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Zapatero's Counsel of Defeat By: Aaron Hanscom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 21, 2006

Support for Israel has never been a hallmark of European leaders. But Spanish Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero recently recorded a new low in the history of the continent’s contempt for the Jewish state.

The socialist prime minister wasted no time condemning Israel for its decision to defend itself after Hezbollah killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others in Israeli territory. At a Socialist rally in Ibiza, Zapatero urged Israel to heed the lessons of the war in Iraq. Because the war has only led to “radicalization, fanaticism, conflict and instability,” Zapatero expressed hope that “these facts will make them [Israel] think things over.” The prime minister clearly prefers the kind of “stability” that followed Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza last year -- a relentless barrage of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israelis. Zapatero also believes that Israeli action is “is not going to bring anything more than an intensification of the conflict.”

Zapatero’s hostility to Israel goes beyond his disdain for Israeli self-defense. At another Socialist rally at the University of Alicante on Wednesday, young men placed the black and white Palestinian kaffiyeh around Zapatero’s neck. The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE) immediately tried to excuse the prime minister’s accessorizing by explaining that he didn’t feel comfortable with what transpired. But a photograph from the rally shows something entirely different: Zapatero smiling and clearly enjoying the moment. In his comments at the rally, Zapatero echoed Palestinian propaganda by saying that Israel was wrong to use “abusive force” to defend itself.

Zapatero’s public appearance with the Palestinian kaffyeh has touched off a political backlash. The conservative Popular Party (PP) described the stunt as “a grave error,” especially coming from a prime minister who has never denounced the brutality of Hezbollah. A PP spokesman accused Zapatero of “anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and Israel phobia.” The photograph of Zapatero in Arafat-like garb alone is enough to counter claims that this is just partisan rhetoric. Considering that Zapatero once claimed to understand the Nazis, the charge of anti-Semitism likewise seems justified.

Israeli leaders for their part recognize that the current Spanish government cannot be considered an ally. Victor Harel, the Israeli ambassador to Spain, explained that the relationship between the two countries is far from strong at the moment. In response to Zapatero’s comments in Alicante, Harel said that Israel’s response was not “disproportionate, exaggerated or abusive” when “taking into consideration the threat we face from 10,000 Iranian and Syrian rockets.”

It is doubtful, however, that the prime minister can be swayed by reason. To pacifists like Zapatero, military action is always wrong, especially when undertaken by Israel or the United States. Which is why his Socialist Party helped organize protests throughout Spain this week. Supposedly seeking “Peace in the Middle East,” their unambiguous goal is to pressure Israel to end its military operations. According to the protests' organizers, “[a]cts of war that deny the legitimate aspirations and rights of the populations that aspire to live in peace and with dignity can not be tolerated.”

No such criticism has been directed at Hezbollah or Hamas. In contrast to Israel, their violence evidently isn’t really violence at all. The double standard was not lost on Ambassador Harel, who articulated why the protests would be so contemptible: “Tonight there will be a demonstration against Israel instead of one against Islamic terrorism and the causes that have forced us to take these actions. There is an anti-Israel demonstration which the PSOE is involved with which will be a prize to Islamic terrorism.”

Fortunately for Israel, there are foreign leaders who understand the true threat the country faces. And it’s not just President Bush. “Hezbollah’s objective is violence,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this week. “Hezbollah believes that through violence it can create, it can bring about the destruction of Israel. Violence will not bring about the destruction of Israel.” One seeks in vain for such moral clarity in European capitals.

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Aaron Hanscom is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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