The new Iranians

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Americans were shocked this week to discover that while their attention was focused elsewhere, Europe — or large swathes of Europe — has become a hotbed of Iranian-like anti-American sentiment.

 

The same irrational, insurmountable hatred of America that fuels Iranian rhetoric and dictates its policies against the Great Satan also characterizes much public opinion throughout Europe and informs the policies of the governments of Belgium, France and Germany.

 

The major difference today between Iranian America-bashing and the axis of America-haters in Europe is the god in whose name this hatred is justified. While the Iranian mullahs justify their hatred of America in the name of Allah, the French, Germans, Belgians and Scandinavians bow their heads in hatred of America before the alter of Envy and in the name of their idiosyncratic doctrine of human rights.

 

This week was a watershed in American understanding of European irrationality. It came to light with the NATO veto by France, Germany and Belgium of Turkey's request for assistance ahead of possible Iraqi attack. It further came to light with the French threat to use its veto power in the UN Security Council to prevent the UN from enforcing its resolutions to disarm Iraq.

 

For the past twelve years, US policy towards Iraq was motivated by a desire to move in tandem with Europe. The first Bush administration's decision to work through the UN to dislodge Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait was testament to former President Bush's optimistic belief that with the end of the Cold War, freed from the shackles of a bi-polar world, the UN would be willing to work with the US to contain and destroy threats to international security.

 

As early as 1996, when the Iraqis prevented intrusive UN weapons inspections of their non-conventional weapons sites, it became clear that the international body was ineffective for contending with the threat of Iraq. Yet, until the September 11 attacks, the US felt it could go along with this charade because its interest in maintaining the appearance of alliance with Europe outweighed its interest in stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to rogue regimes.

 

After September 11, this calculus changed. And yet, for a full year and a half, the US moved slowly in the hopes of convincing the Europeans as a bloc that there was no justification for inaction in the face of the unacceptable threat of unconventional terrorism.

 

Today the Americans see that their firm commitment to destroying threats to international security has caused an earthquake in Europe. While most European states have wisely sided with the US with 18 European leaders, including the prime ministers of Britain, Spain and Italy recently putting their names to an op-ed supporting the Bush administration — Germany, France and Belgium, the EU's heartland states, stand opposed. The myth of European unity has been rent.

 

Now that the earthquake has occurred, the question America faces is where this reality will take American foreign policy. How is the US to navigate the fissure in Europe? On the one hand, leading members of Congress have voiced outrage and are threatening sanctions against France. For their part, Pentagon officials are debating the possibility of removing the 78,000 US troops from Germany and moving them to such friendlier European nations as Hungary and Poland.

 

Yet there are other prominent voices in the US that call on placating Europe — chiefly at Israel's expense. Thus, in an opinion piece in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Snowcroft urged the Bush administration to put forward a US plan for the swift establishment of a Palestinian state.

 

In their view, "Arab countries and much of the Muslim world, as well as most European countries, see a direct link between their ability to be more forthcoming in supporting US goals in Iraq and our commitment to working for a fair settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

 

For Messrs. Brzezinski and Snowcroft, then, America's problems are of its own making, and can be solved only by indulging the whims, and appeasing the demands, of its "partners" in Europe and the Arab world. Apparently, they think it impossible that there are countries that are motivated not by real interests but by irrational hatred and thus cannot be appeased.

 

For seven years, Israel too believed, like Snowcroft and Brzezinski that states are motivated by rational and therefore appeasable interests. The entire Oslo process, like the negotiations with Syria and the unilateral pullout from south Lebanon was based on the assumption that on the whole, states and nations are rational actors.

 

Relative military strength and deterrence theory were summarily discarded in 1993 in exchange for Shimon Peres's theory of statecraft. According to this theory, a peaceful New Middle East, built upon unilateral Israeli concessions, was a viable option since the Arabs must rationally understand that living at peace with Israel advances their interests.

 

For Israel, this jig was up two and a half years ago. After years of deluding ourselves into believing that irrational hatred is not a meaningful factor in international relations, we awoke in October 2000 to hatred's harvest. When the Palestinians refused Barak's offer of statehood and opted for war; when the olive branches Israel extended to Syria and Lebanon were greeted with intensified arming of Hizballah and direct support for Palestinian terrorism — only then did Israelis realize that concessions in the face of irrational hatred and rejectionism are provocative, and dangerous.

 

As for Europe, after a half-century of mostly lukewarm, on-again, off-again relations, the newest round of Arab aggression has been widely greeted with European indulgence and a full-throated condemnation of Israel as the little Satan.

 

Rather than condemn the Palestinians as war criminals for conducting massacres against Israeli civilians, the Europeans saved their condemnations and war crimes tribunals for us. Rather than boycott the terrorist Palestinian Authority, the Europeans continue financing Arafat and his henchmen and launched a boycott against Israel.

 

European condemnation and Iranian-styled hatred are more dangerous for Israel than for the US. European America-bashing is a relatively new phenomenon. And, as the recently exposed fault-lines in Europe show, hatred of America is not all pervasive. But, as Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained to me recently, the roots of European rejection of Israel are ancient and enduring.

 

In his view, far from a recent phenomenon, anti-Semitism in Europe "goes back not only 2,000 years but even to the 500 years of Hellenistic anti-Semitism that preceded the birth of Christianity. The odd thing, the exception, is that Europe did not have overt anti-Semitic expression over the last 50 years, and that's an historical exception because of the Holocaust."

 

There is no question that being anti-Israel is more convenient for Europeans than being anti-American. Israel is not a great power. Unlike the US, Israel cannot step over Europe, deter it or shake it up and divide it. But we can take action against it.

 

Our criminal code, like the Belgian criminal code, provides Israeli courts with universal jurisdiction over war crimes. There is no reason why Belgium's decision Wednesday to move forward with its obnoxious war crimes investigation of Israeli officers and to postpone rather than end its investigation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should not be met with similar indictments of Belgians.

 

The Justice Ministry would advance our national interest if it were to begin an investigation of the genocide Belgium all-but allowed to happen in Rwanda, which took an estimated 800,000 lives. In fact, justice ma
y be served if our Justice Ministry lawyers began filing indictments against senior officials of the EU for indirectly enabling Palestinian terrorism through their financial support for the PA.

 

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the fact that the world does not begin and end in Europe. A reminder of this truth came last week from New Delhi. There, the Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs held a trilateral conference where former Israeli, American and Indian security and diplomatic elites met to discuss the formation of a strategic alliance between the three democracies. Today, Israel is the second largest supplier of military goods to India behind the US. India's middle class is 100 million people strong and is capable of generating economic demand for Israeli products that could eventually replace European markets.

 

Far from boycotting Israel for fighting the terrorist war launched against it, India has over the past two and a half years been expanding its military and economic cooperation with Israel. An Indian diplomat told me last year that perhaps even more than the US, Israel is capable of deep economic cooperation with India because Israeli economic strengths are better attuned to the needs of the Third World.

 

 

"The burgeoning alliance with India provides an answer to European rejection of Israel and the US," says Martin Sherman of the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya who participated in last week's conference.

 

This week's European split over American policy in Iraq, combined with Europe's longstanding negative attitudes toward Israel, point to a new course in international relations. The notion of a "Western Alliance," sharing common values, common threat perceptions, and common attitudes is coming unglued. In its place is a new "coalition of the willing," as George W. Bush puts it, willing to stand up to the threat of unconventional terrorism and unappeasable states. Alliances and friendships must now be forged with those nations, like India that appreciate America — and Israel — for our virtues and for our strengths.

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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