Emanuele Ottolenghi

Dr. Ottolenghi is the new director of the American Jewish Committee's new European branch - the Transatlantic Institute. Located in Brussels, the seat of the Council of the European Union and the headquarters of NATO, the Institute fosters ties among the European Union, Israel and the United States.

Before moving to the EU, Ottolenghi taught Israel Studies at Oxford University for 7 years. He holds a Ph.D. from Hebrew University. He writes regularly for Italian newspapers and has written columns in various English language publications, such as the Guardian, the Jerusalem Post, the National Review Online and Commentary. His book Autodafe': Europe, the Jews and anti-Semitism (in Italian) is due out in January 2007.

We will discuss issues concerning US and the EU, anti-Semitism, and the relations between the EU and Israel. Readers can send questions to rosnersdomain@haaretz.co.il.

Dear Dr. Ottolenghi,

Regarding the negative attitude towards Israel and Zionism that prevails in Europe, are there any feasible measures that could be taken by Israel and/or the Jewish communities in Europe against it? Im somewhat under the impression that Muslims in Europe are far more eloquent and active in presenting their cause to the media, to politicians and to the public. So why is there so little effort from the Israeli/Jewish side?

Batya

Dear Batya,

There is no doubt that Israel has long ago lost the media war, but not for want of trying. Perhaps some criticism can be voiced of the shortcomings of Israel?s official PR machine, but nothing official, in such controversial circumstances, can truly be expected to work. Diplomats are the worst ambassadors for a country because everybody knows they offer an official line. And in the context of Europe, official lines tend to be discredited regardless of content even in less controversial circumstances.

The question is, why so many well-meaning efforts, by individuals and organizations to present Israel?s case are failing to significantly affect a change in perception.

There are three reasons for this lack of success:

One, Israel?s case, in Europe, is much harder to present due to the hard-left hatred for America and its allies, and a proclivity to side with the side that is perceived as weaker. Then there is Israel?s image and behavior running contrary to what Europeans expect of the Jews. A legacy of post-colonial guilt vis-à-vis the Arab world and Holocaust guilt vis-à-vis Israel complete the picture: post-colonial guilt works in favor of the Palestinians, who are seen as victims of the consequences of Western colonialism; Holocaust guilt works as resentment towards Israel because Israel?s existential predicament is a constant reminder to Europe of a historical legacy it would rather leave behind. This kind of contorted set of feelings was best illustrated by the editorial choice of Britain?s Spectator nearly two years ago. In a featured article about Holocaust Remembrance Day and those survivors participating in the 60th anniversary Auschwitz commemorations, one commentator remarked that

This little band of [survivors] has a terrible responsibility ? to live well in the name of those who did not live and to discourage the building of walls and bulldozing of villages. Even more than this, they ? and all Jews ? need to be the voice of conscience that will prevent Israel from adopting the mantle of oppressor, and to reject the label ?anti-Semite? for those who speak out against Israel?s policies in the occupied territories.?

The author, an active member of the Church of England and the son of a Holocaust survivor who converted to Christianity, felt entitled to speak on behalf of the Jewish people. By Hitler?s standards, a Jew for sure; by the standards of most Jewish communities though, he would hardly make it onto the roster. Nevertheless, the example is telling: for what the author had to say no less than for the fact that his comments featured in a mainstream conservative publication. Apparently, the best way to commemorate the Holocaust was to have a Jewish convert to the Church of England claim to represent the Jewish people, and then proceed to fulfil his task by comparing Israel to Nazism and lecturing the Jewish people on what the right code of conduct vis-à-vis Israel is. Defending the underdog seems to have become the trademark of this criticism and is waved both as a Jewish value and an example by some that Israel has betrayed Judaism. This example encapsulates the ideal Jew of many in 21st century Europe. Jews are expected to abandon the main trademarks of their religious and ethnic identity, turning Jewish identity into a commitment to universal, secular, post-national humanism, and a duty to denounce nationalism, especially Jewish nationalism.

Two, this underdog syndrome is effectively exploited by Israel?s enemies to their own advantage to present Israel, the stronger side of the equation, as the villain of the piece. There is no doubt that Israel is stronger in many ways. But this perception fails to grasp two important truths about conflict in general and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular: the first truth is that one can be both strong and vulnerable; the second truth is that even victims can do wrong.

