and his transfer to a French hospital, BBC correspondent Barbara Plett related: “Yet when the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose from his ruined compound, I started to cry…without warning.” There were hundreds of complaints that the BBC should not broadcast such personal reactions on such a controversial matter. BBC news director Helen Boaden supported Plett. The complaints system – entirely controlled by the BBC, which is judge and jury in its own cause – found that there had been no bias.
Such an uproar resulted that, in a rare move on appeal, the BBC governors sided with the complainants against its own staff and concluded that the BBC’s impartiality guidelines had been breached. Boaden thereupon apologized for the “editorial misjudgment.”32
In response to many criticisms of its Middle East coverage, the BBC put a careful plan into operation. First it appointed Malcolm Balen (a former BBC journalist) as a Middle East ombudsman whose job in fact was to take the heat of criticism and also to write a report on the failings of BBC Middle East coverage. The BBC has spent an estimated $400,000 of public money defending its right to keep the report secret, notwithstanding the existence of a new Freedom of Information Act in the UK.33 Finally a high-court judge overturned a lower-court decision that the document should be made public.34
The BBC allowed itself time to implement a few of the Balen recommendations and thereafter set up an independent panel on its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with instructions only to examine the previous six months of coverage, thus largely emasculating the panel. Notwithstanding this restriction, the panel’s report concluded that the BBC “coverage was not consistently full and fair and in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture…. The panel also said the BBC should use the word ‘terrorism’ to describe violence against civilians with the intention of causing terror for ideological objectives, whether perpetrated by state or non-state agencies.”35
The panel also found that the BBC lacked any coherent “guiding hand” to ensure that its coverage was not biased and recommended that one be appointed. The BBC ignored the criticism. It appointed a well-known anti-Israeli figure, Jeremy Bowen, to head its Middle East desk, appointed no “guiding hand” to counteract bias, and advised its journalists not to use the word terrorist with respect to Palestinian atrocities.
Not surprisingly, incidents continued. A leaked email sent by Bowen in January 2007 showed that he blamed Israel for all problems in the conflict, freeing the Palestinians of any responsibility. Andrew Balcombe, chairman of the Zionist Federation of Britain and Ireland, requested, to no avail, that Bowen be replaced.36 A major media organization that has such an overall attitude is unlikely to be able to report fairly on many other issues besides the Middle East.
Also in reaction to the media attacks, the Jews and Israel have played a precursor role. It should not come as a surprise that BBC bias has expressed itself against Britain itself. In 2003, the British navy’s flagship HMS Ark Royal, on duty in the Middle East, turned off BBC broadcasts and replaced them with Sky News.37 More recently Robin Aitken, a former BBC reporter who has published the book Can We Trust the BBC?, remarked, “I once spotted a poster of President Bush as Hitler in the large, shared radio current affairs newsroom; no one else seemed to mind this sophomoric but revealing prank.”38
The BBC managers and its Board of Governors commissioned a report on the corporation that was published in June 2007 by the BBC Trust. According to the Telegraph, the report found that, “The BBC has failed to promote proper debate on major political issues because of the liberal culture of its staff.” In addition, “The report claims that coverage of single-issue political causes such as climate change and poverty can be biased – and is particularly critical of Live 8 coverage, which it says amounted to endorsement.”39
The scandals concerning the BBC come from many areas. In July 2007, the media watchdog Ofcom imposed a 50,000-pound fine on it for faking the winner of a charity telephone competition on its Blue Peter children’s magazine show.40 A few days later the BBC apologized to Queen Elizabeth “for wrongly implying she had stormed out of a sitting with celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.”41 It also took many protests before an anti-Semitic posting was removed from a BBC message board.42
Again a few days later the BBC admitted that several of its children’s and charity programs had featured fake winners of phone-in competitions and that in some cases they had even shown BBC employees as winners. Mark Thompson, the media’s director-general, thereupon decided to halt most competitions on radio and TV.43 In the following days five BBC staff members involved in these scandals were suspended. Mark Pritchard, a Conservative member of Parliament, asked the police to investigate the matter.44
On 25 July, the BBC apologized informally to the Treasury for having manipulated a documentary that followed Prime Minister Gordon Brown while he was still at the Treasury. A sequence in the program had been shown out of order.45
In media-watching, Israeli-oriented institutions have played an important indicator role. Pro-Israeli media monitoring has made a number of major media, mainly in the United States, subject to more checks and balances. The criticism of the media comes from many concerned people and thus constitutes an important democratic process. In view of the widespread media bias, the efforts of Jewish organizations and individuals to make the media more accountable will ultimately be emulated by other interest groups and benefit society at large.46
The Far Left
European extreme-Left elites and their fellow travelers have understood that the power of the word and the pen in Western societies is sometimes greater than that of violence. In recent years the European far Left has established an unholy alliance with Islamists. As Bret Stephens notes in the Wall Street Journal, London mayor Ken Livingstone has emerged as “the symbol of the marriage between the European left and the Islamist right.”47 Livingstone has hosted Sheikh Yousuf Qaradhawi, an Egyptian cleric living in Qatar, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a supporter of Hamas suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. The far Left currently demonizes Israelis and tomorrow it will demonize others.
