More than 40% of citizens 16 years and older in seven European Union countries agree with the statement that Israel is carrying out a war of extermination against the Palestinians. This can be extrapolated from a 2011 study undertaken by the University of Bielefeld on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The latter is associated with the German Socialist Party. Three other studies in Germany, Norway and Switzerland respectively, yield similar data. In the first two, people were asked whether they agreed with the statement that, “Israel behaves toward the Palestinians like the Nazis behaved toward the Jews.”
On July 8th, Raphael Ahren published an article in the Times of Israel titled, “Jewish Life in Europe – Dying a Slow Death?” He quotes extensively from my book Demonizing Israel and the Jews. There I write, on the basis of the above studies, that there are 150 million adult anti-Semites in the European Union, if we apply the E.U.’s own working definition of anti-Semitism. Ahren also mentions the opinion of Professor Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University, who concludes that there are 150 million idiots in the European Union.
For Israel however, it is irrelevant whether such a huge number of Europeans are anti-Semites or idiots. Were the medieval Christians in Europe who falsely believed that the Jews in their generation were responsible for the killing of Jesus many centuries before, anti-Semites or idiots? It is not important how they are labeled. They drove the Jews out of their countries, or murdered them. Were those who believed Nazi propaganda that Jews were “sub-human, bacteria and vermin,” anti-Semites or idiots? For the Jews who were murdered, this was irrelevant too.
Let us assume that a poll is taken in a number of E.U. countries inquiring whether people agree with the assertion that Germans regularly have sex with their own children. It is unlikely that the figures of those who agree with this statement reach anywhere near the aforementioned figures about Israel committing genocide against the Palestinians. If one asserts that many Europeans are idiots, then they are apparently selective idiots.
There is good reason for this discriminatory idiocy. Continuous extreme incitement has created a climate in which a huge number of Europeans are willing to believe the most horrendous accusations against Israel. There is no similar incitement about equally non-existing German deviant sexual behavior.
For European leaders, the aforementioned studies could have extremely negative consequences. Therefore, the dominant policy in Europe seems to be that these findings should be ignored, denied, or whitewashed. One might summarize this attitude as, “this shouldn’t be true, therefore it cannot be true.” The first consequence of an acceptance of the number of 150 million anti-Semites would be its impact on Europe’s image. European propaganda over past decades has presented the E.U. as a “humanistic and cultured” continent. If such a large part of its population holds false, medieval and demonic ideas about Israel, then it is foremost a rather ugly conglomeration of many people with a criminal view about others.
This is only one result of the studies – coupled with much anecdotal material – about the attitudes held by many Europeans toward Israel. A further consequence would be that an investigation is necessary to analyze how these massive demonic views came into existence. One should understand however, that there is a difference between how medieval Christian anti-Semitic hate-mongers and later the Nazis and their allies, created an atmosphere for viewing Jews as “absolute evil” of their times. Christian inciters said explicitly that the Jews were responsible for deicide – the killing of God. Nazis openly accused the Jews of being “sub-human.”
Today’s demonization of Israel is practiced in a very different way. Had one asked contemporary senior inciters against Israel whether they agreed with the statement that Israel behaves like Nazis, many would have answered in the negative.
Yet, they helped create the atmosphere in which many other Europeans began to believe that Israel behaves like Nazis. This was done in a multitude of ways. One was claiming that “Israeli settlements are a crucial obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.” At the same time, many inciters were silent about the frequent glorification of the murderers of Israeli civilians by the Palestinian Authority and the call for genocide of Jews in the Hamas platform.
The next step was claiming that “resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the key to quiet in the Middle East.” After two Egyptian revolutions, frequent terror attacks by Iraqi Shiites and Sunni, more than 90,000 massacred Syrians and many others elsewhere in the Middle East, is it finally politically correct to call some European anti-Israel leaders mentally challenged?
One can present here only a small sampling of how extreme anti-Israel beliefs within large parts of Europe’s population have been shaped. Frequent condemnations of Israel, combined with ignoring much of the widespread criminality in parts of the Muslim world is another one. So is emphasizing predominantly negative news about Israel in the media.
There is also an almost endless list of lies, accusations and exaggerations against Israel by leading Europeans. Furthermore, various types of false arguments are used such as double standards and phony moral equivalence. Another favorite fallacy is scapegoating. For instance, one can easily check which leaders blamed Israel when Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007. None of these fallacies are hugely damaging by themselves. However, together, they have created a climate in which so many Europeans believe that Israelis behave like Nazis.
An investigation into the origins of this climate would be the start of a very problematic road for the E.U. How should one act against European inciters, the more so as many come from the ‘respectable mainstream?’ How should the E.U. change direction with the aim of ending its own frequent incitement? And most importantly regarding Israel – if no concrete action is taken, will the Europeans advance from holding criminal views to outright criminality – as they did in the previous century?
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a Board Member and former Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His book Demonizing Israel and the Jews can be found on Amazon.com