Europeans ditch Palestinians

SHARE

An interesting poll from Stanley Greenberg on European attitudes toward the Palestinians and Israel, via Opinion Journal's Best of the Web Today.

Greenberg, who did polling for Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the 1990s and for Israel's Labor Party, conducted this survey for Israeli leaders; he's a sensitive and thoughtful pollster whose work is always worthy of serious attention. Here are excerpts from David Horovitz's story on the poll in the Jerusalem Post.

New public opinion surveys conducted among "opinion elites" in Europe show that support for the Palestinians has fallen precipitously, according to a leading international pollster, Stan Greenberg, who has been briefing Israeli leaders on his findings in the past few days. There has not necessarily been "a rush to Israel" but there has been a "crash" in backing for the Palestinians, he noted. . . .

At the root of the change, said Greenberg, was a fundamental remaking in Europe of the "framework" through which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is viewed.

Three years ago, he said, the conflict was perceived "in a post-colonial framework."

There was a sense "that Europe could cancel out its own colonial history by taking the 'right' side" - the Palestinian side. Yasser Arafat was viewed as "an anti-colonial, liberation leader." The U.S. was seen as a global imperial power, added Greenberg, and the fact that it was backing Israel only added to the "instinctive" sense of the Palestinians as victims. . . .

Today, by contrast, the Europeans "are focused on fundamentalist Islam and its impact on them," he said. The Europeans were now asking themselves "who is the moderate in this conflict, and who is the extremist? And suddenly it is the Palestinians who may be the extremists, or who are allied with extremists who threaten Europe's own society."

An increasing proportion of Europeans are concluding that "maybe the Palestinians are not the colonialist victims" after all.

Furthermore, the pollster said, the question of which side held "absolute," uncompromising positions had also shifted - to Israel's benefit. The sea-change in attitudes, he said, had been accelerated by the fact that former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who had been widely regarded as an ideological "absolutist," had surprised Europe with his disengagement initiative. And at about the same time, the Palestinians had chosen the "absolutists" of Hamas as their leadership.

One is tempted to say: Welcome to the club, Europe.

But there's a more serious comment to make. George W. Bush has been attacked by elites in Europe and in the United States for refusing to negotiate with Palestinian leaders who refuse to renounce terrorism. If only we would talk, these sophisticates have argued, then maybe all these problems would be solved. But Bush's refusal to negotiate first with Yasser Arafat and then with the leaders of Hamas has had a useful clarifying effect. That, and Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, have shown Europeans which side wants peace and which side wants endless jihad. And as the Europeans have learned, from the attacks on Madrid and London and from the riots in the banlieue of Paris, they are not immune, even despite their long-standing pronouncements of sympathy for the Palestinians, from the jihadists themselves. There is no safety in appeasement. The sophisticates of the Rive Gauche got it wrong. The cowboy from West Texas got it right.