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Europe’s View of Israel and Gaza

Harsh Effects of War on Gazans Lose Friends for Israel


Despite the series of truces in the latest Gaza war, fighting breaks out time and again, and the damage wrought to both sides has been intense, psychological trauma included. I’ve been watching this during a visit to central Europe these past two months, and it’s interesting to see the coverage on ARD and Bayern 1 instead of CNN and MSNBC.

Almost every evening, tens of millions of Europeans have seen vivid and scary videos of buildings in Gaza blown up, moaning parents clawing in the rubble for relatives, and especially heart-rending pictures of Palestinian men running with dying babies and bloody children in their arms into a UN hospital in Gaza. Even my liberal German friends who completely support the nation of Israel are turning away from its extreme response and the government that orders it. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carnage is tremendously disproportionate to the damage done to Israel by the hundreds of Hamas rockets — four Israeli civilians and almost 70 IDF soldiers killed compared to over 2,000 Gazans, including at least 500 children..

Thinking Europeans and Americans despise Hamas, as I do, and how its insanely angry leaders hide like cowards in Cairo or Qatar. But the ritual “lawn mowing” of Hamas in Gaza by the IDF is causing Israel to utterly lose the “war” for world public opinion.

In the UK, Tory minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi resigned from her post, stating she could no longer support Prime Minister David Cameron’s “morally indefensible” policy of unwavering support for Israel’s extreme right-wing government and its war crimes against Gazans. In August, more than 150,000 Britons in London marched in protest of Israel’s killings and destruction in the Gaza Strip. The protest was mirrored in several other European cities.

Retired South African Archbishop and Nobel Prize–winner Desmond Tutu recently called Israel’s actions in Gaza “barbaric,” stating at Durban’s International Union of Architects meeting: “I have condemned those Palestinians responsible for firing rockets at Israel, for violence is not the solution to human crises. The disproportionality of Israel’s response, however, has been utterly horrendous.”

Israelis and supporters of Israel should be troubled by how world opinion is changing against them. Globally we are now witnessing a frightening increase in anti-Semitism. This third “lawn mowing” of Hamas’s Al Qassam fighers and innocent Palestinian civilians and children is bringing out the latent anti-Semitism hiding in many European corners, notably in France.

In the U.S., television news and other media quite openly favor Israel — mirrored in Congress by our Representatives voting more aid for Israel. This extraordinary American media bias is certainly not paralleled in Germany or in the rest of Europe.

When the U.S. Senate voted 100–0 in July to support Israel unconditionally, the U.S.A. became complicit in these Israeli massacres. If Americans think we aren’t, well, many non-Americans believe we are. The unqualified backing of the Israeli government was certainly a part of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to crush Hamas in Gaza, whatever it takes and however many kids die.

PM Netanyahu — à la Nixon and his 1972 handshake with Mao and China — has the historic opportunity to embrace a peace process with the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Negotiate! With his right-wing credentials, only Netanyahu could drag Israel’s Likud and extremist parties into an agreement accepting the vital “Two-State Solution,” which is the only path to sustained peace in the Middle East. Unlike the failed approach of previous peace attempts, it would take on the two most difficult problems. First: the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem. Make Jerusalem an “international city” as the UN called for back in 1948, not the capital of either country.

And just as heroic Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin did with Egypt, Netanyahu should trade “land for peace” (the illegally colonized West Bank), as Rabin did by giving up the Sinai to Egypt. Fatah’s Abbas has to eliminate the military wing of Hamas for this to work, just as Netanyahu has to legitimately hold down Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the influence of religious ultra-Zionists and Third Temple fanatics.

For the U.S. politicans, the influence of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is immense. But just as Baroness Warsi called for a limit on export licenses on British armaments to Israel, so President Obama must dare to ignore AIPAC and press Congress to discuss denying continued funding of advanced weapons systems to Israel.

Dan McCaslin worked in Israel as an archaeologist while researching Canaanite stone anchors, making deep friendships while there. He contributes to the Hiking the Backcountry column for The Independent.

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