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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The European Jews in 2006

Report from SWC Paris Office

The Middle East crisis is exploding this summer while European governments are in vacation mode.

On 1 July, the European Union Presidency rotated to an unprepared Finland, leaving the bureaucracy in Brussels to fill the vacuum with its traditional bias against Israel. EU Foreign Affairs Czar, Javier Solana, and Heads of State at the G-8 Summit continuously repeat the politically correct mantra of "Israeli disproportionality" in its "aggression on Lebanon."

Some European diplomats, particularly in the corridors, acknowledge Hamas and Hezbollah unprovoked missile aggression on Israel. Official positions, however, are governed by oil, trade, electoral votes and fear of terrorism at home. The consequent policy was clear in Europe's appeasement of the Iranian nuclear threat.

The European press, particularly in the UK, Scandinavia, Italy and Spain, has been particularly anti-Israel. Media in France which views itself as the “midwife” of French-speaking Lebanon, have expressed self-righteous indignation at Israeli counter-measures.

No-one doubts the forthcoming Middle East blowback upon Arab-Jewish relations across the continent, as Muslim radicalism and antisemitic action follow the level of the Arab-Israel conflict. Authorities in France are especially concerned at a replay or political hijacking of last fall's race riots that left thousands of burning cars and vandalized property across the country.

Jewish communities have organized Israel solidarity rallies. The Wiesenthal Centre in Paris, on July 9, co-partnered a gathering of over 1,000 activists to "Free Gilad Shalit" - the soldier kidnapped by Hamas who is also a French citizen. The main speaker was Richard Odier, president of the Centre Simon Wiesenthal - France. Police restrained pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators bent on attacking the rally.

Though antisemitism is clearly not a policy of any European government, Jews in Europe feel their vulnerability. Many fear that neo-appeasement, in the Middle East and at home, will encourage terrorist attacks, first against Jewish targets and then to a broader "Intifada" across the continent.

It is often forgotten that what begins with the Jews is an alarm bell for society.

On the first page of Spain's EL PAIS daily of 16 July, two headlines ran parallel:
"Spanish PM Zapatero calls on Israel to cease fire and respect human rights in Lebanon" and "Islamist terror groups increase recruitment in Spain."

Jewish communities are especially apprehensive at the dangers awaiting the post-summer vacations and their security for the forthcoming High Holiday worship. Even the most assimilated Jews are realizing that the old mantra of "keeping the Middle East out of Europe" is a non-starter.

The Middle East is very much in Europe. A dramatic _expression - born in
France two years ago - is gaining currency among Jews in Europe: "la valise ou le cercueil" - "the suitcase or the coffin."

This will not be a tranquil summer and 2006 does not presage good tidings for the Jews of Europe.

Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations
Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Paris

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Category: Israel, Europe and Middle East.

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