Published in The Jerusalem Post on November 7, 1999
From the furious, hyper Israeli response to the recent elections in Austria, you might think that Joerg Haider poses a mortal threat to the state of Israel. Foreign Minister David Levy all but declared war on Haider and his xenophobic political career. He even threatened, sledgehammer style, to completely cut-off diplomatic relations with Austria, an important EU country.
Levy’s blistering, blustering assault on Austria throws into stark relief this government’s whispering, whimpering and meek attitude to the Palestinian Authority. You might reasonably draw the conclusion that our security problems lie in Europe, not the West Bank and Gaza. But I wonder.
Whose anti-Semitism should be of greater practical concern to an Israeli government — the populist talk of a novice politician in opposition, about “Jews having too much influence”; or the state-sponsored, anti-Jewish brainwashing that continues every day unabated in Palestinian classrooms and media? Just last week, Haaretz reported on the “new” PA school textbooks which compare Zionism with Nazism and describe the Talmud as a book of hatred towards gentiles.
Whose continual Holocaust denial is likely to impact on us more – that of the Austrian Freedom Party or that of the Palestinian Authority? Did you know that *Mein Kampf* is presently number six on the PA best-seller list, according to Agence France Presse (Sept. 9)? I think the book is banned in Austria.
Who has an 50,000-strong “police force” on our borders, heavily stockpiled with arms in direct violation of treaty obligations with Israel – Joerg Haider or Yasser Arafat? Who gives speeches about Jihad and threatens further armed struggle against Israel, if necessary – Abu Ala and Yasser Abed Rabbo, or Haider? Which institution has paroled Jew-killers serving in its security forces – the Freedom Party or the PA?
Nevertheless, about whom does our Foreign Minister get all worked-up, for days on end, on international television and in every press interview? Joerg Haider. Maybe Levy knows something Haider’s threatening military plans and capabilities that we don’t.
One thing is certain: Haider’s political cronies don’t get free passes to tramp across our country. Arafat’s troops do. Did you know that since the opening of the ironically mislabeled “safe passage” last week, seventeen suspect Palestinians have disappeared along the “safe” route from Gaza to Hebron?
Arafat can demand our capital in every speech, work to isolate and denounce Israel in every available international forum, and attempt to renew the Arab boycott by threatening Western companies that do business with us – but Levy is silent. Joerg Haider just talks big about Jewish manipulation in far-away Vienna – and Levy goes into conniptions.
If you ask me, we ought to worry more about those who practice anti-Jewish behavior (nearby) than those who merely preach (far, far away).
Last weekend an Israeli bus was shot up returning from Shabbat in Hebron, and the terrorists fled to PA-controlled territory. Five people were injured, and it could have been much worse. The PA did not condemn the attack. Neither Prime Minister Barak nor any other Israeli cabinet minister had anything significant to say either — no bluster, no warnings to the PA, no demonstrative CNN interviews to tell the world how unacceptable this is, no IDF action.
There is something incredibly skewed about all this, strangely inconsistent, as if our political senses and survival instincts are dulled when considering dangers close to home.
The diagnosis is obvious: we just want peace so very badly, to the point where some Israelis are irrepressibly predisposed to ignoring the iniquities of the “peace partner”. Like all addictive illnesses, the “starved for peace syndrome” brings on blindness towards one’s own destructive behavior.
Yes, the most expensive peace is cheaper than the cheapest war, as the saying goes. And Arafat’s little dictatorship is a more manageable neighbor than an Islamic mega-state. But could not our unfulfilled Foreign Minister direct some of his pompous rhetorical swagger and notorious sulking skills towards getting the PA to live up to its commitments?
In the recent Sharm al-Sheikh accord, the Palestinians promised once again (for the fifth time) to collect illegal weapons, reduce the size of the PA police force, arrest wanted suspects, combat terrorism, curtail anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incitement in their press, etc., etc.
But so what. We’ve got Joerg Haider to worry about.