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A window of opportunity
By Musa Keilani May 29, 2010
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THE Arabs have been looking for an opening through which they could effectively use their friendly relations with Europe to serve the Palestinian and other Arab causes. Now an opening has presented itself, with Israeli policies under growing fire from Europeans as manifested in a collective declaration by prominent Jewish intellectuals living in Europe presented in Brussels in early May.

Signed by some 6,000 people, the document, titled “European Jewish Call for Reason,” affirms that Israel is posing a danger to itself by continuing the occupation of Palestinian territories and continuing to build Jewish settlements in the occupied lands, including Arab East Jerusalem.

Israel currently faces an “unacceptable de-legitimisation process,” it says. Mind you, these words have come from the friends of Israel who are genuinely concerned that the policies of the Jewish state would result in disaster for itself.

The signatories to the document included many former European Jewish diplomats, bureaucrats, intellectuals and writers who have always been staunch defenders of Israel’s policies.

“Whatever our personal paths, our connection to the state of Israel is part of our identity,” they said in the document. “We are concerned about the future of the state of Israel to which we are unfailingly committed.” The message to Israel from European Jews is clear as affirmed in the document unveiled in Brussels.

They hit the nail on the head by affirming that “the future of Israel depends upon urgently achieving peace with the Palestinian people on the basis of the two-state solution.”

Otherwise “Israel will soon be faced with two equally disastrous choices: either to become a state in which Jews would be a minority in their own country, or establish a regime that would be a disgrace to Israel and lead to civil unrest.”

Surely, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt the heat of the rising European Jewish opposition to his policies that have no room for a two-state solution when he was in France last week.

It was not the typical pro-Palestinian protests and criticism that greeted him in Paris. He found himself under advice that while European Jews do continue to support Israel, he should not take it for granted that such support is unreserved.

The Brussels declaration describes as dangerous the Jewish support for Israeli policies. Such backing, it says, “does not serve the true interests of the state of Israel.”

Obviously, Jews who live as Israeli citizens in Israel and European Jews have different interpretations of “the true interests of Israel.” The Israeli political and military establishments believe that military might is the answer to all challenges they face whereas the European Jews — and indeed many among American Jews — realise that Israel’s security and legitimacy could be guaranteed only by an equitable solution to the Palestinian problem.

The Brussels declaration called on the European Union and the US to apply “pressure on both parties and help them achieve a reasonable and rapid solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. History confers on Europe a particular responsibility in this region of the world.”

Signatories to the document have assessed the situation correctly. This is evident in the affirmation that “there is no perspective for the process of negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians since the former remains opposed to the two-state solution.

It is unlikely that the Israeli leadership realises that the cry raised by European Jews reflects genuine concern over the misguided Israeli policies.

If anything, many Israeli commentators and groups have called the signatories of the Brussels declaration as traitors and as “Jews driven by self-hate.”

Well, the shoe should be on the other feet since anyone, Jewish or otherwise, should be hating selves if they approve of Israel’s inhumanitarian treatment of the Palestinians under its occupation, direct and indirect.

Avi Promor, a former Israeli ambasador, signed the declaration in light of his first-hand experience with Israel’s policies and its relations with Jewish groups in Europe and elsewhere. He has been quoted as saying that Jewish groups “ask Jews in the diaspora to unconditionally support Israel, even as a political lobby. But they try to discredit the differing opinions, those which are not in complete accordance with whatever policy the Israeli government of the moment is applying.”

Gilles William Goldnadel, chairman of the France-Israel Association, said last week: “Anti-Israeli criticism in France has spread beyond the far left, because extreme left thinking has a strong influence on society as a whole.”

“Jewish intellectuals are uncomfortable with the criticism and feel obliged to distance themselves from the Israeli government,” Goldnadel said.

Statements and activism by European Jews are slowly having an impact on European governments.

Some say that the best example of that change was seen in a decision by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Berlin in May for the first time.

The message that the Arabs should take from the Brussels declaration and developments since then is that they could work together with European Jews to help apply pressure on Israel.

European Jews might be acting to protect Israel from itself, and the Arabs are trying to solve the Palestinian problem through an equitable agreement. Both purposes could be served if they joined hands and worked for the implicitly common goal of the two-state solution.

For sure, they would not be able to solve the problem but they could add to pressure on Israel and help persuade it that its friends want it to see reason and logic and save itself from being “delegitimised as the Jewish state.”

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