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.
Since the announcement of the John Kerry peace talks, a number of left-wing pundits in Israel and abroad are promulgating the view that the existence of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria poses an existential threat to the State of Israel. In the same vein, other left-wing commentators say the building of homes and business beyond the Green Line is a severe blow to Israeli-EU relations.
All of this is nonsense and it feeds the tired narrative that the Jewish settlements are the main obstacle to peace with the Arab world. But there is something to be said about the way the Jewish settlements are perceived by the international community. In other words, it is perception and not reality that is the real existential threat to Israel.
Despite a major petition bearing the signatures of more than 1,000 lawyers, scholars, jurists and diplomats from around the world – all of whom agree the Jewish settlements are legal and that the concept of “1967 lines” does not exist in international law – the European Union remains stubbornly committed to the delegitimization of Israeli communities beyond the Green Line. A spokesperson for EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (who was the recipient of the petition) has proclaimed that EU policy towards Israel remains unaltered.
This misperception of Israel’s legal position in the so-called occupied territories is the reason why Catherine Ashton is lobbying EU commissioners with the express aim of issuing guidelines on the labeling of Jewish settlement products that would apply to 28 European countries. The EU has also issued guidelines advising member states not to give grants, awards or loans to Israeli entities operating over the Green Line.
One of the byproducts of this European embargo is Palestinian job losses. The economic destruction of Israeli businesses could result in thousands of Palestinians losing their livelihoods. Needless to say, these Palestinians are not happy with the prospect of an embargo. Apart from the unfairness, there is a real security issue. Unemployed men with families to feed are likely to become restless and resentful. Resentment breeds violence – and violence in the “West Bank” usually results in Israeli casualties.
The EU’s position vis-à-vis grants and loans also damages Israel’s higher education and research sectors. As things stand, Ariel University (where five per cent of students are Palestinians) is ineligible to participate in the lucrative Horizon 2020 research and development program. But worst of all is the fact that the EU –in tandem with Obama administration – is using the threat of boycotts to force Israel into making painful and potentially lethal concessions, such as the release of 104 Palestinian terrorists.
Why is the EU so hung up about Jews living and working beyond the Green Line? After all, the existence of the Jewish settlements in the so-called West Bank is not particularly contentious. A two-state solution (should it ever happen) would allow for land swaps, thereby “legitimizing” many of these Jewish communities. It is the final status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian myth of the “right to return” which are the issues most likely to derail John Kerry’s peace talks.
Perhaps Europe’s obsession with the location of Jewish homes and businesses is a hangover from those dark days (or centuries) when a litany of princes, popes and priests (and ultimately the Nazis) all decreed where Jews were allowed to live and work. Fast forward to the 21st century and we have a situation where Jews are being ostracized because they dare to build houses, schools and yeshivas – not in central or eastern Europe but in Israel’s biblical heartland.
How is it that Europe, which is responsible for extermination of one-third of world Jewry, has the audacity to dictate policy to a tiny country that is home to the descendants of Holocaust survivors? I cannot be the only person in Europe who is repulsed by this hypocrisy. Or has Europe fallen so low that nobody even notices the EU’s selfish duplicity?
Antipathy towards Jewish self-determination may be one explanation for the EU’s attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But perhaps Europe’s unquestioned support for the Palestinians is also motivated by a desire to resurrect European influence in the Middle East. By coalescing into a single powerful unit, the once-great imperial powers of Britain, France and Germany are now in a position to flex their diplomatic muscles under the guise of pan-European unity.
The first project of this new Euro-imperialism is to build yet another Arab state and shrink the borders of the world’s only Jewish state. This seems like an unfortunate rerun of events that took place nearly a century ago. In 1921, Britain divided the Jewish national home into Palestine and Transjordan. And in 1937 the Peel Commission Partition Plan (another British initiative) recommended the division of the Jewish homeland in order to make way for another Arab state. This was rejected by the Arab Higher Committee on the grounds that Palestine belongs to the “whole Arab and Muslim worlds,” a belief that is shared by Hamas and some elements of the Palestinian Authority.
Whenever Europe is involved in the affairs of the Middle East, the Arabs get more territory and the Jews get less.
Whenever Europe is involved in the affairs of the Middle East, the Arabs get more territory and the Jews get less. On the surface, this seems like a crude equation but it is nonetheless true. And if EU policymakers and their friends in the White House have their way, Israel will be driven from sections of Jerusalem, Hevron and the Jordan Valley, thereby robbing the Jewish people of their heritage and depriving them of their security. But then again, Europe has always rather enjoyed robbing the Jews of their rights.
Israel should not let itself be bullied by the bullies in Brussels and Washington. And on no account should Israel’s Foreign Ministry agree to Europe’s demand to surrender Israeli rights over parts of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the so-called West Bank. If this means relinquishing a research partnership worth hundreds of millions of dollars, then so be it. Israel needs to show Europe that it is no longer prepared to be pushed around by Catherine Ashton and her EU cronies.