Arabia: dream or reality?
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Apr 2, 2008, 00:46
ROME -- One evening not long ago I was surprised to hear the
Italian political analyst, Sergio Romano -- a self-defined conservative and
ex-Ambassador to NATO -- speak of the East as if he were a representative of
Communist Refoundation Party, against NATO and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
and in favor of negotiations with Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The �liberal conservative� Romano, who in his career once
taught at Harvard and the University of California, labeled NATO an instrument
of US foreign policy and military strategy, under the control of Washington,
and antagonistic to Europe�s interests. From the start Afghanistan was
America�s war, he charged, a war Washington now wants Europe to fight. He
reasoned that if the American goal in Iraq was control of the region, then the
USA should have allied with Saddam Hussein. His assessment of Hamas and
Hezbollah corresponds to that of the European Left: they are political parties
and welfare organizations with armed wings; negotiations with both are
desirable and necessary for peace in the region.
But he knows that is not going to happen. For perpetual war
is a vital necessity for vengeful Tel Aviv no less than for the Washington
neocon nomenklatura and those in the shadows behind them.
The wrath of the spiders
On that same afternoon I had watched a documentary on the
Third Crusade of 1191 led by the Norman King of England, Richard Lionheart,
which prompted this essay. Like the disastrous Second Crusade forty years
earlier in which German and French armies were massacred, Richard�s goal was
re-capturing Jerusalem. It was eerie to behold. The setting and atmosphere of
the Christian invasion 800 years ago was the same story as today: a
Christian-Jewish alliance and Islam battling over control of Palestine and
�Warriors of the Faith� depicts King Richard�s Crusade as
fragile as are Road Maps today. So fragile that one of the minor incidents history
recalls is the demoralizing effects of the terrifying attacks of desert
tarantulas against the armor-clad warriors in Richard�s encampments along the
coast between Acre and Jaffa.
As the Crusade progressed, both King Richard and King
Saladin claimed for their faiths the holy city of Jerusalem. In a missive to
Saladin, King Richard stressed that the city was holy for Christians. Ditto for
Moslems, Saladin answered. Neither could renounce Jerusalem. Yet each of them,
European and Arab, recognized the existence of the other as an equal and the
legitimacy of the other�s claims to Jerusalem.
The ferocious soldier Richard regarded Arabs as human beings
like himself and tried to arrange a marriage of his own sister with Saladin�s
brother in order to insure peace. How different the story of intoxicated
Israeli claims to Jerusalem today, backed by power mad America, two �chosen
peoples� engaged in perpetual warfare and for whom everybody else is the enemy!
Policies of no compromises: kill all the Palestinians.
Just as Islam stood behind Saladin, the Catholic Church
fostered the Western jihads to the Holy Land. Though the city of Jerusalem was
indefensible and Saladin�s authority waning, Richard, after twice arriving at
the gates of Jerusalem, retired to occupied Jaffa without a fight. Richard
could have taken the holy city as easily as America took Baghdad. Yet he wisely
concluded that he couldn�t hold it long, isolated in the heart of the Moslem
world hostile to the infidel invader.
That history passes unnoticed by our brave leaders today.
The two kings however arrived at an accord: the Christians
kept Jaffa and Acre and a slice of the coastline; Moslems kept Jerusalem. That
the two faiths could share Jerusalem was not even a consideration. Jerusalem!
The city of three faiths, all of which consider it the most holy city in the
world and claim it as theirs. Hebrews built it in 1000 B.C. Babylonians
captured it in the 6th century B.C. and exiled the Jews. Subsequently Greeks,
Egyptian Arabs and Syrian Arabs have controlled it. Moslem armies captured it
in 638 and ruled for 450 years and Ottomans held it for another 400 years.
In sum, Islam has had a much greater effect on the city than
others. Moreover, it is a geographical fact that the city has always been an
island surrounded by Arab lands.
