November 2, 2003.
Over the past decade, the North Korean “people’s” regime of Kim Jong-Il has
starved an estimated three million of its citizens. A roughly equal number work
in slave labor camps that dwarf Auschwitz in size and nearly in cruelty.
The regime has developed nuclear weapons, in violation of several agreements,
and intends to sell those weapons to the highest bidder. It has lobbed ballistic
missiles over Japan. It threatens a war of annihilation against its southern
neighbor. It supports itself by dealing drugs and counterfeit currency.
But at least it’s not as bad as Israel.
That, at any rate, is the conclusion of a just-released poll of Europeans from 15
EU member states sponsored by the European Commission. Asked to rank 15
countries on how they threaten “world peace,” Europeans chose their top
threats thus: Israel, Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United States.
A full 59 percent of those polled in 15 European nations ranked Israel as the top
threat. What is one to make of this?
The simplest explanation cannot be dismissed. As Minister-without-Portfolio
Natan Sharansky, responsible for Diaspora affairs, responded, the fact that
Europe regards Israel as more threatening than nations that support and finance
terrorism is “proof that behind ‘political’ criticism of Israel stands nothing less
than pure anti-Semitism.”
It is fair for Sharansky to challenge the EU to work to halt the “demonization”
of Israel “before Europe again deteriorates to the dark vestiges of its past.” But
the poll results do not just reveal hateful and intense anti-Israel sentiment they
Among the six nations ranked as top threats are two veteran democracies
besieged by terrorism, the US and Israel; two rogue dictatorships, Iran and
North Korea; and two former terrorist states now beginning to taste freedom,
Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is as if the European mind worked like this: any country that is in the
headlines related to the war against terrorism, whatever side it is on and
regardless of whether it is free or oppressed, is a threat to world peace.
We know that Europeans tend to regard any discussion of good and evil, or
democracy and dictatorship, as “cowboy talk” and terribly unsophisticated. But
now we find the European opposition to such petty distinctions taken to an
How sophisticated is it for Europeans to become the modern-day equivalent of
the old non-aligned movement with respect to the greatest threat of the day,
the threat from militant Islam and its embrace of terrorism?
Truly sophisticated Europeans would perhaps notice that continental nihilism is
getting out of hand. During the Cold War, an equally irresponsible neutralism
became fashionable in Europe between the US and the Soviet Union. But in
reality, Europe remained part of NATO and the threat of being overrun by
Soviet divisions was extremely remote.
Not so in the current conflict.
Militant Islam and its arsenal of terrorism will either be beaten, or it will engulf
Europe as well. It does not take an enormous degree of sophistication to realize
that, now that the United States and Israel have come under vicious attack,
remaining neutral in the struggle will not save protect Europe over the long run.
This realization seems to have begun to sink in to the extent that even Europe
is worried about Iran developing nuclear weapons. But this poll shows that
whatever ability European governments have to distinguish between political
fashion and reality may not extend to European publics.
The fact that so many Europeans feel that Israel and the United States are
threats to world peace comparable to Iran and North Korea bespeaks a
profound intellectual and ideological malaise.
Is Europe’s fourth estate so confused that it would have answered the poll the
In any case, European journalists should ask themselves, did we really intend to
lump Israel, now suffering its fourth year of suicide bombings, along with Iran,
a primary terrorism sponsor, and North Korea, a nuclear proliferator?
Ironically, the same poll found that 81 percent of Europeans thought that the
EU should become more involved in Middle East peacemaking efforts.
Obviously, such polls confirm every Israeli instinct to keep Europeans as far
away from any position of diplomatic influence as possible.
Memo to Europe: Demonizing a democracy under attack is no way to win
friends and influence people.