Sunday, December 28, 2003
By way of LGF comes the story of Chris Patten, a "viscerally anti-Israel" sanctimonious jackass who has all but barred Israel from joining the EU.
Patten, who is regarded as viscerally anti-Israel, has been a staunch champion of EU financial support for the Palestinians and claims to have "driven the process of reform in the Palestinian Authority institutions."
Good work on that, Chris. Nicely done.

Anyway, it's hardly surprising that the EU would disallow Israel entry -- after all, for all their supposed tolerance, they don't even plan to let Turkey in. What surprised me, though, is that Israel actually considered joining the EU to start with:

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told a visiting European Union delegation on Tuesday that Israel was considering applying for membership of the bloc.

"Shalom said he is not excluding that this government will ask for full membership in the EU," said Marco Pannella, an Italian member of the European Parliament and president of the Transnational Radical Party. [The what?]
That's a story from May of this year, and the statements are attributed to Silvan Shalom, a Likud FM who is unlikely to have an overly-rosy picture of the European Union. It almost seems absurd: would Israel really let their policies be dictated out of Brussels? Does Mr. Shalom seriously intend to sign the Schengen Convention, allowing all EU citizens passport-free entry into Israel (including the millions of Muslims in Europe)? By letting Israel have access to European markets and "institutions" -- whatever that word means -- Mr. Patten seems to be doing Shalom quite a favor: letting Israel have the benefits of EU membership, without the costs.

But the bigger question is, why would the Israelis want to participate in the EU? Trade is nice, sure, but there are other ways, and other partners. And after seeing the news coverage, the backstabbing from France, the boycotts by various trade unions, why would Israel want to integrate with Europe at all?

Partly, the following is true:

"In principle, the minister thinks a possibility exists for Israel to join the EU since Israel and Europe share similar economies and democratic values," he said.
I'm not so sure that European nations are all that strongly committed to democractic values, but I suppose living in a sea of Arab lunacy would make even France look like a beacon of freedom and rational thought. Economically, Israel is similar to European nations, but again, that hardly seems worth giving up sovereignty and border control to an outfit that is hostile to Israel's goals and interests. So what's the deal here?

I think what's at work here is the same thing that's been an albatross around Israel's neck since its inception: the burning desire of Israelis to be seen as a "first-world," "European" nation. For better or for worse, a lot of Israelis have European roots, and think of themselves as, well, "European" -- taking the meaning of that word historically as standing for what we in the U.S. generally prefer to call "Western Civilization." They have built a society that is "European" in many ways, from the parliamentary government, to strong socialist tendencies within the economy, to professed values of inclusion, tolerance, and pluralism -- which, as desirable end-goals, are unique to latter-day Western thought.

When talking about relations between the U.S. and Western Europe, many people are often guilty of overlooking some of the most fundamental differences in perspective between Americans (that is, people living in the United States of America) and Western Europeans. Americans believe themselves to have contributed at least a much to the history and advancement of Western Civilization as anyone else; we view ourselves and a major part of that civilization, and this causes our own worldview to be either balanced (with European history and contribution making up a sizable, possibly equal, but certainly not dominant, part of the Civilization), or downright Amero-centric (with the United States mattering more to Western Civilization than Europe). Europeans, on the other hand, view Europe as the cradle and center of Western Civilization (indeed, European Civilization); the U.S., Canada, Australia, etc., regardless of the size of their contributions, are colonial outposts populated by expat Brits, Frenchmen, Dutch, and others. Nothing in what I said is meant to be pejorative or critical; that's just how the views are formed, in the most general, broadest possible terms. Many people never even realize that this is how they view the world, but nonetheless, that is how they view it. The comical spectacle of France, Luxembourg, and Belgium issuing edicts on the propriety of American behavior can only be explained by the notion that they considered themselves in a position to make such pronouncements. (One certainly did not get this level of pomposity from Brazil, Nigeria, or Thailand, who operate under no illusions that the U.S. gives a tinker's damn as to their opinion in matters that do not concern them.) This leads to mutual outrage: from Americans at European nations who for some reason think that we must heed them, and from Europeans who can't understand why "their own" people would disregard them with such indifference.

So, what's this got to do with Israelis trying to get into the EU? As I said, many Israelis hail from Europe or have close cultural ties to Europe, and a long-standing wish to be accepted as part of a larger community of nations. They wish to be viewed as "Western" -- on merits all their own, as well as in opposition to the Arab cultures that surround them -- and for better or for worse, equate "Western" with "European." America's friendship is certainly valued and appreciated; but America is far away, and really, it's ultimately a European colony, so acceptance by it doesn't quite give the cachet of Western-ism that one gets from being "European." Without such acceptance, Israelis fear they'll be viewed as just another Middle Eastern country -- a Lebanon or Egypt, only with Jews -- and the notion isn't particularly appealing.

In a way, Israel seems to suffer from a national neurosis: they are constantly worried about what other nations will think of them, constantly searching for "acceptance" and recognition of Israel as just another "normal" nation. Israel lacks precisely the type of confidence -- some might say "hubris" -- that is available in such abundance in the United States. The same Americans who treat their Constitution with such reverence show utter ignorance of and indifference towards "international law," and no argument based on that "law" would get any traction outside the dopey Left. When Americans decided to go to war in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq, they didn't really care much what the UN or France said. As the anti-American campaign revved up in the UN, driven by France, Americans responded with either indifference or outright contempt for both France and the UN. In contast, Israel continues to take insult after insult at the UN, and a non-trivial part of the Knesset and the population are constantly worried about perception of Israeli actions abroad, much more so than any other nation I'm aware of.

In the end, it is my belief that this constant search for acceptance is Israel's greatest weakness, one that Arabs and their allies and apologists have exploited for all it's worth. Not only does it lead otherwise sober Israeli officials such as Mr. Shalom to make silly pronouncements, but it also means constant second- and third-guessing of every move the government makes, and the appearance of indecisiveness and weakness that only encourages the nation's enemies. It's also why so many "human rights" organizations put pressure on Israel out of all proportion to need: as Israelis keep demonstrating, pressure on them works. Bashar Assad couldn't care less what bone the do-gooders at Amnesty International have to pick with him, but condemn an Israeli action, no matter how innocuous, and you can bet that the condemnation will make the pages of the Ha'aretz, the tools at Peace Now and a few other "progressive" organizations will make a lot of noise, and those in the population who just want to live in "a normal country" will start making noises about maybe toning it down a little.

Does this mean that the Israelis should muzzle left-wing groups, or give their military carte-blanche to shoot at will? Of course not -- but they do need to truly start thinking of their nation of being independent and sovereign, which means that they are a moral entity unto themselves, and they have the sole right to judge their motives and actions for themselves. This is how Americans view their place in this world, which is why we so steadfastly resist any UN bullshit about "international courts" and "global legitimacy," or some other such nonsense -- we decide whether our actions are legitimate, and we ask no one else. The Israelis need to do the same, to demonstrate that they will not be dictated to by anyone else, will make their own decisions as they see fit, and will pass judgement according to their own views and moral necessities. Ironically, such behavior will put them on equal footing with other nations, and on a road to acceptance that their current intense search actually keeps them from finding. In other words, if Israel wants to stop being "a Jew among nations," it's got to stop thinking of itself as such.

Update: Paolo follows up with a bit more detail about the Transnational Radical Party:

It is a libertarian party. Marco's feelings for Israel are genuine. Probably he is the most pro-Israel and pro-American italian politician and his purposes are surely good, in defense of Israel, even if the idea is criticizable.


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