Book Review: Europe’s Alliance with Israel – by David Cronin – PlutoPress, London and New York, 2011 ISBN: 9780745330655 – £16 in the UK
By its own account, the European Union “sees human rights as universal and indivisible. It actively promotes and defends them both within its borders and when engaging in relations with non-EU countries.” i
Brussels-based Irish journalist David Cronin demonstrates in Europe’s Alliance with Israel that this is not the case with regard to Israel/Palestine where, as the title and subtitle (Aiding the Occupation) make explicit, the EU proudly allies itself with Israel and its violations of Palestinian human rights.
Cronin traces the history of European involvement in creating and maintaining the Zionist state from British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour’s infamous 1917 declaration that Palestine “should be the location of the ‘Jewish national home'” without any consultation with its natives (in 1920 he wrote that “Zionism, be it right or wrong, …is… of far greater import than the desires and prejudices of the 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land”), through Czechoslovakia’s sales of arms to Israel during the latter’s “war of independence” (the Palestinian nakbah) in 1948 and France’s assistance in creating Israel’s clandestine nuclear programme in the early 1950s, to the EU’s present de facto backing for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people and its eagerness to offer the Zionist state trading privileges that make it, to all intents and purposes, an EU member in all but name.
“In colonial times,” he writes perceptively, “the European powers asserted their might through a variety of divide and rule strategies. The present-day ruling elites in Europe and the United States are helping Israel to hone such a strategy in Palestine.” Robert Cooper, a British diplomat and admirer of Israel who for a time was an adviser to Tony Blair, is cited as claiming that “[c]ommitment to a country means having to live with whatever policies the government of the day there is pursuing…” This recipe, religiously followed by the EU, concedes total impunity to Israel in the name of a “commitment” entirely beyond good and evil.
The placing of Hamas on the proscribed terrorist list in 2003 and the refusal to accept the result of the 2006 election “freely and fairly” won by Hamas invalidated any supposition that the EU might play a role in the Middle East that somehow counterbalanced the USA’s unconditional support for the Israeli rogue state. Indeed the EU seems content – no doubt for “reasons of state” – to act as a vassal of the USA when it comes to relations with Israel.
Scarcely an EU member state escapes Cronin’s strictures. Germany has provided Israel with nuclear-capable Dolphin submarines, with one-third of their cost borne by Germany itself (presumably to atone for Hitler’s Judeocide by facilitating Israel’s Arabicide). Italy’s maniacal prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, “[u]nburdened by anything resembling a principle, … has been quite happy to nurture ever-closer relations with Israel as part of a foreign policy that is largely dictated to him from Washington.” The Dutch, uniquely among founding members of the EU (or EEC, as it was then), “supported Israel in its 1967 war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan”, and the former Dutch foreign minister (now deputy prime minister) Maxime Verhagen has been an enthusiastic advocate of Israel’s admission to the EU.
The Eastern European member states, all of them “in the pocket of the United States”, are no better. “Czech-Israeli ties cannot be viewed in isolation from the servility towards the United States that has become endemic among Prague-based politicians. ‘It is a case of a friend of our friend has to be our friend too,'” according to a Czech diplomat. “Jerzy Halberstadt, director of a museum being built next to the Warsaw Ghetto memorial” says that “Poles are more strongly pro-American and a side effect of this is that Poland also has the strongest pro-Israel policy…” Romania, grossly impoverished, has relied upon the giant Israeli arms firm Elbit to upgrade its military capabilities to NATO level.
As for Ireland, Palestine’s self-styled “best friend” in the EU, Cronin rightly calls to mind past occasions when this epithet seemed justified, such as Brian Lenihan Sr’s recognition of the PLO in 1980, and the honourable service of Irish troops as UN peacekeepers in Lebanon. “Alleging that these soldiers were constantly drunk, the Israelis nicknamed them the ‘Johnnie Walker Irish’ after a whiskey of that name (ironically distilled in Scotland)”, thus incidentally typifying the combination of defamation with factual inaccuracy characteristic of Israeli and Zionist propaganda.
Alas, “Ireland’s defence of the Palestinian underdog became increasingly superficial” with the advance of the Celtic Tiger, which “was built on a willingness to entice the most unscrupulous of foreign investors to the Republic of Ireland through tax sweeteners.” Corporations manufacturing spare parts for US and Israeli weaponry located themselves in Cork, Leixlip and elsewhere, while the Irish army bought drones and helmets from Israel. Political support has been forthcoming too, as Ireland has invariably voted along with its EU “partners” whenever the deepening of relations with Israel has been at issue, despite frequent rhetorical flourishes of unease from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the day.
In the course of the book Cronin dredges up a litany of hair-raising quotations from EU VIPs, who seem to vie with one another in pusillanimity, mendacity, and servility towards Israel (and the USA): Sarkozy, Merkel, Solana, Frattini, Fini, Verhagen, Straw, Blair, Havel, Topolanek – their words of praise for and obeisance towards Israel tumble out without shame or restraint, while they rarely waste a word on Israel’s murderous oppression of the Palestinians.
In documenting what he repeatedly calls this “unholy alliance”, Cronin makes no secret of his contempt for EU politics, politicians and diplomats. His chapter sub-headings alone drip with derision: After the bombs, a banquet; Rewarding a Rogue; Sarkozy swallows, Merkel marvels; NATO: the pitbull gnashes its teeth; Oiling the war machine with euros; Furtively feeding the war monster… For some, this relentless rubbing of salt into the wounds that he opens may seem inimical to balance and objectivity. For others, it may seem the only balanced response possible in the face of such blatant geo-political cynicism.
Clearly EU backing for Israel is, to coin a Freudian concept, over-determined – no single rationalisation fully explains it, and once the many rationalisations are collated, the result is a kind of transnational madness that inverts the roles of oppressor and oppressed until an entire people – the Palestinians – is sacrificed on the altars of expediency, mendacity and greed. Europe’s alliance with Israel, in short, is a criminal conspiracy.
As Cronin shows, Israel was slow to conclude that exclusive reliance on US support was unwise and that it was advisable to court the EU, given the status of the latter as Israel’s largest export market and its pretensions to becoming a major player on the world stage. The rise of civil society pro-Palestinian activism within the Union and the growth of the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – now spreading dramatically to the USA and beyond, and advocated by Cronin as a useful tool whereby citizens of EU countries may counteract their governments’ complicity with Israel – led to the establishment in Brussels of such Zionist advocacy groups as B’nai B’rith (in the USA, the parent organisation of the Anti-Defamation League), the European Jewish Congress (founded in Paris in 1986), and the Transatlantic Institute (set up by the American Jewish Committee, which also founded the highly McCarthyite UN Watch in Geneva).
Meanwhile, it would appear that Irish defenders of Palestinian rights have replaced fugitive Nazis as targets for the venerable Simon Wiesenthal Centre. On November 28th last, the Centre’s director for international relations Shimon Samuels wrote to the Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Brian Cowen claiming that the cover of David Cronin’s book “arguably fit[s] the 2004 ‘working definition of Anti-Semitism’ of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency” because by “illustrating an atomised Europe around a Star of David” it “conveyed a subliminal message” “sadly reminiscent of financial scapegoating of the 1930s”, apparently in order “to deflect attention from economic suffering”. The beleaguered Mr Cowen was invited “to publicly condemn the timing” of the book’s Dublin launch, but failed to do so.ii
Apart from its fancifulness and factual inaccuracy (there’s nothing “atomised” about the map of Europe on the book’s cover, and the Star of David appears as part of the Israeli flag), this squib suggests a very real paranoia on the part of the Zionist propaganda machine lest too much light might be shed upon its machinations within the EU. As such, it constitutes a well-earned tribute to Cronin’s rivetting book.
Europe’s Alliance with Israel should be read by anyone who cares about Palestinian rights and European responsibilities.
Raymond Deane is a composer and political activist.
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