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May 31, 2016 5:45 am

For Israel, There’s More to Europe Than Western Europe

avatar by Judith Bergman

Email a copy of "For Israel, There’s More to Europe Than Western Europe" to a friend
The EU's European Court of Human Rights.  Photo: wiki commons.

The EU’s European Court of Human Rights. Photo: wiki commons.

The rift in the European Union between the older, mostly Western European, members and the newer ones from Eastern Europe has become increasingly clear lately over the refusal of most Eastern European countries to receive migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

The European Commission has proposed reforms to EU asylum rules that would see financial penalties imposed on members refusing to take in what it deems a sufficient number of asylum seekers, amounting to $290,000 for every migrant. The penalties, if passed, are particularly aimed at the newest EU countries, such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, since these are countries who have closed their borders to migrants or are in the process of doing so.

Disagreement over how to respond to the migrant crisis in Europe, however, is not the only issue dividing the Eastern European members of the EU from Western European ones. Israel is another such contentious issue.

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Several Eastern European countries, while having pasts rife with virulent antisemitism and atrocious records of behavior toward Jews during the Second World War, differ greatly in their policies toward Israel compared to their Western European counterparts. That does not mean that everything they do is in favor of Israel, far from it. The entire EU, including those Eastern European countries, voted in favor of the latest UN resolution to slander Israel, when they voted that Israel was the world’s only health violator. There must be some diplomats sitting around with very bad tastes in their mouths.

Nevertheless, Eastern European countries today represent the only part of Europe that, out of national interest or a genuine sense of solidarity, stands with Israel in one form or another. This is already saying much on a continent where, for example, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders only recently declared that calls to boycott, divest and sanction Israel are considered by the Netherlands to be “freedom of speech” and therefore legal. (It would appear that there are some serious cognitive issues in the Dutch government: What happens when the calls actually lead to real action, such as municipalities refusing to do business with Israel or refusing to buy Israeli goods and services? Would that be legal, too, according to the foreign minister? As discussed previously in this column, a Spanish court recently declared such municipal boycotts of Israel to be in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights, the same convention that Koenders invokes in his condoning of BDS as “free speech.”)

In December, Czech lawmakers passed resolutions criticizing the decision by the European Union to label Israeli goods from Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, and urged the Czech government not to abide by it. Characteristically, all Czech political parties supported the resolutions, even those on the Left, save for the Communists, who in keeping with their Soviet legacy, claimed that the Czech Republic was too complacent towards Israel. In a country like the Czech Republic, which paid a high price for the experiments of Communism for over 50 years, such slogans make a negligible impression.

Czech Culture Minister Daniel Herman also praised the resolution, saying that the vote “aligned the Czech Republic with democratic countries that fully respect human rights and reject any form of discrimination.” Close your eyes and picture any Western European politician uttering those words. Perhaps Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom? No, it is impossible even to imagine such a thing.

The Czech Republic’s friendship with Israel extends back to the 1948 war, when the Czechs sold weapons to the fledgling Jewish state when very few others, wanted to do so. It would be sobering to remember at this point that the United States at that time enforced a weapons embargo on the entire region, whereas the British were in fact supplying both weapons and leadership to Arab militaries out to extinguish the Jewish state. During Soviet occupation, this friendship naturally went into a half-century long hiatus, but was rekindled after the end of the Cold War.

Most recently, the Slovak and Lithuanian parliaments have decided to form pro-Israeli caucuses, a result of an initiative from the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, the World Jewish Congress and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

“As Western European countries continue to turn their backs on the Jewish state, we see that Eastern European countries are more supportive than ever of the only democracy in the Middle East — Israel,” Knesset Christian Allies Caucus director Josh Reinstein said.

This may also be because these countries still retain a sense of logic and pride in their heritage and do not harbor any secret wish for national suicide. After living under totalitarianism for over half a century, while Western Europe was harvesting the peace dividend of being under the American protective wing and growing increasingly more wealthy and materialistic, forgetting completely what it means to be terrorized, those countries who used to be under the Soviet boot see very clearly that Israel’s fight against Islamic terrorism is their fight, too.

Dismissing Europe entirely as a place where support for Israel can be found is a fallacy, even if it is admittedly one that is easy to make in the current circumstances. There are friends of Israel in Eastern and Central Europe, even if their membership of the European Union frequently renders their scope of action limited. This is very important to keep in mind. Too many observers in Israel and elsewhere forget that Europe consists of more than just Western Europe.

Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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  • Marco

    I’m not going to say my country (the Netherlands) is close to objective or consistent in it’s policy. Why attack it for declaring calls to BDS free speech specifically though? The situation is not significantly different from the US. It simply requires too much judicial invention to declare this ethnic discrimination, both here and in the US.

    If Geert wilders becomes prime minister I very much doubt municipalities at least will be allowed to take part though.

    @Stephan the PVDA had Cohen before Asscher. They were never tokens, simply career politicians. With a long family history of collaboration too ironically.

  • H. Givon

    It should be obvious that there is a connection between the migrant issue and support for Israel. Western European countries that have absorbed immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa are influenced by the newcomers who harbor hate towards the very existence of Israel in the region of their birthplace. This is one reason for the rise of anti-Semitism and Western European pressure on the Jewish state for suicidal concessions to her enemies. In contrast, the eastern European entities that refused to accept the thousands of questionable refugees have spared themselves the internal turmoil that has become evident in the western sector. While not always supportive of Israel they obviously understand the country’s situation and have greater freedom in choices that are in their own national interest.

  • nat cheiman

    Of course this was always going to happen

  • Robert Davis

    Western Euorope’s leftwing trash ideas have already destroyed europe and this is the place which wants to destroy Israel as well giving trash advices as to the best way to commit…suicide! It’s an emblematic situation to see the …”paris peace conference”(sic) that will take place on june 3 in the middle of a huge chaos by name of…Paris! This chaos is meant to last for ever because it did not occur from 1 or 2 mistakes but from french mistakes which go back to general de gaulle and his 5th Republic ie …60 years ago! It’ s also since 60 years France is blaming Israel for all the problems of this planet and MISUSING THE WORD PEACE FOR ITS RIDICULOUS POLICY CONSISTING IN SAYING IT SERVES PEACE WHEN IN FACT IT SERVES “PALESTINIANS”. It servesarabs as a servant serves his master.

  • dani renan

    The Czech Republic’s friendship with Israel extends back to the 1948 war, is a little off. It goes back much further.

    Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the founder and first President was a strong Zionist, and visited Palestine in 1923 and 1927.
    We can go back even further – that he greatly dampened anti-Semitism in his fight against the old superstition of Jewish blood libel during the Hilsner Trial of 1899, in which he served as defense attorney.

    Also Jan Masark, his son, who was the Czech Foreign Minster in exile (in London) during the war, and retained the position until 1948 in Czechoslovakia, went against English requests to demands that Czechoslovakia close its borders, especially to Jews who were trying to get out of Europe to Palestine. He refused, and let Jews pass through. Praha became one of the main centers for the Brih’a.

  • Enufizenuf

    Once islam has established itself as the main power within Western Europe tens of millions of Western Europeans will relocate/flee to Eastern Europe and North and South America. Regrettably they will most likely be bringing with them their millennia old hatred of Jews disguised behind the mask of anti-Israelism. So Jew-hatred will spread considerably over the next 20-30 years. Israel will have to find ways to deal with this and survive the islamization of Europe. If it can last 30 more years it should be able to survive indefinitely. It must be willing to destroy its enemies, however, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere.

  • Eastern Europe as the article says is not suicidal and thinks of its citizens first and utmost.

  • Thank you for your fine article.It must be very clear that Jews and Israel have few friends around the world.Let us look f.e. at the Dutch Minister Koenders statement; it is a well known fact that during WWII the Dutch collaborated more than any other European Nation as a percentage of population with the Germans.There still is a virulent anti-Israel lobby in the Netherlands ( The socalled black widow movement f.e.)which are almost neo fascist in their expressions and beliefs.
    The main square in Amsterdam/Dam square almost daily has a display falsifying Palestinian/Israeli relations, surely to appease the large Arab population.This rot is tolerated by the left City Government under the guise of free speech to get Arab votes, never the less the Dutch even have a token assimilated Jew in their Government on socialist in name only PVDA anti Israel party.
    Welcome to Jew bashing country.Jews in Europe should be vigilant and ARMED legally or illegally and form a new JDL who will guarantee retribution for any physical attack on a Jew.
    The Baltic nations/Slovakia/ the entire East bloc has an appalling history with Jews!
    Now do you really think there is a change in attitude? Neo Nazi movements demonstrate freely in Baltic cities, the Ukrainian thugs are doing the same etc etc. Wake up my naive friends!
    https://twicemodern.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/from-a-gentlemans-viewpoint-the-meaning-of-memorial-day-2016/

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