And three, in general Israel?s enemies are more skillful and disciplined in their efforts: they present a united front, they speak in one voice, and they enjoy the sympathy and support of the educated classes, the intellectual elites, and much of the media world.

Israel?s legitimacy has been severely eroded in the last six years, thanks also to effective PR efforts by its opponents, who have manage to delegitimate many proponents of Israel?s case to the point of silencing them. Much of the damage done cannot be undone now, even as reality starts to catch up. This is why Europe, with all its shortcomings on the Middle East, is a crucial battleground, and this is why I believe engaging Europe is vital. Israel and those who care about Israel will be able to fight back only if Israel is seen more part of an international community and of a consensus on important issues, such as Iran and counter-terrorism. This requires more self-restraint of Israel and taking more risks. Israel has done so in the last 15 months and the shifting geo-strategic realities of the region are doing the rest.

Many people in the UK and throughout Europe feel that the undemocratic and bureaucratic EU is trying to remove the various nation states of Europe by stealth.

The British public has never voted for their laws and customs to be usurped by a foreign body. An example of this is the recent introduction of the Age Discrimination legislation now foisted upon British businesses.

Hopefully, the whole rotten "EU" experiment will collapse in the future. If this does occur, sooner rather than later, what effect will it have on the Middle east situation?

Best Regards Jeremy Jacobs

Dear Jeremy,

When asked about the failure of the EU Constitution in the French Referendum, one of its ?founding fathers? said, in the course of a press conference, ?Well, you see, we are all human and prone to make mistakes. I may be wrong, you may be wrong? and the public may be wrong.?

This answer perhaps captures some of the European elites? attitudes to public feelings. The EU is indeed a distant entity for most citizens. Its institutions are hardly representative, except for Parliament, which is hardly influential. In matters of accountability, effectiveness and even working ethics, there is much to be desired. And the regulatory impulse of the EU no doubt threatens member states? sovereign prerogatives. But the referendum experience shows that sooner or later, even an insular institution such as EU bureaucracy must catch up with reality.

Despite the perceived arrogance of some of its ruling elites, not all that the EU is should be dismissed as bad and not all matters of policy should be returned to the sovereign prerogative of its member states. The EU should and will continue to be a community of independent states in many areas; as for the rest, it will act as a loose confederation sometimes, and should not go beyond the idea of strongly decentralized federalism. But in some matters, what the EU has become requires greater integration and coordination. One example? Immigration. Europe cannot have no internal borders, a policy of free movement of people and goods within the Union, and 25 different standards of admission for immigrants and 25 different border regimes. It cannot leave the responsibility of patrolling its vast and vastly porous maritime borders and the burden of deliberating about illegal immigrants and their fate to 25 different governments. Especially in an age of terrorism, who and what comes into Europe are existential questions. What easily comes into Italy or Spain will, before long, pop up just as easily in Great Britain or Denmark. By opening their borders and their markets to one another, Europeans have created a situation where at least some policies need to be coordinated among the 25 and a certain level of harmonization is required. This does not mean that, say, labor laws should be equally made subject to the diktat of Brussels, to make another example. Even in a federal system like the US, where ultimately, power rests with the federal government, states? legislation in matters such as education, environment, and fiscal legislation vastly differs. Why should Europe be different, given that states ultimately retain sovereignty? If Brussels were to decide how many hours an Estonian and a British citizens should work every week, and what is their minimum wage, with no regard of local economic conditions, work ethics, economic priorities and the like, I?d agree with you, it is time to rethink the EU. But with all the attempts to do so, the EU was not meant to be this kind of nanny-superstate, even in the minds of the most enthusiastic federalist Europhiles.