Barbara Lefebvre and Eve Bonnivard have shown in a study that if one read French schoolbooks when the Soviet Union still existed, one would have got the impression that the United States was the main enemy of France.48 Since the Soviet Union’s fall French children are still taught that the United States is the main problem, not that the prime threat to Europe comes from the antidemocratic Muslim world.49
Another subject that may serve as a sensor receives little or no media attention. Some extreme anti-Israeli teachers in Europe are currently giving their elementary and high school students biased instruction by blaming Israel for the problems in the Middle East. There are indications of similar attitudes in the United States.50 One can only wonder what other hatred these teachers will spread tomorrow against whom.
Biased Human Rights Bodies
Many human rights bodies are other examples of parts of the elite with a deep bias against Israel. Their double standards have now been detailed for several years by NGO Monitor.51
Gerald Steinberg, who edits this publication, says: “The key anti-Israeli policies are emphasized by powerful European NGOs. For many intents and purposes, among the attackers of Israel, the NGOs are the most independent and least subject to external monitoring.”52
Once again the next step of those who focus their bias on Israel is that they attack other Westerners disproportionately. The Economist wrote that Amnesty International, as “an organization which devotes more pages in its annual report to human-rights abuses in Britain and America than those in Belarus and Saudi Arabia cannot expect to escape doubters’ scrutiny.”53
The bias of various human rights NGOs is another subject that should be dealt with in the coming years before it becomes seriously problematic for the Western world. Focusing excessive attention on Western breaches of human rights law while underreporting those of dictatorships and terrorist groups serves the interests of the world’s criminal forces.
University Boycotts and the Challenge to Academic Freedom
Former Israeli minister Natan Sharansky tells how at many European universities, pro-Israeli students have to keep a very low profile.54 The same applies to many other universities worldwide. FrontPage Magazine has provided valuable information on the expansion of this phenomenon also against other targets such as Evangelical Christians or Republicans on U.S. campuses. Similar data on Europe is often lacking. The question is which target is next in line?
Initially many attacks from the European academic Left pertained to the boycott of Israel, mainly in the United Kingdom but also in some other European countries. These indicate major problems at such universities. Academia supposedly has the aim of fostering knowledge, but in many venues extreme leftist and leftist propaganda has replaced scholarly instruction.
In the United Kingdom it is increasingly becoming known that Islamic extremists are widely active on leading campuses including Oxford and Cambridge. “Professor Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University’s Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, said: ‘We must accept this problem is widespread and underestimated. Unless clear and decisive action against campus extremism is taken, the security situation in the UK can only deteriorate.'”55
Another matter of concern is that in many countries the police and justice departments have been lax in dealing with cases of blatant anti-Semitism. This also reflects a much wider problem of the shortcomings of these bodies. An issue that hardly receives any attention in this context is that extreme leftists are among the prosecutors and judges in European courts, and what this may mean.
Domestic and International Law
In the coming decades Europe will face major challenges concerning immigrants and their descendants as well as majority and minority racism. This will entail a major debate about the equilibrium between personal freedom, human rights – that is, civil liberties, and protecting society against terrorism and disintegration.
There is little doubt that lethal terrorist attempts, predominantly from radical Muslims, will continue in the future and that the European debate on civil liberties and human rights versus protecting society will develop. Israel has confronted infinitely more terrorist attempts in the past than Europe. Yet Israel has been able to maintain its democracy for over almost sixty years. This is a good indication that equilibria can be found, but also that they have to shift according to circumstances.
