Written by Elijah J. Magnier:
In a dimly lit room in December 2001, amid the clinking of glasses and murmur of conversation, a controversial statement echoed through the corridors of the Daily Telegraph dinner in London. The French ambassador to London at the time, Daniel Bernard, said bluntly: “Israel, this small but influential nation, is at the centre of the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. The international community was quick to react. Outrage followed, with many demanding repercussions for the French diplomat. Serving under Jacques Chirac, a known supporter of Palestine, Bernard’s comments were seen by many as reflecting underlying sentiments about Israel’s role in the region’s instability and the elusive quest for peace.
But beyond the immediate controversy, Bernard’s statement raises a more profound question about Europe’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Has Europe, once a beacon of values and principles, changed its position? The situation in Gaza is a stark reminder of the complexity of the Middle East. It calls into question the profound essence of European values, especially in light of its seemingly unwavering support for Israel.
France’s political landscape has changed significantly over the years, particularly under the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron. Macron’s early career, mentored by the influential Jewish Rothschild family, casts a shadow over France’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Historically intertwined with the Balfour Declaration through the close ties between Lords Balfour and Rothschild, the Rothschilds were staunch supporters of international Zionism and its ambitions in Palestine.
Against this background, France’s current stance on the ongoing crisis in Gaza raises questions. Once a champion of justice, human rights and the rule of law, the nation appears to waver in its commitment to these principles. Europe, too, seems to be drifting away from its long-held values. The continent that once proudly proclaimed its commitment to justice and the rule of law is now under scrutiny for its response to the situation in Gaza.
The unfolding events in Gaza are a litmus test of Europe’s commitment to its core values. The silence or muted reactions from many European capitals, including Paris, underline a worrying shift. The question remains: Has Europe traded its principles for political expediency? The situation in Gaza reflects not only the complexities of the region but also Europe’s evolving identity and priorities.
Europe’s historical relationship with the Jews: From persecution to the creation of Israel.
Europe’s relationship with its Jewish population has been turbulent, marked by centuries of prejudice, discrimination and violence. From the 14th century, many European nations, including France, Spain, Germany, Britain and Italy, held deeply rooted anti-Semitic beliefs. In a predominantly Christian Europe, Jews were often scapegoats, unfairly blamed for social ills ranging from deadly diseases to economic downturns. They were vilified, portrayed as ‘subhuman’ and accused of practising dark magic.
These prejudices manifested themselves in tangible ways. Jews were forced to wear distinctive badges or hats that publicly identified them. They were also confined to certain areas, known as ghettos or cantons, with strict curfews forbidding them to leave these areas from sunset to sunrise.
The culmination of this long-standing anti-Semitism was the Holocaust during the Second World War. Several European nations actively participated and disregarded the systematic extermination of millions of Jews. During this dark chapter, Jews were hunted down, their property confiscated, and their wealth stolen before being sent to concentration and extermination camps.
After the war, Europe struggled with collective guilt over the Holocaust. The creation of Israel in 1948 was seen by many as a way of atoning for the sins of the past. The “promised land” offered refuge to surviving Jews but served a dual purpose for Europe. By supporting the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, European nations could assuage their guilt and ensure that Jewish communities, who might seek reparations for stolen wealth and property, were occupied with nation-building. However, this came at a significant cost to the Palestinians, who faced massacres, displacement and the loss of their ancestral lands. European leaders were primarily responsible for killing the Jews, not the Palestinians.
The creation of Israel, while providing a refuge for Jews after the horrors of the Holocaust, also sowed the seeds of one of the most protracted, bloody and unjust conflicts of modern times.
The complex road to peace: Israel, Palestine and the role of world powers
The creation of Israel in 1948 marked a significant turning point in the Middle East. While the world recognised the Jewish state, it’s important to note that many Jews worldwide reject the broader concept of global Zionism. Even prominent figures, such as the American president, have self-identified as Zionists. However, a significant number of Jews believe that Palestine, with its rich history dating back to the Canaanites, belongs to its Arab inhabitants, not just the Jewish community. This view is underlined by revelations such as that of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who confirmed that she held a Palestinian passport from 1921 to 1948.
The quest for Palestinian statehood and rights gained momentum with the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The PLO advocated an armed struggle to regain unjustly stolen land. Over the years, international efforts led by the United States sought to broker peace between Israel and Palestine. These efforts culminated in the Oslo 1992 agreements that provided a two-state solution, giving the Palestinian state and Israel their rightful places in the region.
But the road to peace was fraught with challenges. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was instrumental in pushing for peace, was assassinated by Israeli extremists who vehemently opposed the peace agreement. Despite its role as a mediator, the US had a soft and non-serious approach to ensure the implementation of the peace accords in the face of Israeli resistance.
During his tenure as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu took a harder line. He famously declared the Oslo Accords dead. In a candid moment leaked from a private conversation in his residence, Netanyahu revealed a strategy of giving the Palestinians only ‘2 per cent of the land of Palestine’, suggesting that temporarily giving up a small part was preferable to giving up the whole of what they considered their land.
