The European Union, Africa, and the Jews
"Sepulcher city"; so Joseph Conrad’s narrator, Marlowe, labels Brussels in The Heart of Darkness. "... a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulcher." The terms derive from the Gospel of Matthew and refer to people and institutions that seek to project an appearance of virtue but are corrupt and rotted within. Marlowe is responding to what he has witnessed of the Brussels-directed pillaging of the Congo, the wholesale murder and other horrors committed there by the agents of the "Council in Europe," and particularly by its most successful agent, Kurtz, in a merciless quest for ivory. This even as Kurtz and his sponsors and associates choose to project an image of the entire business as a virtuous undertaking and of Kurtz himself as a brilliant, sensitive genius -- musician, painter, essayist, poet -- embarked on a saintly mission, "an emissary of pity and science and progress."
How fitting then that Brussels should be the headquarters of the European Union.
The EU, like Conrad's "Council in Europe," continues to perpetrate abuses in Africa under the guise of humanitarian good will.
Behind claims of, for example, helping to foster sustainable economic growth in Africa, the EU exploits African resources to the profit of EU member states and to the detriment of Africans. One notable instance is EU fisheries policy in West Africa, which ostensibly seeks to promote long-term sustainability but has instead led to high-tech European fishing fleets -- subsidized by EU governments -- depleting local stocks. Poor West African nations such as Senegal, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and others, while being promised development assistance by the EU, have been subjected to decimation of their local fisheries. A significant portion of the population in the affected nations are critically dependent on local fish yields for their dietary well-being, and EU destruction of fisheries and dramatic depletion of potential catches by local fishermen have health ramifications for these nations that are devastating.
The sepulcher continent’s hypocrisy vis-a-vis Africa extends to political policies as well, which are inexorably linked to economic exploitation. An example was the EU’s close relations with former Tunisian strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali until he was forced to resign in the context of the "Arab spring" in 2011. The EU proffers many fine words about advancing democracy and human rights, and was doing so even as it sought to advance a special relationship with Ben Ali -- an accord that would promote European trade with Tunisia. Gushed one EU official: "Tunisia is an important and reliable partner for the EU, with which it has forged strong relations based on shared values and mutual respect and understanding." The EU’s embrace of Ben Ali undercut Tunisian human rights activists, as illustrated in EU silence when the Tunisian dictator outlawed contacts between Tunisian human rights groups and European institutions.
But even greater illustrations of EU hypocrisy and corruption than its policies in Africa are found in its policies regarding Israel and Jews.
Palestinian Authority media routinely praise anti-Israel terror, insist Jews have no historical connection to the land of Israel and assert that Israel must be destroyed. Palestinian schools likewise teach their students that Israel is an illegitimate colonial enterprise, that all of "Palestine" -- the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel -- properly belongs to them, and that they should dedicate themselves to Israel’s extirpation. The EU is not only essentially silent regarding this hate indoctrination, it helps finance it through contributions to both Palestinian media and Palestinian schools. The Palestinian Authority pays high monthly stipends to terrorists and their families, and the EU helps fund this as well.
The EU, together with its member states, likewise funds NGO’s dedicated to promoting Israel’s destruction. Organizations that routinely demonize Israel, parrot Palestinian claims that Jews have no legitimate connection to the land and that Israel must be dismantled, and seek to isolate Israel and undermine it, are recipients of EU largesse. The EU has also routinely rejected appeals for transparency on its allocation of funds to anti-Israel groups. The EU claims it is opposed to boycotts of Israel, yet it lavishly underwrites NGO’s that promote the BDS (boycott, divest and sanction) movement against Israel.
