Sunday 30 September 2007

On Philo-Philosemitism, by Jacques Berlinerblau

Jacques Berlinerblau, of Georgetown University, has written an important essay entitled On Philo-Semitism. Here is an extract:

Jews have sensed, often correctly, that Christian philo-Semites aspire to convert them. Economic philo-Semites, they suspect, are solely and selfishly interested in material advantages. Liberal or secular anti-Semites seek to eliminate Judaism on the backstroke by eliminating religion in general. Atoning philo-Semites simply want to assuage their own guilt, and Jews do not feel that it is their responsibility to provide a shoulder to cry on. Kitschy philo-Semitism risks associating Judaism with lowbrow art of the most banal variety. Mindful of these problems, many Jews reject philo-semitism altogether.

But where does that leave Jews? It leaves them perennially suspicious. It leaves them incapable of understanding one fairly obvious reading of the Book of Ruth. It leaves them incapable of making sense of the Talmudic adage that “all the righteous of the gentiles have a portion in the world to come.” In short, it leaves Jews radically alone in this world. It shows them to be as ill-disposed toward the other as anti-Semitic propaganda insists that they are.

Are there any kinds of philo-Semitism that can pass muster? I would suggest two legitimate forms. The first construes philo-Semitism as anti-anti-Semitism, nothing more, nothing less. It consists of no hyperbolic fondness for Jews, but rather only a conviction that Judeophobia is morally wrong and must be combated. It may acknowledge Jews as different, but it understands that they are neither better nor worse for that difference. The second is intellectual philo-Semitism. This is the project that studies Jewish texts and interpretations of those texts. It looks at what Jewish thinkers made of these works across the span of civilization. And since the old adage about two Jews, three opinions is empirically verifiable, intellectual philo-Semitism comes to understand in the clearest possible terms what Jewish difference is and why it is so central to the survival, vitality, and uniqueness of Judaism. Such an approach invariably recognizes that Jews are not one thing. Indeed, their extreme heterogeneity makes the irrationality of liking or hating all of them easy to discern.

In closing, let me note that although a considerable amount has been written about philo-Semitism, I have yet to see a researcher suggest what the deeper relevance of the discussion might be. In my view, the burgeoning debate points to a congeries of questions that scratch at some of the most sensitive wounds in the Jewish psyche. Those who probe this issue are often asking about the existential place of Jews in the world.

They ponder whether gentiles are truly ready to accept Jews qua Jews. They ask if non-Jews can ever be trusted. And they wonder if the chosen people are really the inveterate pariahs that the history and historiography of anti-Semitism suggest they have always been.
Jacques Berlinerblau holds separate doctorates in ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literatures and in Sociology. He is currently the director of the Program for Jewish Civilization and Visiting Professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University.
Published in January 2007 by the PROGRAM FOR JEWISH CIVILIZATION,
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Saturday 29 September 2007

The 'Israel Lobby' Myth, by George P. Shultz

Israel is a free, democratic, open, and relentlessly self-analytical place. To hear harsh criticism of Israel's policies and leaders, listen to the Israelis. So questioning Israel for its actions is legitimate, but lies are something else. Throughout human history, they have been used not only to vilify but to establish a basis for cruel and inhuman acts. The catalog of lies about Jews is long and astonishingly crude, matched only by the suffering that has followed their promulgation.

Defaming the Jews by disputing their rightful place among the peoples of the world has been a long-running, well-documented, and disgraceful series of episodes across history. Again and again a time has come when legitimate criticism slips across an invisible line into what might be called the "badlands," a place where those who should be regarded as worthy adversaries in debate are turned into scapegoats, targets, all-purpose objects of blame.

In America, we protect all speech, even the most hurtful lies. We allow a virtual free-for-all by which laws are adopted, enforced, and interpreted. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent yearly to influence this process; thousands of groups vie for influence. Among these are Jewish groups that have come under renewed criticism for being part of an all-powerful "Israel lobby," most notably in a book published this week by Profs. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

Jewish groups are influential. They also largely agree that the United States should support Israel. But the notion that they have anything like a uniform agenda and that U.S. policy in Israel and the Middle East is the result of this influence is simply wrong.

