On Tuesday, which was Tisha B’Av—a mournful Jewish holiday that commemorates two destructions of Jerusalem, the Spanish Expulsion, and other disasters of Jewish history—Israel’s far-left daily Haaretz trumpeted the news that the European Union had issued a new directive.
It bans any and all interactions, economic, social, or academic, with Israeli companies or institutions situated in East Jerusalem, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), and the Golan Heights—that is, the places Israel took over in the 1967 Six-Day War, where a total of 700,000 Israelis (not far from 10 percent of the country’s population) now live.
The directive also states that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”
In the run-up to the Six-Day War—among other such statements—Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser said, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel.” Syrian defense minister (later prime minister) Hafez Assad said, “I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.” Iraqi president Abdur Rahman Aref said, “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear—to wipe Israel off the map.”
Israelis secretly dug 10,000 graves for the expected victims of the war. Some 14,000 hospital beds were prepared. Gas masks were handed out to the population. Survivors of the European Holocaust in particular were gripped with fear.
The rest, of course, is history; instead of being annihilated, Israel won the war and conquered the places in question, as well as the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza.
By now, Israel has handed the Sinai back to Egypt in a peace treaty, unilaterally evacuated Gaza, and striven in vain for 20 years to reach a deal with the Palestinians over the West Bank.
As for the Golan, there too attempts were made to hand it or parts of it back to Syria in return for peace undertakings.
These days, with the Syrian civil war raging and both Syrian-army and jihadist forces lobbing mortars into the Golan daily, even left-wing Israelis recognize that ceding the Golan would have meant these forces would now be thronging the Sea of Galilee.
But for the EU, the fact that the Six-Day War was one of survival, that Israel conquered areas from which it was attacked, that considerable parts of these areas are of great security and/or religious-historical significance to Israel, and that Israel nevertheless accepted the principle of trading back parts of them for peace commitments, has no bearing: all of official Europe, right and left, conservative and socialist, has always defamed all post-1967 Jewish life in any of those places as “illegal.”
This new directive concretizes that notion in ways that Israelis of both the right and left—and, yes, Palestinians too—expect to be harmful.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the right-of-center Habayit Hayehudi party rightly remarked that this placing of 700,000 Jews beyond the pale “recalls boycotts against the Jews in Europe more than 66 years ago.” Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a dove and fervent advocate of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, said the directive “potentially means that 40 percent of research and development grants to Israel will be affected.”
And while the public Palestinian Authority response to the directive was laudatory, a “senior Palestinian Authority official” told Israel’s largest daily Israel Hayom that
“For our part, we approached a number of [European] Union officials, in the [Palestinian] Authority and also in Israel, to try and prevent the decision or at least to keep it unofficial…. It’s not just Israeli companies that are going to be hit economically, it’s also going to be disastrous economically and socially for the Palestinian community.”
According to the Palestinian official, the European move will freeze joint projects, force employers to stop hiring Palestinians to work on joint projects with Israelis and lead to widespread layoffs of Palestinians laborers working in Judea and Samaria industrial zones.
Those who put hope in Secretary of State John Kerry’s current peace initiative also believe the EU directive will severely damage it by causing the Palestinian side to further harden its positions.
Some Israeli officials believe the directive may only have been issued by mid-level EU bureaucrats. But if published in the EU’s official gazette by Friday, it will take effect and be almost impossible to rescind.
The Times of Israel reported Wednesday evening that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on the phone to high-level European leaders to try and alert them to the dangers and get them to delay the measure.
But even if his efforts succeed, the directive can be taken as a warning that Europe—always perfidious toward Israel—stands to get even more so as its Muslim populations grow and the continent’s politicians and bureaucrats scramble more and more to appease them.
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