Surprise, surprise, surprise
Important European organizations show a readiness to listen to Israel's just arguments, but there is no readiness to support Israel when its arguments, as in the case of settlements, are not just.
The Council of Europe, representing 45 countries joined together to protect the values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, on June 25 delivered the first surprise with a resolution it passed on the issue of Palestinian refugees.
An initiative by Arab states seeking support for the Palestinian right of return was rejected and instead a resolution was passed calling for refugees to be settled in the countries where they live, or in other countries, and to grant full compensation and rights to those who remain in Arab countries.
The council did not mention any UN resolutions regarding the right of return, nor any Israeli duty to accept some of the refugees, but there was a demand for European countries to accept some of the refugees.
The council's decision was scarcely reported, but it was a European recognition that what was done in wars 50 years ago cannot be undone. Except for extremist right-wing groups, nobody wants to return Germans who lived for centuries in Poland and Czechoslovakia and were ruthlessly and brutally expelled. Likewise, it seems, there is no room for the Arab demand.
A second surprise emanated from the French humanitarian society, Medecins Sans Frontieres International. The organization has in the past condemned the IDF for crimes in the territories but, as reported by Liberation on July 22, it has now published a particularly vehement and critical report on the Palestinian Authority for the suicide bombings.
The report defines the suicide bombings - as does Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch - as crimes against humanity and details the extent of their cruelty. It said 70 percent of the casualties are civilians, mostly elderly, young and babies from the working and lower classes who rely on public transport.
The report says suicide bombings are planned and organized and are not sporadic acts of despair. The organization emphasizes the moral and political responsibility of the PA for creating "a climate of immunity" for the crimes and not taking steps to prevent them. The PA's response was not surprising - total rejection of the report and a reiteration of the argument that the only crime is the Israeli occupation.
The third surprise came from Le Monde, which on July 11 reviewed some Israeli and Palestinian books. As expected, most of the books are critical of Israel, including "A Letter from Ramallah" by Ilan Halevy, the PLO representative to the Socialist International. There are books that praise the Israeli draft resisters who refuse to serve in the territories; Baruch Kimmerling's book "Politicide: Sharon's War against the Palestinians," and others. There's no cause for complaint - Israelis usually don't write books defending Israel. Hence the title of the book by Pascal Boniface, "Is it Allowed to Criticize Israel?" which is also reviewed, is quite ridiculous, since it is in effect not only allowed, it is required.
The surprise comes from Sylvain Cypel's review. The Le Monde critic does praise Kimmerling's book but reprimands him for describing Israel as a fascist state, explaining that not every state involved in a colonial war is fascist. He also criticizes the symmetry that Boniface creates between the Jewish and Muslim communities in France, saying the second group threatens the first, not vice versa.
These three developments are indeed surprising for those who are used to anti-Israeli hysteria, but they also prove that "Europe" is not a monolithic anti-Israeli entity, and that not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.
Important organizations show a readiness to listen to Israel's just arguments, but there is no readiness to support Israel when its arguments, as in the case of settlements, are not just. In all, that is good news for anyone interested in European-Israeli rapprochement.
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