Friday, July 2, 2010

Holocaust Guilt and the Pathological European Hatred for Israel

In a very perceptive article in The Weekly Standard, "Why Europe Loathes Israel," Benjamin Weinthal, attempts to get to grips with the puzzling question of why Europe has come to hate Israel so much since the 1970s. Sure, the Arab oil embargo in the 70s terrified Europe's leaders into falling into line with the Arab narrative that the land of Israel is Muslim land (because it was once upon a time conquered by Muslim armies) and that Israel is an oppressor just by virtue of presuming to exist.

But there surely were other policy alternatives. The US did not change sides and Europe could have relied on American military and economic might to shield it from Arab anger. So, we are left with a pair of interrelated questions. First, why did Europe capitulate so cravenly to Arab pressure and blackmail? and, second, why has this anti-Israel attitude become so pervasive in European thought and culture to the point where the number of Israel's defenders in Europe has shrunk almost to the vanishing point? In other hands, why did the change occur and why was it so drastic?

I think Weinthal is correct in seeking a deeper reason and that he is on to something important in divining holocaust guilt as a major factor in the psychology of European anti-Zionism.
The widespread condemnation Europeans have expressed toward Israel after its commandos boarded the so-called peace flotilla on May 31 - and used force only when threatened with death - signals a desire to turn every Israeli action of self-defense into absolution for the crimes of the Holocaust.

While the European Union and the UN Human Rights Council somehow managed to contain their displeasure over brutal human rights violations in Libya, Iran, Turkey, China, and Russia, both organizations reacted in their standard Pavlovian way to Israel's justified measures of self-defense aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.

The UN Human Rights Council – chaired by none other than Muammar Qaddafi’s government – issued a resolution condemning Israel. Meanwhile, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom blasted Israel's "disproportionate" response, and their handmaidens in the European media turned Israel into a punching bag.

The Europeans' vicious attacks on Israel are animated less by the Jewish state's foreign policy than by Europe's ongoing fixation on the Holocaust. What else could explain the presence of posters equating Israel with Nazi Germany at pro-Hamas demonstrations in Vienna? According to one recent German university study, 45.7 percent of the European respondents supported the contention that "Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians."

In their eyes, apparently, maintaining a naval blockade against a government sworn to destroy you – while providing the unfortunate people living under that government with tens of thousands of tons of supplies and humanitarian aid – now equates to looting and butchering six million people.

Here Weinthal shows that the irrationality of the pattern of condemning Israel for "conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians" needs explanation and he proposes that every action of Israeli self-defense is seized upon as mitigating the guilt Europe feels for the Holocaust. Whenever Israel does something aggressive, it proves that Jews, given the chance, will demonstrate that they are far from innocent.

Of course, nothing Israel has ever done can even begin to compare to the crimes of the Shoah. But to help alleviate their feelings of guilt, Europeans delegitimize Israel, ignore modern anti-Semitism, and portray Muslims – who number over one billion and whom no one seeks to eradicate from the earth – as the new persecuted Jews of Europe.

Israel's measures against the phony peace flotilla also provided Europeans an opportunity to demonstrate their hypocrisy when it comes to Jews flexing some muscle. Many of these same Europeans, after all, have attempted to shift at least some blame to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust for their own suffering, arguing that the Jews allowed themselves to be carted off to extermination camps without resistance.

That helps explain the crude theory of Ekkehart Krippendorff, a Berlin Free University professor in the 1990s, who wrote in the left-liberal Tagesszeitung, "Imagine if no German Jews had followed orders to assemble at the designated collection points for group transports - a few dozen, a few hundred, maybe a few thousand, the Germans could have dragged individually from their homes and loaded on trucks; but hundreds of thousands? Or imagine that the colonies of hundreds and thousands on the way to the train stations had simply sat down, we call them 'sit-down' strikes today."

There are many ways to blame Jews for their own misfortunes and Europeans, who are engaged in a flight from history and consumed with self-hatred, avail themselves of all the ways they can think of to do so.

Europeans also vent pathological guilt about the Shoah by elevating Jewish conduct to a higher standard because of it. The standard European posture toward Israel is to present Auschwitz as a cynical form of cognitive and behavioral therapy. This particular European view has caught on with Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who recently told the New York Times that the Israelis are uniquely positioned to be reminded about the "the dangers and inhumanity of ghettoes [such] as the one we currently witness in occupied Gaza."

The equation of Gaza with the Warsaw ghetto is perhaps the most prevalent analogy used by Europeans in their attempts to shake off guilt about the Holocaust. . . . The shoddy one-sided accounts of the flotilla raid with which Europeans have comforted themselves, and the continual denial of any Jewish right to self-defense, reveal that many Europeans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.

I think that last sentence gets to the heart of the matter.

Read the rest here.

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