Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Europe is of two minds

A plot by Arab men holding European citizenship to carry out Mumbai-like shooting attacks in France, Germany and Britain has been uncovered by Western intelligence services. The United States has apparently thwarted the planned attacks with an intensified targeted killing campaign, using drone aircraft, of suspected Taliban and al-Qaida-backed terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

However, the danger posed by radicalized Muslims in Europe is hardly diminished. Dozens of German, Dutch, French and British Islamists are presently undergoing military training in Pakistan-Afghanistan hoping to replicate the bloodletting carried out by their predecessors including the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191; and the July 2005 attacks on London's transport system that took 56 lives. That subsequent attacks failed, among them the second try against London's transport system, car bombs that did not explode in London, the failure to blow up Glasgow's airport terminal, can be put down to chance. Numerous other plots were frustrated by security forces before they could be carried out.

The heightened state of alert, the long security lines at airports, the bomb-sniffing dogs at railroad stations have fostered an atmosphere of frustration and intimidation. The result? Forbearance for Islamist "values" is on decline. There is, for instance, widespread support across the political spectrum for banning the burka. A poll found that 74% of Spaniards agreed that a "clash of civilizations" was underway. In France, only 45% of respondents believed the country's Muslims were loyal. In the UK, a majority of people associated Islam with terrorism and the repression of women.

Notably, however, the popular -- and in some cases public policy -- rebuff of Islamist bullying has not carried over to European attitudes about the Palestinians. The Islamist crusade against Israel has somehow been inoculated from reproach in Europe on both the governmental and grass-roots level.

Whatever their qualms about Islamism and Arab extremism at home, Spain's socialist government and France's center-right government collaborate within the European Union on behalf of a Palestinian Authority that, partly on Islamic grounds, rejects Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. Nicolas Sarkozy's opponents have labeled him as pro-Israel, yet one would be hard-pressed to say where his positions differ from those enunciated by Mahmoud Abbas. Over the summer, France symbolically upgraded its diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian delegation in Paris. Madrid and Paris have jointly spearheaded efforts for European Union recognition of Palestinian statehood regardless of the outcome of negotiations between Israel and the PA. The situation is little better in the UK where the new Conservative-led government has embraced the Foreign Office's customary chilly outlook toward Israel, demanding a complete lifting of the quarantine against Hamas-controlled Gaza and labeling housing construction anywhere over the Green Line "a major barrier" to peace.

There is also no discernible backlash of Western public opinion over Palestinian bellicosity. Take the latest polling conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research which garnered considerable coverage for its finding that most Palestinian Arabs oppose negotiations with Israel unless the settlement construction freeze is extended. Considerably less attention has been drawn to another aspect of the survey: A majority of Palestinians supported the recent murders of two Israeli men and two women -- one of whom was pregnant -- near Hebron notwithstanding the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that were getting under way.

Europeans may be on their way to rejecting the scurrilous "root causes" explanation which seeks to excuse violent behavior by their own Muslim extremists, but this thinking does not carry over in the case of Palestinian brutality against Israel. The reasons are undoubtedly manifold: Palestinian groups have lately tended to confine their aggression to universally detested "settlers;" the deplorable campaign of demonization and de-legitimization of Israel manifest in the European media apparently excuses even the most contemptible Palestinian behavior; and the misguided decoupling of the Palestinian issue from the overall Islamist agenda has further muddied the waters. Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, gets a pass because the target of its violence is Israel.

Europe appears to be of two minds, showing growing intolerance of jihadi terrorization at home while urging Israel to accommodate Islamist intimidation in the Middle East. Old fashioned prejudice may be part of the explanation. Three-quarters of all Spaniards surveyed in 2009 exhibited classic anti-Semitic tendencies, and polls show large European majorities hold negative views of the Jewish state. Rather than treat Israel as the "Jew among nations," Europe would do better to appreciate that Israel's security is integral to the future of Western civilization.

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