Where Have All the Nuances Gone?

Israeli journalists asking nowadays to interview government leaders in one of the "European axis of evil" countries will encounter a wall of embarrassment and refusal. The Israeli public is regarded as a lost cause. At least until after the war in Iraq.

These are difficult times for "old Europe's" diplomats in Israel. Their foreign ministries read reports saying that in Israeli eyes, the French are hypocritical Israel-haters, the "great whores" of the international arena (Ma'ariv). The Belgians are a vain people with a record of colonialist crimes, anti-Semites from birth who, by the way, brought pedophilia to the world. The Germans? Well, there's no need to even mention them - the history books say it all.

We've attached labels to everyone. Not only the French and Germans and Belgians. We've labeled the Flemish, Dutch-speaking Belgians, and the Walloons, the French speakers. And we haven't forgotten the British, either. They're good guys. It doesn't matter that more than a million of them demonstrated in the streets against going to war. It doesn't matter that 55 percent of them reject their prime minister's policies, while only 35 percent support him. We won't let the facts confuse us. The English speak English, after all. They were also the good guys in World War II, and despite the Mandate, they're kosher in our eyes nowadays, whether they like it or are embarrassed that we think so.

Against the open Israeli hostility, the diplomats of "old Europe" are hunkering down in silence. It's simply a "waste of time," says one of them in Hebrew, showing off that he knows the slang, but not noticing he's using the old-fashioned meaning of the Hebrew haval al hazman, which nowadays also means the exact opposite. "As far as we're concerned, it's a lost battle," a colleague agrees. "Your eyes say America and your ears are closed. There's practically no readiness to hear another opinion."

And he adds: "When serious, respected journalists raise the arguments used by the worst of the British tabloids, when the passions and emotions shunt aside the cold political calculation and when the Holocaust is enlisted over and over to attack our attempts to express a different view, then we simply run out of words. Could we charge the Jews with racism against us? Nobody dares to say so out loud."

Silence has become policy and apparently comes from the top. Israeli journalists asking nowadays to interview government leaders in one of the "European axis of evil" countries will encounter a wall of embarrassment and refusal. The Israeli public is regarded as a lost cause. At least until after the war.

Was giving up wise? A senior member of the German federal establishment, who preferred to remain anonymous, paints a picture of a complex world in which shades and nuances reign; a world very different than the one seen from the White House's windows.

He begins with an admission. Chancellor Schroeder's statements were meant for his election campaign. Many in the ruling party now admit privately that there was no logic to continuing the tough antiwar rhetoric after the elections. While we have to consider our own public opinion, we should not have taken such a firm, uncompromising position against the war, especially if it wins international approval. In his declarations, Schroeder's declarations hollowed out the just arguments against Bush shaking off the international community and its laws.

After the confession, comes the question. Perhaps your criticism of us is evidence that in your Israeli eyes, we have become a "normal country"? Would you prefer to see us fighting wars all over the world? We are responsible for the outbreak of two world wars and responsible for the most horrific crime in history - the Holocaust. Our extreme pacifism is part of a profound awareness of our past. Can that be bothering you?

Finally, he makes an assessment: Many in Germany argue that Schroeder is responsible for an irreversible trans-Atlantic rift. There are those in the American administration who declare he won't see the White House ever again, "at least not from inside." But we've known such crises in the past, and they never defeated the mutual interests and challenges around the globe, which are far stronger than any individual leader.

American author Robert Kagan writes in his latest book about the new world order, where the Americans make war while the Europeans take care of making the peace. Indeed, the European Union, with only 6 percent of the world's population, pays for some 50 percent of the peacekeeping efforts around the world. Moreover, there were 10,000 French soldiers in the first Gulf War and without anyone noticing, in recent years some 10,000 German troops have been deployed around the world to crisis spots, and Germany even has troops in Kuwait. Lately, Germany even took over the peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan. That, says the senior official, is designed to enable the allies to concentrate on the coming war in the Gulf.

"The U.S. cooks the dinner and Europe washes the dishes," wrote Kagan. The (old) Europeans want to believe that even Bush is aware of their much larger contribution.