The EU’s Magical Thinking on the Israeli-Arab Conflict

How much failure is enough?

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, when the Welsh magus Glendower boasts, “I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” the sceptic Hotspur retorts, “Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?” For seven decades the West’s foreign policy establishment has been trying to call Middle East peace from depths of endless summits and conferences and agreements with ritualistic chants of “land for peace” and “two-state solution.” But all they’ve managed to produce is war, terrorism, and groveling appeasement. Peace hasn’t answered their call.

The EU has been particularly feckless, spending billions of Euros paying off the Palestinian Arabs so that they and their fellow jihadists don’t unleash terrorist hordes to disturb la dolce vita of European elites. Fearful of the disgruntled unassimilated Muslim immigrants they have let invade their countries, they have demonized Israel’s “illegal occupation” and “disproportionate use of force,” and winked at growing anti-Semitism and Muslim violence, all in the hopes that they will escape the wrath of Allah’s “martyrs.” Of course, they haven’t, as attested by the blood and gore spattering the streets of Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin, and Madrid. Nor have they bought a reprieve from the “Little Terror,” as Norwegian blogger Fjordman calls it, of daily vandalism, rape, assault, and creeping sharia, along with the commandeering and colonization of public spaces and civic institutions.

Yet despite their failure to raise from the deeps the spirits of regional peace and reconciliation, the EU political elite continue furiously to repeat their diplomatic mantras. The latest came in the form of a response to President Trump’s fulfillment this week of his promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the spiritual, cultural, and political capital of the Jewish people for 3000 years, a city whose Arab influences came by dint of invasion, occupation, and colonization. 

Decades of failure, however, have not schooled the EU clerks into reassessing their received wisdom. On the eve of the U.S. embassy’s move to Jerusalem, EU diplomats prepared a joint EU statement laying out their reasons for rejecting it: 

Jerusalem should be the capital of both states — Israel and the future state of Palestine.

The final status of Jerusalem should be negotiated and only determined through negotiations between the parties.

The member states of the EU will not follow the U.S. and will not move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Beneath this boilerplate lies the central fallacy of Western diplomacy on the conflict: that the Arabs we have magically transformed into a “Palestinian” people desire their own nation-state living “side-by-side in peace” with Israel. Further fantastical assumptions are that the region is an ancient homeland of this people, that Jerusalem is particularly sacred to their history, and that the recovery of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967 is an “illegal occupation” characterized by apartheid-like discrimination.

All these assertions that lie behind Western diplomacy and demonization of Israel are distortions or outright lies.  Take the phrase “illegal occupation.” It is historically meaningless. There is no occupation under international law, because there has never existed a modern nation to be occupied. The territory to this day remains disputed, not “occupied.” That’s why it’s described geographically as the “West Bank” of the Jordan River. “Palestine” was the name used to describe a province of the Ottoman Empire, and “Palestinian” designated any subject, whether Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, who lived there. 

After the collapse of the Ottomans following World War I, the territory came under the legal control of the mandatory system established by the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations. After World War II the controlling authority passed on to the U.N., which in 1947 passed U.N. resolution 181 to create a Jewish state and an Arab state on the remnant of the territory originally set aside for Israel, but whittled down to create Jordan. Six Arab nations in 1948 rejected the partition plan and invaded the fledging nation not to create the Arab state, but to destroy the Jewish one––an aim they have continuously pursed with war and terror for 70 years.

Until 1967, this territory was indeed “occupied” –– by Jordan, whose annexation of it was never recognized internationally. It came under control of Israel as a result of the defensive Six Day War. Without that event, it is likely that despite international disapproval, the territory would have in time become part of Jordan according to the ancient wisdom that possession is nine-tenths of the law. After all, who boycotts or makes China an international pariah over its occupation of Tibet? Or how about Northern Cyprus, a Greek land for 3000 years, serially invaded and occupied by Muslims, the last of whom were the Turks in 1974?  They displaced 150,000 Greeks, vandalized or destroyed 300 churches, and colonized the land with Turkish “settlements.” But we hear no protests from the EU, the U.N., or the BDS movement. If the Arabs hadn’t attacked Israel in 1967, their “illegal occupation” of the ancient Jewish territories of Judea and Samaria would have, like Tibet or Cyprus, become a de facto legal province of an alien invader.

The call for a “Palestinian state” implicit in the EU proclamation is also historically invalid because as a point of historical fact, there is no such thing as a “Palestinian people” whose “historical homeland” is the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, the “river and the sea,” that must be made Judenfrei before becoming a Palestinian state. Most of the Arabs living in the ancient Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria are the descendants of conquerors and occupiers, or recent immigrants drawn by the economic development by Jewish settlers. The Arabs today called “Palestinians” are not significantly different ethnically, linguistically, or culturally from the Arabs living in Jordan, Lebanon, or Syria. They are distinguished rather by their status as victims and perpetual refugees, an identity nurtured by other Arab states to serve their international interests, abetted by the corrupt and feckless U.N. and the international left who see Israel as a neocolonial capitalist outpost.

If you have any doubt that “Palestinian” is a tool of propaganda, listen to Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the PLO Political Department in 1977. “Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people,” he told Newsweek magazine. Earlier, after the Six Day War, Executive Council of the PLO member Zouhair Muhsin said, “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity … Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.” 

The idea of a “Palestinian” nation-state, then, has been a propaganda device for waging war in “stages” against Israel. It appeals to ignorant Westerners and their own culturally specific ideals of “ethnic self-determination” or nationhood. Both concepts are alien to traditional Muslim ideas of the umma, the world-wide community of Muslims united not by blood or nationality but by religion.

Equally specious is the EU’s allusion to the claim that Jerusalem is a particularly significant city for Muslims. In fact, it is mentioned only twice in the Koran, compared to 660 times in the Old Testament. It has the central significance for Judaism that Mecca has for Islam. Indeed, its relationship to Muslim history is negligible compared to the central, galvanizing role Jerusalem has for Judaism and Jews as home of the Temple Mount, site of the Second Temple. Its two mosques on the Temple Mount reached their current outsized important only after Israel reconquered the city in 1967. 

Then Jerusalem became a symbol of the “catastrophe” of 1948, and a rallying cry for the destruction of Israel. That’s why the Arabs who control the Temple Mount have systematically been destroying the archaeological evidence for Jerusalem’s centrality in Jewish history, culture, and faith. Recalling the Roman damnatio memoriae, the eradication of all evidence for an enemy’s existence, the Arabs are inventing facts on the ground to buttress their “attempt to undercut and warp or obfuscate the unique connection that we, the people of Israel, have to the capital of Israel,” as Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2010, in order to strengthen their claim to be the original inhabitants of a region they invaded, conquered, and occupied 2000 years after the Jews had built Jerusalem.

Finally, the desperate cries for “negotiation” after 70 years of diplomatic failure bespeak how bankrupt the institutional narrative has become. And the EU foreign policy establishment is right to be desperate. The election of Donald Trump has exploded that paradigm, as the president has recognized what the foreign policy “experts” have not: things have changed. Barack Obama’s empowerment of Iran has concentrated the minds of the Sunni Muslim states, who for now realize that Israel is more valuable as an ally than as a scapegoat. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a powerful, concrete statement of this country’s friendship with Israel and rejection of the EU’s long-dead diplomatic received wisdom, which is as impotent as Glendower’s spells and chants. 

Most important, the EU proclamation failed when Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Romania, blocked a joint EU statement, which required unanimous approval. Magical thinking based on vain hope is being replaced by facts and deeds based on truth––a fitting present for Israel’s 70th birthday.