A symbolic coincidence occurred earlier this week. In the same morning that Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists pounded Israeli towns with rockets, the European Court of Justice affirmed a European Commission special labeling requirement for Jewish-owned businesses in the West Bank.
Those two events are unrelated. Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad fired over 200 rockets in reaction to Israel intercepting its leader Bahaa Abu Al-Ata, who was responsible for numerous attacks on Israeli civilians. The European Court ruling was in reaction to an appeal filed by Psagot, an Israeli winery located in the West Bank, which was prohibited by the European Union (EU) from labeling its wines “made in Israel.”
The juxtaposition of those two assaults on Jewish sovereignty is indicative of the current state of Judaism, and the threats it faces: The jihadi one is a tactical threat that puts the lives of individual Jews in great danger, but it poses a strategic threat to neither Judaism nor the Jewish State. The European action, on the other hand, does not put any Jewish lives in direct danger, but it represents a strategic threat that is part of a string of European anti-Israel measures.
The history of Europe and Jewry has often been fraught. The feuds date back to the ancient Greek and Roman invasions of Judea, which were followed by European Jews’ centuries-long general refusal to assimilate out of existence. Tensions have since evolved. When Europe was more religious, it often deployed religion as the currency of its opposition to Jews. When Europe turned more secular, many came to oppose Jews through a more national and ethnic opposition to Judaism. Toward the end of the 19th century, this new form of Jew-hatred got a name: Anti-Semitism.
While many European countries are today strong allies of Israel, the re-establishment of the Jewish state and its astonishing success seem to have provided a new outlet for European anti-Semitism. Indeed, it is hard to explain the European product-labeling directive on its merits, as it inflicts more damage to Palestinians than it does to Jewish-owned businesses in the West Bank. Those businesses employ Palestinians and some of them mentor Palestinians. European efforts to sabotage Palestinian employment in Jewish-owned businesses do not end with the product-labeling decree, and stand in sharp contrast to the U.S. policy of encouraging coexistence and business cooperation. For example, Europeans spent ample funds and political resources to pressure SodaStream to close its West Bank factory. Europe was successful, and hundreds of Palestinians lost their jobs as a result.
Europeans claim that such actions are meant to help Palestinians. The notion that a European would know what is better for an individual Palestinian is regrettably a recurring theme in Europe’s disruptive intervention in Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Many European countries support NGOs and U.N. agencies, such as UNWRA, that promote Palestinian victimhood and rob Palestinians of opportunities to reap the benefits of the start-up nation next door. Perhaps even worse, many European countries supported or abstained on ludicrous UNESCO resolutions implying that Jews and Christians have no historical connections to Jerusalem.
The repeated rounds of attacks from Palestinian terrorists, such as the current one, will be contained. The repeated rounds of political hostility from Europe, on the other hand, requires more attention than is currently given.
Indeed, it is time for Europe to end its intervention in Israeli-Palestinian affairs and focus its energy and capital on its own problems. There are no shortage of those: Europe’s conflict with radical Islam, the debate about the essence of Europeanism, the potential secession of EU member-states, Europe’s battle with home-grown terrorism, as well as the long list of unresolved intra-European conflicts that were temporarily shoved under the rug.
Projecting or blaming Israel will not make European problems go away. In fact, it might awaken them: If the EU insists that Psagot winery needs to remove from its labels “made in Israel,” then some might argue that the EU should also prohibit wine produced in Italian-controlled South Tyrol from being labeled “made in Italy.” Similarly, the EU might preclude wine made in Corsica from being labeled “made in France,” and in Catalonia from being labeled “made in Spain.”
No matter what the EU says, the reality remains that Psagot, as well as the dozens of other West Bank wineries, continue to produce superb Israeli wine that reap award after award in international tasting competitions. Perhaps instead of escalating the feud with the Jewish state, EU politicians and bureaucrats should change course and benefit from the great blessings that are coming out of Israel.