16 NOVEMBER 2002, Page 26


Those who knock Israel are motivated

by malice and ignorance, says Douglas Davis

LAST week's unambiguous Republican victory in the US mid-term elections, followed swiftly by the unanimous UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, provided twin peaks in the two-year-old presidency of George W. Bush.

While the first has decisively removed any lingering doubt about the legitimacy of his victory in the 2000 presidential election, the second has — for the moment, at least — silenced his European critics, who delight in vilifying him as a brainless, trigger-happy cowboy in thrall to supposed right-wing extremists in his administration.

Continuing to mock Dubya's determination to ensure the disarmament of Iraq (read: regime change) has suddenly become a mug's game in the face of seamless international support — from Russia to China, from deeply agnostic France to Baby Assad's Syria. But it would be a serious misjudgment to assume that last week's events have produced a Damascene conversion in Europe (or in Damascus, for that matter).

The success of Mr Bush will not dissipate the virulent anti-Americanism that permeates much of Europe's political discourse, nor will it drain the poison out of Europe's hatred of Israel, even though it is widely acknowledged that Israel will probably bear the brunt of the inevitable military engagement.

On the contrary. Israel is perceived by both Left and Right on the political spectrum as bearing both original sin and ultimate responsibility for the current crisis. While Israel's Prime Minister. Aridl Sharon, is already pointing to the need for the international community to turn its post-Iraq attention to the psychopathic mullahs of nuclear-ambitious Iran, it is Israel that has come most sharply into Europe's focus.

The argument is as simplistic as it is flawed: American foreign policy, prisoner of the all-powerful Jewish lobby, has been led down a blind alley of political and economic support for Israel, coupled with an abject refusal to compel Israel (a la Iraq) to abide by UN resolutions. It is this grotesque injustice, so the argument goes, that has provoked rage and frustration within the Islamic world; radicalised and catalysed the impoverished Arab 'street';

fuelled the engine of discontent, and provided the fertile seedbed for international terrorism.

Ergo, Israel, the object of Washington's support and the Islamic world's consequent rage, is the real culprit for the spate of Islamic terrorism, from the attacks of 11 September to the Moscow theatre siege, from the bombing of Bali to the now routine suicide bombings that visit the streets of Israel's own cities.

And for many grassroots Europeans, now expecting imminent assaults on their own soil and feverishly searching for a scapegoat, fear is metastasising into that old European hatred. Jews — Israel incarnate — are once more being lined up in the cross hairs. The recent upsurge in antiSemitic incidents — verbal and physical assaults, cemetery and synagogue desecrations — is reminiscent of a dark past. As in Weimar Germany, it is the Jews who are once again perceived as the authors of European misfortunes.

This incipient anti-Semitic analysis is not yet being articulated by mainstream European political leaders, but they do little to discourage or dispel the relentless antiIsrael message that is being propagated by much of Europe's media. Based on many conversations I have had throughout the Continent over recent months, I have no doubt that, individually and collectively, European Jews regard the current climate as cause for profound concern.

High on the agenda of Channel 4 News after last week's UN vote, for example, was the question, 'Can we now expect the UN to take similar action against Israel for its flagrant violations of UN resolutions?' Britain's hapless UN ambassador, who was instrumental in framing the Iraq resolution, had to draw on all of his diplomatic skills as he floundered, flubbed and fudged an answer.

If the good ambassador had taken the trouble to read UN Resolution 242 — the celebrated 'land-for-peace' formula — which was devised by his predecessor, Lord Caradon, he would have been able to execute the steps of this particular diplomatic dance far more elegantly. The answer is surprisingly clear and straightforward.

First, UN Resolution 242 essentially provides a road map for the settlement of the Arab-Israel conflict. On the one hand, it calls on Israel to withdraw from territory conquered in the 1967 Six Day War; on the other, it calls on Arab states to recognise Israel's right to exist within secure and defensible borders. These two clauses are interlocked. Israel cannot act alone and the UN clearly did not intend that it could, or even should, evacuate territory unilaterally.

Second, the UN ambassador should have known that resolutions affecting Israel fall under 'Chapter Six' (in UN bureaucratic-speak). This means that the resolutions, including 242, are non-binding recommendations that suggest avenues for a peaceful solution of the conflict. Resolu

tions affecting Iraq, however, fall under 'Chapter Seven', which gives the Security Council broad powers, including the use of sanctions and military force, to impose its will in order to counter 'threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression'.

These two small technicalities do not, however, appear to upset the trendy media agenda, still less impinge on the consciousness of supposedly wellinformed interviewers who persist in demanding a timetable for Iraq-style UN 'action' against Israel. But then this is a debate where rationality seems to have been suspended and facts become an inconvenient encumbrance.

Nor do much of the media acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that, while the Arab bloc at the UN unanimously rejected Resolution 242 in 1967, Israel not only accepted it but has also since demonstrated — in peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, as well as in negotiations with Yasser Arafat — that it is, indeed, prepared to make deep territorial concessions in exchange for peace.

That there will be a war to sweep away the regime of Saddam Hussein is not in serious doubt. In spite of the threat of a US-led assault, it is inconceivable that Saddam will simply throw up his hands and, with a nonchalant 'Fair cop, guy', open the doors of his chemical, biological and nuclear facilities to the UN inspectors. Such an act of submission is not part of the repertoire of a man who considers himself the heir to Saladin.

It is not known what side-deals were concluded to achieve that unanimous vote on Iraq in the UN Security Council last week, but it is a running certainty that a large slice of the political price for the coming conflict will be paid in Israeli and Jewish currency.

Douglas Davis is the London correspondent of the Jerusalem Post.