Israel’s Outreach to Europe’s Populist Right Is Prudent and Justified

Feb. 11 2019

Next Monday, Jerusalem will host the annual summit of the Visegrad group, consisting of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic; its decision to do so has brought criticism from those who feel that the Jewish state should not be associating itself with the right-wing leaders of Hungary and Poland, whose positions have sometimes put them at odds with local Jewish communities. Similar concerns are bound to recur as right-wing populist parties gain influence in Europe, even as these very parties are making efforts to rid their ranks of anti-Semites and show their support for Israel. To Gol Kalev, the Netanyahu government has acted wisely by responding in kind to offers of friendship from these groups and their leaders:

As anti-Israel activism becomes entrenched on Europe’s political left, the rise of European far-right parties could present an opportunity for Israel, since those parties are explicitly nationalistic themselves and unashamedly defend the idea of the nation-state. . . . Faced with this dichotomy—EU leaders expressing concern about Israel reaffirming itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people, while right-wing populist parties strongly embrace this model—there is a growing view that rather than lean against a splintered reed, Israel needs to recognize the shift in the European electorate and align itself with the emerging political movements that will defend rather than denigrate the country.

Even so, there remains a built-in tension between Israel’s rapprochement with the far-right and the interests of world Jewry. [For instance], French Jews feel imperiled by the expansion of the yellow-vest protests, which are reportedly being encouraged by Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, National Rally, [until recently, the National Front]. The protesters broadly refer to Emmanuel Macron as “President Rothschild,” and some banners have displayed overt anti-Semitic slurs. Indeed, the Chabad house in Paris temporarily closed due to the perceived danger from protesters.

This sort of tension between the interests of Israel and diaspora Jews is not new. In fact, it has existed since the inception of Zionism. But just as Theodor Herzl recognized that preventing the democratic election of [the anti-Semitic mayor of Vienna in 1896] would only further inflame the anger of far-right voters, it is clear today that Israel boycotting right-wing parties will not reduce the danger to Jews from right-wing populism, just as boycotting left-wing parties will not reduce the danger from European left-wing populism.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel, Israel & Zionism, Poland, Theodor Herzl

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians