Former Israeli ambassador to U.S. says anti-Semitism is thriving in Europe
Decision to label goods Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights hurt not help Palestinians, he says
Editor’s Note: Michael B. Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States and a member of Knesset, is the author of “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide” (Random House, 2015). The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
While hosting Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama could acknowledge the fact that the Golan can no longer be exchanged for peace with Syria because Syria no longer exists. He could recognize Israel’s immense contributions to the region’s security and the dangers that increasingly jeopardize it. By backing Israel’s historic claims, the United States could send a potent message to the entire Middle East – that the Golan Heights will never again be a battlefield.
Take, for example, the European Union’s recent decision to label Jewish goods from Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and the Golan Heights.
There are more than 200 territorial disputes in the world, but Europe does not label products as made in Chinese-occupied Tibet or Turkish-occupied Cyprus. The Palestinian Authority has twice – in 2000 and 2008 – rejected Israeli offers of statehood in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and almost all of the West Bank. Instead, Palestinian leaders have ordered or encouraged terrorist attacks that have killed more than 1,500 Israelis and maimed many thousands more.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses even to negotiate with Israel. Yet Europe does not label Palestinian products, only those made by Jews. And not only by Jews in Judea and Samaria, but in east Jerusalem, home to more than half of the city’s Jews. Imagine punishing Jews for living in their own ancestral capital.
Most indefensibly, Europe will also label Jewish products from the Golan Heights, where there are no Palestinians at all. Rather, there is a small population of Druze, growing numbers of who are opting for Israeli citizenship. The Golan, which has been under Israel’s control more than twice as long as it was under Syria’s, is essential for preventing the Syrian civil war from spreading south into Jordan and Egypt. So what does Europe hope to achieve by labeling the Golan’s fine Israeli wines – and forcing Israel to effectively cede the territory to ISIS?
Sadly, so determined is Europe to single out the Jews that it manages to hurt the very Palestinians it purports to help. Tens of thousands of them are employed by Jewish-owned factories in the West Bank. Once these Israeli products are labeled, they will not be purchased or even stocked by most Europeans. The result will be a de facto boycott that will bankrupt dozens of Israeli companies and render their Palestinian employees – who earn far more than the average West Bank rate – unemployed.
But Europe’s labeling harms not only Jews and Palestinians, but also Europe itself. The vacuum created by America’s retreat from the Middle East is being filled by Russia and other actors. Europe has the opportunity to step in and play a leading diplomatic role. But by following such a biased policy, Europe risks forfeiting the evenhandedness necessary for effective mediation.
A historic opportunity will be lost.
So, too, will Europe’s ability to fight anti-Semitism. Recently, France and Italy marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day by hosting the President of Iran, a country that holds a cartoon competition featuring works trivializing or denying the Holocaust. And while mourning its murder of 6 million Jews, European leaders eye multibillion-dollar contracts with an Iran that pledges to destroy Israel and its 6 million Jews.
Whether by Sweden’s foreign minister condemning Israel merely for defending its citizens from terror, or France’s foreign minister threatening to recognize Palestine unless Israel participates in his conference to recognize Palestine, Europe seems obsessed with Jews. Unfortunately, that obsession – characterized by the singling out and demonizing Jews while embracing their murderers – keeps European anti-Semitism thriving.