Israel-Europe Ties: Time for a Serious Re-Set

During the second intifada, when buses and restaurants were blowing up with sickening regularity in Israel, the government sent a very special delegation to Brussels to try and convince European Union officials to speak out against Palestinian terrorism. This wasn’t a group of polished diplomats, but of parents and children and spouses of those who had been killed in attacks, who spoke from the heart about the unbearable price of terrorism. For added effect, a bombed-out bus was flown in from Yerushalayim.

One of the members of the delegation was Arnold Roth, a native of Australia and a lawyer with expertise in high-tech. Roth, the father of 15-year-old Malki, Hy”d, who was murdered at the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Yerushalayim on Aug. 9, 2001, couldn’t help but notice that nothing he said was having any impact on the European officials he met with. They nodded politely, while sneaking glances at their watches, and uttered a few words of condolence as they saw him out the door.

Roth, who was interviewed by Hamodia for its “Profiles of Courage” series on terror victims, was puzzled by the lack of normal, human reaction to his story. Finally, one official had mercy on him and set him straight. “Do you know what the No. 1 name for babies born in Belgium is?” asked the official. “Muhammad. Politicians are more concerned about getting re-elected than they are about identifying with your personal loss. That’s why they’ll never agree to issue the kind of public condemnations you’re seeking.”

But narrow political considerations were only part of the reason for the EU’s willingness to look the other way regarding Palestinian terrorism. The other was national security. Europe was convinced that by showing “understanding” for the plight of the Palestinians, and never, ever, backing Israel’s minimalist demands for security or for PA recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, it was protecting itself. Europe was convinced that by remaining silent when Israel was being battered by Hamas and Hizbullah missiles, its people would be spared the trauma of attacks and having 15 seconds to reach the nearest bomb shelters.

As long as there was Israel around to take the brunt of Islamic brutality, Europe would be safe. Or so it thought, until recently. Now it is obvious that it was precisely the failure of European leaders to speak up when Israel was the victim, to recognize that radical Islam threatened them as well as the Jews, that brought terrorism to their doorstep.

The emotional reaction last week of European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to the Brussels bombings was moving and very much in place. After all, dozens of innocents lost their lives. As Mogherini correctly noted, at a press conference in Jordan, “It’s … a very sad day for Europe, as Europe and its capital are suffering the same pain that this region has known and knows every single day, be it in Syria, be it elsewhere.”

It’s strange — though not surprising — that Israel is on the tip of her tongue when it comes to human rights abuses, but not when it comes to the suffering and pain “this region has known.” Then it’s “elsewhere.” And that’s part of the problem. But the solution now is for Europe to change its thinking and view Israel, which was left to combat terrorism on its own for decades, as an ally.

The only way for Europe to prevent what Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has called “the clash of civilizations” is to learn from Israel how to fight murderous Islamic terrorism with wisdom, courage and humanity.

That involves doing things that Europe so sanctimoniously condemned, like building protective separation fences and “profiling” likely enemies in airports, bus stations and elsewhere. It means impinging on some of the democratic rights of the few in order to protect the lives of the many. And it means being willing to deliver a heavy blow to the instigators of terrorism without fear of being accused of using “disproportionate” force.

It is in Europe’s interest to acknowledge its past mistakes and to work closely with Israel. It could start by admitting that it was wrong to pass more resolutions on human-rights violations against Israel than against all other countries combined, including Iran, Egypt and Syria.

And it might want to apologize for its indifference to the pain of Arnold Roth, whose daughter paid with her life for the “crime” of trying to buy a piece of pizza in the heart of Yerushalayim. It might want to acknowledge that its acceptance of such crimes — as being “natural consequences of the occupation” — only encouraged more senseless killings and losses to the Jewish people.

We can only hope that now that Federica Mogherini has found her ability to cry for terror victims, she can reflect on all the lives that have been lost — not just those in Syria, but the sweet, innocent children like Malki Roth who died “elsewhere.”