Dr.Gerstenfeld’s important article first appeared at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and republished here with the author’s consent.
European Appeasement is Alive and Well
The expression ‘appeasement’ evokes dark memories of the 1938 Munich agreement. At that time Great Britain and France made far-reaching concessions to the aggressive German Nazi state in order to avoid violent conflict. The betrayed victim was Czechoslovakia, which was not even invited to the conference where its fate was decided. Initially the appeasers paid no price themselves. The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 showed that this was a grave error in judgment. It has also not been forgotten that the then British Conservative Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, returned from Munich and falsely promised his people ‘peace in our time.’
Appeasement is again important today, yet it is not often named as such. The fact that antisemitism is an integral part of European culture is not the only issue dividing the European Union and Israel. A few major examples of appeasement in Europe and elsewhere in the Western world also illustrate the different attitudes between Europe and Israel.
The quintessential case of Western appeasement in recent years was the 2015 agreement of the American government of Democratic President Barack Obama with the Islamic Republic of Iran, i.e., the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).1 The four other members of the Security Council plus Germany also signed this flawed agreement alongside the Americans. The pact allowed the Iranians to continue to design and test missiles and develop advanced centrifuges.2 3
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appeared before the American Congress to protest the agreement.4 It was a highly unusual and undiplomatic act, yet justified in view of the extreme circumstances. In this case, Netanyahu was right and the appeaser Obama was wrong. Just as initially with the Munich agreement, others paid the price for JCPOA. The agreement freed Iran’s hands to unleash widespread Middle Eastern terrorism. President Donald Trump rightly withdrew from the JCPOA. The Europeans are still desperately trying to hang on to it.5 6
A prime major European appeaser of Iran is Josep Borrell. This socialist former Spanish Foreign Minister has recently been appointed as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He said: “Iran wants to wipe out Israel, nothing new about that, you have to live with it.”7 Imagine a Western politician in the late 1930s saying, “The Germans mistreat and heavily discriminate against the Jews, we have to live with it.” At that time, German policy was not yet aiming for genocide of the Jews. Borrell employs the Munich logic which saw the destruction of Czechoslovakia as a reasonable price for what turned out to be an imaginary peace.
A second major issue, which embodies many elements of appeasement concerns the European attitude toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The European Union has for many years promoted the so-called ‘two state solution.’ This includes the pipedream that a peace agreement will lead to a democratic Palestinian state next to Israel.8 There may one day be a signed document, which will be called a peace agreement. A Palestinian state may also come into being. Yet chances that it will be democratic are close to nil. It probably will be a repressive, corrupt and terror-supporting entity. It also may well be a failed state.
To create the illusion of a future Palestinian democratic state, the Europeans have to look deliberately away from basic facts. One is that there were in 2006 free elections in the Palestinian territories. According to Western observers this was a democratic vote. The Palestinians gave a majority to a genocidal Muslim movement, Hamas. The only other significant party, Fatah follows a “pay for slay policy” which remunerates terrorists or their families for the murder of citizens.9
The Netherlands for instance financially supports the Palestinian Authority. In the framework of its ‘pay for slay policy,’ the PA has so far paid more than US$900,000 to the terrorists who killed 15 people in a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001. Among them were five members of a family of Dutch immigrants.10
The arch-appeaser Borrell favors recognizing Palestine, even though the Palestinian Authority is not democratic at all. The EU could not agree on a common reaction to the Trump peace plan. Borrell then came out with his own statement.11 He also warned that the Trump plan may lead to violence.12 It was a typical appeaser’s remark.
A third major case of appeasement concerns domestic affairs in various European countries. In the definition of its values, the EU states that its member countries are based on the rule of law. Yet in several member states — France and Sweden come to mind — there are since many years ghettos of mainly Muslim immigrants. Several are “no go” areas where the police and other authorities often have difficulty entering. The authorities also look away on other occasions from gang criminality. That however, does not necessarily concern only Muslims.
In France toward the end of 2000 a major wave of attacks on Jews erupted. It continues until today. The prominent French sociologist, Shmuel Trigano, has said that there were convincing indications that the Jewish community was asked by the socialist Jospin Government not to give much publicity to the sharply increased anti-Jewish aggression in order not to ‘put oil on the flames.’13 The center-right politician Nicolas Sarkozy who replaced the socialist Daniel Vaillant as interior minister in May 2002 then admitted the major surge in antisemitism.
Yet the center-right French President Jacques Chirac flatly denied that antisemitism existed in France until as late as November 2013. That led to an absurd situation. A delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center met Chirac in his Paris palace in May 2013. The organization’s dean Rabbi Marvin Hier related: “The French president told us that there was no antisemitism in France; it was some young hooligans who had attacked Jews. We replied that many French Jews – particularly in the Parisian suburbs and provinces – had told us different stories, and that there was substantial antisemitism in France.”
Hier continued, “It was a tough conversation, and in the end we agreed to disagree on all the major points. President Chirac said he would fight whole-heartedly to prevent anti-semitism in France, but that it was not there. After we left the Elysée Palace, we went to a reception at the home of Baron de Rothschild. Two of our group missed the bus and took a cab. They wore skullcaps, and were right outside Baron de Rothschild’s home when a few people started insulting them, saying things like, ‘Get out of France, you Jews.’ That was an ‘eloquent’ answer to Chirac’s vain claim that there was no anti-Semitism in France.”14
In 2004 Trigano said: “The official version propagated by the Jospin Government can be summarized by saying that if Jews were attacked, this was not antisemitism, but a reflection of a social problem. The socialist policy aimed, with this mechanism, to obscure the terrorist menace against France. This resulted in the Jews seeing themselves as the country’s scapegoat and safety barrier – as they had received the main blows. which targeted French society at large.15
The next year Trigano’s words came true. This classic case of French appeasement, letting others – in this case the Jews — bear the brunt of a problem, had a follow up. Some Muslim youngsters had seen the unwillingness of the French authorities to confront criminality to defend the Jewish minority. In the major 2005 autumn riots youngsters– almost all Muslims — targeted French society for several weeks.16 Over nine thousand cars were torched during those weeks. Among the institutions burnt were kindergartens, schools, shops, libraries and a theater. Eighteen religious institutions were attacked, including three mosques and two synagogues.
What European leaders do not wish to realize is that the price of their appeasement policies toward that part of the Muslim population, which does not want to integrate and/or follows extremist currents will ultimately be paid by the Europeans themselves.17 One should also conclude that it is sometimes difficult for observers to identify the appeasement attitude as it is mixed with other negative characteristics of various EU countries.
Israel however cannot afford an appeasement approach toward its enemies. It can delay a campaign against Hamas in Gaza for some time, but not for very long. For Israel, the price of appeasement is prohibitive.
6 www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/europe-control-iran-nuclear-deal-200120204731686.html; www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-nuclear-programme-war-europe-trump-syria-a9311416.html; https://www.politico.eu/article/europe-vows-to-uphold-iran-nuclear-deal-as-trump-raises-pressure/
11 https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/73960/mepp-statement-high-representativevice-president-josep-borrell-us-initiative; https://www.timesofisrael.com/eu-reportedly-blocked-from-resolution-condemning-trump-plan-annexation/
14 Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Marvin Hier, “Building a Major Organization from Scratch, American Jewry’s Challenge: Addressing the New Century, (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005). Pgs 187-188.