One choice. Some critics seem overly impressed with the way of thinking that says to itself, "Since there is a huge Arab Islamic world out there with all the oil, and it is opposed to this tiny little Israel with no natural resources, then realistically the United States has to be on the Arab side and against Israel on every issue, and since this isn't the case, there must be some underhanded Jewish plot at work." This is a conspiracy theory, pure and simple.

Another tried and true method for damaging the well-being and security of the Jewish people and the State of Israel is a dangerously false analogy. Witness former President Jimmy Carter's book Palestine—Peace Not Apartheid. Here the association on the one hand is between Israel's existentially threatened position and the measures it has taken to protect its population from terrorist attacks, driven by an ideology bent on the complete eradication of the State of Israel, and, on the other, the racist oppression of South Africa's black population by the white Boer regime.

The tendency of mind that lies behind such repulsive analogies remains and is reinforced by the former president's views, spread across his book, which come down on the anti-Israel side of every case. These false analogies stir up and lend legitimacy to more widely based movements that take the same dangerous direction.

Anyone who thinks that Jewish groups constitute a homogeneous "lobby" ought to spend some time dealing with them. For example, my decision to open a dialogue with Yasser Arafat after he met certain conditions evoked a wide spectrum of responses from the government of Israel, its political parties, and American Jewish groups who weighed in on one side or the other. Other examples in which the United States rejected Israel's view of an issue, or the view of the American Jewish community, include the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and President Reagan's decision to go to the cemetery at Bitburg, Germany.

The United States supports Israel not because of favoritism based on political pressure or influence but because the American people, and their leaders, say that supporting Israel is politically sound and morally just.

We are a great nation. Mostly, we make good decisions. We are not babes in the woods. We act in our own interests. And when we mistakenly conclude from time to time—as we will—that an action or policy is in America's interest, we must take responsibility for the mistake.

So, on every level, those who blame Israel and its Jewish supporters for U.S. policies they do not support are wrong. They are wrong because, to begin with, support for Israel is in our best interests. They are also wrong because Israel and its supporters have the right to try to influence U.S. policy. And they are wrong because the U.S. government is responsible for the policies it adopts, not any other state or any of the myriad lobbies and groups that battle daily—sometimes with lies—to win America's support.
In U.S. News, Sept. 9, 2007
George Shultz was secretary of state from 1982 to 1989. This is excerpted from his introduction to The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control by Abraham Foxman (Palgrave Macmillan).

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Daniel Deronda, a novel by George Eliot (1876)

One of the finest books about Jewish experience was written by an Englishwoman. George Eliot studied Judaism for years before writing this novel, her last, and her hero's gradual discovery of his Jewish origins seems to reproduce her own evolving appreciation of what Jews were about. Daniel Deronda's mother despised being Jewish, and when he was born she arranged for him to be raised as the ward of a wealthy English gentleman. But Deronda is pleased as his self-discovery unfolds, and he dreams of helping Jews find their own land "such as the English have"--in effect becoming a Zionist more than two decades before Theodor Herzl founded the Zionist movement. The novel has its painful side. Deronda's Jewish path thwarts his potential romance with the lovely Gwendolen Harleth, and well-meaning Christians who want to envelop Deronda in their embrace must learn from him the art of "separateness with communication."

5 best, The Chosen, Essential works about Judaism, by Ruth R. Wisse, WSJ Opinion, 22/9/2007
George Eliot (1819-1880), English novelist

A French sickness: anti-Sarkozy-ism has its best before it, by Claude Moniquet

On the bright side, despite a constant barrage of media criticism and attacks, President Sarkozy’s approval rates remain surprisingly high. Is this evidence that public opinion is sharply at odds with that of mainstream media, not to mention with websites like the one referred to by Claude Moniquet, whose appeal is obviously limited to the most extreme fringes?

“Few French politicians –in any case few heads of the executive branch with the notable exception of Pierre Mendès-France during the 1950’s –have aroused so much dislike as Nicolas Sarkozy. This is at times so massive and so extreme that you don’t know for sure if you should not just laugh about it. But that would mean forgetting that the nauseating stench of anti-Sarkozy-ism has a ‘1930’s’ side to it, which makes one shudder, because, decidedly, everything is permitted to be used against this man. And it would be to ignore the fact that in the months to come this attempt of organized destruction is going to mount in strength.