This brings me to the question of foreign policy. The EU is not bound to collapse any time soon, though its ability to act unanimously has been proven very limited in foreign policy. The truth is that member states are still very jealous of their own national interest and they will not delegate certain decisions to an overarching supranational unrepresentative institution. And if one looks at the Middle East as a case in point, it is obvious that on such crises as Iraq in 2003, and even Iran now, there are important divisions. The EU voted unanimously against Israel when the West Bank barrier was brought to The Hague in 2004. There is an overarching consensus in Europe about the Roadmap. There is a dominant view that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the most urgent and potentially disruptive issue of the region. But this has less to do with EU common foreign policy, and more to do with European views of the conflict and the Middle East. When one takes this into account, and sees that nevertheless on key issues there are important differences and cracks in the façade of unity, it becomes clear that when real questions of national interest are at stake, it is not the EU that calls the shots. It is the governments of its member-states.

Dear Emanuele,

I guess you can't talk about Europe without asking about anti-Semitism. Is it rising, declining, or transforming to anti-Zionism?

Rosner

Dear Rosner,

In the last five years Europe experienced a dramatic increase in attacks against Jewish individuals, institutions, and property. Discourse once reputed unacceptable is now routinely voiced in mainstream circles, the press, and the corridors of power. But what are the nature of this phenomenon, the reasons for its recurrence, and its severity?

Though attacks against have been steadily on the rise since late 2000, there is much disagreement about their nature. Surveys show that traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes are resilient. Nevertheless, the bulk of incidents, whether involving physical violence or abusive literature, are not easily recognized as anti-Semitic due to the context in which they usually emerge, namely the return of conflict in the Middle East and its emotional impact on European audiences. When the motives behind the incident appear rooted in some grievance - real or imaginary - arising from the Middle East, most Europeans are inclined to dismiss them as merely 'anti-Israel' and not anti-Semitic. The tendency to minimize the nature of a threat hinders efforts to formulate a right response.

Along with the prejudice therefore comes denial of its occurrence. Extreme right wing and neo-Nazi manifestations of anti-Semitism are readily recognized and universally condemned, but there is disagreement on other expressions of anti-Jewish prejudice, due to its source as well as its substance. Some disagreement may no doubt depend on definitions. Anti-Semitism, after all, is a term coined in 1879 by German author, Wilhelm Marr, to define a racially-based hatred of Jews.

Racially based prejudice assumed that Jews were incorrigibly dangerous - hence unredeemable - and therefore had to be exterminated. Previous hatred, whether inspired by Christian theology or by liberal or Marxist doctrines, postulated that Jews could be redeemed - by embracing the dominant culture or faith - and could be discriminated and persecuted for their refusal to conform. Therefore, anti-Semitism is a term that expresses only a certain prejudice against Jews - and it is therefore grossly inaccurate to suggest that it applies to other 'Semites' as well. Some among those who deny that there is a serious anti-Semitic threat in Europe today may indeed be using the term in its accurate meaning - and in a sense may have a point.

Even as much of the bickering is about terminology, the refusal to acknowledge a return of anti-Jewish prejudice in mainstream European society is about substance as well. Presuming that anti-Jewish prejudice can only manifest itself under the guise of a racially driven hatred that always and invariably leads to Auschwitz prevents European societies from acknowledging anything but the most glaring expressions of anti-Jewish outrage, preferring to downplay or ignore its other, and currently more widespread manifestations. It should be self-evident that between Auschwitz and social harmony there are infinite shades of grey. Yet the problem is precisely in recognizing that the racially-driven anti-Semitism that eventually begat Nazism was neither the first nor the only form of anti-Jewish prejudice in the history of Europe. And that immunization against it does not necessarily guarantee that other forms of prejudice will not recur.

The main difficulty thus is that today's prejudice focuses on Israel's role in modern Jewish identity. Despite its centrality in their communal identity, Jews are targeted for their attachment to and support for Israel and are asked to relinquish them in exchange for legitimacy. This demand, far from being seen as anti-Semitic, is vigorously pursued in certain quarters in the name of a liberal vision that rejects nationalism and religion as foundations of a collective identity. Europe is today guided by a post-national, secular and pacifist vision of international politics - a 'brotherhood of mankind' worldview. Once again, Jews seem out of step with the dominant ethos of society, and for this they are chastised and under pressure to conform.

