Gideon Levy: the U.S. and Europe aren't real friends

Gideon Levy, who writes brilliantly on the occupation for Haaretz, wrote this today: “Who hasn’t come to visit lately? From the German chancellor to the leading frontrunner for the American presidency. And the secretary-general of the United Nations is on his way. A visit to Israel has become de rigueur for foreign pols. If you haven’t been here, you’re nowhere. 

“The visitors are taken, of course, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, the Western Wall and now to Sderot as well – the new national pilgrimage site.

“A few also pay a perfunctory visit to Ramallah; no one goes to the Gaza Strip, and they all have nothing but praise for Israel. Not a word of criticism on the occupation, on Israel’s violent operations in the territories, on the siege and the starving – with the exception of a few vague remarks on the need for a solution. Israel squeezes the Sderot ‘informational’ lemon for all it’s worth.

“The mix of Sderot and the Holocaust, international Islamophobia and Hamas rule in Gaza do the trick. Israel hasn’t scored this kind of foreign-policy success since the days of the Oslo Accords. To judge by the declarations of our foreign guests and our hosts abroad, no other state in the world is more loved than we. A state that imposes a siege that is almost unprecedented in the world today in terms of its cruelty, that adopts an official policy of assassination, is embraced by the family of nations, if we are to judge by the words of the many statesmen who cross our doorstep” …

Levy says that this is an illusion, and that public opinion in the countries of these politicians and statesman is running in decidedly the opposite direction.  And, he continues:  “The world sees images from Gaza on television – in comparison, Sderot looks like a resort – and it draws its own conclusions. The natural sense of justice that dictates support for the freedom struggles of oppressed people such as the Tibetan dictates natural support for the Palestinian struggle for liberation. The fact that it is a struggle between a Palestinian David and an Israeli Goliath only adds to the story. With the exception of the U.S., the world is indeed against us, apart from its statesmen. Therefore, we must not give in to the illusion: The current bout of official support for us is not genuine.  Also not genuine is the idea that blind, unconditional friendship is friendship. The support for Israel as a just enterprise that is extended by most of the West does not mean accepting all of its caprices.  A true friend of Israel, one that is sincerely concerned for its fate, is only that friend who dares to express sharp criticism of its policy of occupation, which poses the most serious risk to its future, and who also takes practical to steps to end it.  Most of the ‘friendly’ statesmen do not understand this“.  [emphasis added]

Levy writes that he believes Europe is even worse than the U.S. in these respects: “Saccharine visits and sweet speeches in fact express a deep disrespect for Israel – and for European public opinion.  This blind friendship enables Israel to do whatever it wants. The days have passed in which every mobile home erected in the territories and every targeted assassination were carefully considered out of fear of international criticism. That time no longer exists. Israel has a carte blanche to kill, destroy and settle. The U.S. long ago gave up the role of honest broker, and Europe is now following in its footsteps. How depressing: With friends like these, Israel almost doesn’t need enemies”.

European Parliament "lambastes" Israel over Gaza seige

Today, the European Parliament adopted a resolution saying that “The policy of isolation of the Gaza strip has failed at both the political and humanitarian level … The civilian population should be exempt from any military action and any collective punishment.”

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, using reporting from Reuters and its own reporting as well, added that the resolution also said: “The European Parliament calls on Israel to cease military actions killing and endangering civilians, and extrajudicial targeted killings”.

The lawmakers also urged the Gaza Strip’s rulers Hamas to prevent the firing of rockets into Israel.

However, the report noted, “EU lawmakers have no power over the bloc’s foreign policy” … This Haaretz story is posted here.

Meanwhile, in another story with a Europe angle, the Jerusalem Post reported that “An Israeli prime minister has never visited Brussels on a formal diplomatic mission. ‘It’s just never worked out’, the diplomatic official said … Part of Israel’s strategy to strengthen relations with Europe is to de-link those ties from the vicissitudes of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In the past, Israeli-European ties fluctuated parallel to progress, or the lack thereof, on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘The Europeans are, in general, not pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli, they are pro-peace process. Progress with the Palestinians meant better relations with Europe’, the Israeli diplomatic source said. Jerusalem’s new strategy is to enhance cooperation with Europe in a variety of fields and to demonstrate that Israel can help with some of the EU’s many interests in the region. To that end, Israel has in the past few weeks sent a detailed plan to the European Union asking to enter into negotiations on cooperation in nine fields. The cooperation would entail ‘significant’ Israeli inclusion into an array of EU institutions in fields such as finance, education, environment, youth development, law enforcement, security cooperation and scientific research collaboration … Another aspect of Jerusalem’s strategy to strengthen ties with Europe is increasing contact with the continent’s growing Muslim communities. ‘Europe is becoming more and more Muslim, and we have identified a need to reach out to these populations’, the diplomatic official said”. This JPost article is posted here.