Still, apart from disputes over the Holy Land, the ebb and
tide of history, the times of war and reciprocal invasions one of the other,
Europe and the Arabic world have gotten along pretty well together. Sergio
Romano�s point was that they could live as good neighbors today were it not for
America�s disruption of normal relations. Americans shouldn�t forget that the
Mediterranean world today is a condominium of peoples where the most disruptive
forces are Israeli arrogance and intransigence, America�s thirst for world
hegemony and Arab desperation.
Israel seems to consider its
control over Jerusalem the symbol of its domination over Islam. And precisely
that urge for control reinforces the Palestinian urge to destroy their enemy
and at the same time deprives Palestine of hope of statehood.
In his classic History of the
Arabs Professor Philip K. Hitti -- a text from the time of my Islamic
studies at Munich University -- notes that of all the lands comparable to Arabia
in size and of peoples approaching the Arabs in historical importance, no
country and no nationality has received so little consideration in modern
times. �What is not known about it is out of all proportion to what is known.�
Arabia is the fount of the Semitic
family of peoples which later migrated to the Fertile Crescent and became the
Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenecians and Hebrews. Arabia, Hitti recalls, is also
the fount of the rudimentary elements of the three monotheistic faiths,
Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The great cities of Algiers and Cairo, Beirut, Damascus and
once Baghdad, are emblematic of one Arab spirit, that of the townsfolk.
Contemporary with Charlemagne in 9th century Europe, Baghdad under Harun
al-Rashid was the world�s greatest city of culture and science and wealth.
Another Arab soul is the Bedouin, the nomad of the desert,
about which the novelist Paul Bowles (b.Jamaica, New York, City in 1910; d.
Tangier in 1999) in his Moroccan exile wrote so passionately. For many Arabs
the desert is their real home. In the same way northerners cannot live without
the sea, Arabs cannot live without the desert. The sands are their sea. The
desert is the source of energy, oil and water, underground, and above, there is
the wind and the sun. �The desert,� Hitti writes, �is the Bedouin�s first
defense against encroachment from the outside world.�
The artistic world of the nearly forgotten Bowles, who lived
52 years in Tangier, is frequently set in Arabian deserts just on the edge of
Europe. In the desert the Westerner is lost. Natural man defeats the neurotic
product of technological society. Primitive man, Bowles believed, has retained
things that western man has lost; he can operate in natural surroundings. And
Americans, he noted, are less prepared than Europeans in such circumstances
because they think everyone must do it the American way. Therefore it�s hard
for Americans to establish contact with others. Self-subsistent primitive man
is also more adapted for communal life than is dependent western man.
Primitives have a communal life. No one owns anything. Everything belongs to
As soon as personal property appears, you have to invent
another system. Before arriving in the desert, Bowles� protagonist in Under
The Sheltering Sky said he didn�t need a passport to prove he is a member
of mankind but when he loses his passport in the desert he is lost: he is only
half a man without it, and no longer knows who he is.
Albert Camus� hedonistic Arab
differs dramatically from that projected in the New World as barbarous and
fanatic. According to Camus whose roots were in the Arab world, �Man must live
within the circle of his flesh (1�homme doit vivre dans le cercle de sa chair),
because the real evil, the writer believed, is abstraction. Speaking of the
people of Algiers, Camus declared: �Cette race est indifferent � 1�esprit.�
An Arab friend used to tell me that in everything concerning
Islam it was important to keep their language in mind. According to an Arab
saying �wisdom alighted on the tongue of the Arabs� . . . for it is the
language of the Koran and the wisdom of an ancient people. Alla-a-ah akhbar
echoing across the world from Morocco to Indonesia, from Hamburg to Sudan is a
reminder that holy people of Islam consider the Arabic language the basis for
the �genuineness� of their faith. After the birth of Islam, Arabic became also
the language of diplomacy and social intercourse from Central Asia, across
North Africa to Spain.
The Bedouin is an Arabic-speaking purist, proud of his genealogy,
who traces his lineage back to Adam. Bedouins were nomads, the original Arabs,
barbarians and pagans. �The time of ignorance� Arab historians call pre-Islamic
time, a time of guerrilla wars and plundering, but with little bloodshed. They
stole from each other but it stopped there. The pagan Bedouin was not eager to
get killed and had no concept of heaven and angels.
