We suspected it wouldn’t last much more than a week.
In the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, there was an outpouring of support for Israel in Europe. Most notable were the houses of parliament and foreign ministries lit up in Israel’s blue and white colors, and professions of understanding from a score of leaders for Israel’s “right to defend itself.”
As the videos and photos of the Hamas atrocities coursed across the internet, analogies to the Holocaust abounded. No longer could Israel’s constant critics in Europe deny that rabid Jew-hatred had produced the terrifying scenes of brutality carried out in just a few short hours in over 20 Israeli communities near the Gaza border.
But if we were even slightly hopeful that, as a result of this barbarity, a change in attitude towards Israel in Europe could be sustained, that wishful thinking came crashing down in short order.
Once war on Hamas was declared and the Israel Defense Forces massed on Gaza’s border, the calls for Israel — almost before a shot had been fired — to “comply with international law” in protecting civilians moved quickly to a presumptuous tsunami of hectoring and lecturing.
Numerous European leaders and diplomats chose to opine about what Israel could not do to defend itself against an enemy holed up in tunnels and hospitals, with its command centers, armaments and rocket launchers hidden in living rooms, schools and hospitals.
Some European countries have stood strong in their support for Israel through this first month of fighting — among them Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. They all voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a ceasefire that failed to mention Hamas at all or the atrocities it had committed. The final vote was 120 in favor (of that total, eight were European), 14 against and 45 abstentions, about half of which came from European countries.
What the vote count demonstrated, particularly when it comes to Europe, should not be surprising. Since its Venice Declaration of 1980, which recognized “the legitimate rights of the Palestinians,” including self-government, the European Union has poured billions of dollars into civil service salaries and other big budget Palestinian Authority items, as well as into the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and its network of schools, which have educated generations of Palestinians to hate Israel and Jews.
Notwithstanding their relations with Israel, the E.U. and many of its member states have often been the Palestinians’ friend at the U.N. and in its agencies and other international forums. That the E.U. is so tethered to the Palestinian narrative has prevented it from playing a constructive role in persuading the Palestinians to drop their nihilistic anti-Israel campaigns at the U.N. and elsewhere and enter into serious talks for a resolution of the conflict.
In other words, for its massive investment in keeping the Palestinian enterprise afloat, Europe has received little in return. I once asked a senior European diplomat if, in giving so much to cover P.A. salaries, he ever asked for any accountability in terms of moving towards some kind of settlement with Israel. With a look of consternation, he said, “If we did that, we would only play into the hands of the extremists.” A year or so later, Hamas overthrew Fatah in Gaza and has ruled Gaza ever since. So much for neutralizing the extremists.
Now, with the current war proceeding in full force, Israel’s harshest critics in Europe are not only marching in the streets of its major cities but are officially condemning the Jewish state.
Though Norway issued official statements against the massacres on Oct. 7, Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store and Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide quickly pivoted, saying early on that Norway condemned Israel’s “breach of international law.” Of the four Nordic countries, Norway was the only one to vote for the U.N. resolution that failed to mention Hamas and its crimes.
Its foreign minister said in response to the immediate spike in hate crimes against Jews, “We will never allow Jews in Norway to feel insecure due to Israeli actions in Gaza,” as if Israel were to blame for the crimes of antisemites.
There is more: In the second week of the war, the Norwegian Minister of Justice Emilie Mehl offered to assist in the investigation of Israeli “war crimes” if asked.
There was a time when Norway was a central player in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oslo process began there and some of Norway’s senior diplomats were engaged in shuttle diplomacy following the signing of the Oslo Accords.
But that was then and this is now. What Norway’s leaders have said over the past month should not come as a surprise. Norway boasts that it is among the very few Western democracies that maintains a formal relationship with Hamas.
Spain also voted for the Hamas-less resolution. Its Minister of Social Rights Ione Belarra recently posted on X (formerly Twitter), “Today I was able to talk about the planned genocide that the State of Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people and the measures that must be taken to stop it.”
Belarra must not have read the Hamas charter, which is replete with calls for the destruction of Israel and its supporters. Nor does she appear to have paid much attention to the genocidal acts carried out by Hamas a month ago. She clearly has an ideological axe to grind and does not want to be confused by the facts.
Not to be outdone, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who only days after Oct. 7 visited Israel in a presumed show of solidarity, is now attempting to micromanage Israel’s war effort, declaring that there is “no legitimacy” for bombing Gaza. “These babies, these ladies, these old people are bombed and killed … so there is no reason for that,” he said. France voted for the biased U.N. ceasefire resolution.
What about the reassuring words a month ago about Israel’s right to defend itself, especially against an enemy that places no value on the lives of its fellow Palestinians by using them as human shields?
The number of people who were alive to bear witness during the Holocaust is steadily diminishing. For those of us born after 1945, we know the story from survivor testimonies, movies, books and film footage taken by the Nazis themselves. What we saw in the early hours of Shabbat and Simchat Torah on Oct. 7 was just a glimpse into what every day was like in Nazi-occupied Europe.
That the Hamas murderers filmed their own crimes, gloated about them and paraded through Gaza’s streets to the adulation of the crowd should have left no doubt that the choices that had to be made were easy: between good and evil and between right and wrong.
Beyond that, Europeans have a special obligation in this case. The Holocaust happened on European soil. With only a very few exceptions, collaboration by locals with the Nazis was the order of the day.
Jews couldn’t get visas, most were not able to hide and almost none could get out. Then, after the war was over, victims with tattoos seared on their arms were prevented from openly entering the only place that would receive them: the soon-to-be state of Israel.
That so many European states could not find a corner somewhere in their national conscience to name Hamas and its crimes in the U.N. resolution is more than reprehensible. That some of its more prominent leaders now fuel the growing international hysteria over Israel’s fight to defeat Hamas by reminding it at least three times a day to carry out its war effort in Gaza in some immaculate manner is unacceptable.
Their absence of principle, scam of moral equivalence and general lack of diplomatic spine speak volumes about the state of the world in 2023. For us, this is not just another day at the office. The deep scars on our psyche will remain. Israel must do what it needs to do to bring an end to Hamas.
For now, however, we must call out the ideologues and the hypocrites, especially in Europe, for abandoning us for the second time in a century.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the International CEO of B’nai B’rith.