Europe & the changing Middle East

Europe is not a rational interlocutor for anybody. I say this because in a avery honorable contest I heard someone say that we we can conquer its benevolence if we choose a different path on the territories question. It’s not true. I honestly think that the fixation on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and the total misconception that accompanies it, is a fundamental aspect, even more, one of the routes of Europe’s general inability to act rationally in front of all the crisis of the Middle East, and there is nothing in sight that says that this can be changed, unfortunately.
Let me add that the massive rate of unexpected anti-Semitism is a result, by and large, of this misconception. It has spread like a cancer, and this too is, to a large extent, is a consequence of the misinterpretation of the Middle East reality. I waas recently in a tv show where a journalist told me that the aggression to the koser market in Paris, after what happened in Gaza, was a logical consequence of the fact that the israeli soldiers “kill” and I quote literally” the children while they are sleeping”.

When Europe thinks Middle East, has a completeòy wrong judjment about Gaza, Hamas, terrorism, antisiemtism, war of defense, everything is upside down in its head. According to recent surveys the 63 per cent of the Polish, the 48 per cent of the Germans, the 41 per cent of the British, the 42 per cent of the Hungarians the 37 per cen of the italians consider that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” 60 per cent of the Italians and Belgians, 48 per cent of the Europeans imagine that “the Israelis behave toward the Palestinians like Nazis toward the Jews”.

Anti-Semitism is just Israelophobia, a component of the common misconception that sees Hamas as a victim and Gaza as Czechoslovakia invaded by Hitler. It willingly ignores the problems of any asymmetric war and disregards Hamas call to exterminate the Jews. There is a conceptual hole about extreme islam, terrorism, etc that is now putting Europe life danger. In front of the several conflicts and fragmentation of the Middle East is prey to a total nervous breakdown, a sort of depression that leads to inactivity, no pill can take care of it. Since the arab springs, Europe cannot count anymore on friendly leaders. Even if they were problematic like Qaddafi, who nevertheless assured oil supply, or Mubarak, stable friendly and moderate, today Europe is in a bad situation after having applauded the crowds of people that where immediately identified as “democrats” while that was not certainly thei main characteristic.

The religious and jihadist aspect was ignored until it showed its face. Egypt that now is luckely in the hands of Sisi fell in the ahnds of the Muslim Brotherhood, but Europe fallowed the order of Obama t consider them moderate. The rebels in Siria were ignored even if death was asking its toll in hundred of thousands, innocent people, children, untill the extremist overcame the rebel antiassad. As a consequence, oil is today in hostile hands, price instability creates fear. Europe is geografically in the middle of the isis storm, welcomes ships of refugees of dubious identity, enormous needs, and Islamic faith. The european public opinion is astonished by beheadings and unprecedented atrocities committed by ISIS while Europe’s problem with ISIS is becoming phisical. On February 15, Isis released a video showing its murderers killing 21 Egyptian Christians on those same Libyan shores from which each week thousands of people set sail for Europe. One of the murderers points with the finger beyond the sea, toward Europe and says “We will conquer Rome by the will of Allah”.

Refugees from Syria and Iraq join the people that embark in those dangerous journey: in 2014, 200thousand people sought to reach Europe, compared to the 60thousand of the previous year according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, (5600 in the first two months, double in the same nonths of 2014). The UK counterterrorism think tank Quilliam recently translated an Isis Paper explaining the strategy toward Libya. ISIS plans to take control of its coastline and infiltrate among migrants’ boats in order to sneak into Europe. Also, ISIS fighters from Syria join the refugees crossing the Syria-Turkey border on their way to Greece, the Balkans, and then Western Europe.

Once they enter Europe, they ask for political asylum and then they will freely travel in Shengen Europe without borders.Europe’s immigration politics shows now a high price. Asylum seekers cannot be expelled, and often it is difficult to prove the identity of the asylum seeker. Moreover, family reunification also facilitates immigration; in this respect, Catholic associations have done a lot to support the immigration of people they hope to convert one day.

When Europe realized the Libyan danger, Renzi and Hollande spoke about military intervention. It was a surprise, the parliament was ready for a decisive discussion. But at the end of the day, everybody including the UN, stepped back to “political solutions”. While Sisi was the only one asking for a UN resolution authorizing an international military coalition, Europe had already stepped back.

Interestingly, Hamas threatened Italy, warning that any intervention in a Muslim country like Libya would be considered a new crusade against Muslims. This didn’t deter Italy from approving in the Parliament, as so many other european state, a motion in favour of a Palestinian State, even if much milder that France or Sweden. Italy is certainly the friendlier among the state members of the Eu, there was a large group of parlamentariand who didn’t want the discussion, but it didn’t work, it cannot work. Even immediately after the antisiemits terrorist attack, after that islamic jihadism is killing in the street of Europe, the fear of clashing with the vision of globalism, the intimidation of the tradional politically correct fear of falling into islmofobia on one side brings also the european leader to repeat that terror is not part of Islam, on the other to approve a palestinian state in every parliament. It’s two branches of the same tree, the tree of defeat.

Still, Europe is now becoming aware of being in a great new danger, the one of the homegrown islamist terrorist who come back from Siria and Iraq. 5000 EU citizens are current or former ISIS fighters. Very often they are second or even third generation of homegrown French, Belgian, British, Italian – young, European people who search their identity not on the path of integration, but in joining the war for an Islamic world dominated by sharia. It’s the results of their frustration, the desidere of being someone, to look like the image that they see posted in the cruel videos where a world of their one appear like a Holliwood movie. Jihadi John is a middle class young man from London, and cutting heads is for him is an immense stage reality show, where he is the protagonist.

Intelligence services of European countries coordinate to impede terrorists from returning, or leaving Europe. But in both cases this means a restriction of the principle of freedom of movement, a cornerstone of Europe’s human rights. And Europe is very worried about developing new policies or adopt new legislations that would change its moral characteristic. Untill today, Europe refuses to relate the problem of jihadist Islam, its very hard while the numbers of muslim are growing everyday, and the moral global standard says that all religions are the same. While Europe still hopes in a negotiated solution, even with the most extreme enemies inside and abroad, Europe cannot even imagine a refusal to negotiate.

Everybody can do it, Abu mazen even if he alway refused to get to an aggrement is the negotiator our excellence, Hamas is (for istance D’Alema repeated it a lot) also a possible interlocutor, Hezbollah are democratically elected and therefore viable for aggreements, Iran is the most desidered interlocutor for an aggrement. It’s impossible for Europe to recognize the ideological mindset rooted in religion, which repudiates any negotiated agreement. Its post second world war ideology rejects the use of force and national ambitions. Still it approves and help the national ambitions of the Palestinians! Europe always makes the soft choice, even when it’s self evidently impossible. Denmark has developed in the port city of Aarhus a program for integrating returning jihadists. Just few days ago, an ISIS fighter has been welcomed after joining ISIS in Syria. He became the hero of the Danish Muslims: the municipality found him a home and a job hoping he will be a peace-loving Danish citizen.

But terrorists come back and keep fighting, like the terrorist of the March 2012 Toulouse massacre, the Charlie Hebdo and hyper kosher attacks this year. Many are connected, even if they never left, to the jihadist organized net and Europe’s. Obama’s refusal to identify the Islamic danger has certainly influenced very much the erasmian tolerant attitude toward jihadism, the idea that it is hopefully a “random phenomena”. Europe feels the hit, but its ideologycal and political characteristic create a situazion where it’s hard to recognize it for what it is. So it is for the Iranian question, and I hipe that the news that a few days ago told us that Iran has a new missile just devoted to reaching Europe, is raising some alarm. Since November 2013, together with the P5, the European Union has been among the most willingly negotiators. Baroness Ashton has developed a trustful relationship with the Iranian delegation and with Mr. Zarif personally. Now, even if Kerry says that France and the US are on the same page, since February 2014 the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius showed some sign of disagreement from the American supine acceptance of Obama’s line.

The discovery that the US was holding secret talks with Iran gave Paris the opportunity to adfirm itself internationally and to rebuke Washington for backing down on bombing Syria. France, which aspires to play a major, independent international role, as happened in Libya and Mali, is traditionally inclined to oppose the US. Its interests in Iran have become minor: its business with Iran has dramatically diminished from 4 billion dollars in 2013 to only 500 millions last year. Probably, Fabius also figured out that it could be rewarding to back Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan’s opposition to the American deal. This is certainly a good idea, and it’s hard to say if it will hold. France has reportedly sent a counterproposal to Washington in February. Still, Mogherini, Ashton’s successor, declares that the discussions are progressing, and she trust their success.