The Semitic Berbers of Morocco, Algeria, and Libya, �free
men� or Berber Arabs, (historically known also as Numidians or Moors, who occupied
much of Spain), also speak related Arab dialects.
The prophet Mohammad fought many wars for the unity of the
diverse and dispersed Arabs. Arab scholars teach that Arab unity is the real
meaning of Islam. Thus Pan-Islam and Pan-Arabism are related concepts. Fired by
anti-imperialism and today by anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiments, Arab
nationalism has turned into regional nationalisms, while Pan-Islam is the glue
for all Moslems such non-Arab Iranians and Afghans and others farther to the East
and the South.
Nonetheless the Arabs built an
empire greater than Rome at its zenith. Under Islam they developed a world
culture which transmitted to Europe the intellectual influences that engendered
the Renaissance. Historians recognize that no people of the Middle Ages
contributed more to human progress than the Arabs. Other ancient peoples such
as the Phoenecians have disappeared, but the Arabs remain, and in a cultural
sense we owe them.
Thus, though solidarity and
internationalism play a role in the European Left�s pro-Arab sentiments,
ideology is not the only factor. Nonetheless today we are almost obliged to
think, �poor Arabs!� crushed between Israeli arrogance and thirst for vengeance
and American blindness and thirst for oil.
The Arab past in Sicily
The Saladin-Richard relationship mirrored the interwoven
relationship between the Arab world and Europe, a relationship that so
overshadows the European-Israeli relationship today as to be incomparable. One
forgets that for ancient Greeks and Romans, Jews were just another of the
Semitic peoples, cousins of the Arabs.
When the star of Islam was rising three centuries prior to
the Third Crusade, Arab sea rovers arrived in Sicily. In 831 Palermo fell to
Arab armies. Through skillful political administration, Arab agricultural
techniques and gifted artisans the new rulers turned the fertility of the
Mediterranean�s biggest island to great account and made it one of the richest
parts of the Sultan�s realm. Within Palermo�s walls were 300 mosques, the Sultan's
court, prison, arsenal and council chambers. Beyond the four city gates lay the
caravansaries and the merchants' quarters. In Islamic Palermo there were
bazaars of oil vendors, money-changers, grocers, tailors, blacksmiths,
coppersmiths and corn sellers, great open air markets that still today are in
the same places. Arab Palermo was a meeting place for traders from everywhere
-- Greeks, Sicilians, Lombards, Arabs, Berbers, Persians and Tartars.
Arab Sicily abounded in exquisite carving and metal work,
vases of gem-like glass, silken veils and hangings woven with gold, precious
carpets and richly ornamented books. Arab inscriptions curled feather-like
about the tops of palaces that one can still see today. Arab medicine was
taught at the university. The spoken languages were Arabic, Latin, Greek and
Italian dialects. Poets read in the court and the music of flutes and
tambourines wafted through the city. The Arab system of government and land
tenure was so successful that much of it remained.
The Arab world was already then part of Europe.
Contrary to theories proffered by some contemporary Jewish
historians such as Madame Bat Ye�Or, the Moslem heritage in Europe has been
After the Norman conquest of Sicily in the 12th century, the
second King of Sicily, Roger II, continued to cultivate Islamic culture, which
then predominated in all the Mediterranean lands. John Julius Norwich in his The
Kingdom In the Sun (Faber & Faber, London, 1970) has reconstructed
beautiful images of Norman Sicily most of which were inherited from Arabs after
their 200 years of rule: gardens of exotic foods from the East -- corn, melons,
tomatoes, celery, onions, cucumbers, herbs and salad greens unknown in Europe
-- irrigation canals, arable lands criss-crossed with little rivers and mills
along their banks, the arms of windmills spreading above wheat fields, turrets
and courtyards, lemon and orange orchards, olive and palm trees, and stone
lions in the Moorish fountains.
Moslems were part of the cosmopolitan group King Roger
gathered round him in the mixture of cultures that coursed through south Italy:
Latin, Norman and Byzantine. In that ethnic mix were Greek men of affairs,
learned lawyers, French and Provencal troubadours, Arab poets, administrators
and story-tellers, and an Arab cook in Roger's kitchen. As in Moslem times,
this island off the tip of Italy waxed rich.
