EU Parliament building in Brussels
EU Parliament building in BrusselsiStock

When the governments of Spain, Norway, and Ireland together announced that they would recognize a state of "Palestine," they assumed a responsibility as patrons to the putative 23rd Arab nation. It was a bold move, but it was all for show. They are out of their league and lack the ability to contribute in any meaningful way to the establishment of a new nation. Spain can't even find Spanish diplomats willing to live in Ramallah to staff its new embassy in the capital of "Palestine."

Spain, Norway, and Ireland share some common experiences that may shed light on their Palestinian Arab advocacy and contempt for Israel.

Neutrality in the Face of Evil

All three were neutral in WWII.

Ireland officially stayed out of WWII while cooperating only marginally with the allies. Its top diplomat, Joseph Walshe, Secretary of External Affairs, wrote in 1941 that "small nations like Ireland do not and cannot assume the role of defenders of just causes except their own." Apparently, Dublin forgot that sage advice.

Spain was neutral in name only. Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the dictator of Spain, was a natural ally of Nazis and fascists. Both Hitler's Luftwaffe and Mussolini's Regia Aeronautica helped Franco's side during the Spanish Civil War by bombing Barcelona and Guernica. Later, Franco gave Hitler a list of 6,000 Jews living in Spain. At their famous October 1940 meeting in Hendaye, in occupied France, Franco demanded control of Gibraltar, Morocco, and Algeria after the war as his condition for joining the Axis powers, but Hitler had already promised Algeria to France's Vichy government, so Spain did not join them.

Norway sought to stay out of WWII by declaring neutrality in 1939. An unimpressed Hitler invaded in 1940 and occupied Norway until Germany was defeated in 1945. Under German occupation, Norway's Vidkun Quisling ran a fascist government and made his name synonymous with traitorous collaborator.

Holocaust Inversion

In May, a Spanish politician named Ione Belarra told a session of the Spanish parliament that Israel is "crossing all the red lines and competing with Nazism for the top position in the horror of humanity."

In 2009, Trine Lilleng, a Norwegian diplomat in Saudi Arabia criticized Israel's Operation Cast Lead, writing that, "The grandchildren of Holocaust survivors from World War II are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to them by Nazi Germany."

Ireland's most popular newspaper, The Irish Times, is fond of equating Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto.

Perhaps Spain, Norway, and Ireland have taken to heart the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) rhetoric equating Israel with Nazi Germany, and their joint recognition of "Palestine" is a misguided attempt to atone for the shame brought on by their Nazi-adjacent forebears. They might see their futile diplomacy as a way to erase guilt.

Bound by Antisemitism

Irish, Spanish, and Norwegian diplomacy on behalf of Palestinian Arabs is as phony as today's hipster, keffiyeh-clad Marxists calling for a "global intifada" on college campuses. They are motivated, first and foremost, by hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. The Palestinians are mere pawns in their game.

Spain is among the most antisemitic of European countries and has been so for centuries. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2008, 46% of Spaniards had negative opinions about Jews. That number is likely higher today. In 2009, the ADL reported "an alarming rise in anti-Semitic attitudes" reflected in "viciously anti-Semitic cartoons and articles in Spain's mainstream media ... and opinion polls."

Hanne Nabintu Herland, a Norwegian historian, believes that Norway is "the most anti-Semitic country in the West." While it hasn't always been that way, Herland claims that, "The degree of anti-Israelism on the state level, in the media, in the trade unions and at the universities, colleges and schools is unprecedented in modern Norwegian history."

The Irish love affair with Palestinian Arabs stems from their perceived similar experiences with "imperialism." The government views "Palestinian liberation" as a mirror of its own struggles. As former prime minister Leo Varadkar recently put it, "We see our history in their eyes ... of displacement, of dispossession, national identity questioned or denied, forced emigration, discrimination, and now, hunger." Ireland's new prime minister, Simon Harris, concurs. So too does Sinn Fein, the IRA's "political wing," whose spokesperson said recently that "Ireland is one of the few countries where Palestine and Palestinian issues on the conflict is very much a domestic political issue."

Experiences with Terrorism

The "State of Palestine" that Spain, Norway, and Ireland have recognized will inevitably continue conducting attacks and sponsoring terrorism as long as the State of Israel still exists. Whether under the auspices of a "revitalized Palestinian Authority," or through proxies and allies, violence will continue, especially since the new state's very existence will have come about from the October 7 attack. Therefore, it's fair to ask how Spain, Norway, and Ireland would apply their very different experiences with terrorism to advise their new ally. They would send mixed signals.