As a matter of fact, Europe shows sign of uncertainty in any field of foreign policy, doesn’t have a foreign policy, never had. The only topic Europe feels so much confident about, is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and as I said, I think that Europe’s conceptual troubles are rooted in its misconception regarding Israel, the Palestinians, Gaza, and Hamas. Europe’s blind approach and aggressive policies toward Israel stem from the erroneous, obtuse consideration that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of the Middle-East turmoil. Everything is about the “occupation”, the “occupied territories”, and the “settlements”. No mention of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli incitement to hatred or terrorist apology. The attitude toward the recent Gaza war show the lack of international understanding and political intelligence: it’s quite a phenomena!

An entire continent has displayed its hatred toward a democratic state fighting a legitimate war of self defense against a dictatorial, theocratic and murderous organization that sympathizes with Daesh in Libya, receives money from Qatar and Iran, marry out 10 year-old girls to adult men, persecute homosexuals and Christians. THis is the underling political approach so how can we pretend Europe understand Hezbollah, Isis, Iran? By considering the Europe’s Middle-East policies over the last 40 years, we see that Europe has substantially invested in building relations with an imaginary Arab and an Islamic world where the union of the three monoteistic religions must triumph in name of equality and showing how colonialism has been superated by the same powers that practiced it.

European politics toward the Middle East have always been a mix of opportunism and self-proclaimed anti-colonialism, with a consistent dose of anti-Americanism and Lawrence of Arabia ambitions. The Venice Agreement of 1980 sanctioned this policy. The then 9 members of the ECC and the PLO convened to declare the rights of the Palestinian people. In the same time the intellectual were falling in love with the iranian knomeinist revolution.

It was also the worst period of the paletsinian terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jews in Munich, Paris, and Rome and underground government were making failing aggreements with terrorist organization, like the PLO, to avoid attacks on their soil. The doors of Arab and Muslim immigration were opened. Giulio Andreotti, after professor La Pira, the very famous catholic mayor of Florence, gave the lid, by developing the myth of Euro-Mediterranean relations, with business and research institutions.

The Jewish question, while the hostility toward Israel was develping was always mentioned as a moral issue connected to the memory of the Shoah, every European state adopted the politics of “never again” and it took a long time before the Berlin Osce conference connected antisemitism with antisraelianism, in 2004. The working definition nevertheless suddenly misteriuorsly disappeared, it doesn’ existed anymore on the web site of EU Fundamental Rights Agency. Yesterday, after the long sequence of antisemitic attacks, the text has not been resumed, but Mogherini has just announced yesterday a new commission to fight antisiemtism, and in my opinion it will be another occasion for organizing study travels to Auschwitz, school prograns about the past, knowledge of the jewsih heritage.

Nothing bad in this, but the question is not here: the problem is to fight harshly and decively Israelophobia, therefore face the problem of islamic extremism, and the chaine brings just where Europe doesn’t want to go: fighting jihadism, racist muslim attitude, terrorism, knowing the story and the reality of Israel, and of the middle east. Until now, I have not heard from one single European leader, (except the French Prime Minister De Valle) a clear accusation of the “israelophobia” that characterizes the new anti-Semitism becuase this would lead to a direct accusation of the large Islamic community that infests Europe with its anti-Semitic hate.

The infection spread from London to Paris to Greece, there is also a strong alarm about the neofascist and neonazist groups that infest Hungary and Greece and have some propagine in England and France.

But the problem is the one that the mother of Ilam Halimi tried to comunicate to police when her son was kndnapped. She said immedately that it was an act of antisiemtism, but the police didn’t believe her. At the end they found his body tortured by a gand of muslim fanatics gang. In the Swedish city of Malmö, one in 10 citizens have Middle-East or African origin; ethnic Swedes are no more the majority among 15 year-old people. A journalist that wore a Star of David was insulted, “Jewish shit; Satan Jew”. 60 thousand Jews have left Europe in the past, about 7000 from France last year, from Ukraine 5840.