After Roger II�s death in 1194 Moorish influence in Sicily
declined. But it left behind treasures that spread from there and from Spain to
become a part of Western life: silk weaving and Moorish pottery, embroidery,
brilliant jewels and fine dress. From the Arabs came the pointed arch and other
decorative motifs, details of fountain construction and design, the use of the
olive as food and the game of chess. The Arabs introduced many words into the
Italian language, such as carciofo, artichoke. Arab
ways are persistent in southern Europe from Granada in Andalusia to Messina in
Sicily. Many things in modern Sicily, from
cathedrals to donkey carts, are still ornamented with Saracen arabesques and
Eastern designs. And lemon orchards are called lemon gardens, giardini di
One feels a certain melancholy about the brief Norman era in
Sicily, a melancholy marking the gentle Sicilian people today and recalling the
nostalgia in Argentina for a former Europe that lives chiefly in peoples�
fantasy. It has been said that the complex Norman Kingdom of Sicily and South
Italy contained the seeds of its own destruction, in itself a melancholic
consideration. The 64-year old Kingdom was too heterogeneous, too eclectic and
cosmopolitan to develop a national tradition of its own. It couldn�t last.
Though the Normans and Lombards, Greeks and Saracens, Italians and Jews of that
great Sicilian Kingdom co-existed happily, they never coalesced into a nation.
The Mediterranean neighborhood
I am writing this in the last days
of March. It�s cold in Rome, strong winds blowing in from the Balkans. In Tunis
a few hundred kilometers to the south it�s only slightly less cold, cool also
in Jerusalem. For this is one world. The attention of Rome-based journalists is
conditioned by the rest of the Mediterranean world. North Africa and the Middle
East are part of the beat for many. The day Yassir Arafat spoke in the beautiful
Rome Chamber of Deputies, I think in the 1980s, so many foreign journalists
clamored to participate that one major section of the balcony was reserved for
The Mediterranean is called a sea,
not an ocean. And the area of the community of nations on its shores peopled by
400 million inhabitants is not as vast as it might seem from North America. It
is a tight region, linked by a common history and borders and disputed
territories. Greece and Rome first occupied the Arab world. Then, after the rise
of Islam, Arabs in turn occupied parts of Spain, France and Italy, and Ottoman
Turkey�s army reached the gates of Vienna.
Historians date modern
Arab-European interaction from Napoleon�s invasion of Egypt in 1798 and the
country�s liberation from feudal Mamluke overlords. The arrival of the French
marked the beginning of the Arab world�s break with the past. The times of a
self-contained, traditional life, unmindful of changes in the outside world,
were over. After their long medieval sleep this contact shook them awake and
set the world of Islam on fire. After Napoleon introduced an Arabic press,
newspapers in Cairo, Damascus and Beirut gave birth to the modern idea of Arab
unity and patriotism: the thesis was that all Arabic-speaking peoples were one
During the last four decades,
European countries can be categorized on the question of dialogue and
cooperation with the Arabs as follows: France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and
Ireland favor a politically supportive role; Great Britain, Germany and Luxembourg
take a middle position; and The Netherlands and Denmark are relatively
pro-Israel and less enthusiastic about strengthened ties to the Arabs.
An Arab Summit Conference in
Algeria in 1973 reiterated a new Arab position: �Europe is linked with the Arab
countries through the Mediterranean, by affinities of civilization and by vital
interests.� Arabs expressed their desire for long-term cooperation with Europe.
On the other hand, Europe�s chief objectives have been to maintain a steady
flow of oil and access to Arab markets. But as a result of those economic
realities and ancient historical relationships much of Europe supports
agreements that take into account the legitimate rights of Palestinians.
Arabs however are divided in their
views of Europe. Because its members include monarchies and radical socialist
regimes, super rich and desperately poor, the loose-structured Arab League
works well in non-controversial areas but is unable to coalesce on tough
issues. But all Arabs need European technology as well as assistance against
Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. In the Arab view those economic
and political issues are intertwined. No wonder they consider unrealistic
Europe�s aspirations for good economic and cultural relationships while downplaying
issues of vital importance to the Arab world.
