THE SPINE FEBRUARY 12, 2010
Europe is a mess. Greece is the country on the continent closest to utter wreck. (And, if not for statements yesterday by Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, there would literally be no hope for a life raft anywhere near Athens soon. This morning's FT smothers even those wan hopes.) Spain, Portugal and Ireland are not far behind ... or under.
Each of these countries has views on how Israel deals with the Palestinians, and they don't like it at all. Neither do the past and present "foreign ministers"—so to speak, but not exactly—of the European Union. The previous one also a past foreign minister of Spain, Javier Solana, whose main claim to distinction is that he is the grand nephew of Salvador de Madariaga, historian, politician and chief of the ill-fated League of Nations mission for world disarmament. It's a shame, neither Hitler nor Mussolini (nor Tojo) wanted to cooperate. So Solana's blood runs thick with hope and thin with achievement. He did spend his six years as a physics graduate student at the University of Virginia, with a good deal of his energy there siphoned off to march against the Vietnam war. Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh! Ha. Ha.
Solana's successor, the Baroness Ashton of Upholland (neé Catherine Ashton), was Labor leader of the House of Lords, testimony to the diminishing stature of the peers. In the eighties, she was treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND); this was long after nutty but brilliant Bertie Russell was dead but in the midst of the deepest financial machinations of the Soviet Union in the atomic or anti-American atomic effort. Of course, she didn't know about that—although it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of the campaign's money came from Moscow. And, if she didn't know that, she is capable of knowing nothing.
As Solana had, so has Ashton developed a certain reflexive patter about the Arab-Jewish conflict. She wants Israel to stop its "blockade" of Gaza, as if there were hunger and disease in the Strip. This is simply not so. In very harsh language, Lady Ashton has drawn her own boundaries around "legitimate" Israel, boundaries that ignore more than 40 years of history when nature and politics did not bow to the intransigence of the Palestinian polity, such as it is and such as it is not.
Frankly, I cannot grasp what gives the Union the idea that it is a force in the long dispute between Israel and the hapless Palestinians. The fact is that no one has any sway with the Palestinians. The Palestinians are holding out for the most when they'll be fortunate to get a little. This must be apparent to the Europeans. So they are playing games when they demand "this" and "that" and "some more" from Israel. They have played out their trustworthiness to the Jews, and, when I say "they," I do not mean all of the Europeans. Not at all. Great Britain is still, in the end, a friend ... and France, as well. Germany, to be sure. The Netherlands and Denmark also. And, of course, the new striving (and precarious) democracies of Eastern Europe which know the difference between civilization and jihadism, having fought against the other jihad of communism. I'd choose the Czech Republic over socialist Spain in a moment.
One of Spain's self-designated roles in Europe is to hector the rest of the Union to be tough on Israel. After all, it brought itself troubles by looking away from the millions of Middle Eastern, North African and even Pakistani immigrants, legal and illegal, who are now much discontented and who Madrid assumes—altogether without evidence—can be conciliated by an anti-Israel foreign policy. (See Robert Leiken's Foreign Affairs article, "Europe's Angry Muslims.") Here is a country that has two discontented but indigenous minorities--the Basques and the great Catalonians--and it permitted itself waves of new minorities from a culturally remote world to set up tent almost anywhere and everywhere in Spain. While lecturing Israel about the Palestinians, Spain has still not really settled its troubles with Morocco. And, similarly, Portugal, which also has views about Israel and the Palestinians, still owns a living colonialist legacy in southern Africa.
Which brings us to the most relentlessly anti-Israel country in Europe, Sweden. I'll be brief. In mid-summer 2009, Sweden moved in the European Union to pass a resolution recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. No negotiations, no nothing. In fact, this recognition of a capital went altogether without a state.It was just a gesture and a mischievous gesture, at that. Would it just be the main city of the West Bank, the boundaries of which are nowhere near settled? Or would Gaza also be governed from Al Quds? So the Swedish initiative was not only mischievous but frivolous. Finally, most of Europe saw the nonsense in the plan. And defeated it.
And let me just go back to pathetic Greece, which lied to itself about its own finances and now is pleading for the rest of Europe to pick up the bill. Now that Turkey is moving eastward with the Islamic winds, Athens may well find that Israel might be a good friend to have, after all. Greece didn't send an ambassador to Israel until the state was 42 years old.
So what, if not for Israel's being its adversary, is the ideological lure of Palestine after all? Does anyone imagine Palestine (or the two Palestines, and maybe even the third Palestine on the other side of the Jordan) as a fair society, let alone an equal society? Will there be justice in its courts? And decent human rights to its women and to those still viewed as criminal sexual deviants? What will be the role of true learning in your imagined Palestine? Of science? Of basic honesty? Of the press? Of the universities and colleges?
When Palestine emerges, sooner better than later (I hope for Israel's sake), it will disappoint and disenchant. Like Russia and Cuba, but from a lower stage of historical development. It will be Yemen plus.