A threat to peace?

I was thinking about writing a piece on the reports of a European Commission poll of 7,500 Europeans that says Israel is ‘the greatest threat to world peace’ but British blogger Harry Hatchet has said pretty much what I would have done, and probably much more clearly.

Innocent Israeli civilians have been murdered in discos, bars and restaurants. Schoolkids on buses have been blown up in horrific suicide murders. And yet sympathy for Israel, outside of the US, appears to be at an all-time low.

Why? The easy and convenient answer is that Europe is a continent seething with anti-semites. While there are worrying signs, that is simply not true.

Could it not be the case that the Israelis are simply losing a propaganda war?

It is surely not a hard case to present that the blame for the violence in the Middle East should not put exclusively at the door of Israel. Ordinary Israelis have been victims of the most appalling acts of terrorism.

But that image of the little Palestinian boy being shielded by his father against a wall, the images of bulldozers, of a wall being built, of refugee camps, innocent civilians dying in Israeli raids are all beamed into our homes as well.

When those actions are criticised, the defence we increasingly hear is that criticism of Israel is equal to anti-semitism. That might make those who are criticised feel more justified in their actions but have Sharon’s supporters given up on the idea of winning hearts and minds or even basic politics or PR? Is their only strategy now one of playing to the gallery of the most hawkish anti-Europeans in the Bush administration?

This is all presuming the Israeli hardliners and their friends actually care about winning hearts and minds in Europe and aren’t simply engaged in a political effort to push the EU out of any peace process and leave the US, always less willing to criticise Israel, as the sole partner in any settlement.

As they say, read the whole thing.

10 thoughts on “A threat to peace?

  1. Hmm.. as a german, I learned, it wont help any discussion if I offer my POV, so I’ll shut up and wait what other people think.
    As I like to repeat – someone who worked in the Israel area described the situation of Israel and Palestine as a “Deadly Hug”, and I think that fits really great.

  2. Nick,

    I’ve been messaging in a range of international online boards for many years now. Sad to say, it has been a recurring personal experience that posting any criticism of military actions by the state of Israel is apt to get me denounced as “anti-semitic” even though my personal views of the context converge with those of Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief Rabbi, or Gerald kaufman MP.

    Try: http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,781113,00.html or http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1874459.stm and http://www.deiryassin.org/gkaufman.html

    Any readers here interested in knowing of a widely acclaimed book, which for me shed altogether new light on the tragic history of the conflict in Palestine, may like to know of: Avi Shlaim: The Iron Wall; Penguin Books (2001). The author, an Israeli, is professor of international relations at Oxford University.

    For another perspective, this is from the text of a speech by Lawrence Summers, now President of Harvard and previously Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration:

    ” . . where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.” – from: http://www.israelaustin.com/israelnow/news/26sep2002d.asp

  3. ‘the greatest threat to world peace’

    They were trying to measure a … err… something. But what is it? How do those polled define that question? Does it mean “country X will start a war soon” or “country X will be involved in a war with certainty sometime in the future” or “country X has a misguided foreign policy” or “country X is bad” or “the news I hear about country X scare me most” or “I can’t stand country X” or “I’m too afraid to spend my vacations in country X”? This question can have so many different meanings that it is a meaningless question.

    Never expect reasonable results out of polls consisting of unreasonable questions.

  4. I agree that the poll questions should raise suspicion. Also the evaluation is dubious.

    First off, I read somewhere else that the Palestinians were not included in the list of choices.

    Second, the people interviewed could name several countries as being a threat to peace. Logically, being the most named does not have to imply that the country in question is the “biggest threat”. For example, 50% may think that, say, San Marino is the biggest threat and another 50% may regard Andorra as the biggest threat, but 60% may name Israel as a lower-level threat. The jornalist reporting poll then calls Israel the largest threat.

    Karl Heinz

    Hamburg, Germany

  5. I too, can recommend Shlaim’s “The Iron Wall”.

    Another excellent book is Amira Hass “Drinking the Sea at Gaza”, also available in German: “Gaza”.

    Amira Hass is an Israeli journalist who writes for Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/, a liberal paper. Since ca.1990 she has lived among the Palestinians, first in Gaza, now in Ramallah. She draws a vivid picture of everyday Palestinian life first under Israeli occupation and then under Arafat, and describes the effect Israeli policies have on the common Palestinian people.

  6. Jonathan at Head Heeb has some charecteristically insightful* commentary on this:


    He points out, among other things, that the Palestinians weren’t on the list, nor were any associated terrorist groups. In that situation, one might quite reasonably vote for Israel as a proxy for the entire conflict. I might have done so myself. And then everyone would crow about me being anti-semitic. It was a dumb survey basically…

    *I beleive ‘charecteristically insightful’ is officially a blogger cliche by now. Never mind.

  7. Courtesy The Agonist, this news item is reported in Wednesday’s The Independent:

    “The US has reportedly complained after the Israeli army destroyed wells built for civilians in Gaza by an American government aid agency. Huge areas have been demolished by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, including more than 150 homes. The wells had just been dug by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid). A few months ago the agency announced a $20m (?12m) project to rebuild infrastructure including roads, electricity supply lines and sewers in the occupied territories. . .”

    – from: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=460551

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