For decades, Spain has been the targeted by the Basque separatist terror organization ETA, so one might expect Spaniards to oppose all terrorism. After 9/11, under the government of Jose Maria Asnar, Spanish troops went to Afghanistan and participated in ISAF. Spain was also part of the 49 nations making up the "coalition of the willing" in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. But after the simultaneous bombing of ten trains in Madrid on March 11, 2004, Spain's attitude changed. At first, Asnar blamed ETA, but then Al-Qaeda members calling themselves the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri claimed credit, gloating that their "death squad" had hit Spain because it was "one of the pillars of the crusade alliance." The message added that the bombing was "part of settling old accounts with Spain, the crusader, and America's ally in its war against Islam." Three days after the attack, Asnar lost the election to the Socialist candidate, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who quickly announced that Spanish troops would depart Iraq. Spain has also been targeted by ISIS, and its forces have been deployed in operations against ISIS in Africa and, ironically, back in Iraq.

Ireland, on the other end of the spectrum, has been a prolific producer of terrorists since the 19th century, both the unabashed types like the Fenian Fighters and various iterations of the IRA, as well as terrorists who disguise themselves as politicians – a scam pioneered by Sinn Fein, which is on the rise and predicted to win elections in 2024. A Sinn Fein-led Irish government is likely to overlook terrorism and provide diplomatic cover for Palestinian violence.

The IRA's partnership with the PLO in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Irish people's identification with Palestinian Arabs, weigh heavily into the equation. But it's not only the PLO that has friends in Ireland. When the First Minister of North Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, was recently asked if, like the IRA, "Hamas, although regarded as a terrorist organization by many people around the world is going to eventually have to be a partner for peace," she said yes.

Norway went largely untouched by terrorism for most of its existence. That changed in the 2000s, after a Kurdish Islamist named Mullah Krekar, who came to Norway as a refugee in 1991, founded Ansar al-Islam in Northern Iraq with Al-Qaeda and Taliban members fleeing Afghanistan. Ansar al-Islam also stirred up trouble within Norway, and Krekar has since been deported to Italy for funding jihadists there. In 2011, a native Norwegian named Anders Breivik became one of only two so-called "lone wolf terrorists" to fit the description (the other is Ted Kaczynski) in a massive attack against government buildings targeting government workers and their children that shocked the country. In 2020, Norway's governing coalition collapsed over a debate about repatriating a Norwegian "ISIS bride."

Military Prowess

Should force be required to prop up their state, the Palestinian Arabs are out of luck when it comes to their new benefactors, as none is a particularly awesome military power.

Spain is the most capable of the three with 133,282 active military personnel and a military budget of $23.7 billion. But Spain hasn't been a global military power since the defeat of its "invincible" Armada in 1588. (Curiously, after the Armada's defeat at the Battle of Gravelines, some of the battered ships sailed for Norway while others sailed for Ireland.) And it hasn't even been a regional power since losing the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Norway with its 23,250 active personnel and budget of $7.3 billion, is the second most powerful. However, Norway is hardly a powerhouse, its greatest military victory being the fictional one in Act 5 of Hamlet where young Fortinbras announces, "I have some rights of memory in this kingdom," (5.2.391) and takes over Denmark without firing a shot. But Norway is an economic powerhouse, with the world's largest sovereign wealth fund ($1.7 trillion) that it uses to threaten Israel.

Ireland, of course, is the weakest of the three with a meagre 7,765 active personnel and a budget of just over $837 million – the equivalent of a rounding error in the latest transfer of U.S. weaponry to Ukraine. According to one military expert, "Ireland stands out as the worst-prepared European country to meet any meaningful threat – or even anything less than a meaningful threat." That's as true today as it was in 1394 when Richard II invaded and easily and quickly conquered the island.

Involvement with UNIFIL

In spite of their military deficiencies, when it comes to promoting and protecting anti-Israel Palestinians, all three countries are active participants in the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), created March 1978 by UN Resolution 425. UNIFIL is yet another U.N. effort to prevent Israel from defeating its enemies. In October 2000, Hezbollah kidnapped three Israeli soldiers across the border, and UNIFIL troops hid the evidence. UNIFIL is charged with preventing Hezbollah from receiving smuggled weapons. Its 46-year history hasn't inspired anyone to say "mission accomplished."