We are not making an allusion here to the democratic Opposition –the “Liberals”, the Socialists, the extreme Left –which, instead of managing to recover and to rebuild a coherent program is hiding behind systematic criticism of everything that the President does, wishes, thinks and says. It is legitimate that the Opposition is opposed, even if it can, simply, regret not having done so in a more intelligent manner. We don’t attack; here, the media, even when they make us believe that the vacation spent in an honest beach resort visited by ‘upper middle class’ Americans (according to the sociological terminology used on the other side of the Atlantic) was the ‘vacation of a billionaire.’
No, what we see today is the shapeless jumble bringing together extreme Left, extreme Right, stale Third-World-ers, old fashioned pacifists, anti-Semites of all stripes and eternal opponents of ‘American domination.’

An internet site that was born before the elections and that we hoped was dead and gone offers a stunning synthesis of this unique new thought, unique in the sense that it mixes the extreme Left and the extreme Right in a new and fascinating alliance of ‘Reds-Browns’: ‘Anyone but Sarkozy.’ (in French: Tout Sauf Sarko)

From the very home page the tone is clear. While a sound tape of the Song of the Partisans (the hymn of the French Resistance against the Nazi’s) plays, a line appears: ‘Whom does he represent? The axis of evil!.’ Then comes a picture: Nicolas Sarkozy on a background of American and Israeli flags. On the same site, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner is called the ‘Voice of his Zionist masters,’ Dominique Strauss Kahn is ‘the Man of Israel,’ Christine Lagarde (Economy minister) is the ‘Woman of the United States’ and Hervé Morin (Defence minister) is the ‘Man of the Americans.’

They are, of course, clearly supported by ‘the big bosses always eager for financial gain and morally degenerate’ who have been able to install in power ‘a vile beast.’There are the usual ravings about globalization, the invisible hand of the Group of Bilderberg who would make policy based on the ‘oil companies’ or the ravings of the Voltaire Network of the revisionist Thierry Meyssan who denies the 09/11 attacks. In a word, here is Nicolas Sarkozy enthroned as the ‘USraelian Governor’ (please admire the subtle word game) of an occupied France.

If we have stopped on this site, other than the abjectness of anti-Semitic propaganda that we thought was gone by in France, it is because we think that this propaganda of hate which incites people to civil war will not just continue. It runs a great risk of expanding immeasurably in the months to come.

If Nicolas Sarkozy arouses hatred, it is not only due to his ‘pro-Americanism’ or his partly and perfectly accepted Jewish origins (it is not without interest from this point of view to underline that Mr. Mendès-France, who, we have recalled, was in his time the victim of the most base calumnies, was Jewish…). It is also and above all because he wants to shake up the customs of an old country, to question the holy of holies, the ‘established privileges’ and liberate the energy of a nation which has spent the last few years contemplating its navel and lamenting. In a word: to put France on a battle footing in order to confront the challenges of the century.

There are too many interests which are otherwise often opposed to one another but are now converging to oppose this in-depth mutation which is indispensable even if painful. They can only lead to an escalation of this type of propaganda.

The question is to know up to what point a democracy should tolerate this type of message of hate.”
Claude Moniquet is President of ESISC (European Strategic Intelligence & Security Center)
Read the whole piece here:

Tuesday 11 September 2007


"Never Give In, Never, Never, Never"
Winton Churchill (1941)


in the meantime: "Never Give In, Never, Never, Never"

Israel 1969, a poem by Jorge Luis Borges

I feared that in Israel there might be lurking,
sweetly and insidiously,
the nostalgia gathered like some sad treasure
during the centuries of dispersion
in cities of the unbeliever, in ghettoes,
in the sunset of the steppes, in dreams,
the nostalgia of those who longed for you,
Jerusalem, beside the waters of Babylon.
What else were you, Israel, but that wistfulness,
that will to save
amid the shifting shapes of time
your old magical book, your ceremonies,
your loneliness with God?
Not so. The most ancient of nations
is also the youngest.
You have not tempted men with gardens or gold,
and the emptiness of gold
but with the hard work, beleaguered land.
Without words Israel has told them:
Forget who you are
Forget who you have been
Forget the man you were in those countries
which gave you their mornings
and evenings and to which
you must not look back in yearning.
You will forget your father's tongue
and learn the tongue of Paradise.
You shall be an Israeli, a soldier,
You shall build a country on wasteland,
making it rise out of deserts.
Your brother, whose face you've never seen,
will work by your side.
One thing only we promise you:
your place in the battle.
In In Praise of Darkness
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), Argentinian writer
Translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni
"Borges was anti-totalitarian, philosemitic and a Zionist." (Raphaël Lellouche)