Although not without internal opposition, the EU has, it is true, declared Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Its doing so, however, does not seem a consequence of Hamas’s openly and consistently trumpeted determination not only to destroy Israel but to kill every Jew wherever he or she may live, nor a consequence of Hamas’s innumerable rocket and other attacks targeting Israeli civilians. Rather, the blacklisting of Hamas seems to have been motivated primarily by a desire to support the Palestinian Authority in its struggle with Hamas for leadership of the Palestinian cause. Thus, the EU long refused to designate Hezb’allah a terrorist organization, even as its actions and declarations differ little from those of Hamas, and ultimately acquiesced under American pressure only to labeling Hezb’allah’s "military wing" terrorist. The leader of Hezb’allah’s "political wing," Hassan Nasrallah, has declared, "If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide," and, of course, Nasrallah directs Hezb’allah’s "military" wing from his "political" perch, but for EU poohbahs he qualifies as a non-terrorist and a legitimate diplomatic interlocutor.
Despite Hamas’s openly genocidal agenda, Israel continues to allow huge quantities of material aid to pass daily through border crossings into Gaza, with only brief closings in the wake of Gazan rocket and other attacks on Israel such as the heavy rocket barrages in early March. Since the fall of the Islamic Brotherhood government in Egypt, that country has cut Gazan access across their shared border. It has also closed down hundreds of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt in response to Hamas’s role in terror attacks on Egyptian personnel in Sinai and elsewhere. These closings have affected the availability and prices of some goods in Gaza. Nevertheless, there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But despite these realities, EU officials recently declared that there is indeed a humanitarian crisis there and that -- in a non sequitur explicable only by EU prejudice and hypocrisy -- "Israel bears the prime responsibility for the situation in Gaza."
No less reflective of the EU as whited sepulcher, its adopting a bogus facade of high-mindedness and moral rectitude while promoting self-serving calumnies, is its characterization of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as Palestinian territory or occupied territory. This directly contradicts UN Security Council Resolution 242, which was passed unanimously in 1967, with the votes of all current EU member states then on the Security Council, and which calls for negotiation of "secure and recognized boundaries" without pre-judging those boundaries. It also betrays the EU’s commitments as signatory of the Oslo Accords, which again precludes pre-judgment of issues to be negotiated by the parties, including the ultimate disposition of disputed territories.
Similarly reflective of EU hypocrisy is EU characterization of Israeli communities beyond the pre-1967 armistice line as illegal or in violation of international law. In fact, as literally hundreds of international jurists have attested, the right of Jews to live in these areas was clearly established by the original League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1922), which called for "close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands" of the Mandate. (Despite some high volume claims to the contrary, settlements have uniformly been established on state lands or lands previously owned by Jews.) This Jewish right was reaffirmed by Article 80 of the United Nations charter, which preserved the application of the League of Nations Mandate’s stipulations.
One could argue that the Jews’ governmental body, by accepting the 1947 UN partition plan for Mandate Palestine, essentially gave up the right to Jewish settlement in areas not allotted to it. But the partition plan addressed issues of sovereignty, not of residence. More importantly, the Palestinian side rejected the plan and failed to establish a successor government in the areas that were to fall under its control. Subsequently, Judea and Samaria were occupied (with the killing or expulsion of all their Jewish residents) and annexed by Transjordan, which then renamed itself Jordan.
But only two nations, Britain and Pakistan, recognized Jordanian sovereignty in the territories. In 1967, Jordan – as King Hussein himself acknowledged – launched hostilities against Israel, and Israel, in its response, gained control of Judea and Samaria. In effect, whatever right to settlement Israel was prepared to give up in 1947 became irrelevant when no legitimate alternative government of Judea and Samaria emerged, and so the right to settlement enshrined in the Mandate and in Article 80 of the UN charter remains in force. (The absence of an alternative sovereign claimant to the land is also relevant to the Fourth Geneva Convention argument against Israel, as the Convention specifically addresses a state’s actions in the territory of another sovereign state and there is no such other state vis-a-vis Judea and Samaria.) It is also noteworthy in this context that Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994, which established the international boundary between the two nations and entailed Jordan formally giving up any claim to Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
In fact, not all of Judea and Samaria are currently disputed territories, as Israel ceded parts of these areas to the Palestinians in the context of the Oslo process. The Oslo accords entailed a division of these territories into Areas A, B and C. Area A was placed under full Palestinian Authority control; Area B consisted of lands in which Palestinians assumed full civil authority while Israel retained responsibility for security; and Area C remained under Israeli control. Areas A and B comprise about 40 percent of Judea and Samaria and are home to about 96% of the Palestinian population of the territories.
