Last week, the IDF issued an unprecedented directive. All Israeli media outlets must obscure the faces of soldiers and commanders who fought in Operation Cast Lead. Henceforth, the identities of all IDF soldiers and officers who participated in the operation against the Hamas terror regime in Gaza are classified information.
The IDF acted as it did in an effort to protect Israeli soldiers and officers from possible prosecutions for alleged war crimes in Europe. The army's chief concern is England. In England, private citizens are allowed to file complaints against foreigners whom they claim committed war crimes. Based on these complaints, British courts can issue arrest warrants against such foreigners if they are found on British territory and force them to stand trial. Over the past few years, a number of active duty and retired IDF senior officers were forced to cancel visits to Britain after such complaints were filed against them in sympathetic local courts.
Following the IDF's move, on Sunday the government announced that Israel will provide legal assistance to any IDF veteran prosecuted abroad for actions he performed during his service in Gaza. The legal assistance will include representation, investigation of the allegations made against veterans, attempts to have the charges against them dismissed and defense at trials.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who brought the decision before the full cabinet, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and their colleagues all asserted that by committing the state to defending its warriors, they were fulfilling their sacred duty to protect Israel's protectors.
Unfortunately, both the cabinet decision itself and our leaders' statements missed the point.
LAST WEDNESDAY, an appellate court in Amsterdam ruled that the Dutch lawmaker and leader of the anti-jihadist Dutch Freedom Party Geert Wilders must stand trial for the alleged "crime" of inciting hatred against Muslims with his short film "Fitna," released last year.
In "Fitna," Wilders juxtaposes verses from the Koran with Islamic terror attacks, mosque sermons inciting believers to murder non-Muslims, and proclamations by Islamic clerics that Muslims must kill all the Jews, conquer the world and subjugate non-believers.
The second half of the 15-minute film is devoted to Holland. It highlights the massive immigration of Muslims to the country over the past 15 years, and calls by Islamic leaders in Holland to kill homosexuals, subjugate women, stone adulteresses, and take over the country. "Fitna" ends with a call for Muslims to expunge Koranic verses commanding them to conduct jihad from their belief system, and with a call for Dutchmen to defend their country, their culture and their civilization from the rising current of Islam in Europe.
All the material presented in "Fitna" is accurate. And it is also explosive. But it is hard to see how it could be illegal. By presenting the material in the way that he does, Wilders is not demonizing Muslims, he is challenging – indeed he is practically begging – his countrymen to engage in a debate about whether or not his dim assessment of Islam is correct.
Wilders has been living under 24-hour police protection since a Dutch jihadist murdered filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in 2004. Van Gogh was murdered after he released his short film "Submission," which described the misogyny of the Islamic world and the systematic terrorization of women in Islamic societies. Since then numerous Muslim clerics have issued religious judgments, or fatwas, calling for Wilders to be murdered.
Last month Wilders visited Israel and was the keynote speaker at a counter-jihad conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem sponsored by MK Dr. Aryeh Eldad. Speaking to a standing-room only crowd, and under heavy guard, Wilders argued that Israel is a frontline state in the global jihad. The war against Israel, he claimed has nothing to do with territory, and everything to do with ideology. Israel, as the forward outpost of Western civilization in the Islamic world, stands in the way of Islamic expansion. Consequently, he claimed, when Israel defends itself by fighting its enemies, it is also protecting Europe and the rest of the free world.
As he put it, "Thanks to Israeli parents who see their children go off to join the army and lie awake at night, parents in Europe and America can sleep well and have pleasant dreams, unaware of the dangers looming."
Unfortunately, the Dutch court's decision to prosecute Wilders for calling attention to the threat of jihad in Europe demonstrates that the Europeans aren't particularly grateful to their defenders. Indeed, they despise them. Films like "Fitna," and Israel's use of its military to defend its citizens from Islamic supremacists, serve to remind them of the growing threat they desperately seek to ignore. Consequently, Europeans embrace every opportunity to blame any messenger.
THE RIPPLE effects of Wilders' indictment were immediately evident. In England, the British Muslim community mobilized to prevent his film from being screened in public. "Fitna" was scheduled to be shown at the House of Lords on January 29. But last Friday, with the threat of mass Muslim riots hanging thickly in the air, the House of Lords announced that it was cancelling the event.
British Lord Nazir Ahmed called the decision to prevent the thought-provoking, factually accurate film from being shown, "a victory for the Muslim community."