Monday 10 September 2007

The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion, by Bernard Harrison

Synopsis: This book, by a non-Jewish analytic philosopher, addresses the issue of whether, and to what extent, current opposition to Israel on the liberal-left embodies anti-Semitic stances. It argues that the dominant climate of liberal opinion does, however inadvertently, disseminate a range of anti-Semitic assertions and motifs of the most traditional kind. It then advocates a return to an unrestricted anti-racism which would allow liberals to defend Palestinian interests without, in the process, demonizing Jews.

Excerpts of an account of the book by Edward Alexander in Contentions:
“According to the famous 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (1910), “Anti-Semitism is a passing phase in the history of culture.” Since that sanguine declaration, anti-Semitism has had several very good rolls of the dice, culminating in the destruction of European Jewry.

The latest recrudescence of anti-Semitism is by now the subject of at least a half dozen books, published in America, England, France, and Italy. Their shared conclusion, set forth from a variety of perspectives, is that the physical violence of the new Jew-hatred is largely the work of young Muslims, but that the ideological violence is the work primarily of leftists, battlers against racism, professed humanitarians, and liberals (including Jewish ones). The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism, Bernard Harrison’s superb new book, deals almost entirely with this drifting of liberals and leftists into anti-Semitism, and it brings to the subject a new authorial identity, a different academic background, and a distinctive and (despite the topic) exhilarating voice. Resurgence is also the first book on contemporary anti-Semitism by a Gentile, and a British one to boot. (According to Harrison, a professor of philosophy, this has also made him privy to the expression of anti-Semitic prejudice by apparently respectable academic people “when Jews are absent.”)

Recent years have furnished a great deal of material suited to his talents and expertise. Harrison brings to his subject the “habitual skepticism, bitterly close reading, and aggressive contentiousness” produced by “forty years in the amiable sharkpool of analytic philosophy.” His merciless deconstruction of the anti-Israel invective and smug clichés of the New Statesman, the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC, and other bastions of anti-Jewish sentiment in England reminds one of the powerful literary scrutiny pioneered in this country by the New Critics.”

In the exchange that followed, the author, Bernard Harrison, argued:
“Anti-Semitism, historically speaking, has never presented itself simply as hatred. Pure hatred, hatred without ground or reason, can be quite difficult to sell. So anti-Semitism has always provided itself with a moral mask. Most usually. In the past this has usually taken the form of an appeal to patriotism, to the alleged duty to defend the nation, or the “organic community”, against the sinister, “cosmopolitan” machinations of the Jews. There has also been, as Mr Alexander rightly points out, a weaker tradition of anti-Semitism on the left, but that was always stronger on the Continent, and in Britain all but vanished after 1945. We now see, on the left-liberal wing of politics, a revival of anti-Semitism, once again one which masks itself morally, this time as humanitarian concern for the Third World.

What is the structure of its constituency? Mr Alexander seems to see the world as divided into three groups: the haters, the hated, and the “disinterested bystanders” who must, he thinks, provide the “real audience” for a book like mine. I differ from him. I see the present constituency of “left-liberal” anti-semitism as divided into two groups: on the one hand, people who really are obsessed with the supposed wickedness of the Jews, and hate them, and on the other hand, political dupes, or as Lenin famously called such people, “useful idiots”: people who can fairly easily be bamboozled into seeing the world through the anti-Semites’ spectacles, but only as long as they suppose those spectacles to give access to a view of world politics governed not by vulgar prejudice but by moral insight. I see the problem before us, in other words, not so much as one of “exposing” or “outing” members of the first group, but as one of erecting obstacles to the dissemination, under the guise of political morality, of anti-Semitic attitudes among the second, and to my mind much larger, group. My strategy for doing that is, as Mr Alexander has noted, to subject some salient chunks of current political discourse to the kind of close logical and textual analysis needed to reveal precisely how the scam, the trick of giving anti-Semitism a moral face, is being worked, by means of the usual devices of gross misinformation and plausible but specious argument, this time around.”

