Monday, August 07, 2006

Europe's Willful Blindness

Del WSJ Europe:

BRUSSELS -- Mounir Herzallah explains how it works. Following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, he writes in a letter published last month in the German daily Der Tagesspiegel, Hezbollah took control of his South Lebanese village, setting up missile depots in bunkers. "The social work of the Party of God consisted of building a school and a residential home on top of these bunkers. A local sheikh explained to me, laughing, that the Jews will lose no matter what -- either because rockets will be fired on them or because the international community will condemn them if they attack the depot."

And so a Lebanese Shiite now living in Berlin sets the record straight on Hezbollah. It should be common knowledge in Europe that Hezbollah is an Islamo-fascist organization bent on the destruction of Israel. But Hezbollah's cynicism in triggering the death of innocents, as seen in the current conflict in Lebanon, is matched by Europe's cynicism in closing its eyes to reality. Instead, as last week's debate in the European Parliament shows, politicians and media are once again turning Israel into a pariah state.

The fact that Hezbollah is waging a proxy war for Syria and, especially, Iran, which shares Hezbollah's genocidal intention for the Jewish state, is played down. Pictures showing Hezbollah terrorists practicing the Hitler salute are rarely shown. Similarly, reports on the current conflict seldom mention that Hezbollah is using Lebanon's population as human shields -- presenting Israel with the terrible dilemma of either not protecting its own civilians or hitting back and risking hurting Lebanese civilians. This essential context is missing in much of Europe's public debate of the war.

The killing of civilians in Qana by an Israeli missile strike is a case in point. As usual, the Israelis had warned the population to leave the village, from where 150 rockets had been launched at Israel. As usual, Hezbollah had been firing from or nearby civilian structures. And as usual, none of this played a role during last week's debate in the European Parliament. As the word "massacre" was repeated in the European press, an uninformed observer of the lawmakers' discussions would have had to conclude that Israel killed the Lebanese civilians intentionally.

For French Communist Francis Wurtz, Israel's attack on Qana was a "war crime." The Parliament President Josep Borrell, a Social Democrat from Spain, stated categorically that "no right of self-defense can justify such an act." The head of the parliament's Social Democratic group drew the only possible conclusion: "We distance ourselves from those who bear responsibility for this and call on everybody else to distance themselves as well," Martin Schulz proclaimed. Mr. Shulz called for the isolation of Israel, not the terror organization morally responsible for the carnage.

Of course, for the European Union, there are no terrorists in Lebanon. Just last week, after 213 members of the U.S. Congress asked the EU to finally add Hezbollah to its terror list, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, once again ruled it out, citing the "sensitive situation."

It's that same lack of principles dressed up as responsible policy that turns Hezbollah's terror sponsors, Syria and Iran, into "mediators." External affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said last week that "whether we like it or not, Syria is an influential player." On Thursday, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, a former EU envoy to the Middle East, took the road to Damascus, proclaiming a diplomatic breakthrough. The Syrians are "going to exercise all their influence on Hezbollah," he said. "Both Syria and Spain believe there is no military solution." Oh, if only those war-mongering Jews were a little more like that peace-loving dictator in Damascus, one could almost hear Mr. Moratinos sigh. The Spanish newspaper El Economista reported Friday that the Syrians denied having given any such promise of influencing Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy chatted up Tehran. Before heading into talks with his Iranian counterpart last week, the Frenchman had this to say about the state that wants to wipe Israel off the map: "In the region there is of course a country such as Iran -- a great country, a great people and a great civilization which is respected and which plays a stabilizing role in the region." Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, obviously pleased that his "stabilizing" ideas had found an appreciative audience, immediately reoffered his solution of the Middle East crisis -- the destruction of Israel. "Unacceptable," Mr. Douste-Blazy said. But then what? "Unacceptable" might be an appropriate adjective for lecturing your teenage son who just flunked his math test -- but as condemnation of threatened policide?

While Europe has no problem issuing disproportionate criticism of Israel's actions, it hews to a different standard for Jerusalem's mortal enemies. The idea that flattery might talk Iran or Hezbollah out of their raison d'être -- the destruction of Israel -- is criminally naïve. Such servility only serves to embolden them.

The same goes for calls for an immediate cease-fire. It is particularly perplexing that the French would have pushed for this during negotiations for the United Nations Security Council draft resolution announced over the weekend. After all, Paris will likely lead an international force for South Lebanon after such a truce.

The two positions seem mutually exclusive. If the French really want to send a robust force, one that would go after any Hezbollah cease-fire violations, they must have every interest in seeing the Israelis first finish the job to limit the risks to their own soldiers. This means either their calls for an immediate cease-fire were dishonest or the Israelis shouldn't get their hopes up that the new troops, should they ever arrive, would be much different from the current U.N. forces, which only monitor Hezbollah attacks without stopping them.

Above all, the EU tends to forget that this is not just Israel's war. Iranian missiles, possibly soon tipped with nuclear warheads, can reach parts of the Continent. It's in Europe's vital own interests that the mullahs in Tehran and South Lebanon be defeated in this fight.

Mr. Schwammenthal edits the State of the Union column.


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