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Jewish World Review April 16, 2002/5 Iyar, 5762

Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn
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Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans' |
"The whole world is demanding that Israel withdraws," said Kofi Annan in Madrid last week, standing alongside various panjandrums from the EU, UN, U.S. and Russia. "I don't think the whole world, including the friends of the Israeli people and government, can be wrong."

Oh, I don't know. The "whole world" has a pretty good track record of being wrong, especially where Jews are concerned. Fifty million Frenchmen can be wrong, and never more so than when they're teamed with EU mouthpiece Chris Patten, UN human rights poseur Mary Robinson, the European Parliament (which has demanded sanctions against Israel), the German government (which has announced an arms embargo against Israel), the brand new International Criminal Court (which -- in its very first 24 hours! -- started mulling the question of "Israeli war crimes"), the Norwegian Parliament (which had a visitor thrown out of the building for wearing a provocative Star of David on his lapel), never mind the members of Calgary's "Palestinian community" who marched through the streets carrying placards emblazoned "Death To The Jews," a timeless slogan but not hitherto a burning issue on the prairies.

The only question now is whether the U.S. is a member of the Kofi set in good standing or whether it's a member mainly in the sense that Saudi Arabia is a member of the coalition against terror. A week ago, asked to define what Washington meant by Israeli withdrawal "without delay," Colin Powell replied that the Administration "does expect something to happen soon with respect to bringing this operation to some culminating point where you can start to see a movement in the other direction." Somehow I don't think that's what Kofi and Chris have in mind.

Seven days later, on the Israeli side, there was still nothing happening to bring to culmination the point for starting to move in the other direction, and General Powell seemed remarkably unimpatient about it. He did succeed, after a temporary postponement of their meeting, in getting "Chairman" Arafat to acknowledge that terrorism, when all's said and done, is a bad thing. This is an admirable first step, just as recognizing that smoking is unhealthy is the first step toward giving it up -- two, three, 20 years later. The Chairman, alas, will not be giving terrorism up any time soon, not when Saudi TV has just had a hugely successful charity telethon raising US$56-million for the families of Palestinian "martyrs." King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah both chipped in. One Saudi Princess donated both her Rolls and her ox, a double jackpot sure to inspire any West Bank suicide bomber hoping to transform his relicts into a two-car family. Maybe they'll make it a weekly show: Who Wants To Be A Million Air Particles?

So sooner or later General Powell will be flying home, his mission a failure in its stated goals (to reconcile Sharon and Arafat) and thus a grand success in its unstated ones -- to buy time, to allow Israel to clean out the terrorist enclaves while stalling Syria from using Lebanon to broaden the war. From Washington's point of view, Arafat and his incendiary adolescents are relatively unimportant. It's the potentially catastrophic fuse in northern Israel stretching back from Hezbollah through Beirut and Damascus to Teheran that the U.S. doesn't want lit just yet. Powell's mission is a sleight of hand, in which whether or not there's a ceasefire under his West Bank shell is less important than what's under his Lebanese and Iraqi ones. After all, this "engagement" was necessary mainly because of a scheduling conflict over scheduling conflicts: Washington had booked the Middle East for a war with Iraq only to discover the joint being used for some other guys' war. The U.S. would like a semblance of peace in the Middle East in order to launch a massive conflagration there.

Conversely, the Iraqis and Saudis need to keep this war going in order to postpone the next one -- hence, their generous subvention of the extensive infrastructure required to keep Palestinian schoolgirls loaded up with Semtex. As noted here a week ago, the Arabs only ever lose conventional wars, and this suicide-bomber business is going so swimmingly the last thing they want is to have to go back to primitive weaponry like tanks.

Meanwhile, what have we learned from this last extraordinary month? Not much about the Middle East, but quite a lot about Europe. What happens when Palestinian civilians strap on plastic explosives and head for Israeli pizza parlours? Europe says Israeli checkpoints for Palestinians are "humiliating." Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances permit themselves to be used as transportation for bombs and explosives -- and Europe attacks Israel for refusing them free movement. Documents are found signed by Arafat authorizing funding for a suicide bombing on a young girl's bat mitzvah, and members of the Nobel committee publicly call for taking back the 1994 Peace Prize -- from Shimon Peres. Synagogues are firebombed in France, Belgium and Finland, and the EU deplores the wanton destruction of property -- in Ramallah.

What the Europeans call "Muslim-Jewish tensions" on the Continent do not involve Jewish gangs attacking mosques or beating up women in hejabs, only Muslim gangs attacking synagogues and stoning a bus of Jewish schoolchildren. In France, Jew-bashing incidents are currently running at the rate of 12 per day, though the authorities seem positively insouciant about investigating them. In fairness, the Prime Minister did rouse himself last week. "No matter what is happening in the Middle East," said Lionel Jospin, "anti-Semitic acts are totally unacceptable" -- a formulation which, even as it disapproves of the assaults, somehow manages to validate their motivation. For, as Messieurs Jospin, Chirac and Vedrine have assured us, "what is happening in the Middle East" is the fault of the famously "sh-tty little country." France's leaders and their excitable Arab youth are, to that extent, on the same song sheet.

This is not virulently anti-Jew, just the familiar European urge to appease. France has nearly five million Muslims. If, from one million Palestinians, Hamas and Co. can recruit enough to blow up a couple of dozen Israelis every other day, how many recruits could they find in France from an unassimilated population five times the size? The Europeans are scared of their Muslim populations, scared of what perceived slight might turn them from shooting up kosher butchers to shooting up targets of more, shall we say, concern to the general population.

When the war with Iraq starts, we'll find out. No wonder Paris and Brussels are as keen to postpone it as Baghdad and Riyadh. The "whole world" is agreed that if anybody has to be blown up it might as well be the Israelis. Ah, those Jew troublemakers: Why won't they just lie there and take it?

JWR contributor Mark Steyn is Senior Contributing Editor of The National Post. Comment by clicking here.

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03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2002, Mark Steyn