Stephen Rittenberg, M.D, commented on the difficulty of reasoning anti-semites:
“On the question raised here in Contentions, of reasoning with anti-semites, whether of the murderous or milder wordsmith intellectual stripe, my clinical experience as a psychoanalyst tells me how incredibly difficult it is to reason people towards change. It takes years. There must first be a wish to change, and usually it’s because the individual’s character traits lead to repeated trouble, like the man who repeatedly gets fired from jobs for arguing with the boss. Only when he begins to wonder what role his own character plays in his fate does change become possible. This is very different from the situation of the anti-semite, for whom anti-semitic beliefs, whether mild or intense, bring many benefits, including membership in vast utopian movements, as well as academic stature and media recognition. Anti-semitism disguised as criticism of Israel provides automatic membership in the community of leftist intellectuals for whom Communism never died. It provides an identification with the oppressed, the aggrieved and the victims of the world, against the hyperpower, Amerika and its ally Israel. (Parenthetically, I have thought the vicious hate filled attacks on President Bush include a large helping of displaced anti-semitism.) It generates feelings of moral righteousness, superior intelligence and general self-approbation. It provides the security of feeling part of a mass movement, in the vanguard of history. It provides handy scapegoats and it’s always more satisfying to blame someone, or some group for one’s own shortcomings. The fact that anti-semitism provides so many psychic benefits helps us understand why Jews, especially liberal ones are so frequently vicious anti-semites. These are often well educated, “reasonable” people.”
The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion, by Bernard Harrison, Rowman & Littlefield (2006)

Sunday 9 September 2007

Third Reich: "a religiosity exclusively oriented to the Germanic community, its mystic roots, its traditions, its future power"

Alberto da Veiga Simões (1888 – 1954), Portuguese ambassador to Germany (1933-1940), understood as early as 1937 the nature of Nazi ideology.

“In August 1933, after long years of service, Veiga Simões was appointed ambassador to Germany. His antagonism to Hitler’s policy and ideology and to the mystic zeal of the Nazi pseudo-religion increased with time, and this emerges in the long and frequent reports he sent to Salazar. For Veiga Simões, the German imperialistic rhetoric breached the limits of the norms ruling relationships between nations in the modern state. He witnessed the way in which the German Reich introduced new and threatening elements into the state, especially the concept of “Volk [which is a] dynamic assimilator of all the analogous elements that fall within the range of its functioning, and [are] in constant movement.” He understood clearly that the cult of the state, the subordination of the family unit to totalitarian guidelines, the disintegration of religious orders, and the gradual destruction of minorities would all produce a dangerous amorphous mass.

“In fact, the Third Reich’s eliminatory zeal regarding all the religious denominations ― Jews, Catholics, Lutherans of all kinds ― has one source and one end: to substitute all the religious truths of human and universal order that share a faith that joins them to all of mankind, with a religiosity exclusively oriented to the Germanic community, its mystic roots, its traditions, its future power.”

Veiga Simões frequently used irony and cynicism to express his contempt for German anti-humanism, which, within Portuguese governmental circles, greatly contributed to his image as an enemy of the Reich.”
Portugal, the Consuls, and the Jewish Refugees, 1938-1941, by Avraham Milgram, Shoah Resource Center, Yad Vashem
Alberto da Veiga Simões in Berlin

Friday 7 September 2007

Boris Johnson is an enemy of politically correct anti-Zionism

Boris Johnson, Member of Parliament for Henley, writer and broadcaster, has recently launched his campaign to become the Conservative candidate for London mayor. The Jewish Chronicle interviewed him:

“Sympathy is something he looks likely to receive from a Jewish community scarred by its troubled history with Mayor Livingstone, the least of whose misdemeanours was to compare a Jewish Evening Standard reporter to a “concentration-camp guard”.

