A lot of bad news has been coming out of Europe in recent months. Jews are leaving France in record numbers as they no longer feel safe in the land of “liberté, égalité and fraternité”. In Britain there is clear anti-Semitism within the Labour party and some of its leaders seem to be competing against each other as to who can make the most anti-Israel statements. And of course, in November last year, the European Union issued its infamous labelling guidelines for Israeli goods and services from the disputed territories beyond the “green line” in Israel.
These are all well known facts for my friends in Israel and among world Jewry at large. They make some of the most “popular” news stories which attract much media attention. However, the more negative the story is, the more newsworthy it seems to be. Good news is simply ignored. Yes, the European glass might be close to half-empty but it is not yet empty – it might even be half-full, depending on how you look at it.
Here are some news stories that you may have missed in your newsfeed in the last few months, simply because not many media outlets have bothered to report about them.
In December, the European Commission appointed its first ever “Coordinator against anti-Semitism” as EU leaders warned against the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. Many European leaders have also spoken out against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as a form of new anti-Semitism which is in breach of international law, with Britain actually passing legislation against BDS in February.
France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has repeatedly equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has often clearly stated that we cannot hide what is clearly anti-Semitism behind the “trendy” label of anti-Zionism. Lo and behold, even the Foreign Minister of Sweden Margot Wallström and the EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini have joined the choir and come out against the BDS movement.
More recently, just a few weeks ago, at the United Nations headquarters in New York – which for issues concerning Israel is considered a hopeless case by most – more than 30 UN ambassadors from different countries came together to celebrate the first ever Passover Seder within the UN headquarters building. The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, was given the seat of honour, as UN ambassadors, ministers and senior UN officials sat around him to hear about the story of the Exodus. A number of ambassadors even took part in the ceremony, which was co-hosted by the European Coalition for Israel (ECI) and the Israeli Mission to the UN, and they actually read aloud texts from the Haggadah.
Presenting the truth about Israel seems to have made a difference as, a few days later, an Israel-bashing resolution which was expected to be presented at the UN Security Council on the eve of the Jewish Passover was “miraculously” rejected. A modern day Exodus story, which was unfortunately completely ignored by the Jewish media.
The events of the last few months, both in Paris and Brussels, may not have made Europe any safer for Jewish people, but they have opened up the eyes of many to the reality of terrorism and to what Israel has had to live with since its first day independence in 1948. Suddenly, the airport in Brussels is starting to remind us of Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, with the only exception that Ben Gurion feels safer.
Just a few months after the EU issued its labelling directive, Europe is drawing closer to Israel. European leaders know that they need Israeli intelligence and know-how, but Europe’s interest is not only limited to security. The relationship between Israel and Europe is much deeper than this.
With the European economy still struggling, EU-member states are eager to learn from the start up nation. In our recent ECI Annual Policy Conference in the European Parliament in Brussels, this again became crystal clear as Israeli and European experts shared their experiences on how Israeli innovation promotes peace and can benefit Europe.
Pro-Israel advocates in Europe have never had a more attractive message to convey. Whereas Israeli innovation promotes peace and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians alike, the BDS movement only breeds segregation, violence and anti-Semitism. A recent survey quoted by the newly appointed European Commission Coordinator against anti-Semitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, shows that anti-Semitic incidents increase on college campuses where BDS events have been held.
For any sane person, (and there are still many sane people left in Europe), the choice between a repeat of the 1930´s campaign of hate and demonisation of Jewish people and the embracing of a future with innovation and peace for everyone is morally clear. Yes, there are many negative trends in Europe, but the glass is not even half-empty. If one takes the time to examine all the facts, the glass will start to look much more than half-full.
Our role as journalists and opinion shapers is to recognize the realities of both negative and positive trends at the same time. As the old journalistic saying goes: “bad news sells better than good news”. But let me add that good news is also news — even when the glass is only half-full. And good news deserves our attention, if we want to be fair in our reporting.