For a continent beset by problems, Europe sure seems to have a strange set of priorities.
The region’s economy is faltering, Russian forces are threatening the Ukraine, and the Muslim fanatics of the Islamic State (ISIS) are said to be plotting terror attacks on its soil.
But none of that has distracted the European Union (EU) from a matter of paramount importance: whether to halt the import of poultry from Israel.
No, this isn’t a kashrus issue, nor are EU officials suddenly concerned about the sharpness of the knife used for shechitah.
Simply put, it is age-old anti-Semitism fastidiously dressed up in the guise of policy.
Earlier this year, the Europeans notified the Jewish state that it did not recognize the authority of its health inspection agencies to operate in Yerushalayim or in Yehudah and Shomron since the EU considers these areas to be “occupied territory”.
As a result, Israeli produce such as chicken and meat would be barred from import into Europe unless the Israeli government would begin to distinguish between products exported from within pre-1967 Israel and those originating in Yerushalayim or Yehudah and Shomron.
Though European officials are claiming this is simply a technical matter relating only to health inspections, no one is buying that explanation.
Clearly, the goal of this measure is to harm the livelihood of Jewish businessmen and entrepreneurs as a way of undermining the settlement enterprise in Yehudah and Shomron. Needless to say, goods made by Palestinian-run plants in the territories will not be affected.
This is an absolute outrage, one that is both morally obscene and historically indefensible, and the EU should be ashamed of itself for engaging in such a discriminatory practice.
Whatever one may think of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, it should be obvious that treating merchandise differently simply because the person who owns the factory where it was made is a Jew rather than a Muslim is an act of pure bigotry.
And in light of its own sordid anti-Jewish record over much of the past one thousand years, Europe and its leadership have a special responsibility to be exceptionally sensitive to such issues, particularly when they relate to Jews.
Moreover, what makes this exercise particularly absurd is that those it harms the most are in fact the Palestinians.
According to statistics compiled by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the territories, more than 23,000 permits were granted to Palestinians to work in Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron in 2012. Many Palestinian Arabs can be found working for Israeli companies based in one of the nearly 20 industrial zones located throughout the area.
And as a recent Foreign Ministry report noted, nearly half of these Palestinian workers are between the ages of 18-29, which means that the Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron are a major source of employment and income for young Palestinians joining the workforce.
Moreover, their average daily pay is 88.3 percent higher than what their fellow Palestinians are making in the Palestinian-controlled areas. All told, their potential annual income, says the ministry, amounts to nearly NIS 1 billion, or over a quarter of a billion dollars.
This means that efforts by the EU to delegitimize Jewish-owned businesses in Yehudah and Shomron could end up impairing the Palestinian economy far more extensively and painfully than Israel’s.
So just who is it that the EU is really hurting here?
The duplicity of their campaign targeting Yehudah and Shomron is all the more apparent when one considers that no such campaigns are being contemplated for Chinese products made in Tibet, Russian items manufactured in Chechnya or Spanish goods from Catalonia. Only when it comes to the Jewish state do the liberals of Europe insist on drawing a line in the sand.
This is not only hypocrisy, it is hatred, pure and simple.
Clearly, the EU is suffering from a form of OCD — Obsessive Chicken Disorder — which compels them to waste time and energy trying to block Israeli poultry from Yehudah and Shomron making its way onto European menus.
Perhaps recognizing the absurdity of the situation, the EU this week decided to delay imposing the ban for another month.
But Israeli officials fear that if the EU follows through on its threats, the ban could be extended to other items such as fruit and vegetables.
As the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman has noted, “If the only country you want to single out is Israel, that’s anti-Semitism.”
It sure is.
Michael Freund served as Deputy Communications Director in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office under Binyamin Netanyahu. He is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel which assists