Then there was the left-wing firebrand’s public embrace of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Muslim cleric who allegedly backs Palestinian suicide bombings, as well as wife-beating and homophobia, and his suggestion that the Indian-born Reuben brothers “go back to Iran”. ...

Johnson, on the other hand, not only has the virtue of being almost the polar opposite of Red Ken, but is also a trenchant supporter of Israel, an enemy of politically correct anti-Zionism and immensely proud of his own Jewish ancestry — the Henley MP’s great grandfather, Elias Avery Lowe, being the Moscow-born son of a shmutter merchant. “I feel Jewish when I feel the Jewish people are threatened or under attack, that’s when it sort of comes out,” he declares. “When I suddenly get a whiff of antisemitism, it’s then that you feel angry and protective.”

When asked to think of an example, he seizes upon last year’s Lebanon war. “I haven’t discussed this with my handlers at all,” ... “I felt during that business that sometimes people were writing and discussing Israel without really recognising that Israel was coming under attack.” …

“I believe in Israel’s inalienable right to exist. I think it’s a wonderful country, and like everybody else I want a two-state solution,” he says, with the caveat that “of course I think there are faults on Israel’s side, I’m not going to defend every aspect of what Israel does, and you wouldn’t expect me to. But my bedrock, irreducible position is that Israel is a huge and wonderful fact that deserves support and protection.”

He gets quite exercised over the “ludicrous” academic boycott movement. “You get the feeling that people don’t want to find a solution, they don’t want to help, they just want to strike attitudes and look cool. And that makes me absolutely furious.””
On being Jewish: “I have some Jewish ancestry, but I’m not sure how Jewish I am!… I’m proud of it, very proud”.

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Portugal, the Jews and Israel - a difficult relationship

“Von dem Christeliche / Streyt, kürtzlich geschehe / jm. M.CCCCC.vj Jar zu Lissbona / ein haubt stat in Portigal zwischen en christen und newen chri / sten oder juden , von wegen des gecreutzigisten got.” - German contemporary engraving depicting the 1506 massacre in Lisbon.

1506 – A massacre
In April 1506, Lisbon was the scene of a spate of horrific religious acts of violence which left over one thousand ‘New Christians’ - converted Jews - dead. The violence erupted in a Dominican convent chapel where a worshipper saw golden stars emanating from a wooden crucifix, and when two days later a ‘New Christian’ questioned the miracle. He was beaten, dragged out of the chapel and killed on the spot. The same fate awaited his brother who tried to rescue him. Mobs, led by Domincan priests, went on a three-day killing spree. Men, women and children were murdered and burnt at the stake, babies skulls were smashed against walls. When all the Jews were dead, those who were thought to look Jewish were chased.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Portuguese inquisition incarcerated, robbed, tormented, tortured, and burnt at the stake thousands of converted Jews on charges of heresy. The tentacles of suspicion reached everywhere. The country was obsessed by the idea of ‘purity of blood’: Jewish blood was held to be ‘infected’ and ‘members of the Nation’ were guilty of corrupting society and Christianity.

Commenting in 1882 on the 16th century massacre, Portuguese historian Oliveira Martins argued that Jews had been persecuted in such a cowardly manner because they were pariahs with no king or land and that nobody would dare treat Moors the same way for fear of retaliation by their rulers. Oliveira Martins was right. Jews needed a country of their own. 500 hundred years later, they were still stateless and dependent on the goodwill of Christians: six million were murdered – one million of which were children.

1975 – Zionism equated with racism
Oblivious of the past, Portugal was the only Western European country to vote in 1975 in favour of the infamous United Nations Resolution 3379 (revoked in 1991) which equated Zionism – the self-determination of the Jewish people - with racism. It is ironic that such malevolence came after the holocaust and in the aftermath of the revolution which enabled the Portuguese people to shed four decades of a harsh dictatorial regime. Having regained freedom and dignity, the progressive regime in place riding on the anti-Zionist tide turned against Jews and their democratic State.

In 1989, in a gesture which brought him respect and gratitude, Socialist President Mário Soares made a public apology for the past persecution of Jews. He spoke for people who had been dead for many years. But no apology was offered on behalf of those who were still alive and who 14 years earlier had equated Zionism with racism.

