Europe’s Holocaust guilt

Gideon Levy, Haaretz, June 15:

How pleasant it is to be an official representative of Israel in Europe right now. It hasn’t been so pleasant for a long time. And not just because of the spectacular spring in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, the crowded pubs in Athens or the young people sunbathing nude in Stockholm. This is about the fresh sympathy for Israel blowing in from almost every capital. French newspapers went all out for our 60th anniversary, Israeli women soldiers starred on the covers of magazines, and even the Swedish papers lost a little of their interest in the Palestinians’ suffering, which had for years won such deep sympathy.

Last week, when the Olof Palme International Center in Stockholm held a symposium on peace in the Middle East, a scandal broke out because the organizers dared invite a professor of Islamic studies, Azam Tamimi, a Hamas sympathizer from London. Even in Sweden. This sympathy for Israel, along with seething antipathy for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, includes, of course, active European participation in the boycott of Gaza and Hamas, which may reach new heights this week. The Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union is slated tomorrow to discuss upgrading Israel’s standing in the EU, and later in the week ministers of the EU member states will also do so. It only takes opposition by one country to prevent the upgrade of ties, which would have significant economic ramifications for Israel.

But there is a good chance that exactly as Europe decided unanimously to boycott Gaza, it will say yes to an upgrade of Israel’s ties with the EU. For official Israel, this is excellent news. Perhaps for the first time, a very strange set of circumstances prevails: Europe, which holds high the standard of human rights and liberty, is boycotting the occupied entity. As if that were not enough, it is even upgrading its ties with the occupier. While Europe is perceived by most Israelis as hostile to Israel, not to say anti-Semitic, its governments are uniting to support Israel almost no matter what it does.

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