Two contrasting slogans have characterized the debate over Israeli settlement building vis-à-vis Europe: “Never Again,” and “Tolerance.”
“Never again” is an implicit promise not to let evil triumph. It is perhaps best embodied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose policy prescriptions are substantively built on a firm refusal to cede strategic victory to those who assault Israel’s legitimacy.
“Tolerance,” on the other hand, is a cooperative effort aimed at achieving societal harmony through common decency. Implicit in that understanding is an imbalance of power. When the cooperative effort crumbles, decency can lead to disdain. It’s not hard to see how the tolerance of someone can lead to the tyranny of someone else.
If “never again” operates on an ironclad commitment never to repeat the same fatal mistake twice, “tolerance” contains the innate tendency to double-down on that same ideological failure. That’s exactly what happened after World War I, when the nations of Europe tolerated the restoration of Germany’s pride at the expense of themselves and others. In the end, only the unbearable cost of World War II gave pause to that approach.
Today the Europeans are at it again, tolerating Palestinian and Arab violence perpetrated against Israel, the goal of which is to reverse the humiliating defeat of 1948. In both cases, the tolerance of one nation has coincided with the intolerance of another nation: the Jews.
Europe wasn’t always anti-Israel. In 1956 during the Sinai-Suez war, France and the United Kingdom coordinated with Israel, which had — in an attempt to stop Arab terrorism — captured the Sinai Peninsula. Britain and France attempted to retake the Suez Canal, which Nasser had nationalized. The United States strongly opposed the campaign, and eventually forced all three countries to withdraw their forces.
Another notable testament to past European-Israeli cooperation is Israel’s nuclear program in Dimona. France undermined the United States by helping Israel build that program.
With time, however, cooperation spiraled into conflict. European support for Israel decreased for two main reasons.
First: arch-terrorist and leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat succeeded at creating the image of a Palestinian nation that had legitimate national aspirations which were being denied by Israel. Arafat effectively publicized Palestinian grievances, garnered public support, and prompted the international community to focus specifically on Palestinians and not on the broader Israeli-Arab conflict over the Golan Heights or the Sinai Peninsula. He achieved diplomatic gains as well — in 1974, Arafat was invited to address the United Nations General Assembly. With time, terror has helped the Palestinians gain the trappings of an emergent nation-state.
Second: the influx of large Muslim populations to Europe has affected the composition of Europe internally. Large numbers of Muslims began to migrate to the UK and France after both gave up their colonies in the Muslim world. After 1947, millions of Muslims from the Indian subcontinent began to migrate to the UK. In Tunisia and Morocco in 1956 and in Algeria after 1963, millions of Muslims emigrated from these former French colonies to France. In the 1960s, Germany, in an effort to boost its worker population, brought “guest-worker” Muslims from Turkey to operate their factories.
In all three countries, the vast majority of Muslims did not assimilate as previous generations of Christian and Jewish immigrants had done.
On the contrary, these Muslim communities remained intact — staying largely within the confines of their traditional communal make-up, marrying almost completely among themselves, and having a much higher birthrate than the native, at least nominally Christian, Europeans. With the passage of both time and new laws, Europe’s Muslims have become confident. Today they are seeking in many areas to Islamize their neighborhoods, with an eye towards Islamizing their cities and countries. The more confident they have become, the more strident their demands. The imposition to enact Sharia law and have it accepted widely in Europe is only a recent manifestation of that confidence.
These paradigm shifts have affected not only Europe, but also Israel. They have altered the narrative of the Jews as passive victims of external forces of evil to that of being masters of their own fate. More specifically, in Europe they have caused Israel to go from being perceived as the underdog to the oppressor. As a result, blatant acts of anti-Semitism have returned to the streets of Europe, and even to the halls of the European Union.
Unfortunately, the growing international effort led by Palestinians and leftists — and supported by EU policies — to destroy Israel culturally has led some well-intentioned individuals to curb their convictions, particularly when it comes to the expansion of building over the Green Line.
Doing so is a strategic blunder, these critics say, because it undermines empathy for Israel’s well-being. They cite instances such as the European diplomats who are currently weighing a blacklisting of convicted settlers as a means of halting settlement construction as supposed proof of their claim.
That line of thinking misdiagnoses the root cause of why Israel is routinely singled out for condemnation. Once-staunch allies like France do not name streets after Palestinian terrorists like Marwan Barghouti because Israel builds over the Green Line. Sixty-five years ago, there were no settlements, only hostile Arab nations eager to eradicate the fledgling Jewish state.
The truth is that Europe hates Israel because Israel has religious, social, and cultural ideals about the hope and faith of a people, which fly in the face of the great and growing leftist and Muslim populations in Europe. As long as Europe tolerates the existence of these intolerant communities, Israel’s existence will continue to elicit more Palestinian and Arab violence punctuated by UN condemnation.
It really is that simple.
Israel, like any sovereign state, reserves the right to defend its citizens from attack. The settlements constitute an important part of Israel’s security strategy to protect innocent civilians. Halting building is therefore both a fundamentally illogical response and a militarily untenable strategy. Moreover, it is counterproductive, as it will only bolster the conviction of the Leftist and Muslim populations to further deny Jews the ability to achieve their rights.
For centuries, the Jewish people were stateless and powerless. In Europe and elsewhere, they were incapable of defending themselves as consecutive waves of evil roiled them. Jewish communities were decimated, religious and cultural institutions reduced to rubble.
Not so today. More than 23,000 men, women, and children have died defending a sovereign Jewish state. After beating back legions of hostile Arab armies, Israel is certainly not afraid to face the cost of economic warfare.
It’s possible some critics of Israeli settlement building are well-intentioned. But so were the Europeans during World War II. It’s high time they were called out for what they really are: the enablers of the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.