Adopting measures that—when used by Israel—it vilifies.
Western Europe is now being hit by a wave of terror. Israel has expressed sympathy to the governments and peoples, and is helping or has offered to help the hardest-hit countries—France, Germany, and Belgium—fight the terror.
It has been different when terror has pounded Israel. Even during the five-year onslaught known as the Second Intifada (2000-2005), Europe was sharply critical of Israel and denounced all its terror-fighting methods as immoral.
The contrast is particularly striking in light of some disparities. From the Charlie Hebdo attack on January 7, 2015 to Tuesday’s attack in a church, 239 have been killed in France (pop. 67 million). In the Brussels bombings on March 22 this year, 32 were killed in Belgium (pop. 11 million). Since September 15, 2015, terror attacks (counting the Munich shooting late last week) have killed 15 in Germany (pop. 82 million).
During the five years of the Second Intifada, however, 1000 were killed in Israel (current pop. 8.5 million; even smaller then)—a much higher rate even than France has endured since the start of 2015.
Yet, in the course of those intifada years—and since then as well, including, of course, the Gaza wars—Europe’s criticism of Israel’s fight against terror has been unremitting.
The irony is deepened by the fact that some of the Israeli measures that Europe has most fiercely condemned are now used routinely by European countries themselves—without, of course, having to put up with criticism from Israel or anyone else.
For instance, there was once a time when targeted killings—if practiced by Israel—stirred world outrage. On April 17, 2004, with the Second Intifada still seething, an Israeli airstrike killed Hamas terror master Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi in Gaza.
Condemnations followed like clockwork. From the European direction, they were voiced, among others, by then-EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, then-Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, and then-British foreign minister Jack Straw, who said: “The British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called targeted assassinations of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counterproductive.” Only a U.S. veto saved Israel from UN Security Council censure for the killing.
Today, of course, drone strikes on terrorists by the U.S. and European countries are so routine that they can hardly compete for attention with weather forecasts. On November 26, 2015, the Daily Mail reported that “British drone strikes have killed 305 ISIS targets in the last year….”
Even when, during the Second Intifada, Israel took the passive measure of building a fence to try to keep out suicide bombers and other terrorists, it came under harsh rebuke.
On July 9, 2004, the International Court of Justice at The Hague issued an advisory opinion calling the fence illegal and demanding that it be torn down—terror or no terror.
Of the 15 countries represented on the court, only the U.S. voted against the opinion; all five European countries—the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Slovakia—voted in favor.
Almost 12 years later, on January 7, 2016, The Economist reported that “Europe will soon have more physical barriers on its national borders than it did during the Cold War.” In recent years Hungary, Sweden, Greece, and Bulgaria have built fences aimed at keeping out mostly-Muslim migrants deemed potentially dangerous. There are, of course, no convocations of the International Court of Justice—and no condemnations by Israel.
Even Israeli checkpoints have been a human rights cause célèbre. True, they inconvenience Palestinians who just want to get from one place to another; but their purpose is to weed out terrorists and prevent deadly attacks.
Yet, on July 9, 2008, Haaretz reported that, typically, “The European Union, France and Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair [had] criticized Israel’s checkpoints in the West Bank and blockade of Gaza as preventing an economic recovery there….”
Seemingly, by then, it should have been clear to these European parties that, even if such Israeli measures had deleterious economic effects, there were very serious reasons why they were in place. But there was no sign of such awareness.
Yet somewhat over seven years later, France—always one of Israel’s most severe critics—reacted to terror with such a dense network of border checkpoints that, The Telegraph reported, “the future of Europe’s Schengen free travel zone was cast into doubt.”
Although, for now, the focus of Islamic terror has shifted from Israel to Western Europe, Israel’s situation remains precarious. With ISIS in Sinai, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terror groups in Gaza, Hizballah in Lebanon, and a mix of Sunni terror groups, Hizballah, and Iranian militias in Syria, another armed conflict between Israel and terrorists is only a matter of time.
And when the time comes, in light of all that has happened since the days of the Second Intifada, will Israel be able to count on Europe to give it support instead of reflexive criticism and pressures to lay down its arms?
Despite all, only the very naïve could think so.