Responsibility for the ongoing turmoil in Palestine doesn’t rest solely on Israel’s shoulders. Instead, European and Western nations bear a significant share of the blame. Their unwavering support for Israel, both politically and materially, has been instrumental in shaping the trajectory of the conflict and the theft of Palestinian territory.
Critics argue that this support has often been blind and unconditional. By providing Israel with generous financial aid, arms and diplomatic cover, European and Western nations have enabled policies and actions that have resulted in the killing, displacement and abuse of countless Palestinians, as well as clear and repeated violations of international law and crimes against humanity. The disregard for UN resolutions and international human rights norms further exacerbates the situation, leading to a cycle of violence and mistrust.
The narrative of Israel as a bastion of democracy and a vital ally in a turbulent region has often overshadowed the plight of the Palestinians in European and Western discourse. This skewed narrative, critics argue, has perpetuated a system in which Israel is rarely (if ever) held accountable for its actions while Palestinians continue to suffer. The Jewish victims have become the persecutors of the Palestinians.
Finally, while Israel is a primary actor in the conflict, the role of European and Western nations in shaping its course is undeniable. Their support, critics argue, has not only prolonged the competition but also made the path to a just and lasting peace more difficult.
European media coverage of the Gaza conflict
The role of the media in shaping public opinion and influencing political decisions cannot be underestimated. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, European press coverage of events has raised eyebrows and questioned what remains of the credibility of the Western mainstream media.
The ongoing conflict in Gaza has had devastating consequences, with significant damage to infrastructure and loss of life. This is particularly true in northern Gaza, where up to 10% of homes have reportedly been destroyed or damaged. However, some European media’s reporting of these events has been severely distorted.
While the destruction in Gaza is vast and the humanitarian crisis is deepening, the European media seem to focus disproportionately on damage and casualties on the Israeli side. This selective coverage, critics argue, generates sympathy for Israel and bolsters popular support for its actions.
This bias was evident after the tragic incident at the Baptist Hospital in Gaza. The hospital’s destruction resulted in the deaths and injuries of less than 500 people, including patients, 24 medical staff and families who had sought refuge there, believing that international law would protect such medical facilities. Instead of highlighting the scale of this tragedy and the Israeli crime of cutting off water and electricity to 2.3 civilians, some European media outlets chose to divert attention by attributing the incident to an internal dispute between Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They suggested that a mistake by Islamic Jihad, a group often linked to Iran in media narratives, led to the bombing of the hospital.
Such narratives misrepresent the reality on the ground and perpetuate misconceptions and prejudices. The media should provide balanced, accurate and comprehensive coverage of events to ensure the public is well-informed and can form opinions based on facts. Only through unbiased journalism can the global community hope to understand the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and work towards a just and lasting peace.
The ongoing conflict in Gaza has had significant humanitarian consequences, many of which remain underreported or overshadowed in the international media. The scale of the devastation and the human toll are appalling, and it is vital to have a clear picture of the realities on the ground.
Suppose groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad had access to precision-guided munitions capable of carrying half a tonne of explosives. It’s believed they could have forced the Israeli government to negotiate a peace deal within hours or even possibly evacuated parts of the Palestinian territories, using this devastating firepower that only Israel has in this conflict. This hypothetical scenario highlights the imbalance of power and resources in the competition.
Reports indicate that Israel is involved in numerous incidents resulting in civilian casualties daily. The death toll has exceeded 4,000, and that doesn’t include those buried under the rubble. Of these victims, 1,500 are children, 1,030 are women, and 200 are elderly. Injuries are between 13,000 and 14,000, putting further strain on Gaza’s already overstretched medical infrastructure. These figures are rising by the day and the hour. One of the most disturbing statistics is the reported daily death rate in northern and eastern Gaza, which has exceeded 360 people per day.
Gaza’s health system is on the brink of collapse. One hospital has been destroyed, four others rendered inoperable, and 24 others damaged or with reduced capabilities. Gazans face severe shortages of essential resources and live without consistent access to water, medicine or electricity. The bombing of five bakeries has further exacerbated the food crisis in the city.
The conflict isn’t limited to Gaza. There have also been reports of violence in the West Bank, led by Mahmoud Abbas, a friend of Israel and the US. Over 73 Palestinians have been killed and 125 arrested in the last 13 days.
The Palestinian people face daily threats and violence without significant international attention or intervention. Many argue that the international community is reluctant to act because of concerns about Israel’s potential response and widespread influence in the West. The role of the global media in this crisis has come under scrutiny, with accusations of biased reporting in favour of Israel, downplaying its actions, and even threatening those who might oppose its narrative.
Western public opinion and the Palestinian crisis: A Dichotomy of Silence and Support
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has elicited various responses from the international community. While the official stances of European governments have varied, a significant proportion of Western citizens have expressed solidarity with the Palestinians, highlighting a disconnect between public opinion and government action.
