Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism are becoming linked and ever more rabid in today's Europe. They arise from a kind of blindness, combined with a strange mixture of alienation, guilt and fear toward both Israel and America.
Millions of Europeans resist seeing Israel as a country fighting for its survival. Israel cannot afford to lose one major war, as it would mean the end of the Jewish state. But huge numbers of Europeans believe that something is fundamentally wrong with the Israelis: they never compromise; they prefer using military means to solve political problems.
Something similar is behind the European attitude toward the US. Look at Europe, many Europeans say, we have eradicated wars, dangerous nationalism and dictatorships. We created a peaceful European Union. We do not wage war; we negotiate. We do not exhaust our resources on weapons. The rest of the planet should learn from us how to live together without terrorizing each other.
As a Swede, I have heard such pacific boasting all my life: that neutral Sweden is a moral superpower. Now this bragging has become the EU's ideology. We are the moral continent. Call this the "Swedenization" of Europe.
Yes, today's EU is a miracle for a continent where two modern totalitarian movements -- communism and Nazism -- unleashed rivers of blood. But what Europe forgets is how those ideologies were overcome. Without the US Army, Western Europe would not have been liberated in 1945. Without the Marshall Plan and NATO, it would not have taken off economically. Without the policy of containment under America's security umbrella, the Red Army would have strangled the dream of freedom in Eastern Europe, or brought European unity, but under a flag with red stars.
Western Europeans also forget that some areas of the world have never known freedom. In many places, torture chambers are the rules of the game, not the grotesque and shameful mistakes of ill-supervised troops. Any attempt in such places to go behave the European way and negotiate -- without the military power needed to back up diplomacy -- would be pathetic.
Instead of supporting those who fight international terrorism, many Europeans try to blame the spread of terrorism on Israel and the US. This is a new European illusion. Spain's latter day appeasement a la Munich arises from this thinking.
But what if Spain and Europe as a whole had reacted in the opposite way to the Madrid train bombing of April, saying: "We promise that because of that slaughter we will double our support for stabilization in Iraq by sending twice as many troops, experts, engineers, teachers, policemen, doctors and billions of euros in support of allied forces and their Iraqi co-workers." The triumph of terrorists would have been transformed into a triumph of the war on terror.
The images many Europeans hold of America and Israel create the political climate for some very ugly bias. You have the Great Satan and the Small Satan. America wants to dominate the world -- exactly the allegation made in traditional anti-Semitic rhetoric about the Jews. Indeed, modern anti-Zionist rhetoric portrays Israel's goal as domination of the Middle East. Such ideas are reflected in opinion polls in which Europeans claim that Israel and the US are the true dangers to world peace.
Ian Buruma, the British writer, claims that this European rage against America and Israel has to do with guilt and fear. The two world wars led to such catastrophic carnage that "never again" was interpreted as "welfare at home, non-intervention abroad." The problem with this concept is that it could only survive under the protection of American might.
Extreme anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism are actually merging. The so-called peace poster "Hitler Had Two Sons: Bush and Sharon," displayed in European anti-war rallies, combines trivialization of Nazism with demonization of both the victims of Nazism and those who defeated Nazism.
Much of this grows from a subconscious European guilt related to the Holocaust. Now the Holocaust's victims -- and their children and grandchildren -- are supposedly doing to others what was done to them. By equating the murderer and the victim, we wash our hands.
This pattern of anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism returns again and again. "The ugly Israeli" and "the ugly American" seem to be of the same family. "The ugly Jew" becomes the instrumental part of this defamation when so-called neoconservatives are blamed both for American militarism and Israeli brutalities and then selectively named: Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams, Kristol, etc. This is a new version of the old myth that Jews rule the US.
Earlier this year, the editor of Die Zeit, Josef Joffe, put his finger on the issue: like Jews, Americans are said to be selfish and arrogant. Like Jews, they are in thrall to a fundamentalist religion that renders them self-righteous and dangerous. Like Jews, Americans are money-grubbing capitalists, for whom the highest value is the cash nexus. "America and Israel are the outsiders -- just as Jews have been all the way into the 21st century," Joffe says.
The links between anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism are all too real. Unless Europe's leaders roundly condemn this unholy triple alliance, it will poison Middle East politics and trans-Atlantic relations alike.
Per Ahlmark is a former deputy prime minister of Sweden.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
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