Europe’s Double Standards
“Federica Mogherini is symptomatic of Europe’s double standards against Israel—she treats other ‘occupied territories’ quite differently”
Both the European Union and the Obama administration insist that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict needs urgent solution through the establishment of a Palestinian state. Both paint a bleak future for Israel unless the territories Israel conquered in 1967 are turned over to the Palestinian Authority before long.
Judging by the flurry of diplomatic activity by the PA, which is attempting to get a state of Palestine recognised both at the UN and across Europe, one would conclude that its birth is imminent and that, either by consent or by force, Israel will have to relinquish those territories.
As if to underscore its sense of urgency with the matter and its impatience with Israel, the newly-elected, left-leaning government government of Sweden recognised Palestine as a state in October. The French and Spanish national assemblies both held a symbolic vote to affirm the same. So did the “mother of Parliaments” in Westminster.
Last month, the new European Union High Representative for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, took her maiden official journey abroad to Jerusalem and opined that “Jerusalem can and should be the capital of two states”. She also warned, darkly, that the world would not tolerate a “fourth Gaza war”.
The Arab-Israeli dispute has always elicited such feelings in Europe — not just a tendency to lean toward the Palestinian narrative on the conflict, but also a sense that time is running out and, unless a solution is reached soon, doom will ensue.
Yet Mogherini’s words contain a contradiction which is symptomatic of Europe’s double standards against Israel. This is obvious on three counts.
First, much of the “occupied territories” are no longer occupied — yet Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza has been met with hostility and belligerence, not peace overtures.
Second, the refusal of much of the international community to let Israel finish off Hamas, which the EU officially considers to be a terrorist organisation, means both that no peace is currently possible and that there will be another war in Gaza at some point.
And third, Europe’s approach to Israel is unique, given that in the case of other “occupied territories” Europe has been much less driven by the same adolescent utopianism, and more by a mixture of cynical realpolitik, a recognition of its own limits, and an appreciation that conflict management is often a better stopgap measure.
Consider the dispute over Cyprus — an EU member-state. The northern part of the island has been under Turkish occupation since 1974. The Turks, who, despite Nato membership, are guilty of ethnically cleansing their occupied territories of Greek Cypriots and installing colonists from the Turkish mainland, went much further than Israel has ever dreamed of in the West Bank. They created a Turkish client state that can only exist thanks to their political and economic support. The Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus is a Turkish colony in all but name — yet 40 years on, the international community accepts the frozen conflict on Cyprus as the lesser evil.
Further north, but still well within Europe’s neighbourhood, Russia has occupied its fair share of territories, taking Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, Crimea this year, and fomenting separatist unrest in Eastern Ukraine. Russia did not just occupy territories: it established puppet states or annexed them.
To be fair, the EU has sanctioned Russia, but it will not do much more than that. Europe will issue empty statements about “de-escalation” but Georgia and Ukraine will not be armed to recover their lands by force. Their occupied territories will stay occupied.
The same goes for Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding provinces, which Armenia snatched away from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. Armenia is by and large a Russian client-state. No one recognises the phantom republic it helped establish inside the Soviet-era autonomous province it won from Azerbaijan. Yet 20 years on, no one is rushing to look at the refugee problem caused by that war, nor warning darkly of time running out unless the seven Azeri provinces that Armenia conquered are duly restored to their rightful sovereign.
Europe has chosen to stay mum, rely on ineffective multilateral mechanisms of conflict resolution and basically acquiesce in the status quo.
Speaking of acquiescence, the Obama administration has just gone one step further and told China that it can keep Tibet. No one can expect the US or Europe to foment an insurgency in Lhasa. But this hardly says much for the coherence of Western policy.
It would be nice, of course, if Israelis and Palestinians could come to coexist peacefully. But nearly 100 years of conflict and the past 20 years of diplomatic failures should be enough evidence that insisting on an ideal yet elusive solution has served no one.