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Europe’s Moment of Truth

Michael Freund- Wednesday 3rd Sep 2003

This Friday, the foreign ministers of the European Union will gather in Italy to ponder a vexing question that has long haunted the Continent: is paying for the murder of Jews a bad thing?

Under pressure from the United States and Israel, the 15 member states of the EU are poised to decide whether to cut off completely the flow of funds to Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

While the Europeans did include Hamas’ so-called “military wing” on their terrorist blacklist in December 2001, they have nevertheless allowed money to continue flowing into the group’s coffers for “social activities” (bingo for bombers, perhaps?).

Apparently, the EU finds it hard to grasp that by permitting money to go to Hamas, they might actually bear responsibility for facilitating attacks against Israel.

After all, they must be telling themselves, all those Euros are undoubtedly going to feed the hungry, since Hamas would never, ever do something terrible like divert funds towards violence, would they?

Now, to most thinking people, this entire issue would qualify as a no-brainer. If an organization regularly dispatches people to detonate themselves on crowded pedestrian buses, then allowing them to conduct telethons would seem to raise certain, shall we say, moral difficulties.

Indeed, when it comes to other groups, such as Al-Qaeda, the Europeans have applied a decidedly more consistent set of principles.

In April 2002, for example, Spanish police arrested Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian citizen suspected of serving as Al-Qaeda’s chief accountant in Spain, presumably because they consider the funneling of money to a group that perpetrates atrocities to be a crime.

At the time, no one sought to differentiate between Al-Qaeda’s “charitable” work and its terrorist operations, and rightly so, because everyone understood that it was one and the same organization.

Why, then, does a different standard seem to apply when it comes to Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

The answer, I think, is three-fold. First, when it comes to the Middle East, the EU continues to be guided by a basic conceptual error. Their misplaced sympathy for the Palestinian cause runs so deep that they insist on clinging to the fiction that Palestinian terrorist groups are divided into “military” and “political” wings.

Only by making such dubious distinctions can they justify their continued contact with what they perceive to be “political” leaders, such as Yasser Arafat or Hamas’ Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and thereby ensure for themselves a possible role in Middle East peacemaking.

Thus, they persist with the lie, even though there is no evidence on the ground to support it.

Take, for example, Sheikh Yassin, who serves as Hamas’ penultimate political leader, regularly conducting talks on the group’s behalf and deciding on the organization’s overall strategy. At the same time, however, he also reportedly issues orders for carrying out terrorist attacks and incites his followers to wage holy war against Israel. Clearly, he is both a “political” and “military” authority for the group, demonstrating that there is no real division between the two.

And even if the Europeans wish to harp on the fact that Hamas operates soup kitchens or medical clinics, such undertakings must be seen for what they truly are: an extension of the terrorist infrastructure. These programs naturally serve as recruitment centers for future terrorists, and help endear the terrorist groups to the local population, winning their support, encouragement and cooperation.

To think otherwise, as many Europeans seem to do, is merely a denial of reality, and a self-serving one at that.

The second reason behind the European failure to clamp down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad funding is political. It is hardly a coincidence that two of the countries which have shown the least enthusiasm for taking measures against these groups are France and Belgium, both of which have extensive economic ties with the Arab world and are home to large and occasionally restive Muslim populations. Neither country wishes to offend Arab public opinion, which is why they were willing to stick their necks out for Saddam Hussein, and now for Hamas.

Finally, there is undoubtedly a more sinister element at work here as well, and it is good ol’ fashioned anti-Semitism. How else can one explain that after a decade of wantonly murdering Jews, the fundamentalist fanatics of Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to receive funding from Europe? What more would these groups have to do to earn the ire of the EU?

Friday’s meeting will be Europe’s moment of truth, offering them an opportunity to demonstrate once and for all that Europeans will never again countenance playing a role, however indirect, in the killing of Jews.

But for that to happen, the EU will have to discard its word games about “military” and “political” wings, and declare a comprehensive clampdown on the flow of all funds to groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They should also use their considerable clout throughout the Arab world to press other countries on this issue as well.

After shedding our blood so mercilessly just six decades ago, it is, I believe, the least they can do.

The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under former premier Benjamin Netanyahu



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