(Some have argued that Israel is not obliged to maintain its giving up of these areas as the Palestinian Authority has never fulfilled its obligations under the relevant Oslo accords. In particular, it has never recognized Israel’s right to exist, has never ended incitement promoting the murder of Israelis and delegitimization and destruction of the state, and has never abandoned terror to advance its anti-Israel agenda. But no Israeli government has sought to reverse the ceding of Areas A and B.)
Resolution 242 does not in itself strengthen the already strong legitimacy in international law of Israeli settlements. But it is relevant in that the resolution’s call for negotiation of "secure and recognized boundaries" was -- as was explicitly stated by authors of the resolution -- prompted by recognition that the pre-1967 armistice lines placed Israel at perpetual risk of aggression and that the establishment of more defensible borders for Israel was a necessary prerequisite for a lasting peace. Most settlements have been established with a view toward reinforcing Israeli claims to key strategic areas in Judea and Samaria, those most germane to providing Israel with defensible borders in the context of a peace agreement.
It is also noteworthy that the Palestinians have likewise created new "settlements" in previously empty areas of what remains disputed territory, have done so largely without Israeli interference, and have done so with a view toward preventing Israel from establishing defensible borders. Yet, in another demonstration of EU hypocrisy, the EU has not challenged these Palestinian efforts to influence ultimate disposition of the disputed territories as it has challenged Israeli efforts to do so. On the contrary -- despite the EU, again, being a signatory of the Oslo Accords -- it has sought to undermine the accords with respect to negotiation of ultimate disposition of territories in Area C by financing Palestinian infiltration and construction in Area C.
Over the last two years the EU has ratcheted up its anti-Israel hypocrisy by taking new, more aggressive steps against the Jewish presence in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. For example, in December 2012, the EU Foreign Affairs Council issued a directive that "all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967." In June and July, 2013, the EU further elaborated on these guidelines and their restrictions and reiterated the EU position that "Israeli settlements are illegal under international law." The last statement is, again, an outright lie, turning the reality of international law on its head.
Underscoring the EU as whited sepulcher in this context is the fact that the EU has numerous trade agreements carrying no such qualifying appendices with nations that -- unlike the situation in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, where international law is actually on Israel’s side -- are indeed illegally occupying others’ territory. For example, the EU obviously has such agreements with China, despite China’s six-decade occupation of Tibet. The EU not only has such agreements with Turkey but, while not recognizing the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, extends multiple forms of EU aid to Turks who have settled in northern Cyprus since the start of the occupation in 1974. Returning to the EU’s exploitative fishing agreements with West African nations, it has such an agreement with Morocco allowing European fishermen access to the territorial waters of the Western Sahara even as the EU refuses to recognize as legitimate Moroccan control of Western Sahara.
Another, rather dramatic, indicator of EU hypocrisy towards Israel was provided by European Parliament President Martin Schulz when he addressed Israel’s Knesset on February 12 of this year. Schulz is regarded as one of the rare EU leaders relatively sympathetic to Israel, and his speech to the Knesset was generally supportive. But at one point he spoke of having met with "young people in Ramallah" and went on: "One of the questions these young people asked me which I found most moving -- although I could not check the exact figures -- was this: How can it be that an Israeli is allowed to use 70 liters of water per day, but a Palestinian only 17?" As one might guess, there is no such difference between water use by Israelis and Palestinians. But the "question" is misleading in other ways as well.
In fact, Palestinian access to water is not controlled -- allowed or disallowed -- by Israel. In addition, as noted in a Jerusalem Post piece referencing the most authoritative analysis of Israeli and Palestinian water issues, Israel provides from its own sources water to the Palestinians -- in the form of fresh water -- far in excess of the quantity stipulated in the Oslo Water Agreement of 1995, and Israelis and Palestinians consume per capita virtually equal amounts of fresh water. The somewhat higher levels of Israeli water use overall reflect water from recycling. The Palestinian Authority has available to it some $500 million in international funds specifically for water recycling plants but has failed to make use of the funds.
