Richard MatherRichard Mather writes and edits for Israel News Online. He has also written for the Jewish Media Agency, Poetica Magazine, Drash Pit, Voices Israel and Chabad Lubavitch’s Holiday Times Magazine. He lives in Manchester, England.
Catherine Ashton represents everything that is wrong with the European Union. Chosen for the role of EU foreign policy chief in 2009, she has never been elected and even now she is unknown to the vast majority of ordinary Europeans. Her political experience is paltry, unless you count her role as national treasurer in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a Soviet-funded anti-war group which was at its height in Britain during the 1980s.
Since her appointment in 2009, Ashton has repeatedly shown that she has no understanding of the conflict between Israel and the Arab world. Her latest effort to introduce separate labeling for products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria demonstrates her contempt for the people of Israel. Ashton is going to great lengths to secure support from the seven EU commissioners who are responsible for justice, industry, taxation, agriculture, consumer protection, trade and internal markets. Her ultimate aim is to issue guidelines on the labeling of Jewish settlement products that would apply to all 28 EU member states. She clearly hopes to isolate and embarrass Israel, with the added effect of damaging its economy in the process.
Unfortunately, Ashton’s legendary incompetence and foolishness is symbolic of the EU’s inept relationship with Israel. Although there are strong legal and economic ties between the EU and the Jewish state, relations are constantly under strain because of the former’s condescending attitude towards settlers in Judea and Samaria. Since the late 1990s, both sides have been in dispute over the legal treatment of products exported to the EU from the so-called West Bank. Ashton, who is bereft of original thinking at the best of times, is simply regurgitating the EU’s tiresome anti-settler stance.
The EU’s outmoded approach to Israel and the settlers ought to be challenged. But it is difficult to do so when the EU is economically and politically committed to the complete dismantling of the Jewish settlements in order to make way for an independent Palestinian state. The EU has squandered around 5 billion euros in development aid to the Palestinians over the past 20 years. At the start of 2012, the EU contributed another 1.1 million euros to the PA’s so-called “Private Sector Reconstruction in Gaza” program, which provided financial support to businesses destroyed or damaged by Operation Cast Lead – a war that was started by Hamas.
The money flowing out of Europe into the hands of the Palestinians is a core component of the unimaginatively-titled Action Plan, which is designed to “create the conditions for developing an increasingly close relationship in preparation for a future Palestinian State, going beyond co-operation, to involve a significant measure of economic integration and deepening of political cooperation.” But the Action Plan goes further than just establishing economic ties. It aims to establish a nation state based on the European model. But given the Palestinians’ history of flouting even the most basic of human rights, this is an absurd expectation.
Oblivious to the Palestinians’ real goal of destroying Israel, the EU is acting under the illusion that it can persuade the Palestinians to create a democratic country, where the rule of law is upheld and the rights of minorities are protected (presumably this doesn’t include the rights of Jewish settlers). Remarkably, the EU also expects the Palestinians to co-operate in the international fight against terrorism, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. I am not joking.
The EU...expects the Palestinians to co-operate in the international fight against terrorism, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. I am not joking.
The EU’s utopian vision of a democratic Palestine would be laughable if wasn’t so devious. The EU is pre-empting final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians by urging the latter to carry out construction projects in Area C and east Jerusalem without Israel's cooperation. The EU also wants the Palestinians to become more politically active in east Jerusalem in order to create conditions for a future Palestinian capital. In effect, Europe has dispensed with the Oslo Accords and is urging the Palestinians to act unilaterally.
What is also lamentable is the fact that the EU sees nothing wrong in spending European taxpayers’ money to help build roads, utilities and hospitals for a bunch of people who have committed several acts of terror on European soil, most notably the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, the 1981 Antwerp bombing, and the Rome and Vienna airport attacks of 1985. European money is also being used to pay for anti-Semitic and anti-Western propaganda and to finance terrorist acts against Israelis. In truth, there is little control over how European money is spent by the Palestinians. And I suspect the European political establishment isn’t particularly interested if it is used to finance attacks on Jewish settlers.
Why is the EU acting in such an irresponsible fashion? Perhaps its behavior (as exemplified by Catherine Ashton) can be explained by the ambition to carve out an anti-American niche in world affairs. By superseding the Soviet Union as the dominant left-wing force in the Western hemisphere, the EU has inherited Moscow’s political, economic and diplomatic ties to the Arab world. Furthermore, the EU uses the Palestinian issue to ingratiate itself with the growing Muslim community inside Europe’s borders. And it is a community which is virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
Indeed, this new influx of Islamic anti-Semitism has rekindled old prejudices in Europe. The fetishization of the Palestinian issue in the corridors of European power has effectively legitimized the actions of anti-Semitic thugs who firebomb synagogues and desecrate Jewish cemeteries. The anti-Semitic cartoon in a German left-wing newspaper, the glorification of Palestinian terrorism in a French art gallery and the recurring physical attacks on Jews are just a few examples of the depressing decline in moral and intellectual standards in Europe.
It seems there is no reversing of the trend, either. And there won’t be – not until Catherine Ashton and her EU cohorts stop their irresponsible anti-Zionist and anti-American posturing and start to treat the Jewish people with the respect and dignity they deserve.