There is no doubt that the major
obstacle braking European-Arab relations today is the hegemonic United States
and its pathological relationship with Israel. The USA needs Europe�s support
in its wars but illogically expects Europe to keep its hands out of things
concerning oil and politics in the Middle East, in Europe�s backyard. I read of
an unspoken American concern that Europe -- because of its dependency on Arab
oil and markets coupled with the absence in Europe of strong Jewish pressure
groups as in the USA -- is more capable than America of a balanced Middle East
Europe has hoped that Israel�s
oppressive-aggressive policies would ultimately force the USA to change current
Middle East policies which are more disruptive in the region than European
imperialism. Naively Europe has held onto the hope that its message of
cooperation with the Arab world would prevail and bring about that change.
In the 19th century fit of
imperialism, Europe carved up the Arab world: France took Tunisia and Algeria.
France and Spain divided up Morocco into �protectorates.� Italy got Libya, the
former granary of the Roman Empire. Great Britain and France occupied the
Middle East, Egypt, Palestine, the present Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and
Geography has always played a
major role in Europe�s relations with the Arabs. The proximity of the two
cultures has created both the tensions and the historical interplay of the two
societies. Spain is separated from Morocco by the narrow 9-mile wide Strait of
Gibraltar and the peninsula of Italy nearly reaches Tunisia and Libya. Spain
and Morocco are discussing a railway tunnel under the deep bed of the strait so
that high-speed trains will someday travel from Seville to Tangier in 90
minutes. Italy and Tunisia are speaking of a 100-mile railway tunnel from
Sicily to Tunisia.
In good times and bad times, the
Arab world and Europe are neighbors in labyrinthine condominium of the lands
around the Mediterranean Sea. In one way or another Europe has always been
present in the Arab world, while Arab influence is part of European culture.
In the historical sense -- which
America so lacks -- the American occupation of Iraq is perceived as
interference in Europe�s zone of influence and reinforces sentiments like those
of Sergio Romano above. Europe is anti-American? So what else is new?
Whatever Europe�s faults vis-�-vis
the Arabs, in European eyes the Arab world is not virtual. It is not a world
seen on radar screens or in Pentagon planning boards and neocon think tanks.
The Arab world is not an abstraction. Arabs inhabit a real world, different
from Europe, but real. Despite the roles of religion, Europeans and Arabs are
not natural enemies. Though different language families, different religions
and different customs separate them, they are millenary neighbors.
No wonder Europe sees that world
with different eyes than the USA and Israel.
No wonder that Europe views
Israeli attacks on Arab lands with different eyes than the USA.
But the European-Arab relationship
is more than proximity. Just as Americans are fascinated by exotic Mexico, the
mystery of the Arab Oriental world attracts curious Europeans looking beyond
their immediate horizons. The inscrutability of an Arab Casbah! No Westerner
can walk through the medina of Tangier or Algiers without shivering in wonder
(and admittedly, yesterday or today, with a certain trepidation) and regretting
that it is threatened by the onslaught from the West.
The ancient city of Alexandria as
described by Lawrence Durrell in his Alexandria quartet expresses a fundamental
spirit of the Arab world inhabited by those ancient hybrid Greek-Semitic
peoples. �The capital city of memory,� Durrell calls Alexandria, one of those
ancient cities lining the south shore of the great sea.
And then Beirut, forever menaced
with destruction. That scintillating white city which after World War II was
called the Paris of the Middle East and became the playground for Europeans
where French and Italians maintained vacation houses and Italian bands
entertained cosmopolitan peoples in swank restaurants and clubs.
Tunisia today is a playground for
Italians and French; Egypt�s Sharm el Sheik on the Red Sea, the favorite
Italian winter resort.
