I've lived in Europe the past dozen years—in Berlin, Prague, and London. When it comes to Israel, Europe's ways seldom cease to amaze.
My most recent surprise came from the UK Huffington Post, where I've been included as a blogger for the last two and a half years. During this time, everything I've written—nearly 40 pieces in total—has been posted. Not a single word has ever been edited, not in my musings on capitalism or the Arab Spring, nor on Mandela, Thatcher, Chavez, or Putin.
But then I wrote recently about Israel and Gaza, twice. You guessed it, two pieces rejected. Both within a single week.
The first was turned down without explanation; the second, after some badgering on my part, with the editor informing me by email that "we are only publishing posts on the topic that move the argument forward...and that are totally unbiased on either side."
It's amusing, the bit about only publishing posts that are unbiased. UK Huffington Post news has been anything but balanced, rushing to depict Israelis as perpetrators of atrocities and war crimes. What's more, the very week my two posts were rejected, the HuffPost site published a blog by its opinionated political director, Mehdi Hasan, attacking the Israeli Ambassador in London. "Silver tongued Israeli officials continue to take to the airwaves to defend the indefensible," contended Hasan, among other things. I wouldn't exactly call this "totally unbiased on either side."
UK Huffington Post editors say their blog section "is all about creating debate and opinion. ... the [editorial] team would never censor what someone has to say."
As they say, never say never.
But never mind the Huffington Post. Bias against Israel, and Jews, is hardly a rarity across the EU. This is not just about Gaza and it can pop up anywhere.
In late 1990s, the venerable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung slipped in a story about then British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind. The prestigious German paper reported that "the Jew Rifkind" had ended a Bonn speech by quoting the founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther: "Here I stand. I can do no other." Huh? "Der Jude Rifkind"? The author of the story explained in defense that readers should know that the Foreign Secretary was quoting a Protestant, even though he was not one. Sigh.
A few years later France's ambassador to the Court of St. James's slipped. In an unguarded moment at a London dinner party he referred to the Jewish state as "that shitty little country Israel." The Quai d'Orsay envoy did not deny making the remark, but did say he found it outrageous that a private observation would find its way into the media. A French Embassy spokesman said at the time the ambassador had "no intention of apologizing."
A few years later still, when I was head of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, a German foreign ministry official sitting in my office out at the Wannsee—the site, incidentally where the Nazis planned the "Final Solution"—asked me why I, as a non-Jew, would be pro-Israel. More awkwardly, a senior executive at the American Chamber of Commerce in Frankfurt told me in the run up to the Iraq war that it was the Jews who were behind the campaign. Sound nutty? The Berlin daily Tagespiegel ran a major story on Iraq around the same time with a large photo of George W. Bush in the Oval Office, meeting with a delegation of Orthodox Jews from Israel. Mind you, the photo and White House visit had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq but, well, you get the picture.
One could go on. I suppose I might say as a Roman Catholic, quoting the Jew Jesus on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
If you're wondering how things got this way, read Johns Hopkins University Fellow Joshua Muravchik's new book, Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel.