Europe is Not Entitled to Hector Any Country

by Martin Peretz | January 13, 2011

In the circles in which I move there are many people who are quite snarky about Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman. I've never really understood why. Maybe it’s just because he wants higher taxes than they do. But as an explicator of economic realities he as good as they come. And in a New York Times Magazine essay about the grim financial status of contemporary Europe he has made it all crystal clear.

Most of the members of the European Union have made a tremendous mess of their fiscal situation, and many are in desperate trouble or near- desperate trouble looking into the future. In fact, three or four of them are facing the governmental equivalent of bankruptcy now. Right now.

But their foreign ministers still strut around the Middle East giving Israel instructions about imaginary Palestine. And not just their foreign ministers but the multitude of E.U. diplomats who've been parked in Brussels (which is the capitol of the almost none-existent state of Belgium.) I had dinner with friends at a restaurant in Jerusalem the other night. We'd been displaced from a private room in the eatery and I asked by whom. I was told that it was taken over by Avigdor Lieberman, the near- fascist foreign minister of Israel. And whom was he hosting? Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. (Some of you may recall  that I don't much like her or her policies.) Lieberman and Ashton. What a pair! From opposite corners of the ideological map -he representing hard-line Russian Jewish immigrants, she speaking for the declining socialist cadres of Europe- they speak past each other unto illusions. Surprisingly, Cathy, as she likes to be called, was smiling when she left. And Avigdor? I couldn't see how his face read because he was surrounded by the usual big men who guard the world's leaders.

Lieberman's party is now pushing a measure in the Knesset to have a parliamentary inquiry into the foreign financial support received by organizations he doesn't like or trust. And the truth is that I don't like most of them myself. The New Israel Fund, for example, which - aside from backing some environmental groups and civil liberties agencies including those which fight against sexual bigotry- finances movements that support the boycott of Israel. Whether I like them or not is hardly the matter.  Or, for that matter, whether Lieberman likes them or not. The question is whether there should be transparency in the political order or not. Lieberman's motivations aside, I believe there should be. Just like in the United States.

But here comes the Spanish ambassador to Israel, Alvar Iranzo, shaking his finger at the Jewish state for even contemplating measures that would open the books on foreign contributions to domestic agencies.

It's actually more than a bit ridiculous for countries that cannot manage their own essential functions to be so ready to chastise Israel. Spain is waging an ongoing struggle with the Basque nationalist movement which has a terrorist past and terrorist tendencies still. But nothing like the Palestinians' unique contribution to terrorism as a method and as an end. More important than the Basque country is the separatist province of Catalonia. It is a mild society that begins south of Barcelona and ends at the French border. It wants independence and it deserves it. Like the Kurds. And that, too, will come.

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