Israel is perceived as evil, both for its conduct and for its essence as a nation-state. Israel's policies - understood as the product of Israel's Zionist identity - are blamed for the rise of anti-Semitism. According to such view, Israel today deserves utter condemnation. It follows that as 'accomplices' in Israel's behavior, Jewish supporters of Israel are blamed for their own suffering.

To shield themselves, Jews are asked to discard Israel from their own collective identity. This step, and an active denunciation of Israel as the antithesis of liberal and Jewish values (themselves, in this vision, synonymous with one another), will gain them full acceptance in European societies. Scores of Jews, especially among the intellectual and secular elites, indeed comply in public acts of mea culpa, thus lending an alibi to anti-Semites and gentrifying anti-Jewish prejudice in the process.

In some quarters of Europe today, the only uncontroversial way to express a proud Jewish identity is through the experience of suffering and victimization from the past, which the Holocaust has come to embody more than anything else. The Jew as a victim and as a witness of the quintessential, archetypal experience of suffering emerges as Europe's positive Jewish role-model, in sharp contrast to the Jewish pro-Israel or even Zionist voice, which Europe chastises for having betrayed both European values and what Europe sees as the authentic Jew.

What is your sense on the EU attitude toward the Iranian nuclear threat? Do you believe anything can be done on the European level? If so, what kind of measures do you have in mind?

Thank you,

Deborah

Dear Deborah,

There are many things that Europe as a whole, and European countries on their own, can do. The key to understanding what is to be done is that, to use the words of an American expert on Iran, one must see two clocks ticking in Teheran: one, faster, is the nuclear clock. The other, slower, is the regime change clock. The challenge for Western policy makers trying to square this circle is how to slow down the former while accelerating the latter.

In Europe, military intervention is viewed as practically risky and politically remote among realists, and a flight of fancy among the elites. In fact, as recent polls indicated, the vast majority of EU elite members are prepared to live with Iran's bomb. For them, force is no option. At a recent Centre for New Europe dinner, I was confronted by a German journalist, and a British analyst. They both rejected my definition of Iran as a strategic threat and suggested that it was merely 'a problem.' The Brit went so far as to say one should 'understand' how the Iranians must feel, surrounded as they are by Americans. Empathy, and going native, are old British diplomatic traditions, but perhaps not the best course of action. Europe neither needs to understand nor show empathy to how Iranians 'feel.' It needs to decide what it wants for itself, what is good for Europe, and pursue its own interests.

As for the German lady, there was no alternative course of action but dialogue, even if dialogue were to fail (mind you, what did three years of European dialogue with Iran produce, aside from more dialogue?)

Within these circles, there is a sense of Schadenfreude vis-à-vis America for its perceived failure in Iraq and a sense that the Americans will have to play along on Iran. But when asked what they would do if dialogue failed, many Europeans dismiss even sanctions as a viable option. This is telling, because Europe supported UN Security Council Resolution 1696, which is a Chapter VII resolution setting a deadline (31 August) for Iran to comply or face the consequences under article 41 of the Charter - namely, sanctions. So Europe supported a measure its thinking elites do not take seriously. And its leaders let the deadline pass and then agreed more time should be invested into dialogue. As Swiss philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel once said, 'Moral indifference is the malady of the cultivated classes.'

Nevertheless, the threat of Iran is real and comparing European views of Iran today to what Europe's understanding of its threat four years ago, say, when President Bush made his 'axis of evil' speech, shows that among European leaders and the public there is a shift. Europe's problem is that this shift is slow and it encounters the resistance of prominent opinion and policy makers.

As a leading European commentator put it to me recently, Europe is very preoccupied with preserving the memory of the first Holocaust, but it does not seem overly seized in the matter of preventing the second one. Yet, that scenario is real enough: A radical, apocalyptic and millenarian leader at the helm of Iran's regime is seconded by the clerics who guard the purity of the revolution in his call for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Europe claims to be committed to the principle of 'Never again!' but judging by its reluctance to act upon it in recent years (Rwanda, Congo, Darfur, and even in its own backyard, in Bosnia), one should not waste too much time reminding Europe of its historical responsibilities. When I did so to my German interlocutor, she felt it was a cheap shot, proving how some European commitments are neither genuine nor serious.