Norway has long been part of UNIFIL, with 800 troops committed to the original deployment of 5,000 total. Irish troops were also part of the original deployment. Spain has been active in UNIFIL since 2006. Currently both Spain and Ireland have troops committed to UNIFIL, 681 and 338 respectively. According to La Moncloa, in 2022 "the UN Secretary-General select[ed] a Spanish general as the new head of mission and commander of UNIFIL. He will command a contingent of more than 10,000 Blue Helmets and 800 civilians from 46 countries."

Diplomatic Pretensions

The governments in Spain, Norway, and Ireland wish to be seen as global deal-makers. For Spain and Norway, it would be a resumption of their diplomatic roles in the 1990s, and for Ireland it would amount to a new role on the world stage.

Faced with Nazi Germany, Spain, Norway, and Ireland sought neutrality, but when faced with Hamas, they are far from neutral. In fact, after October 7, and especially after South Africa's case against Israel at the ICJ, they have been firmly on Hamas's side against Israel.

Ireland belatedly recognized the State of Israel in 1964, but in 1980 it became the first European nation to call for Europe to recognize the "State of Palestine."

On May 27, Spain's foreign minister praised the ICJ and announced his intention "to take the right measures to enforce that decision" if Israel does not comply with its demands for a ceasefire. He followed up his empty threat by claiming that he will "ask the other 26 [EU] partners to declare the backing of the International Court of Justice."

Norway, on the other hand, is lately strutting around like the cock of the walk, taking credit for past deals, pretending that Oslo was a success, and promoting the two-state solution.

Norway's government website refers to Oslo as "The Accord that was to astound the world." Among its self-congratulatory narrative, one learns that "Since the signing of the Oslo Peace Accord, Norway has received much praise from the parties," and "Norway frequently receives requests to act as a midwife, to coordinate assistance, observers or meetings."

Just two and a half weeks before October 7, Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt, wrote in the Arab News that "time is about to run out for the two-state solution and a viable Palestinian state." She was right in ways she could not imagine. But her solution is all wrong, calling for "renewed, joint efforts to promote a just peace settlement" before the defeated party had acknowledged defeat. Her model, naturally, is "The [Oslo] accords, which ... negotiated with the help of Norwegian diplomats, represented a historic milestone."

In a statement published in Politico on May 30, Jonas Gahr Støre, the prime minister of Norway, showed that he hasn't learned from the past. He wrote that, "Norway has been consistent in its belief that there will be no peace in the Middle East without a two-state solution." He crowed that "Norway's recognition [of "Palestine"] is a contribution to this" and that "Norway's now cooperating closely with Saudi Arabia, and we are working to mobilize European support for the plan."

While Norway has dropped the neutrality pose that enabled it to become enmeshed in the "peace process," its government clearly has plans to maintain its role, perhaps with another Oslo Accord. It will have its cheerleaders at the New York Times, which claims preposterously that Norway's recognition of a Palestinian state "carried added significance because it hosted the clandestine meetings in 1993 that led to the Oslo Accords, the framework for peace that came close to resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians" (emphasis added).

In fact, the Oslo Accords exacerbated the conflict. Norway's namesake treaty was a fiasco that lent legitimacy to the PLO, a terrorist organization, built it up, armed it to the teeth, and implanted it as a permanent fixture in a way that it could never achieve on its own. Norway should have learned the mistake of Oslo. The Israelis certainly have.

The Spanish, Irish, and Norwegian foreign ministers (left to right, Jose Manuel Albares, Micheal Martin, and Espen Barthe Eide) posed for journalists after their May 27 announcement in Brussels, hands touching in a "Three Musketeers" salute, faces barely able to contain their triumphant confidence. But the joke is on them. They have accomplished nothing, these Statesmen of Squat. The photograph is in league with those of Madeline Albright's champagne toast with Kim Jong Il after negotiating a deal to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear bombs, and Neville Chamberlain's on the tarmac west of London, waving a piece of paper with Hitler's promise "to assure the peace of Europe."

Instead of recognizing the "State of Palestine," Ireland, Spain, and Norway should recognize their own limitations. Time for them to stop trying to punch above their weight through the cheap trick of breaking ranks with the EU. The rest of the world should recognize the trio as diplomatic toddlers, more interested in winning attention for themselves than helping anyone else.

Reposted from the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

IPT Senior Fellow A.J. Caschetta is a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum where he is also a Milstein fellow.