Prime Minister Blair announced at the end of May 2007 the need for a new antiterrorism law. This law would enable the police to question people even if there was no suspect for a crime.56
There are by now many indications of European politicians understanding the need for such shifts, even if their colleagues do not necessarily follow suit. In May 2007, British home secretary John Reid said at a European summit that “human rights laws have to be modernized.” He added that judges who followed the law “to the letter” were hindering governments from protecting the public. Reid “said that the distinction in international law between human rights in wartime and peacetime is outdated because it is based on an ‘old model of war.'”57
In Germany interior minister Wolfgang Schaüble supports stricter security laws that involve limitations on civil liberties. Schaüble, who uses a wheelchair having been handicapped by a terror attack, wants to introduce the crime of “conspiration” and forbid the use of mobile telephones for suspects who cannot be extradited. He also said that the issue of “targeted killing” should be discussed and be clarified through legislation.58
Closely linked with the need to better balance civil liberties and security is the need to change international law. It cannot cope with the major problem of international terrorism. Yehuda Blum, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, notes: “international law is premised on the existence of states, which are bound by [its] norms while we are also confronted with armed groups perpetrating all kinds of crimes without any state taking responsibility for their actions.”59
Uri Dromi of the Israel Democracy Institute expressed this even more clearly at a conference on what Israel and the United States could learn from each regarding the fight against terror: “International law dealing with terrorism is out of date and needs to be reevaluated…. Doing so will strengthen the ability of Western countries to fight terrorism.”60
Needed: A Changed Mindset
In view of all the above, the concept of “Europe knows what is best for Israel” has to be replaced. Europe, at present, is a deeply confused continent whose leaders and populations have no idea what is best for them. It is thus preposterous to assume that it knows what is best for Israel. The sensor concept could guide Europe on many issues. It should look at what Israel is experiencing today and consider whether some of these problems may reach it and whether Israel’s attempted solutions can assist Europe as well.
If a society faces unsolvable problems, all it can do is consciously muddle through as best it can. That is what Israel has tried to do in the past decades and will likely continue to do in the foreseeable future. Because of the problems emanating mainly from part of their minorities and European societies’ reactions to them, several European countries are already facing unsolvable problems. To mitigate these, they will have to follow a muddling-through approach for decades to come. But as Israel has already been muddling through for such a long time, it has much more experience with this approach and here too can serve as an example for Europe.
* * *
* This essay is based on a lecture to a group of Members of the European Parliament, organized by the European Friends of Israel and held in the European Parliament on 27 March 2007. The author is grateful to Dore Gold and Justus Weiner for their many comments.
1 Oriana Fallaci, The Force of Reason (New York: Rizzoli International, 2004), 131-132.
2 ANP, “In 2006 vijfhonderd terreuraanslagen in Europa,” de Volkskrant, 10 April 2006. [Dutch]
3 Yoel Esteron, “Europe Finally Wakes Up and Recognizes Arafat’s Nastiness,” International Herald Tribune, 14 December 2001.
4 Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The Involvement of Arafat, PA Senior Officials and Apparatuses in Terrorism against Israel, Corruption and Crime,” 6 May 2002.
5 Interview with Freddy Eytan, “French History and Current Attitudes to Israel,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? (Jerusalem: JCPA and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, 2005), 176.
6 Interview with Efraim Halevy, “How the European Union’s Attitude toward Israel Evolved,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, European-Israeli Relations: Between Confusion and Change? (Jerusalem: JCPA and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, 2006), 106.
7 “Munich Massacre Remembered,” ABC News Online, 5 September 2002.
9 “L’Affaire Daoud: Too Hot to Handle,” Time, 24 January 1977.
10 Daniel Perdurant, “Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Greek Society,” Analysis of Current Trends in Anti-Semitism, 7 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1995), 10.
11 Chris Patten, Not Quite the Diplomat: Home Truths about World Affairs (London: Allen Land, 2005), 194.
12 Rivkah Duker Fishman, “The Seventh-Century Christian Obsession with the Jews: A Historical Parallel for the Present?” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 3&4 (Fall 2005): 163.
13 “Houari Boumedienne,” Encyclopaedia of the Orient, http:///lexicorient.com/e.o/boumedie.htm.
14 Derk-Jan Eppink, Europese Mandarijnen: Achter de schermen van de Europese Commissie (Tielt: Lannoo, 2007), 285. [Dutch]
15 ADL Press Release, “ADL Survey in Five European Countries Finds Anti-Semitic Attitudes Rising,” 14 May 2007.
16 Manfred Gerstenfeld, The Autumn 2005 Riots in France: Their Possible Impact on Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: JCPA, 2006), 25.
17 For a detailed analysis, see ibid.
18 Dror Mishani and Aurelia Smotriez, “What Sort of Frenchmen Are They?” Haaretz, 17 November 2005.
19 Emmanuel Brenner, Les Territoires perdus de la République (Paris: Mille et Une Nuits, 2002). [French]
20 Jonathan Lis, “Ezra, Karadi en Route to Paris to Advise Police,” Haaretz, 11 December 2005.
21 AP, “U.S. Airport Directors Study Israeli Airline Passenger Screening,” Haaretz, 8 May 2007.
22 Graeme Paton, “Schools to Bring in ‘Airport Screening,'” Telegraph, 22 February 2007.
23 Peter Beaumont, “Gunmen, Children, Brutality and Bombs – Iraq’s Dirty War,” The Guardian, 22 February 2007.
24 Rym Ghazal, “North Braces for Next Round at Nahr al-Bared,” Daily Star, 25 May 2007.
25 Kim Gamel, AP, “Iraqi Police Say Children Used as Decoys,” Washington Post, 21 March 2007.
26 Edmund Sanders, “In Baghdad U.S. Troops Build Wall to Curb Violence,” Los Angeles Times, 20 April 2007.
27 Manfred Gerstenfeld and Ben Green, “Watching the Pro-Israeli Media Watchers,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 16, Nos. 1&2 (Fall 2004): 33-58.
28 George Conger, “UK Reporters Union to Boycott Israel,” Jerusalem Post, 15 April 2007.
29 Stephen Brook, “NUJ Abandons Israel Boycott,” MediaGuardian.co.uk, 10 July 2007.
30 Interview with Trevor Asserson, “The BBC: Widespread Antipathy toward Israel,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, Israel and Europe, 193-207. For an earlier version of this interview, see “What Went Wrong at the BBC: A Public Monopoly Abusing Its Charter through Bias against Israel,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, 511, 15 January 2004, www.jcpa.org/jl/vp511.htm.
31 Trevor Asserson, personal communication.
32 Owen Gibson, “BBC Bias Complaint Upheld,” The Guardian, 26 November 2005.
33 Andy McSmith, “BBC Fights to Suppress Internal Report into Allegations of Bias against Israel,” The Independent, 12 April 2007.
34 “BBC Report to Remain Confidential,” BBC News Online, 23 July 2007.
35 BBC News, 2 May 2006.
36 Jonny Paul, “UK Jews: Replace BBC Mideast Editor,” Jerusalem Post, 3 February 2007.
37 Lowell Ponte, “The TV Makeup Melted in Iraq’s Heat of Battle,” Mediapotamia, FrontPageMagazine.com, 29 April 2003, www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=7521.
38 Robert Aitken, “The Beeb’s Bias,” Wall Street Journal, 29 June 2007.
39 Gary Cleland, “BBC Report Finds Bias within Corporation,” Telegraph, 18 June 2007.
40 Juliet Turner and agencies, “BBC Fined over Blue Peter Phone-In Scandal,” Telegraph, 9 July 2007.
41 Andrew Pierce and Emma Henry, “BBC Apologises to Queen over Footage,” Telegraph, 12 July 2007.
41 Honest Reporting, “BBC: The Subtle Bias,” 19 July 2007.
43 Natalie Paris and agencies, “BBC Suspends All Phone-In Competitions,” Telegraph, 18 July 2007.
44 Andrew Pierce, “BBC Suspends and May Face Yard Inquiry,” Telegraph, 20 July 2007.
45 Tara Conlan, “BBC Apologizes to Treasury over Newsnight Film,” MediaGuardian.co.uk, 25 July 2007.
46 Gerstenfeld and Green, “Watching.”
47 Bret Stephens, “Islamosocialism,” Wall Street Journal, 28 March 2007.
48 Barbara Lefebvre and Eve Bonnivard, Élèves sous influence (Paris: Èdition Louis Audibert, 2005), 95. [French]
49 Ibid, 350.
50 See Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, “The Orthodox Union and Its Challenges,” Changing Jewish Communities, 23, 15 August 2007.
51 See NGO Monitor website, www.ngo-monitor.org/index.php.
52 Interview with Gerald Steinberg, “European NGOs against Israel,” in Gerstenfeld, Israel and Europe, 114.
53 “Many Rights, Some Wrong,” The Economist Online, 15 July 2007.
54 Natan Sharansky, “Foreword,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, Academics against Israel (forthcoming).
55 Roya Nikkah, “Islamic Extremists ‘Infiltrate Oxbridge,'” Sunday Telegraph, 11 March 2007.
56 Reuters, “Blair Wants to Give UK Police Tough Anti-Terror Powers,” 26 May 2007.
57 Ben Leapman, “Reid Says Human Rights Law Soft on Terrorists,” Sunday Telegraph, 12 May 2007.
58 “Schaüble will Gesetz fur Tötung von Terroristen,” Die Welt, 8 July 2007. [German]
59 Yehuda Blum, personal communication.
60 Ben Lando, “The World Must Learn from Israel about Fighting Terror,” Jerusalem Post, 22 April 2007.