But what is particularly noteworthy in this episode is that Schulz, even while acknowledging he had no information on the truth or falsity of the Palestinian’s claim, embraced it at face value. Even this relatively sympathetic EU official has adopted the EU predilection of accepting any indictment raised against Israel and making it the EU’s own indictment.
An EU poll conducted in member states in 2011 found that more than forty percent of those interviewed agreed with the statement that "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians." (If Israel’s intent has been extermination, it has been uniquely inept at pursuing it. For example, looking primarily at UN statistics covering most of the period of Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza, which began, of course, in 1967, life expectancy for Palestinians rose from 48 in 1967 to 72 in 2000 (compared to an average of 68 in 2000 for all of the Middle East and North Africa); Palestinian infant mortality dropped under Israeli health programs from 60 per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 15 per 1,000 live births in 2000 (compared to 40 in Egypt, 23 in Jordan and 22 in Syria); and Israeli inoculation programs eradicated polio, whooping cough, tetanus and measles.)
No doubt this ugly "genocide" libel against Israel -- in fact, it is Israel’s enemies who aspire to genocide -- is not just a reflection of the prejudice of official EU anti-Israel pronouncements and policies. It is also nurtured by the promotion of anti-Israel bias in European media and European culture more broadly -- including by the many within Europe’s cultural elites whose morality, on matters related to Israel, approximates that of Conrad’s Kurtz. The equation of Israelis to Nazis seems particularly popular and particularly titillating to segments of the European chattering classes and their audiences. But there can likewise be no doubt that EU hypocrisy and prejudice towards Israel contributes to the proliferation of such outrageous and ugly views among the populations of member states.
How much is the anti-Israel bias that permeates the EU simply -- as so much evidence supports -- another iteration of the sepulcher continent’s endemic anti-Semitism? Or is it merely coincidence that the EU reserves a special animus towards, and attacks with unique hypocrisy, the world’s only Jewish state?
One can muster some arguments for the latter position. Just as the sepulcher continent’s hypocrisy and corruption in Africa have been animated by material interests, whether by trade in ivory, as in the Congo of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or fish catches as in EU exploitation of West African fisheries, its policies in the Middle East have been shaped largely by interest in Middle East oil. This has translated, of course, into embracing and seeking to appease the Arab world. One expression of this has been the EU and its members largely acquiescing to Arab supremacism in that world and ignoring Arab assaults, often in the form of mass murder, on minorities living among the Arabs. In 2005, the Tunisian human rights campaigner Muhammed Bechri -- one of those whose efforts were betrayed by EU cultivation of Tunisian strongman Ben Ali -- posed the question of why Arab nations were uniformly silent about or openly supportive of fellow Arab nation Sudan’s genocidal assault on its Muslim but black population of Darfur. Bechri argued that to understand why, one must recognize the "twin fascisms" -- his term -- that dominate the Arab world: Islamism and Pan-Arabism. The first finds expression in zero tolerance towards those within that world who are not Muslim, while the latter is expressed in intolerance towards those who, whether Muslim or not, are not ethnically Arab.
EU embrace of Arab policies and accommodation of Arab supremacism has meant at most feeble responses to Arab crimes against minorities in their midst. Crimes against Christians throughout the Arab world, including destruction of churches and frequent murder of Christians, and the associated flight of besieged Christians from their homelands, have elicited little reaction. The abuse of populations that are Muslim but not Arab, such as the large Berber minority in Algeria, particularly in the Kabylia region, or the Kurds of Syria and of Iraq -- where some 200,000 were murdered in what appears to have been the first stage of a planned genocide -- or the Darfurians and other Muslim but black groups in Sudan, has over the years likewise raised notably little stir within the EU and its member states. The worst of these crimes, the murder over several decades of some two million inhabitants of southern Sudan -- a population doubly targeted for being black and non-Muslim -- likewise evoked very little response from the EU and its member states.
Other than the black citizens of the recently established state of South Sudan, the Jews are the only minority within the Arab-dominated world that have a state of their own, and the unique hypocrisy and animus directed against Israel by the EU can perhaps be construed as simply another facet of EU appeasement of the Arab world at the expense of virtually all minorities within it.
