Who speaks for Israel?

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Two Jews were brutally murdered in Paris in the week that followed the torching of the Jewish day school Merkaz HaTorah in the Paris suburb of Gagny.


In an interview with Boston's Jewish Advocate, French Jewish novelist Nidra Poller says that the two murders, of a 23 year-old Jewish DJ and of a recently widowed Jewish shopkeeper, were played down by the French press. In the case of the murdered young man, whose throat was slit and whose body was mutilated, the alleged assailant, a young male Muslim, reportedly told his mother after the fact, "Now I can go to paradise. I've killed my Jew."


Poller relates that the French authorities have released the man from custody, claiming that he is insane and therefore unfit to stand trial. There have been no arrests in the case of the Jewish shopkeeper. Her ten year-old daughter and a customer, who hid in the shop's storeroom during the attack, said they saw two North Africans fleeing the scene. Nothing was stolen from the shop. The French authorities have not classified the murders as acts of anti-Semitism.


This week, an 11 year-old Jewish boy was brutally beaten by Muslim students at their elite Paris secondary school. While beating the boy, the Muslim students taunted him yelling, "We'll finish Hitler's job."


Although the headmaster says he has filed a lawsuit against the Muslim youth, they have yet to be expelled and no criminal charges have been brought against them. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, the headmaster explained, "The issue is very complex. There is obviously a victim that should be protected, but there are no admissions and no witnesses willing to testify. We're in a dead-end."


In a speech before diplomatic correspondents in Tel-Aviv this week, the EU's ambassador to Israel said that he was "not willing to agree" that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism in Europe. At the same time, Ambassador Giancarlo Chevallard said he did know for a fact that there has been a rise in attacks against Muslims.


Chevallard's remarks gibe with the EU's refusal to publish its own commissioned report on anti-Semitism in Europe. That report raised the hackles of the EU bureaucracy by showing that the main source of anti-Semitic violence in Europe is the Muslim community, and that the mainstream press encourages anti-Semitism through its distorted coverage of the Palestinian terror war against Israel.


How does Europe defend itself against the growing evidence that the Continent has reverted to its pre-Holocaust levels of anti-Semitism? Aside from denying the truth, it relies on the good offices of sympathetic Israelis. In doing so, Europe is guilty of a kind of subversion.


This is not to say that foreign governments aren't free to make their views of Israeli politics known to Israelis, just as Israeli politicians are welcome to make their views of foreign governments known to foreign audiences. But it's a very different matter when these governments seek to manipulate our politics by funding, publicizing and lending their prestige to the work of Israelis sympathetic to their views.


This is all the more illegitimate given that Yossi Beilin, along with Amnon Lipkin Shahak, Nehama Ronen, Avrum Burg and Amram Mitzna, who engineered and signed the Swiss-funded Geneva Accord with the Palestinian Authority's propaganda minister Yasser Abd Rabbo are all failed politicians. They have all been rejected by the voters, repeatedly. Their constituencies are as imaginary as their "peace treaties." They are as comparatively marginal to the political landscape here as, say, the Free Democrats are in Germany.

It would be interesting to know how German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would react if the Bush administration (as part of its commitment to free-market economics, of course), began funneling millions to front groups connected to that party. One guess is that the Chancellor would be screaming bloody murder.


Yet this is precisely what the Europeans involved in the Geneva initiative are now doing vis-a-vis Israel. Indeed, they are doing worse. Employing the rhetoric of peace, they are working steadily to undermine the legitimacy of Jewish statehood.


On the specious ground that "the whole world has a stake in Mideast peace," they are purchasing a seat at the Israeli cabinet table. Who put them there? Certainly not the Israeli electorate. Instead, they are creating a virtual constituency consisting of the media, foreign leaders, the UN, Left-wing NGOs and a handful of unpopular Israelis to shape the terms of our government debate.


The problem, however, goes deeper than European interference. There is also the problem of our willingness to let them interfere. Ever since we won our statehood 55 years ago, successive Israeli governments have failed to grasp that Israel is truly sovereign. We hear competing voices among the Jewish people, both in Israel and the Diaspora, and often fail to internalize the fact that these voices, however well funded, do not represent the collective will of the Jewish people embodied in the sovereign decisions of the Jewish state. They do not speak for us. As our collective voice, the government has the sole right to set our policies and defend our rights.


And defend us it must. Over the past three years, it has become absolutely clear that any thought we might have had that the establishment of the State of Israel would be the death knell of millennia of anti-Semitism was misplaced. Two thousand years of Christian Judeophobia and 1400 years of Muslim hatred did not dissipate in 1948. We see this in the daily libels against Israel in the European press and at the UN General Assembly. And we see it in the constant incitement to the annihilation of the Jewish people throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds. The fact is inescapable: Anti-Semitism remains one of the most potent forces in the world today.


Whether he knows it or not, Beilin serves anti-Semites in Europe and the Arab world as a fig leaf. It is he who allows them to advance their anti-Israel agenda with immunity. And this is nowhere as important as in the US. It is in Washington, where traditions of anti-Semitism never took firm root, where Beilin and his colleagues seek to advance their aims. And they are succeeding.


Within the administration, Beilin is being received by the State Department and – more remarkably – by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.


Then there are the Democrats. With next year's presidential election before them, US Senators such as Diane Feinstein and Frank Lautenberg and US Congressmen such as Rahm Emmanuel and Darryl Issa are seeking to turn the Geneva initiative into their party's official Middle East agenda.



In other words, they are using the fig leaf of Beilin to adopt one of the most anti-Israel documents in recent memory into their ostensibly pro-Israel party platform.


As the surge of anti-Semitism in what was until recently considered civilized Europe shows, much has not changed since 1948. Now, as then, there are millions of people who believe that their interests are advanced by anti-Semitism. Now, as then, Jews are under attack not because of anything that they have done, but because they exist.


But at the same time, something did fundamentally change 55 years ago. We Jews are no longer powerless. We have our government now to defend us. By setting the record straight on who speaks for the Jews, and by going on the offensive against our enemies, our leadership can protect us and strengthen our fellow Jews under attack in Europe.


Yossi Beilin may speak for Europe. He does not speak for Israel. It is past time for those who do to make themselves heard.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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