Baghdad is another story. In
an article in The Peoples Voice describing America�s attack on 5000 years of
culture, Malcolm Lagauche offers a sobering assessment of what has really
happened to the city in the last five years. �During the Dark Ages of Europe, when all scientific thought was
eliminated for centuries, Baghdad continued to excel in science and
engineering. When the Dark Ages finally broke and Europe once again began to
exercise science, it looked to Baghdad. Kingdoms, authoritarian regimes and
republics have come and gone in Baghdad, but it still was the jewel of Arab
cities. . . . When American troops entered Baghdad, they went into a city that
had been mercilessly bombed and attacked. However it was the introduction of
the troops that degraded and changed the city forever. Within weeks, concrete
barriers were erected to protect the invaders. Today, they are all over Baghdad
and make the Berlin Wall pale in comparison.�
At the same time, France and
Italy, Netherlands and Britain, have so many Arab Moslem citizens and
immigrants today that one speaks of the Islamization of Europe. Today
2.2 million Islamic Berbers live in Netherlands and France. In Paris, the Goutte d�Or quarter and Belleville are
chiefly Arab. Areas around Rome�s Termini Station are strongly Arab. The two
cultures, Arab and European, Islam and Christianity, continue to be
interrelated, one influencing the other.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy
is spearheading a movement for a union of the Mediterranean peoples. Last summer
he began discussing his plan with foreign ministers of Mediterranean states on
both north and south shores. That project may be the centerpiece of France�s
presidency of the European Union this year.
Initially, Sarkozy�s proposal
seemed aimed at the EU headache of Turkey, whose controversial membership in
the European Union Sarkozy opposes. The Mediterranean Union is seen as an
alternative for the big Moslem country, instead of membership in the EU. He
prefers a �special relationship� with Turkey, something less than full EU
membership. Europe must have a clear Christian identity, Sarkozy told Pope
Benedict in a meeting in Rome after his election -- its own culture, the cradle
of which is Christianity, he said -- with borders and limits, an area which has
no room for Islamic Turkey.
Mediterranean waters connect three continents and 21
countries with a combined population of 400 million, not much less than the
European Union. As desirable as a regional union of Mediterranean states
appears on paper, tensions between Christianity and Islam are obstacles to be
overcome. Moreover, many political leaders of North Europe tend to consider the
Mediterranean basin no more than a geographical reality. North Europeans fear
that such a union would exclude them and undermine the already shaky existence
of the EU.
The USA, fixed on Israel and unenthusiastic about the EU in
the first place, must view the Mediterranean Union as another divisive factor.
After the Algerian war in 1962, De Gaulle changed France�s
post-war pro-Israel policies, steering France toward today�s pro-Arab
sympathies, because, Israel charges, Arabs are more important to Europe than
Israel. In that sense, Sarkozy�s proposal is a continuation of the Gaullist
vision of Europe and the Mediterranean world. Also Italy and Spain have long
toyed with such a union. For France, Spain and Italy, the idea is attractive as
a forum for dealing with the region�s problems, especially immigration, which
from North Africa pour through South Europe�s porous borders in the hundreds of
thousands each year. The fundamental question is an old one: Can this region
populated by Christians, Moslems and Jews, Europeans, Arabs and Africans work
together as a political entity?
The Israeli view
Israel views the project with horror. In her book Eurabia:The
Euro-Arab Axis, the Jewish historian Bat Ye�Or, born in Egypt of an
Italian Jewish father and French Jewish mother, describes plans for unity of
Europe and the Arab world as a conspiracy. Madame Bat Ye�Or -- close to the
Israeli Right and to activists like former Soviet dissident, anti-Communist and
Zionist Natan Sharansky -- depicts the transformation of Europe into Eurabia as
an anti-Christian, anti-Western and above all anti-American and anti-Semitic
plot of universal dimensions.