Nevertheless, something can be done. And if Europe is serious about depriving Iran's regime of the bomb, Europe will understand that between bombing Iran and doing nothing, there are several viable alternatives. To slow down the nuclear clock, there is little need to invade Iran. For now, leave the business to selective, smart sanctions, implemented through aggressive naval blockades and border controls. And give it some help through discreet sabotage: one does not need to destroy Iran's reactors yet; it is enough to incapacitate some of those who operate them, for example.

To those who feel that sanctioning regimes do not work, my answer is that there are measures that nevertheless hurt and make it harder for Iran to achieve its goals.

First, freeze assets. Second, put travel bans on Iranian leaders. Third, curtail their missionary work by expelling their cultural envoys abroad. Fourth, renounce commercial deals with Iran. Fifth, punish those companies who defy the ban by denying them access to government contracts and to Western markets. Make people pay a high price for dealing with Teheran and spreading its poisonous messages.

Then, embarrass the Iranians. Every time Europeans travel to Teheran, ask to meet dissidents first. Mention Iran's human rights violations at every opportunity. Shame and embarrass Iranian officials at press conferences by raising their human rights record. Beam radio and TV into Iran to undermine the regime. Isolate Iranian diplomats abroad. Stop inviting them to dinners and receptions. Desert their events. Exclude Iranian sportsmen from international competitions. Reduce diplomatic relations to a minimum. Recall your ambassadors. Invite dissidents instead. Give them awards, university honorary degrees, literary prizes and a constant platform to denounce the regime.

None of these measures require guns, bombs, aircraft carriers, and a trigger happy attitude.

Will Europe do any of the above, instead of sleep-walking into Iran's nuclear moment?

The oldest Scottish University, St. Andrew's, has just bestowed an honorary former Iranian President Khatami doctorate in law, due to his contribution to interfaith dialogue. The degree will be given by the Chancellor of the University and leader of the Lib-Dems in the UK, Sir Minzies Cambell. If I must go by this example, and by the conversations I am having with intelligent, middle-of-the-road, educated Europeans, I?d say no, which means that neither Israel nor the U.S. should harbour any long-term illusions: failure to act now leads to a time when no other choice will be left but to attack. And when that happens, both should know that many in Europe will not support the use of force. They will patronize.

Dear Emanuele,

We don't usually have here a guest discussing Europe, so let's not waste any time. In a recent article (for the National Review), you wrote about "a growing anxiety among the public for the future of Europe in light of the growth of Muslim communities on the continent." You also stated that "Europe must stand firm in the face of Muslim extremism no less than in the wake of its own racist brand of right-wing, anti-immigrant zeal" - however, you offer no specifics.

How is this to be done?

Best,

Rosner

Europeans give three standard answers: One, integrate Muslims in our own societies; two, give them voice in the political process; three, change foreign policy. The first answer may rectify an objective situation of inequality but will not placate the anger over other issues that are salient to Islamists; the second answer will compound the problem; and the third answer ignores that foreign policy is a rallying cry, which bears no relation to Danish cartoons, papal speeches, French philosophers, German theatre productions and the status of gays and women in our societies.

These answers are off-target. If socio-economic grievances were the only cause of radical Islam, why, then, the deadliest act of homegrown Islamic radicalism in Europe to this day occurred in the United Kingdom - the country where Muslims are most integrated and least discriminated against in the whole of Europe? Look around England today. Muslims have access to the best education; they are entering the liberal professions; they are represented in parliament and local government; they appear at all levels in the civil service. Social mobility and better integration is clearly not the answer.

What about engaging their leadership? So far, the choice of interlocutors has not created a class of responsible, moderate Muslim leaders who routinely use their influence for the sake of their communities' moderation. To the contrary, by empowering less moderate leaders, Europe is marginalizing those figures in the Muslim community that could become true partners.

What about changing foreign policy? It is unacceptable that any policy should be changed under pain of violence. Even so, radicals do not just want a different foreign policy; they want a different Europe, which Jews, secular Muslims, gays, women, iconoclastic thinkers, anticlerical authors and creative artists may find inhospitable. That's not something Europeans should negotiate on. This is what is getting, finally, under their skin.

You ask what to do.

