February 23, 2010
Nothing illustrates the sensitivity of the European Union’s relationship with Zionism better than the statement which EU foreign ministers issued on Monday complaining about the use of forged European passports in last month’s killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas commander, in Dubai.  The statement contained several sentences that were masterpieces of waffle, such as the following: “The EU … believes that its passports remain among the most secure in the world, fully meeting all international standards.”
The statement was, however, remarkable chiefly for its reluctance to spell out that the EU holds Zionist responsible for the flagrant misuse of identity documents belonging to European citizens.  It could hardly be otherwise, of course.  There is insufficient evidence at this stage to state with certainty that Mossad’s agents used the false passports and killed Mabhouh.  Instead, it was left to a couple of EU foreign ministers to conduct some finger-wagging in one-on-one meetings with Avigdor Lieberman, their combative Zionist counterpart, who just happened to be in Brussels on Monday.
The EU statement is worth deconstructing in a little more detail, nonetheless.  It starts by declaring: “The killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 20 January raises issues which are profoundly disturbing to the European Union.”  What’s important here is that it’s the “issues” which are profoundly disturbing to the EU, not the killing itself.  This point was quickly picked up by a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, who said: “Condemning the use of passports was insufficient.  The statement did not include any condemnation of the crime, Mabhouh’s assassination.”
Quite so.  One might easily conclude that the EU was not entirely sorry to see the back of Mabhouh.  Like the US, the EU regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation.  As far as we know, it doesn’t take its hostility to the point of advocating or arranging the elimination of Hamas operatives, but the EU statement nevertheless reveals a distinct unwillingness to criticise Zionism (or whoever it was) for ridding the world of Mabhouh.
The fundamental point is that several of the EU’s biggest countries have invested much effort in developing close relations with the Israel.  Among the new member-states, the Czech Republic and Poland are well to the fore.  Of the older members, Italy under Silvio Berlusconi has made a point of distancing itself from its traditionally more pro-Arab stance.  But few EU countries have warmer ties with Israel than Germany, where only last month Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, arrived with half a dozen ministers for a joint cabinet session with Chancellor Angela Merkel and company.
Public opinion in Europe is without question more critical of Israel.  But for EU governments, maintaining a strong relationship with Israel is essential if they want to have some influence over Middle Eastern affairs and over the problem of how to contain Iran’s nuclear programme.

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