But the preponderance of evidence suggests rather that this explanation is inadequate.
African voices critical of EU policies on the continent have at times spoken sardonically of those policies being strictly driven by business, however much the EU might seek to maintain the guise of altruistic benevolence and however much those victimized by the EU might be, at least for a time, deluded by the facade of virtue. The point brings to mind the well-worn cinema mob criminal’s line assuring his victim that the violent fate he’s about to meet is "not personal; it’s business." But when it comes to EU hypocrisy towards Israel, the unique intensity and ugliness of the anti-Israel animus -- at times thinly disguised but nevertheless obvious to any interested observer -- suggests that in this case what is driving policy is both business and personal. And the preponderance of evidence points to the "personal" deriving from the age-old European disease of Jew-hatred.
The EU’s own Agency for Fundamental Rights issued a 2013 report providing evidence of increased discrimination and hate crimes against Jews in EU member states, and evidence of growing anti-Semitism within groups across the political spectrum of EU populations has also been offered by myriad other sources. Yet those at the highest levels of the EU, in concert with many rank and file EU bureaucrats, have fought against efforts by the European Union to address openly what one writer characterized as "the anti-Semitic frenzy in Europe." About a decade ago, the EU refused to release a report on the issue that it had itself commissioned. Subsequently, it compared anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, insisted the latter is the greater problem in Europe and essentially dismissed the former. A recent op-ed on the EU’s choosing to ignore European anti-Semitism quoted a senior EU source as admitting, "In the European foreign service, the famous and known anti-Israel stance had turned into open anti-Semitism long ago."
But while many in Europe, including within the EU, choose either to dismiss European Jew-hatred or account for it as a response to alleged Israeli misdeeds, logic and reason argue heavily that actual cause and effect is the reverse; that the irrational hatred of Israel and incessant false claims against it, the venomous, frothing-at-the-mouth indictments unhinged from reality, are driven by their promoters’ anti-Jewish biases.
Additional evidence of this is the EU’s repudiation of its own, earlier, "working definition" of anti-Semitism, produced by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia and adopted in 2005. As reported several months ago, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency now declares that it is "not aware of any official definition [of anti-Semitism]." The 2005 "working definition" included as illustration of anti-Semitism: "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor"; and "Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation." Apparently, acknowledging such rhetoric as anti-Semitic does not conform to the world vision of today’s EU.
And with all this, in "whited sepulcher" fashion, the EU seeks to project an image of moral sensitivity even as it indulges, in policy and practice, in perverse corruption of moral verities. Thus, Catherine Ashton, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the EU -- the face of the EU for much of the wider world and a serial deprecator of Israel and coddler of those who would destroy the Jewish state -- released a brief statement earlier this year for International Holocaust Remembrance Day but excluded from her remarks any reference to Jews or to anti-Semitism. One wonders what it is the EU is choosing to remember.
Standard histories of the EU cast its origins as a response to the two devastating European wars of the twentieth century and the Holocaust (whoever its victims, in Baroness Ashton’s understanding, may have been) and, beyond these intra-European events, to the broader depredations of European imperialism and colonialism. The intent was to unify the continent’s nations to preclude a recurrence of intra-European armed conflict. It was also to create a body that would be a force for good in the wider world, providing expertise and material assistance to those areas of the globe in need of help, and to foster an improved international social and political climate.
The EU, in its pronouncements, still talks the good talk, but the pattern of its actual policies is something quite different. This is true, as the cited examples illustrate, in Africa, and even moreso vis-a-vis Israel and Jews. Conrad’s Marlowe remarks at one point that "All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz." In too many instances, behind its declared noble intentions and self-satisfied facade of virtuous intervention lie hypocrisy and moral corruption, and, rather than being seen as it wishes to be regarded, as transcending the earlier deleterious predilections of its member states, the EU, from its home in Conrad’s Sepulcher City, can more honestly be seen as the Sepulcher Continent.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian and author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People under Siege.