OPINION – Brendan O’Neill: The wretched reason why Israel became Europe’s whipping boy

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OPINION – Brendan O’Neill: The wretched reason why Israel became Europe’s whipping boy

by Brendan O’Neill, Editor of Spiked-Online.com 

Brendan O'Neill, Editor of Spiked-Online.com
Brendan O’Neill, Editor of Spiked-Online.com

The right-on are always raising concerns, and raising the political heat, over what they refer to as the Siege of Gaza by Israel. But what about the siege of Israel by Europe?

It might not be a military siege – although many a supposedly peacenik European dreams of Israel having its knuckles rapped by external powers – but it’s a siege nonetheless.

What we have today is a moral, intellectual siege of Israel, by the academic and media elites of Europe’s chattering-class citadels. They’ve turned Israel into Global Enemy No1, the source of all the world’s sorrow, a nation to be railed against more than any other on Earth.

My dictionary says a siege is the “surrounding of a place” with the intent of making its inhabitants surrender. Could there be a better description of European progressives’ myopic singling out of Israel for invective, and their shunning of its wares, books and even people via the BDS movement? People in Israel feel this moral siege, this intellectual blockade, very strongly. 

When I visited last month, almost everyone I met asked me: “What the hell has happened to Europe? Why do they hate us?” During a dinner debate, a woman whose son was killed by terrorists asked the assembled European hacks why our media is more angry about Israel than any other nation. In soft, wavering tones, she accused us of anti-Israel bias. A spokesman for the Israel Foreign Ministry wrung his hands over Europe’s dodgy double standards on Israel. He was especially exercised by the EC’s recent decree that things made in Israeli settlements must be branded as such, lest some pure PC person in Europe unwittingly eat an olive made in a disputed bit of the Golan Heights and become morally compromised as a result. The EC doesn’t make other nations that are embroiled in conflict over territory – the Ukraine, say – stick such moral warnings on their produce. Just Israel.

It’s clearly pandering to Europe’s Israel-allergic middle classes, the people who hound Israeli academics off campus, bleat about Israeli orchestras performing in their cities, and would rather go hungry than eat an Israeli-grown apple. (And who, hilariously, go mad if anyone wonders if such a one-eyed obsession with blocking the products and ideas of one people only might be a tad prejudiced.) Not surprisingly, it was the settlers we met who were most annoyed about the EC’s labelling rules, and the Western media more broadly.  Against the dry, hilly, beautiful backdrop of the West Bank – or, as they see it, Judea – these settlers chastised the Euro-media for failing to tell the truth about Israel. “Why lie?” 

Some will say Israel isn’t under any kind of moral siege; Israelis just have a siege mentality. Indeed, it’s all the rage among the irate Israel-bashers of the modern European left to sneer at Israel’s inhabitants for stupidly thinking the world is out to get them. But the facts speak for themselves. Polls have found that more than half of Europeans consider Israel “the biggest threat to world peace”. In 2012 a BBC survey found that 69 percent of Brits think Israel has a “negative influence”. Europe’s radicals take to the streets to march and holler if Israel so much as reverses a warplane out of a hangar, but never protest over war in Ukraine, or Yemen, or Libya. They boycott only Israel’s musicians and books.

And the European media unquestionably has an unhealthy obsession with Israel: consider the vast, often highly emotional and blood-obsessed coverage Israel’s war in Gaza got last year, in comparison with the Ukraine conflict of the same time, which claimed a similar number of lives.

It isn’t Israelis who are paranoid; it’s anti-Israeli Europeans. They’re the ones who madly look upon one nation, one people, as toxic, destabilising, destructive, out to get us all and do over world peace. Such swirling paranoia often means anti-Zionism crosses the lines into anti-Semitism.

Some Israelis I spoke to seemed more upset about the turn against Israel in Europe than they were about the more immediate threat posed Islamists in the Middle East. It wasn’t hard to work out why. As one said, “We considered Europe a friend”: “We thought Europe and Israel had a lot in common, being Western and democratic.”

This cuts to the heart of the Euro-elites’ paranoia about Israel, their turn against it: it is really European values, the ideals of modernity and democracy, they’ve given up on. The thing that riles them most about Israel is that it reminds them of what they used to be like, of the values they once espoused, before they lost the moral plot and sank into the cesspit of relativism and post-Enlightenment self-loathing.

Plucky, keen to protect its sovereignty, considering itself an outpost of liberalism… Israel is a painful reminder to today’s morally anchorless European thinkers and agitators of what their nations once were.They hate Israel because they hate themselves. 

Israel has become the whipping boy of guilt-ridden Western liberals who’ve given up on the very idea of the West.

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