Western virtue signaling goes hypersonic over Israel
“Israel has the right to defend itself – today and in the days to come. The European Union stands with Israel,” tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday. With that, she effectively blessed a carte blanche response by the notoriously measured and restrained Israeli leadership in response to the Hamas attacks.
“Who do you think you are? You’re unelected, and have no authority to determine EU foreign policy, which is set by @EUCouncil,” replied Irish MEP Clare Daly. “Europe does NOT ‘stand with Israel’. We stand for peace. You do not speak for us. If you’ve nothing constructive to say, and you clearly don't, shut up.”
In a single tweet, von der Leyen managed to position all of Europe as more militant than even the editorial staff of one of Israel’s main national newspapers, Haaretz, which placed blame for the attacks squarely on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of “annexation and dispossession” which “openly ignored the existence and rights of Palestinians.” The implication is that no action occurs in a vacuum absent the risk of sparking a reaction.
The danger of Europe’s unelected Queen Ursula unilaterally launching hypersonic virtue signaling missiles in a knee-jerk emotional response is that it can’t possibly substitute for foreign policy decided in more sobering moments. Yet these days, more often than not, it’s the only kind of foreign policy we get, on everything from Israel to Ukraine.
In yet another example of symbolism getting ahead of policy pragmatism, the EU announced withdrawal of its support for Palestine … before walking back the move just hours later. On Monday, Israel’s defense minister announced that the IDF was going to blockade Gaza even more than usual by preventing any entry of water, food, fuel, and electricity. And just a couple hours later, EU Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said the bloc was joining the cause – by withholding its humanitarian funding for the Palestinian people. Germany and Austria were the first to get the ball rolling on funding withdrawal. However, a few hours later, the EU aid freeze was reversed by the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, after an apparent epiphany that it would only end up “punishing all the Palestinian people” and would have “only further emboldened terrorists.” There’s no way Brussels may have been inadvertently funding those terrorists in the first place, is there?
Brussels has given $2.5 billion in direct budget support to the Palestinian Authority over 12 years from 2008, and recently said it would send some $1.24 billion from 2021 to 2024. The funding wasn’t even reduced or cut off – only held for a few months in 2021-2022, then released without preconditions – when watchdogs alleged that Palestinian school textbooks had anti-Semitic content promoting and glorifying terrorism. And now Israel’s foreign ministry is pointing the finger at Brussels. “The European Union was financing textbooks of the Palestinian authorities that were full of antisemitism and incitement for violence and terrorism against Jews,” Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said earlier this week.
When the issue was first raised, the EU commissioner in charge at the time met with the Israeli foreign minister in Brussels and basically said, look, we’ll just make sure that doesn’t happen again – and passed a resolution to that effect. There were also NGO watchdog reports released earlier this month accusing Brussels of financing grants that ended up in the hands of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the EU considers to be a terrorist group.
It was just earlier this year, back in February, that the EU announced another over $300 million for the Palestinian people in the presence of President Mahmoud Abbas – funding for salaries, pensions, health care, and things like “climate-smart agri business,” and “green competitiveness,” And now, suddenly, Brussels officials appear to be wondering, “Hey wait, did we fund Hamas … maybe?” Because that’s what their actions seem to be suggesting. Otherwise what’s the problem with continuing to help the Palestinian people?
Or maybe, given all the climate-conscious verbiage attached to the aid, the EU just got angry that Hamas’ hang gliders were motorized. You just know that some egghead in Brussels is watching coverage of all the gas guzzling pickup trucks used by Hamas to raid villages and kidnap people and asking, “What’s the carbon footprint on those?”
All the virtue signaling in the world can’t now compensate for a lack of due diligence that the schizophrenic withdrawal and subsequent reinstatement of Palestinian funding suggests. It wouldn’t be the first time that innocent people suffered because of Brussels’ incompetence. Just ask the people of the entire European bloc currently facing seemingly endless economic hardship so their leaders can keep patting themselves on the back for supporting Ukraine.
And just like in Ukraine, Brussels doesn’t seem too interested in availing itself of an opportunity to play any kind of a mitigating or thoughtful role amid this conflict, but is rather taking its usual seat in riding shotgun to the US neocons on whatever the current thing happens to be.
While even Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that there’s no “smoking gun” tying Iran to the latest Hamas attacks, that hasn’t stopped the usual neocon warmongers on the American side of the Transatlantic alliance from substituting sloganeering for actual policy, either – in favor of Iranian regime change, of course. “This is one of history’s best cases for regime change,” said former US National Security Advisor John Bolton. Because, when it comes to drumming up Iranian regime change, neocons are suddenly willing to take Hamas’ word to the bank as their trustworthy source for Iran’s involvement. “The Biden Administration should get a spine and pin the blame on Tehran where it belongs,” Bolton later added. It “belongs,” facts and policy be damned, because it fits the radical neocon narrative, even if it ends up being to the detriment of American lives and interests.
“It is long past time for the Iranian terrorist state to pay a price for all the upheaval and destruction being sown throughout the region and world,” chimed in Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Somehow, these warmongers never manage to notice the interventionist sponsorship role long played by Washington and the West that has arguably interfered with all these Middle Eastern neighbors working things out amongst each other.
Blustery rhetoric in the heat of crisis is cheap for the Western armchair generals, but potentially expensive for countless others. They shoot off their mouths with little regard to the knock-on effects in the interests of appeasing allies and supporters. And it’s in these desperate moments, when reason risks taking a backseat to emotion, that they have the best chance of imposing their potentially catastrophic agenda.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.