WILDERS' INDICTMENT is a textbook example of blaming the victim. Wilders has been forced to live a miserable life for the past four years. He has no home. Security forces move him from place to place every single day. Since Van Gogh's murder, Wilders' entire life has become one long attempt to dodge the bullet permanently pointed at his head by radicalized Muslims in Holland and throughout the world. These would-be killers wish to see him dead not to avenge any violence Wilders committed, but rather, they believe he must die for doing nothing more than talking about Islam and how he interprets its message and meaning.
Needless to say, the Dutch Muslims Wilders caught on tape in Fitna calling for an overthrow of the Dutch constitutional order and threatening homosexuals have not been arrested for inciting hatred. Likewise, Lord Ahmed, who blocked "Fitna's" screening in the British Parliament was made a British peer after supporting the late Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 death sentence against British novelist Salman Rushdie.
AND THAT'S the thing of it. Increasingly, throughout Europe, those who point out the dangers of radical Islam are hounded – first by Muslims – and then by legal authorities. In contrast, those who seek to intimidate and physically silence them are embraced by the states of Europe as legitimate leaders of their Muslim communities.
This dismal state of affairs, where jihadists are supported and their victims are oppressed, is true not only of people like Wilders who actively fight radical Islam's encroachment on European freedom. It is also the case for people who are victimized solely on the basis of their ethnic identity.
At the same time Wilders and people like him are forced into hiding, Jews throughout Europe find themselves assaulted and under siege not because of anything they have done, but because they are Jews.
Incidents of anti-Semitic violence in Europe reached post-Holocaust record highs over the past month. Jewish children have been violently attacked in France, barred from schools in Denmark, and harassed in England, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland and Germany just for being Jews.
In Britain, Muslims have now taken to entering into Jewish-owned businesses and kosher restaurants to threaten the owners and patrons – just because they are Jewish. Synagogues have been firebombed and defaced. Calls have been issue
d in the US Muslim community on the Internet for Muslims in America to similarly intimidate Jews by entering into synagogues during prayer services and condemn worshippers for supporting Israel.
Jewish men have been brutalized by Muslim gangs in Britain and viciously stabbed in France, just because they are Jewish. In Sweden, pro-Israel demonstrators were attacked with stones by Muslims this week. Even in the US, anti-Semitic violence and intimidation has reached levels never seen before. And in almost all cases of anti-Semitic violence throughout what is commonly referred to as the free world, the perpetrators of the violence and intimidation are Muslims. They attack with the full backing of non-Muslim multiculturalists as well as neo-Nazis. The two groups, which are usually assumed to be at loggerheads, apparently have no problem converging on the issue of hating Jews.
And in almost all cases of anti-Semitic violence, the Islamic identity of the attackers has been de-emphasized or obscured by the media and by politicians, or used as justification for their crimes. In France, for instance, from the way government officials talk it, would be reasonable to assume that a dozen Muslim teenagers were provoked to viciously beat a ten-year-old Jewish girl by the IDF's operation against Hamas in Gaza.
HERE THEN, we arrive at the point that the cabinet missed on Sunday when it passed its decision to commit the government to providing legal assistance to any IDF veteran who runs afoul of European legal authorities during vacations in London and Brussels and Oslo and Stockholm. The point that was missed is that in the event that IDF veterans are charged with war crimes, even the best attorneys will be of little use. These veterans will not be defendants at legitimate trials. They will be the victims of politically motivated show-trials.
In an interview with Ha'aretz on Friday, Wilders claimed rightly that the Dutch court's decision to prosecute him was not a legal decision but a political one. And if he is convicted, his conviction won't be based on evidence. It will be based on the desire of the Dutch multiculturalists to make an example of him to appease the radical Muslims who seek his death, and intimidate any would-be disciples into keeping their mouths shut.
So too, if IDF veterans are indicted for war crimes, they won't be prosecuted based on facts. They will be persecuted to advance the prosecutors' and judges' goal of appeasing their homegrown radical Muslims who seek the destruction of Israel and who violently attack anyone perceived as supporting Israel.
Given this bleak reality, the steps that Israel must take to defend its citizens are not legal but diplomatic. Israel should announce travel advisories against all states that enable the conduct of show trials against its citizens. And it should threaten to cut off diplomatic ties with any country that seeks to persecute Israeli soldiers. Only by recognizing and pointing out what is really going on will Israel have any chance of protecting those who defend our freedom from Europeans who have decided to surrender to Islamic intimidation rather than protect their own liberty.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.