Why Europe, unlike America, finds it so hard to love Israel

Posted on August 22, 2006. Filed under: News |

THE ugly little mid-summer war that has just ended in Lebanon spilled over into the parliaments, streets, television studios and dinner parties of Europe. By and large, Israel got the worst of it.

The Council of Europe said that Israel’s response to Hizbullah’s cross-border attacks was “disproportionate” and accused Israel of “indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets”. Romano Prodi, Italy’s prime minister, called Israel’s reaction “excessive”. In Norway, Jostein Gaarder, the author of “Sophie’s World”, accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and murdering children, and said that the Jewish state had forfeited its right to exist. In many capitals, anti-war protesters marched under Hizbullah flags. When Britain’s Tony Blair tried to explain things from Israel’s point of view—and failed to call for an immediate ceasefire—his political stock took another tumble.

Mr Gaarder was prodded into a half-hearted apology. But the truth is that, far from being extreme, these criticisms of Israel convey the mood of millions of Europeans, rooted in what polls suggest is a hardening attitude. A YouGov poll in Britain, taken in the first two weeks of the conflict, found 63% of respondents saying that the Israeli response to Hizbullah’s attack was “disproportionate”; a similar German poll had 75% saying so.

Such reactions reflect a wider European view of Israel that contrasts sharply with America’s. In a Pew Global Attitudes survey earlier this year, far more Europeans sympathised with the Palestinians than with Israel (see chart). These findings come on top of a European Union poll in 2003 that had 59% of Europeans considering Israel as a greater menace to world peace than Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

Why has Europe become so reflexively anti-Israel, just when America has become so reflexively pro-Israel? Europe has no equivalent of America’s powerful AIPAC Israeli lobby, and it also has a disgruntled (and growing) Muslim population. But neither is enough to explain all the difference in attitude. Indeed, many Muslims in Europe now feel beleaguered and can only dream of wielding AIPAC‘s clout.

Some Americans blame rising anti-Semitism in Europe, which they also attribute in part to its growing Muslim population. But there is a difference between being anti-Semitic and being anti-Israel. And in any case, it is not obvious that anti-Semitism is a big factor. In central Europe, for example, there seems to be both greater anti-Semitism and more support for Israel. And some polls suggest that more Americans think Jews have “too much influence” in their country than do Europeans.

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One Response to “Why Europe, unlike America, finds it so hard to love Israel”

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Thanks for sharing this information. Really is pack with new knowledge. Keep them coming.

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