By Lea Speyer, The Algemeiner—
Europe’s “obsession” with Jews should serve as a warning to America as it grapples with how to support Israel, a former Israeli ambassador to the US wrote on Thursday.
In an op-ed published by Newsweek, Michael Oren — a member of Knesset for the centrist Kulanu Party and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee – expressed shock at the way in which European lawmakers hound Israel.
Relating a recent conversation he had with the head of the Dutch Foreign Affairs Committee — in which the chairman said, “The fiercest arguments we have in parliament are over Israel” — Oren said he was “startled” that Israel topped the list of the country’s problems.
“Let me get this straight,” Oren told the chairman. “Your country is in economic crisis, tens of thousands of refugees are massing on your borders, and the EU may be unraveling, and yet the issue that most occupies you is…Israel?”
This preoccupation, Oren said, is not necessarily about Israel, but rather Europe’s ongoing struggle towards self-identity. “For them, the Jewish state is exactly that, a state of Jews against whom the West is once again defining itself,” he wrote.
Relating that this struggle has been ongoing for “more than two thousand years” in Europe — from the time of the ancient Hellenic and Roman worlds to 20th century Munich — Oren, who is also an accomplished historian, wrote,“Jews remained necessary. Without them, Europeans were at pains to specify who they were and were not. And that role continues today.”
While Europe’s “continuing fixation on Jews indeed presents challenges to Israel” today, Oren warns that “the far greater danger is that the obsession could grip the United States.”
“The debate over Israel is increasingly becoming a debate over America. In the current elections, especially, pro-Israel platforms are associated with a muscular view of US foreign policy, a strong stand against Islamic extremism, and a willingness to assume world leadership,” Oren wrote. “Conversely, positions described as ‘even-handed’ on Israeli issues are likely to be accompanied by a recoiling from military force, dependence on the UN and other international organizations, and a focus on domestic matters.”
The Jews, Oren maintained, “do not need to serve as crucibles for yet another nation’s identity,” which in Europe has “resulted in incalculable suffering for my people and continues to plague us today.”
Oren concluded that he hopes the US will have “the self-confidence to determine by itself its place in the world, to debate its future openly and even rigorously, but without reference to the Jews and our nation-state.”