First, stop welcoming anyone who wishes to move to Europe. No fortress Europe of course, but this is not a free camping area either. Europeans must develop a coherent immigration policy to determine who gets in and under what conditions.

Second, demand adherence to a core set of values for those who enter. Immigrants cannot enjoy freedom for themselves but disregard it for others.

Third, defend those values with the pride and passion they deserve, for they are the very reason they make Europe the attractive land of refuge so many people seek to enter.

Disagreeing, even vehemently, about politics and about moral issues is at the core of a democratic society. There is no harm in Muslims complaining about the pope's speech or cartoons about their prophet. But advocating, inciting, threatening and using violence to silence opponents is not acceptable. It is intolerable that, for criticizing Islam, a French thinker must go underground in France. France! The country of Voltaire! The light went out on the Enlightenment the day this can happen. What signal does this give? That violence pays off. That we don't stand for the values we purport to believe. That we are not serious about our freedoms.

Fourth, empower truly moderate Muslim voices and punish extremists for what they say, they incite to do, and do themselves. And no free ride for ambiguity either. When outrages happen, demand condemnation from Muslim leaders in no uncertain terms. If they are to guide their communities they should set examples themselves. It does not help to empower radicals.

Fifth, set literacy and education standards for Imams. Again, there may be legislative impediments, but they can be overcome.

Sixth, vet religious preachers who provide spiritual comfort to prisoners. A significant portion of Europe's inmates are Muslim. And a significant number of Muslim inmates become radicalized while in prison. There is no reason to provide them the tools, courtesy of the taxpayer, to do so.

The list of things Europe can do is long. The question is: Do its leaders want to? And are they capable to?

Dear Emanuele.

From Europe and the Muslims to Europe and Israel - also not an easy relationship. Some surveys in Europe show that support for the Palestinians has dropped (recent such poll can be found athere) and the European leadership was quite supportive (comparatively) during the war in Lebanon. But Israelis in general are still very suspicious of the EU and its policies in the region.

Do you envision a change in attitudes that will enable Israelis to count the EU as an ally?

Best

Rosner

Dear Rosner,

The survey was conducted before the Second Lebanon War, and judging by Europe's reactions, one needs not be overly optimistic about a shift in attitudes.

The survey can be explained by three factors: story fatigue, the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment and Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year. After six years of conflict, most Europeans are simply losing sympathy for and interest in the story. Their anxiety over Muslim extremists translates into a dislike for Hamas, especially given that its electoral victory came on the wings of an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. But note how the drastic drop in sympathy for Palestinians does not translate into support for Israel. To the contrary, the number of Europeans who openly back Israel also shrunk. The biggest chunk of public opinion finds both sides equally distasteful and this is a constant in Euro-surveys in the last six years. Once we factor in European concern for Muslim extremism, and the widespread perception that the Palestine question feeds into Muslim grievances at home, one can see how Europe's newly found dislike for Hamas does not translate into a base for closer ties with Israel.

The overall European reaction to the war is a case in point. Initially, responses were less hostile than in the past - after all, there were none of the usual pretexts to attack Israel. Israel did not start the war, was not violating UN resolutions, was not fighting over settlements, and was not occupying land claimed by its aggressors. But the initial restraint quickly morphed into the usual shrill condemnations - once the humanitarian dimension of the war appeared on European TV screens. Criticism of Israel was uniform - its response was deemed disproportionate even by traditionally friendly voices as UK Tories - and calls for a ceasefire quickly gained the upper hand.

In the post-war scenario several worrisome trends have emerged:

European public opinion is evermore convinced that Israel's policies obstruct a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict. The conflict is in turn seen as the main cause of all other regional problems, including Islamist terrorism, from which Europeans feel threatened (For example, former EU Commission president and current Italian Premier, Romano Prodi, recently defined the Palestine question as 'the mother of all problems'). Consequently, Israel's right to exist is increasingly questioned on the logic that if Israel did not exist, things would be better.

