Since our inception 50 years ago, we have been moved by the love and compassion for Israel among our audiences worldwide, particularly among non-Jewish Bible believers. In Europe, however, that relationship with Israel has been uniquely impacted by the Holocaust, which was witnessed by so many.
If we observed understanding among those we met in person, however, it was different at the state level. Beginning in 1973, European nations that might have previously been sympathetic towards Israel ultimately formulated pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli policies.
The embargo by the Arab oil-producing nations that year meant fuel-hungry nations were forced to choose either the free flow of oil or good relations with Israel. Most nations said, “We need oil, not Jews.” The burgeoning hostile response to Israel coalesced after the founding of the European Union in 1993.
Thomas Sandell, the head of the Brussels-based European Coalition for Israel, which is active in the European Parliament, likewise blames economics for the change in relations and points out three contradictions (Middle East Forum webinar, January 23, 2023):
· First, Europe had been the center of Jewish life for centuries. The Zionist idea was nurtured successively in London, Basel and San Remo (Italy) up to WWII.
Contrariwise, Europe is also the largest graveyard of Jews in all the world. The Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, Shoah (Holocaust), Auschwitz, Dachau and Theresienstadt are all names loaded with sorrowful significance for Jews.
· Second, Europe and Israel today have never been closer in terms of trade and cooperation, especially in the areas of intelligence, security and energy. It can be argued that, if Israel was once dependent on Europe for trade, today Europe has become dependent on Israeli knowhow.
Contradicting this, however, for decades Europe has had a problem with, and been very critical of, right-leaning governments in Israel.
· Third, the European Union has become the world leader in defining and combating anti-Semitism.
This is contradicted, however, by the EU (and other European countries) being the largest funder of the Palestinian Authority. Funds are being transferred that are used for the incitement of hatred, for institutionalized anti-Semitism in school textbooks, and for paying convicted terrorists and murderers, who earn more than five times what a PA teacher earns. Widespread corruption, the lack of a free press, the lack of democratic institutions are known but ignored.
Brazenly, Sandell calls the PA a “protectorate of the EU, which is inexcusable.” Although Europe could use financial pressure to reform the PA, the EU won’t do so for fear of harming relations with the PA, and due to shame because of Europe’s colonialist past in the Middle East.
Taken a step further, the funding of the PA by the EU and like-minded nations emboldens the Palestinians to not come to the peace table. Europe, then, is an obstacle to peace.
It’s not unanimous, of course. Central and eastern European nations that suffered under totalitarianism tend to be more pro-Israel than western European nations. Centrist or right-leaning nations are more sympathetic to Israel, while progressive, left-leaning nations (except for Germany) are more pro-Palestinian.
Sandell says the Abraham Accords heralded a new phase of Israeli-Arab relations without linkage to the Palestinian-Arabs, causing a re-assessment by European nations, who must decide: Are we in the camp of nations seeking peace, normalization and cooperation, or do we remain in the camp of antagonism, conflict and war?
The Russia-Ukraine War, too, has led to the realization that Israel, unlike Russia, is a stable, reliable energy partner.
But there is more to the story than this.
After the signing of the Declaration of Principles (the Oslo Accords) on the White House lawn in Washington on September 13, 1993, a new era of history was believed to have begun. Further negotiations would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state within a few years. Those negotiations would be between Israel and the Palestinians directly, not through other parties.
But with new waves of Palestinian terror, organized Intifadas, and a total standstill on the diplomatic level, the vast majority of Israelis realized the Oslo Accords were doomed.
Today, all Gaza has been left to the PA by Israel. The historical area of Judea and Samaria (called the West Bank in recent decades), however, has been divided into three areas. Area A (e.g. Bethlehem and Jericho, 17 percent of the total area of Judea and Samaria) is held exclusively by the PA. Area B (e.g. Nablus/Shechem, 21 percent) is under joint security control. Area C, encompassing the remaining 60 percent (e.g. Ariel), is under Israeli control.
Area C was to be transferred to PA control in stages, but Israel will not risk transferring any more land while a war of terror is going on and the PA rejects negotiations.
The reader would be wrong in assuming, however, that there is an impasse. Populations grow and they need housing. In Areas A and B, Arab housing is expanding rapidly. In Area C, Jewish housing is also expanding, but at a much slower pace.
Again, there is more: Arab construction is expanding on a massive scale throughout Area C, the area under Israeli control. By October 2022, there were over 80,000 illegal Arab-built structures in Area C according to a 68-page report (The War of Attrition) released last fall by Regavim, the illegal-construction monitoring organization. A third of these have been built in just the last four years.
This is part of a plan, formulated in 2009 by PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, to take over as much land as possible to create “facts on the ground” and a de facto state, without the fuss of peace negotiations.
Illegal construction is only one facet of a larger strategy that also includes land seizure for agricultural purposes, survey and registration of lands in the PA’s own registry (though with no binding legal authority), and lawfare. The latter refers to the legal ploy of filing thousands of nuisance appeals, objections and petitions flooding Israeli courts and creating a years-long backlog of cases, though with no chance of succeeding. All the while, the illegal buildings remain standing.
A strategy on this scale costs billions of dollars. Where do the funds originate?
Hundreds of millions of Euros have been provided by EU funding of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) purely for “humanitarian aid.” That aid consists of subsidizing the cost of building in Area C, evidenced by thousands of white signs next to structures across the region saying in bold letters, “Donated by the European Union.”
In 2012, “€200 million were transferred as support for the Palestinian Authority, among them €7 million for ‘development of land and basic infrastructure in Area C alone’–a code-name for construction of thousands of illegal structures in a web of outposts established by the PA” (“The Last Colony: European Union Support for Illegal Construction in Judea and Samaria,” Regavim, February 2015).
According to a confidential report published in June 2022 by the European Joint Development Program for Area C, the EU aims to “plan and map land rights….improve access to basic services such as water, electricity, road infrastructure, education…in coordination with the Palestinian Authority…[and by] private sector development and investment in Area C.” This is code language for new Arab communities the EU is establishing. It is a cunning annexation of land without any peace agreement. It violates the Oslo Accords and international law.
Named in the EU document are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, but other sources identify Canada, Italy, Sweden and the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches as sponsors.
In the last 20 years, 81,317 illegal Arab structures have been built in Area C. Some people counter that Israeli construction in Area C is illegal. A total of 4,382 Israeli structures were, in contrast, built illegally in the last 20 years. But in 2022 alone, 5,535 illegal Arab structures were built in Area C, on land that, by international legal standards, is under full Israeli jurisdiction.
Last, as of late last year, Arab construction in Area C covered 12.5 percent of the total land mass, while Israeli construction covered just 0.97 percent. In fact, aerial maps reveal that most new Arab construction in Judea and Samaria takes place in Area C, not in Areas A or B.
It’s all part of the Fayyad Plan. And it’s blessed by the EU. This explains why the EU condemns any Israeli activity in Judea and Samaria that threatens the EU’s countless “humanitarian aid” projects.
The irony of the EU wanting trade and cooperation with Israel, while undermining Israel by helping create a de facto terror state on its borders, is glaring. Even more, it is hypocritical. European coddling of the Palestinians fuels Palestinian rejection of peace.
So far, successive Israeli coalition governments have been weak in responding. It will take a strong and determined government to halt a process that would result in a sovereign state intent on Israel’s destruction.