- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

The last time a European government imposed trade sanctions on Jewish goods, it was Nazi Germany in 1938. Sixty -three years later it is the European Union which plans to ban the entry of duty-free products made by Jews living and working in the disputed territories in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan, (nothing was said, of course, about Arab-produced goods).
Even goods from East Jerusalem are to be blacklisted. The amounts of those Israeli exports, by the way, are not very big about $200 million in all but it is the reprehensible principle and the dangerous precedent for which the E.U. deserves to be condemned. Elena Bonner, the widow of Russian human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, once compared denying the legitimacy of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria to ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia the truth of this, seems however, to have been lost on the policy-makers in Brussels in spite of their supposed commitment to strengthening the ethical dimension of their foreign policy. What may also have escaped them is that by banning the Israeli goods they would create additional economic hardships for ordinary Palestinians who are among the main beneficiaries of Israels economic activities in the "territories," and whose standard of living has already dramatically deteriorated as a result of the Palestinian Authoritys corruption and inefficiency and of Yasser Arafats terrorist campaign.
Unfortunately, some European politicians and technocrats, having short memories, seem to have forgotten their own nations historic and moral responsibility to the Jewish people especially at a time when it is still struggling to rebuild itself in its ancient land, after having been the victims of historys greatest catastrophe right there, on Europes soil.
It isnt as if the European Union didnt have what should have been more pressing political matters on its plate. Israel-bashing, however, seems to be the preferred alternative. One shouldnt generalize however: The record of some, especially that of Germany, the Netherlands, sometimes the U.K. and, hopefully, Italy under its new government is usually better).
Not content with the threatened economic steps, the presidency of the European Union, sitting in its rotating ivory tower (this time it was Stockholm), has also accused Israel of "disproportionate use of force" in its fight against terrorism and bloodshed. In effect it has said that Israel, the Middle Easts only democracy and the victim of Mr. Arafats so-called "El-Aqsa Intifada," carried the main responsibility for restoring peace. Strangely nothing was said about the Israeli governments unilateral cease-fire and the Palestinians response to it more bombings and killings.
Apparently, the principle that Saddam Husseins aggression against Kuwait should not be rewarded is considered irrelevant in the case of the Palestinians. Not only that, but the functionaries who proposed the anti-Israel measures seem to be encumbered by an amazing degree of disregard both for history and for international law. The European Union, adopting the Arab (and previously Soviet) line, terms Jewish settlements in the territories "illegal" (a term never adopted by the United States) though many experts on international law disagree. Jerusalem, which, as every Christian, Jew and probably most Muslims know, has been the focus of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, is also called "occupied territory" conveniently forgetting that had it not been for the war waged against it in 1967, Israel would not have been in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in the first place in spite of its unchallengeable, historical, legal and moral rights there.
Israels enemies are also making a quite successful effort in making the world forget that there never was a Palestinian state and that under international law, Israels claims to sovereignty in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are at least as good, if not better, than those of anybody else. The very essence of the peace-process, both of the U.S.-sponsored Madrid Conference and of the Oslo agreement, was that all these issues, including sovereignty, borders, settlements, etc. should be decided in talks between the sides. The European Union, and to some extent also the recent Mitchell report, ignore this truth juxtaposing the future of the Jewish settlements with Palestinian violence. Israel has always stated that it is prepared to make far-reaching and painful sacrifices for the sake of peace. But the sort of anti-Israel steps which the European Union is contemplating now, instead of making it clear to the Palestinians that compromise must be a two-way street is, to say the least, counterproductive.
Actually, it is rather a pity that the European Union does not do more to promote peace and stability in the Middle East. But as long as its present lack of even-handedness continues, it will not be able to make a constructive contribution in this respect. Europe seems to have a problem: It doesnt want to be only an economic power (which it is), but also a political power (which it isnt). So it isnt only little Israel on which the E.U. vents its spleen, but increasingly the United States as well. Disagreeing on different issues is natural and perfectly legitimate. However, it would be a tragedy, if the European Union as is often the case at the United Nations and other international organizations which are strongly influenced by anti-Israel and anti-American forces would lend itself to the sort of anti-Israel stratagems which enlightened public opinion and a modicum of fair-mindedness should have rejected out of hand.

Zalman Shoval is the former ambassador of Israel.


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