Despite Europe's rhetoric about Israel's right to self-defense, it is clear that the ground is shifting: soon after the end of the war, five EU countries briefly denied landing rights to El Al cargo planes re-supplying the IDF. Now there are suggestions that UNIFIL-2 may shoot at Israeli planes flying over Lebanese skies. In some quarters, support for European involvement in Lebanon came out of a desire to protect Hezbollah from Israel, rather than the other way around. European politicians rushed to Beirut to negotiate their troops' safe passage and settled for vague and toothless rules of engagement for UNIFIL.

Then there is a growing impatience with the impasse on the Palestine issue, frequently expressed in the desire to speak to Hamas. Recent suggestions that a new peace initiative be imposed on both sides, and calls for the deployment of a European force in Gaza, modeled after UNIFIL, indicate the gap between the realities on the ground and the wishful thinking that guides some policy and opinion makers in Europe today.

If you want to truly understand Europe's feelings toward Israel, look at the way European leaders treated the humanitarian dimension of the recent conflict. In Lebanon, most European leaders visited areas devastated by the war; in Israel, they simply went to Jerusalem to see the prime minister. How many toured the scorched earth of Israel's north to display a similar degree of human sympathy? Count them. You will not need many hands.

These examples are symptoms of a broader European trend that is likely to become more, not less, acute, over time. The distance between Europe and Israel, in political and cultural terms, is bound to increase, even as economic relations and scientific cooperation are bound to grow closer.

Dear Emanuele

Our next question/comment is from a reader:

I think you should discuss the insidious effect of the politically (in)correct euro-left and its enablement of Muslim radicalism and tolerance if not silent acquiescence with Jew hate.

Dash, Uzi Silber

Dear Uzi,

These are two big questions. Let me address the romance of some members of the left with radical Islam. Jew-hatred, even when disguised as 'anti-Israel' sentiment, is the flip side of the coin.

Europe's hard left is soft on Islamism. There are reasons for that. First, it is the notion that my enemy's enemy is my friend. And given that the hard left still thinks capitalism and America are its enemies, radical Islam does not seem so evil after all. True, Islamism is not kind to gays and women and minorities, but one can paper over these 'minor' differences if one believes in the inevitability of history. This alliance, incidentally, went beyond opposition to the Iraq war and a meeting of minds about the Intifada. For the hard left, Islamism is not just fighting a common enemy. It is a new revolutionary ideology that can give new vitality to its cause after its natural pool of supporters, European workers, became 'bourgeois.' Besides, it offers a vast pool of voters: Muslim immigrants are by and large viewed as the new proletariat. Foreign policy issues unite the hard left and the Islamists in their hatred for America and Israel; and the romanticized reading of Islamist terrorism as the new wave of freedom fighters against imperialism offers a new redemptive narrative, the likes of which the hard left has not had since Che Guevara. For their part, Islamists recognize the potency of the human rights narrative and the seductive power of anti-colonialist rhetoric. Cloaking the mantle of the oppressed serves them well, turning their cause into a liberal cause. This is why these two strange bedfellows are forging political alliances across the continent. But their political relevance would be close to nil, were it not for a widespread embrace of multiculturalism and the worst kind of politically correct mentality.

Left-wing liberals who justifiably denounce human rights abuses of the West against Muslims (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the Intifada, etc.) are often silent when the abuses come from the other side. And I am not talking about genocide in Darfur or the oppression of religious and national minorities across the Arab Middle East. I am not even referring to the frequently mentioned double standard that Israel gets on such scores. It's much closer to home: It's the willingness of many liberals to endorse self-censorship when freedom of speech is seen as offensive to Muslims. Just look at how the issue of the Danish cartoons was treated by many a liberal in Europe. A recent leak from internal BBC debates indicates that the well respected news giant would not lose sleep over satirical programs where the Bible is derided, but would censor a show where the Koran gets similar treatment. Making fun of Jesus is OK - if Christians get offended, the banner of free speech is always within easy hand reach of the self-righteous politically correct crowd. Making fun of Mohammad is not OK - we cannot hurt the sensitivities of Muslims.

Why not?

Boris Johnson - a Tory MP and former editor of the Spectator - gave the most candid of answers, during the Danish cartoons crisis. Explaining to his readers why his magazine did not republish them, Johnson said, 'the real reason, gentle readers, was nothing to do with taste. We weren't being responsible. We weren't respectful. At least I wasn't. The truth is we were just a little bit frightened and so is everyone else now.'

