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Op-Ed: Six Reasons for Europe's Anti-Israel Bias

Interview Series: Frits Bolkestein, former EU commissioner: "People defer to numbers. There are hundreds of millions of Arabs and less than eight million Israelis...then there is the oil issue". And four more reasons for anti-Israel bias.
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 11:04 AM


From 1999-2004, Frits Bolkestein was the European Union’s commissioner responsible for the internal market, taxation, and customs union. Before that, he had been the Dutch Defense Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, VVD. In 2005, he became a professor – of the intellectual background to political developments – at both Leiden University and the Technical University of Delft.

Bolkestein observes: “The Israeli ‘file’ in the European Commission is a difficult one because so many factors come into play. In recent years, Israel has undoubtedly lost a publicity battle. This, however, is only one factor that plays a role. Another is that people defer to numbers. There are hundreds of millions of Arabs and less than eight million Israelis. Third, there is the oil issue. Oil contracts are negotiated on a bilateral basis and this makes them highly political. The Arabs have an abundance of oil and could someday impose an embargo once again. The Netherlands already had that experience in 1973.

“A fourth factor is the influence of so many European Muslims with their electoral power on foreign policy. I met Dominique de Villepin, when he was the Foreign Minister of France, at a Bilderberg conference and asked him how French foreign policy had been affected by the presence of five to six million Muslims. He replied: ‘Not at all.’ This was not very convincing.

“A fifth factor that further complicates the issue is a guilt complex toward Jews and Israel. This applies first and foremost to Germany. But it is important in the Netherlands, too, mainly because about 75 percent of Dutch Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Nowadays that feeling has rather faded, and I do not think it is still significant in other European countries.

“Sixth is the anti-Semitism, which in Europe can also influence the political sphere. It often dresses up as anti-Israelism. David Pryce-Jones once discussed in detail in a Commentary article, the barely concealed anti-Semitism in the French Foreign Service.[1]

“I am not enough of an expert to assess whether that is true. I do however recall de Gaulle calling the Jews ‘a domineering and arrogant people’ in 1967.  One doesn’t make such remarks innocently. If the French say, somewhat heatedly, ‘we aren’t anti-Semitic, and certainly not our foreign service,’ I question that. I remember well the daily Le Monde’s cartoon on that occasion, showing a Jew in concentration camp clothing, standing in a provocative pose like Napoleon, with one foot on barbed wire.”

Bolkestein spoke at the remembrance ceremony in Amsterdam for the sixty-fifth anniversary of Kristallnacht in November 2003, where he said:

“The heart of the Middle East conflict is Arab unwillingness to accept Israel’s existence. Muslim terrorism against Europe is not the result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is directed against Western culture, which many Muslims see as a threat.”

According to Bolkestein all the aforementioned issues have to be viewed in the context of Europe’s present problems. One subject that preoccupies him is what he calls European ‘self-hatred.’ In the inaugural lecture for his professorship he said: “An important question is why and when Western Europeans in general and the Dutch in particular, lost their self-confidence. In my view this goes back to World War I, the confusion of the interbellum, World War II and the murder of the Jews. All this has been reinforced by the cultural revolution of 1968 and the years thereafter.”

He adds: “Judging by the standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the dominant civilization of Europe at present is superior to Islamic civilization. All civilization is based on judgments. I believe that the civilization of Rome was superior to that of Gaul. I also consider Unionist America superior to the slaveholder Confederacy, and democratic postwar West Germany superior to communist East Germany.”

Bolkestein remarks: “In the European Commission, I twice tried to raise the problem of the multicultural society and the risks of unlimited Muslim immigration. My colleagues were ten years behind the Netherlands on this issue and did not want to discuss it. I said to one commissioner that they almost considered me a racist. He replied: ‘Drop the word almost.’”

In 2010, I quoted Bolkestein in my new book The Decay, Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands.  He had said, “Jews have to realize that there is no future for them in the Netherlands and that they best advise their children to leave for the United States or Israel.” He arrived at this conclusion due to problems he foresaw in the Netherlands, specifically resulting from the unsuccessful integration of many Muslim immigrants and the difficulties this would create for conscious Jews.[2] This caused a major public outcry.

Simultaneously many articles were published describing the current harassment of recognizable Jews in the Netherlands



[1] David Pryce-Jones, “Jews, Arabs, and French Diplomacy,” Commentary, May 2005.

[2] Manfred Gerstenfeld, Het Verval: joden in een stuurloos Nederland. (Amsterdam, Van Praag , 2010), 109. [Dutch]