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Thursday, November 06, 2003

Europe apologizes to Israel for poll

The European Commission has apologised to Israel for a new opinion poll that shows that Israel is the country most regarded as a threat to world peace by ordinary Europeans.

The telephone poll, part of ongoing surveys by the European Union, sampled 7500 respondents in all 15 EU states.

Presented with the names of 14 countries, respondents were asked if they regarded each in turn as a threat to world peace. The results, released on Monday, showed that 59 per cent agreed that Israel was a threat to world peace. The US came equal second on 53 per cent with Iran and North Korea.

Iraq came next on 52 per cent, followed by Afghanistan on 50. Libya, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Somalia, Russia, Syria and Pakistan all scored less than 50 per cent. Palestine was not listed because, the EU says, it is not a country.
How ridiculous to apologize for results of a poll. These countries - except for Italy which was almost evenly split on Israel - host large majorities of people who believe that Israel is a threat to world peace. Apologize for the hatefulness and ignorance of your people, perhaps, but not for the revelation of it.

Not that I expect any Europeans to be reading this blog, but I think it must be addressed that such popular beliefs are based on a misguided notion of Israel as a colonial, imperialist state, forced on the Arabs by powerful external entities:
"[A Jewish state in Palestine] could only emerge as the bastard child of imperialist powers, and it could only come into existence by displacing the greater part of the Palestinian population, by incorporating them into an apartheid state, or through some combination of the two. In addition, once created, Israel could only survive as a militarist, expansionist, and hegemonic state, constantly at war with its neighbors." - M. Shahid Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University (quoted by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 10/16/02)
In his book, The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz answers this accusation, with the following points.

Israel is a state comprised primarily of refugees! Those who immigrated to Israel in the 1880s -to join the Jews who had lived in Palestine for generations [mostly Sephardic, expelled from Spain in the 15th century]- were fleeing oppressive regimes, pogroms and religious discrimination in Europe (heh) and the Muslim states of the Middle East and North Africa.

What drew these Jews to Palestine was its Jewish significance, at once religious, historical and familial.

Moreover, Palestine had had a significant and well-documented Jewish presence for the previous thousand years at least, and an original presence dating back to the second millennium BCE. It wasn't until the 7th century CE that the army of Mohammed forbade (by sword) Jewish existence on the Arabian peninsula, according to the prophet's command: "Never do two religions exist in Arabia."

In modern times, the first significant wave of Jewish return to the Holy Land took place 1882-1903 and saw 10,000 Eastern European Jews move to Palestine. At the same time, nearly a million Jews were immigrating to the United States. Both groups consisted of refugees looking for a place to live in peace, without violent discrimination. The political movement advocating a Jewish state didn't arise until late in this period - it wasn't until 1897 that Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress.

Jewish refugees had, in fact, to overcome imperialist (Turkish, British and pan-Arab) forces in order to settle in Palestine. The colonial powers of the time did "everything possible to thwart the establishment of a Jewish homeland."

Dershowitz quotes Martin Buber (1939), a strong supporter of Palestinian rights:
"Our settlers do not come here as do the colonists from the Occident, to have natives do their work for them; they themselves set their shoulders to the plow and they spend their strength and their blood to make the land fruitful."
The land they settled was fairly worthless, i.e. without natural resources or strategic position, and the Jews neither stole nor confiscated land, but purchased it from absentee landlords and real estate speculators, at fair to exhorbitant prices.

Even years later, when Jewish land purchases were increasing, it was found that "the quantity of Arab land offered for sale was far in excess of the Jewish ability to purchase." Dershowitz challenges anyone to produce objective data that contradicts this historical reality. "No one will be able to do so."

Jewish cultivation of the land then attracted (an unknown number of) Muslims to the jobs it made available:
A study of the Jewish settlement of Rishon L'Tzion, first established in 1882, showed that the 40 Jewish families who settled there had attracted "more than 400 Arab families," many of whom were Bedouin and Egyptian.

A British official reported in 1937 that "the growth in [the numbers of Arab fellahin] had been largely due to the health services combating malaria, reducing infant death rates, improving water supply and sanitation."
These improvements, Dershowitz points out, were introduced into Palestine by the Jewish refugees from Europe.

The rest, as they say, is history.
Contemporary Europeans have some chutzpah, complaining about Israel. If their countries had been more hospitable and their ancestors less thirsty for the blood of Jews, Israel's existence might not have become the moral imperative -and pain in their collective ass- that it is today.