Several European countries have reported that authorities are cracking down on individuals supporting Palestine. In France, an extensive security apparatus has been deployed on the orders of Prime Minister Elisabeth Born (formerly Elisabeth Bornstein), who is of Jewish descent. Gérald Moussa Darmanin, the Ministry of the Interior, has deployed 10,000 police officers to protect 500 Jewish centres, funded by the French taxpayer. The move has raised eyebrows, with critics suggesting it underlines the French government’s skewed priorities and alignment with Israel.
Britain has reportedly taken a hard line against those who support Palestine or condemn Israeli actions, further stifling public discourse.
The Western media’s approach to the conflict has also come under scrutiny. Accusations of bias, censorship and even the suspension of social media accounts that don’t conform to pro-Israeli narratives have been widespread. Such media control and narrative shaping are unprecedented in modern European history.
However, amidst this overarching narrative, there have been glimmers of dissent and support for the Palestinian cause. Spain’s Human Rights Minister, Ione Belarra, has been vocal in her criticism of Israeli actions. She has called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be held accountable for possible war crimes and has advocated cutting ties with Israel.
Similarly, Claire Daly, an Irish member of the European Parliament, has openly questioned the European Commission’s stance on the conflict. In response to a statement by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressing Europe’s support for Israel, Daly responded that von der Leyen did not speak for the whole of Europe or Ireland. Daly stressed that as a non-appointed official, von der Leyen does not represent the collective voice of the European people, especially on such a contentious issue.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has exposed a gulf between the official positions of European governments and the feelings of their citizens. While governments may tread carefully for diplomatic and strategic reasons, the people’s voice demanding justice and human rights must be heard.
Europe’s historical legacy and contemporary approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Europe’s historical trajectory of colonisation, wars and resource-driven conflicts casts a long shadow over its contemporary foreign policy choices, including its stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The continent, which once prided itself on upholding the values of freedom, democracy and human rights, now faces accusations of deviating from these principles.
Historically, European powers have played a significant role in shaping the world order. Their colonisation of vast territories in Africa and the Americas led to the exploitation of natural resources and the subjugation of indigenous peoples. The African continent bore the brunt of European imperialism, with its inhabitants subjected to decades of enslavement and exploitation.
Europe’s quest for dominance and resources also manifested itself in internal conflicts. The First and Second World Wars, originating in territorial and resource control disputes, resulted in unparalleled devastation and the loss of millions of lives.
More recently, Europe’s involvement in global affairs, often in tandem with the United States, has continued to be a source of contention. The conflict in Ukraine, allegedly instigated by American interests, has drawn Europe into a geopolitical quagmire, further highlighting the continent’s complex relationship with power dynamics.
Against this backdrop, Europe’s current stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is worrying. While the continent’s leaders often espouse values of freedom and human rights, their perceived silence or bias in the face of the Palestinian crisis has been criticised. Europe’s historical legacy of colonisation and conflict makes its support for Israel, seen by many as the aggressor, unsurprising.
However, transparency and truth are expected in an age of advanced technology and real-time news. The global community expects Europe, with its rich democratic traditions, to be a beacon of unbiased reporting and support for human rights. However, perceived media bias and the lack of a strong stance against Israel’s actions have led to accusations that Europe is abandoning its core values.
Dehumanisation in Conflicts: A Historical Perspective and Contemporary Implications
Throughout history, the dehumanisation of a group of people has often been a precursor to mass violence and genocide. By reducing individuals to subhuman labels, perpetrators can psychologically distance themselves from the gravity of their actions, making it easier to commit atrocities against those they perceive as ‘others’.
In the Rwandan genocide, Hutus, driven by deep-seated ethnic tensions and political manipulation, referred to Tutsis as ‘cockroaches’. This dehumanising term facilitated the mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis in 100 days.
Similarly, during the Holocaust, the Nazi propaganda machine worked tirelessly to portray Jews as ‘rats’ and other sub-human creatures. This systematic dehumanisation greatly facilitated the extermination of six million Jews and millions of other victims of the Nazi regime.
In the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there have been instances where such dehumanising rhetoric has been used. Comments by Israeli officials such as Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi describing Palestinians as “animals below human beings” echo dark chapters of history. Such language, if left unchecked, can have dire consequences.
What’s alarming is the perceived silence or approval from some Western quarters. Suppose such derogatory language is not universally condemned. In that case, it can be seen as tacit approval, potentially leading to further escalation and violence and repugnant to the European position that has abandoned its values to support Israel. The international community must be vigilant in condemning such language, regardless of its source.
Gaza, often described as ‘the world’s largest open-air prison camp’, has been blocked since 2007. The humanitarian situation is dire, with residents facing severe restrictions on movement, access to necessities and economic opportunities. Israel’s potential invasion of Gaza could have catastrophic consequences for the civilian population, especially if the attacking forces demobilise them, and the outcome is far from certain.
Subscribe to get access
Read more of this content when you subscribe today.