2004 - Arafat died a hero and a martyr
Then, on Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, President Mário Soares wrote an embarrassing article extolling the virtues of Arafat who he found moderate, bright, subtle and pleasant. He declared that Arafat had died as “a hero and a martyr”, and accused Israel of practising large-scale terrorism: “His opponents and enemies accuse him of being a terrorist. Israeli leader and former Prime Minister Menahem Begin also stands accused of having been a terrorist during the English [sic] occupation(1). Let’s not forget that the State of Israel practises terrorism on a large scale.” But the most astonishing revelation was that, as a Latin, he and his team had found in Palestinian Arafat, who they met in Beirut in 1982, a kindred spirit: “The conversation lasted over three hours. Arafat, almost always gave double meaning replies to our questions so that the Soviet general, who was silent, would not understand. Curiously, this type of conversation unnerved my Nordic comrades. Whereas we, Latins, understood perfectly well the message that Arafat wanted to convey. And it was simple: he wanted to negotiate peace with Israel and was ready to make important concessions.” What seems to have totally escaped Dr. Soares was that Arafat was famous for his double meaning, or rather multi-meaning, talk, which so many like him were only too willing to take at face value.
(1) In the article Mário Soares bizarrely refers to ‘a Jewish warship’ (‘um navio de guerra judeu’).

Sunday 2 September 2007

Portrait of George Rodenbach by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1896)

Portrait of George Rodenbach, Belgian symbolist poet and novelist (1855-1898)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865-1953)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Saturday 1 September 2007

European Parliamentarians denounce anti-Israel conference

Today the European Parliament will act as the host to a conference held by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP). Despite the neutrally sounding title of its conference, CEIRPP has a proven record of anti-Israel bias, spreading propaganda that presents only the Palestinian narrative, including the delegitimization of Israel - a UN member state.

The CEIRPP casts a shadow on the UN role in the Middle East conflict and is first and foremost harmful to the UN. Its work only reinforces a long held Israeli suspicion vis-a-vis the UN and contributes nothing to the cause of peace. A recent example is a plan of action calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Will today's conference, in the halls of the European Parliament, issue similar directives? Though of little practical consequence, this conference, especially under the banner and auspices of the European Parliament, will harm the cause of peace and also damage European credibility as an honest broker.

We are told that Parliament is merely letting CEIRPP use its premises. Surely, the European Parliament is not just a convention center. As Members of the European Parliament, we are shocked that this biased event would take place within our institutional premises.

Several colleagues have already announced they will boycott the conference. We hope many more will join in condemning this event and call on the presidency to reconsider the damaging consequences this event will have for our institution. Behind the neutral banner of a UN committee and the seemingly respectable goals of this conference there lurks a biased agenda of radical anti-Israel organizations. The European Parliament should not give them a platform in the only representative body of the European Union, whose goals are to foster dialogue and understanding, not acrimony, mistrust and despair.
Frédérique Ries, Belgium, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Bronislaw Geremek, Poland, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Patrick Gaubert, France, European People's Party
Bernard Lehideux, France, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Sarah Ludford, Britain, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Marek Siwiec, Poland, European Socialist Party
Charles Tannock, Britain, European People's Party

Published in the International Herald Tribune on August 30, 2007

European Friends of Israel - EFI

The Jerusalem Post reported (Sept. 19, 2006) the launch of a pro-Israel organisation, European Friends of Israel (EFI), aimed at promoting closer ties between Israel and the European Union.

"Dimitri Dombret, director of EFI, said, "Our goal is to deepen and strengthen the relationship between the EU and Israel, both on a political and commercial level. In order to do this we will gather not only MEPs but also members of the national parliaments across Europe. We want to enlarge European support to Israel.""

"Dr. Charles Tannock, a British MEP from the Conservative Party and a member of EFI's steering committee, told The Jerusalem Post, "There is a clear need to reverse some of the demonizing of Israel and the black propaganda peddled by its enemies both within and outside of the EU. Israel remains a vibrant democracy which shares fundamental common values with the EU and is part of the European Neighborhood Policy, for which I am rapporteur, and enjoys an Association Agreement with the EU. Israel is at the front line in fighting international terrorism, which threatens us all, and therefore deserves our strong support.""