Moral relativism is the fear of believing that your values are somehow better than others. The minute that you find it distasteful to defend those values because you are not sure they are worth defending or because someone else might get offended, the door is open for freedom to be trampled upon.

That the first ones to be trampled upon may be the Jews is immaterial to the broader picture. For sooner or later, everyone, not just the Jews, will be afraid.

Many people in the UK and throughout Europe feel that the undemocratic and bureaucratic EU is trying to remove the various nation states of Europe by stealth.

The British public has never voted for their laws and customs to be usurped by a foreign body. An example of this is the recent introduction of the Age Discrimination legislation now foisted upon British businesses.

Hopefully, the whole rotten "EU" experiment will collapse in the future. If this does occur, sooner rather than later, what effect will it have on the Middle East situation?

Best Regards Jeremy Jacobs

Dear Jeremy,

When asked about the failure of the EU Constitution in the French Referendum, one of its "founding fathers" said, in the course of a press conference, "Well, you see, we are all human and prone to make mistakes. I may be wrong, you may be wrong? and the public may be wrong."

This answer perhaps captures some of the European elites' attitudes to public feelings. The EU is indeed a distant entity for most citizens. Its institutions are hardly representative, except for Parliament, which is hardly influential. In matters of accountability, effectiveness and even working ethics, there is much to be desired. And the regulatory impulse of the EU no doubt threatens member states? sovereign prerogatives. But the referendum experience shows that sooner or later, even an insular institution such as EU bureaucracy must catch up with reality.

Despite the perceived arrogance of some of its ruling elites, not all that the EU is should be dismissed as bad and not all matters of policy should be returned to the sovereign prerogative of its member states. The EU should and will continue to be a community of independent states in many areas; as for the rest, it will act as a loose confederation sometimes, and should not go beyond the idea of strongly decentralized federalism. But in some matters, what the EU has become requires greater integration and coordination. One example? Immigration. Europe cannot have no internal borders, a policy of free movement of people and goods within the Union, and 25 different standards of admission for immigrants and 25 different border regimes. It cannot leave the responsibility of patrolling its vast and vastly porous maritime borders and the burden of deliberating about illegal immigrants and their fate to 25 different governments. Especially in an age of terrorism, who and what comes into Europe are existential questions. What easily comes into Italy or Spain will, before long, pop up just as easily in Great Britain or Denmark. By opening their borders and their markets to one another, Europeans have created a situation where at least some policies need to be coordinated among the 25 and a certain level of harmonization is required. This does not mean that, say, labor laws should be equally made subject to the diktat of Brussels, to make another example. Even in a federal system like the US, where ultimately, power rests with the federal government, states' legislation in matters such as education, environment, and fiscal legislation vastly differs. Why should Europe be different, given that states ultimately retain sovereignty? If Brussels were to decide how many hours an Estonian and a British citizens should work every week, and what is their minimum wage, with no regard of local economic conditions, work ethics, economic priorities and the like, I'd agree with you, it is time to rethink the EU. But with all the attempts to do so, the EU was not meant to be this kind of nanny-superstate, even in the minds of the most enthusiastic federalist Europhiles.

This brings me to the question of foreign policy. The EU is not bound to collapse any time soon, though its ability to act unanimously has been proven very limited in foreign policy. The truth is that member states are still very jealous of their own national interest and they will not delegate certain decisions to an overarching supranational unrepresentative institution. And if one looks at the Middle East as a case in point, it is obvious that on such crises as Iraq in 2003, and even Iran now, there are important divisions. The EU voted unanimously against Israel when the West Bank barrier was brought to The Hague in 2004. There is an overarching consensus in Europe about the Roadmap. There is a dominant view that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the most urgent and potentially disruptive issue of the region. But this has less to do with EU common foreign policy, and more to do with European views of the conflict and the Middle East. When one takes this into account, and sees that nevertheless on key issues there are important differences and cracks in the façade of unity, it becomes clear that when real questions of national interest are at stake, it is not the EU that calls the shots. It is the governments of its member-states.