Her views on what constitutes conspiracy and what is
gobbledygook are indeed peculiar . . . and disconcerting. She dismisses out of
hand conspiracy theories about 9/11 before proceeding to construct another: the
Eurabia project. She claims the project of Europe and Arab unity has been
underway in secret since early last century. The charge is of a sell-out, that
in exchange for oil, new markets and security from terrorism, cowardly Europe
is ready to surrender to the evil Arab world. Zionist extremists have labeled
the secret project to unite Europe and the Arab world the �Eurabia Code.�
Europe�s guilt complexes
The former Israeli ambassador in Rome, Avi Pazner, in a
recent interview elucidated Bat Ye�Or�s accusations, charging that since Arabs
placed an embargo on oil to Europe following the Yom Kippur War in 1973,
Europe�s Arab policies have been pure appeasement. The most pro-Arab in his
view are European Socialists and Communists while the Right is more friendly to
Israel, most probably, he adds, stemming from the latter�s guilt complexes. In
general he shows little consideration for Europe, which, in his view, should
bend to Israel. An image recalling Italy�s Foreign Minister under Berlusconi,
the neo-Fascist Gianfranco Fini, going to Israel, hat in hand, to make peace
with the same Jews his Fascist ancestors aimed at liquidating. For Pazner and
Bat Ye�Or very little of Europe comes out Israel friendly.
Avi Pazner, Chairman of United Jewish Appeal, pinpoints the
Six Day War of 1967 as the historical moment Europe�s attitude toward Israel
and the Arab world began changing. Until then, Europe supported the young state
of Israel. He says the Arab oil embargo tipped the scales: Europe realized it
was dependent on Arab oil. Oil and Christianity, he believes, reinforce
anti-Israeli sentiments. Unfairly, if not maliciously, Pazner then transforms
Europe�s legitimate pro-Arab orientation to anti-Israeli sentiments and thus
into anti-Semitism: he who does not love Israel is ipso facto ant-Semitic.
It is true that Italian Communists have been traditionally
pro-Arab and today support Hamas and Hezbollah. The same goes for most Italian
intellectuals, most of whom are of the Left. According to Pazner, �They (the
European Left) have turned the Palestinian cause into a symbol. Moreover, their
attack on Israel has become anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic.� The latter is
patently false. Though anti-Israeli sentiments are growing over the entire
European continent because of Israel�s war policies and the deterioration of
the former showcase image of Israel�s democracy, it is not true that the
pro-Arab European Left is anti-Semitic.
On the contrary, anti-Semitism in Europe today lies in the
labyrinth of resurgent Nazism and Right extremists in France and North Europe.
It is also untrue that the European Left has always been
pro-Arab and the post-WWII Right pro-Israel. After De Gaulle, French
conservative Presidents Pompidou and Chirac were no less pro-Arab than the
Socialist Mitterand. Thus, Sarkozy�s proposal is continuation of France�s
pro-Arab foreign policy of the last half century.
At the same time, America�s iron alliance with Israel cannot
but eventually clash head-on with Europe�s pro-Arab sentiments, which will in
turn add fuel to the fire of the latent anti-Americanism in Europe. Just as
Europe does not classify Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorists and opposes the Iraq
war and the graveyard America has made of that ancient land, opposition to the
war in Afghanistan is building up. As far as war against Islamic Iran is
concerned, Europe does not want to even consider it. Any kind of American
attack on Iran, from enforced trade embargoes to bombardment or invasion, would
be the last straw.
As a minimum Western Europe�s attempts at a balanced policy
in the Middle East are shared by most of the community of nations except the
United States. To the degree that Israeli occupation policies become more
oppressive and the hatred of the United States in Iraq mounts, it will be
increasingly difficult for America to convince its European allies that
American policies offer the best hope for Middle East peace. On the contrary:
Europe continues to hope that its policies will bring about a change in
American Middle East policy.
However for politically disunited Europe -- today an economic
giant but a political midget without even a foreign minister -- that hope is
unfortunately not a position, but a chimera.
Stewart, a Senior Contributing Editor for Cyrano�s Journal/tantmieux, is a
novelist and journalist based in Italy. He has lived most of his adult life in
Europe, chiefly in Germany, Holland and Italy. His stories, essays and
dispatches are read widely throughout the Internet on many leading venues. His
collections of fiction, "Icy Current Compulsive Course," "To Be
A Stranger" and "Once In Berlin" are published by Wind River Press. His recent novel,
"Asheville," is published by Wastelandrunes.
He lives in Rome with his wife, Milena.
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