While Europe asks its jewish to stay, the bds infests cultural and economic istitutions. The 2013 guidelines ban cooperation with Israeli entities beyond the Green Line. Holland has adopted them and even Romania then declared it would not send workers to the settlements. The most recent cases are stunning. British academics’ endorsed the boycott against Israel. Germany’s government refused to label the BDS as anti-Semitism because there is no academic, shared definition of the phenomena. A Belgian doctor said to a Jewish patient “go to Gaza” and another used the word “Gazacaust” referring to the war.

A German judge ruled that the arson of a synagogue during the demonstrations last summer was not an act of anti-Semitism but only criticism to the Gaza War. Ugly enough, the recognition of the Palestinian state became like a basic duty for the European Parliament. Europe doesn’t have a foreign politics, it doesn’t have an army, abhors conflict and identities, hates nationalities, has a deep difficulty in dealing with a situation where violence is involved, doesn’t like to have to discuss or criticize something that has to do with ethnicity or religion. It’s body is fat and slow, there are 754 EU parliamentarians, 14-15 thousands people move from Brussels to Strasbourg for the plenary sessions four days a month. There are 29 commissioners and approximately 25 thousand employees.

This costs about 140 billion Euros every year. On top of this, there is the enormous diplomatic European service. Salaries range from 2300 to 16000 Euro a month. Europe’s hymn is a part of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, no european but the germans can sing it. Its manifesto, the perpetually quoted Ventotene Manifesto, written by three prisoners, a social, a liberal, and a former communist confined in the islamnd of Ventotene during Fascism, is a text that nobody read, but if you read it you will find that t nation state is described like a monster intended to be the continuation of the Nazi degeneration and that the European revolution must “be socialist”. Instead of developing a constitution and politics, Europe has developed a gigantic legislation with 150 thousand rules minutely prescriptive of how lamps or cucumbers should look like to be sold in the market.

The Council of Europe produces rules that promote a convoluted, pathologic idea of human rights that can reach the protection of terrorist ideas in name of freedom of thought and polygamy in name of multiculturalism, They are very ingaged in rule that promote large smoke free areas and green energy, and, simultaneously to protect burkas and excision, to eliminate the Christmas tree or the Chanukah in state schools, which nevertheless offer halal food.

Europe is regretfully predictable. When the Arab Spring came about, the European intelligentsia reacted as in 1979 toward the Khomenei revolution in Iran. The hope for democracy in the Arab spring country was totally delusional. In a speech in the European Parliament as the deputy president of the commision of foreign affairs. I took my three minutes to ask for a reciprocal attitude politics, “let’s support them if they will force veil the veil on their women, apply sharia and cancel the peace with Israel”.

A benevolent and well-known official shut down my request. He said: “We have to respect their traditions, they chose them democratically. Obama’s approach was not that different, while dialoging with the Muslim Brotherhood. We followed through. Europe’s complex intellectual and sentimental relations with America triggered a dreadful process: anti-Americanism led to anti-Zionism, which exacerbates anti-Semitism; Obamism strengthened Europe’s defeatism and relativism.

Europe dreamed of a Mediterranean sea surrounded by friendly Arab nations, which will offer oil, holiday beaches, even if ruled by corrupted leaders. Berlusconi laughed about Gheddafi, but invited him to Rome with red carpets and an incredible conference of women that he wanted to convert to islam. They were all offerend a lesson on Coran by the Libyan leader. Now, the new situation of the Middle East, while the same can be said about the Crimea crisis, show its weakness. Its political incapability is striking in front of the Christian genocide by Isis. Other Christians, namely the Europeans, should stop it.

The dream of a friendly neighborhood has turned into a nightmare either inside european borders and on the sea. Europe must have a foreign politics, if not now when? First it has leave behind its hate toward Israel,by overcoming the obtuse idea that solving the conflict with the Palestinian is the key to a general peace. Secondly, it should support Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan which have already understood the need for a new Middle East. Ideologically, it should define the danger, and accept the idea that sometimes defending one’s national, religious and ethnic identity in front of a corrosive enemy is a duty. More money should be invested in a common defense structure, instead of financing by billions NGO out of control connected to jihadist extreme organization.


Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs, IDC Herzliya, March 15, 2015

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.
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