No Limits to Hypocrisy

Three times during the 20th century, the United States came to the aid of Europe. But gratitude does not seem to be a component of European foreign policy, while hypocrisy certainly is.


(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on February 18, 2003.)

“Mountainous ingratitude” ran the headline on the front page of one of the London tabloids a few days ago. The reference was, of course, to the policy of France and Germany, and some of their other European hangers-on, of obstructing American attempts to prevent Saddam Hussein from possessing non-conventional weapons.

Three times during the 20th century, the United States came to the aid of Europe – in World War I, when the kaiser’s armies were bleeding France to death; during World War II, when Hitler’s hordes were overrunning Europe and U.S. armed forces saved the day; and again, during the long years of the Cold War, when the Soviet threat hung over Europe, it was American power that kept them at bay until, finally, the Soviet Empire collapsed.

But gratitude does not seem to be a component of European foreign policy, while hypocrisy certainly is. Nothing has changed in recent years.

On April 1, 1990, Saddam Hussein, speaking in Baghdad, announced that he possessed binary chemical weapons and “by God, we will make the fire eat up half of Israel if it tries to do anything against Iraq.” Coming from a man who had already made massive use of chemical weapons in his war against Iran, as well as against the Iraqi Kurdish village of Halabja, this threat against Israel should certainly have aroused concern among the nations of Europe.

However, there was no reaction. The French were too busy making money selling modern weapons to Iraq to be bothered. Their outrageous policy of arming the Iraqi dictator followed the sale of the Osirak nuclear reactor, in the wake of negotiations personally conducted by Jacques Chirac, France’s prime minister at the time. Fortunately for all, this reactor, which Saddam Hussein intended to use for his nuclear weapons program, was destroyed by the Israel Air Force in 1981 before becoming operational.

Furthermore, Israelis have yet to forget the arms embargo France slapped on Israel on the eve of the Six-Day War that stopped the supply of spare parts for equipment France had sold to Israel.

Is it any wonder that with Chirac as president of France, French policy continues in its traditional hypocritical fashion? Claiming to be concerned about world peace and avoiding casualties, the French are doing their level best to obstruct President Bush’s plans to bring about the elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. This time, Chirac, allied with his German neighbor, Gerhard Schroeder, is posing as leader of the European nations battling against the “aggressive plans” of the American superpower. They know full well that should they be successful in preventing an American military operation against Iraq, and if, as a result, the world in the future will be threatened by Saddam Hussein with the use of weapons of mass destruction, they will be able to rely on American protection.

Give the devil his due. The French and their European allies are certainly consistent in pursuing hypocrisy on every occasion. At the UN, they outdo themselves all the time. Every anti-Israel motion gets their support. When Syria, a terrorist state, is nominated to be a member of the Security Council, they don’t object. When the Libyan representative is nominated to chair the UN Committee on Human Rights, they don’t protest. They miss no opportunity to bash Israel and to support Arafat and the Palestinian terrorists.

The record for hypocrisy is held by Belgium. This is a country with a ruler, King Leopold II, who is known for his reign of terror in the African Congo, and whose greed became world-famous as he enriched himself personally from the Congo’s natural resources. During World War II, King Leopold III ignominiously surrendered unconditionally to the invading German army in May 1940. Belgian colonial misrule in Rwanda set the stage for the subsequent massacre of the Tutsi people. It is the leaders of this country who invariably try to take the lead in any anti-Israel propaganda ploy. Their latest escapade are the legal proceedings in Belgian courts in preparation for leveling accusations against Israel’s prime minister. It will end up being another sorry chapter in Belgium’s inglorious history.

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