Love/Hate Relationship

March 27, 2014 by Michael Kuttner
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The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in conjunction with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, has organised a forum entitled “Europe and Israel – A New Paradigm.” J-Wire’s Michael Kuttner attended…

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

Featuring an impressive array of speakers the topics covered a wide spectrum from mutual interests in economy, energy and research, security and strategy, shared strategic threats, anti Semitism to a look ahead at what can be done to improve future co-operation. The relevance of the subjects discussed no doubt accounted for the packed hall which included not only local Israelis but also diplomatic representatives and media.

Ambassador Dore Gold, President of the JCPA opened the proceedings by mentioning that the European Union’s policies towards Israel are contradictory and that the various speakers would be presenting a cross section of opinions on the relationship between the EU and Israel.

A perfect illustration of how disconnected EU diplomats are from reality was immediately borne out when the Head of the delegation of the EU to Israel spoke. According to him there is no crisis in relationships and he painted a rosy picture of the situation. He valiantly tried to justify the policy of labeling Israeli goods manufactured in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem and trotted out the usual mantra of illegal settlements and occupied territory. His promise that the EU was 100% committed to Israel’s security was met by a thunderous silence, no doubt the audience having in mind the worthlessness of the guarantees given to Ukraine to safeguard its territorial integrity. Holding out the prospect of unprecedented EU rewards if Israel would only make peace, left unsaid was an implied threat if somehow Israel failed to sign its own death warrant with those who daily proclaim their undying hatred for the Jewish State. Listening to his speech one was left with the impression that the Arab spring was still a roaring success and that the only impediment to a peaceful Middle East was us. Missing from his entire presentation was any reference to the terror and hate encouraged and supported by our intended peace partners. No mention of any gestures they should make and no condemnation of their ongoing incitement.

Is it any wonder that most level headed Israelis have a jaundiced view of Europe? True, there are some member States who are more realistic and understand our position but overall the continent which gave us pogroms, ghettos, inquisitions, burnings and gassing, continues to display a totally unbalanced and tainted attitude towards the Jewish State.

This was borne out by the panel which discussed anti Semitism in Europe today. Chaired by Efraim Zuroff, Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Israel Office, the two speakers were Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld and Prof. Robert Wistrich. Both these experts delivered powerful presentations which showed a disturbing rise in Judeophobia often disguised as anti Zionism/Israel rhetoric. The 5 common denominators identified today in Europe are:

Hatred of Jews has now merged with hatred for the Jewish State.

Accusations that Jews are more loyal to Israel than the country they live in.

Jews have too much power in the business world.

Jews have too much power in international financial markets.

Jews still talk too much about what happened in the Holocaust. This last stereotype of course makes it easier for Europeans (and Scandinavians) to accuse Israel of acting like the Nazis

Presumably all this documented evidence of the rising tide of hatred in Europe proved too much for the EU delegate who walked out in the middle of this presentation. Whether he had a sudden call of nature or more likely found these facts too truthful I cannot say but he did not return. We meanwhile were left with the uneasy feeling that what we had heard was eerily similar to 1930’s Europe.

Another dramatic speech was given by Uzi Rubin, the former Director for Israel missile defense organization. His power point presentation of how Iran is manufacturing large numbers of short, medium and long range missiles which can hit not only the Gulf States and Israel but also reach Europe, highlighted the looming threats. Whether Europe is taking this seriously to pretending that it is only an Israel problem is a moot point but he certainly sounded the warning bell loud and clear.

A panel of business experts discussed the large amount of trade taking place between Europe and Israel and asserted that joint economic projects between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs would eventually lead to a better life for them and foster peaceful relations from the ground up. The question of boycotts was discussed and the role of Israel as a world leader in start ups, hi tech and related industries was emphasized.

The day finished with a panel discussion on the future. It was generally felt that the EU had pretensions of grandeur and that their ability to influence events was limited. One of the speakers maintained that the EU was stuck in the past and needed to update its outdated misconceptions about realities in the Middle East.

Fiamma Nirenstein, a former Italian Member of Parliament who has now made aliyah gave a spirited account of how many double standards guided European policies towards Israel.

There is obviously a love/hate relationship between the Jewish People and Europe. This seminar proved, if indeed further proof is really needed, that while we have many friends and our trade relations are healthy and growing, the ambivalent and often hypocritical attitudes permeating that continent continue to taint the atmosphere. It was a great opportunity for EU and other diplomatic representatives to be exposed to some realities. Whether it brings any meaningful changes in attitude and policy remains to be seen.

 

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.

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