May 20, 2003

And the lion shall lie down with the lamb

I’m really, REALLY looking forward to seeing how Instapundit, SdB and the boys deal with this one. According to Haaretz and a bunch of other media sources, Israel (or, at least, Israel’s Foreign Minister) is seriously considering applying to join the European Union. I might even have to surf to the loathsome LGF to see how they try to process this conceptual whammy. A big chunk of the right blogosphere has a neat little mental schema of the world in which (a) Israel is a brave defender of civilization against the forces of darkness, and (b) the EU is a sneaky and craven assortment of lick-spittle apologists for totalitarianism, corrupt bureaucrats and dubious Nazi-lites. That the one may want to become a member of the other will cause massive cognitive dissonance; how can both (a) and (b) be true? My prediction as to how right-bloggers will react: bizarre and implausible efforts to rationalise away the facts. Nobody wants to give up their precious little mental map of the universe, even if it’s obviously quite wrong. See, for example, the increasingly ludicrous efforts by various pro-war types to explain away the curious absence of evidence of WMDs in Iraq.

Moving on to the bigger issue … I don’t see Israel becoming a member of the EU anytime soon. But in the medium term, it actually might not be a bad idea at all. The Sharon government is, for the most part, appalling, and Israel has done, and continues to do, genuinely unconscionable things to the Palestinians. Israel is, however, the closest thing to a real democracy in the region. Its main problem is that it can’t make its mind up as to whether it wants to be a genuinely pluralist democracy, with all the commitments to minority rights etc that this would entail, or not. Membership of the EU might help consolidate this pluralism, as it has in other countries (Spain, Greece, Portugal). Moreover, all EU member states have to be members of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has strong and justiciable rules on the use of torture, collective punishment etc. And there is some evidence that EU membership helped transform the previously intractable conflict in Northern Ireland, by reshaping people’s ideas about what national self determination involved in practice.

Israel’s membership might not only be good for Israel; it might be good for the EU too, especially if Turkey joined at the same time. The EU would move from being a club of rich white Christian democracies (or wanna-be rich white Christian democracies) to something a lot more diverse and interesting. Which could (and here I’m blue-skying) have knock on consequences in turn for the surrounding region. The democratic transformation of the Middle East that the Oxbloggers are so keen on might come about through precisely the kind of international organization that they’re so sniffy about.

Don’t hold your breath - none of this is likely to happen soon, if at all. Not least, the EU is only supposed to consist of “European” states, so that there would be a fractious debate among EU members as to where the borders of Europe stopped. Israel participates in the Eurovision song contest, but that’s probably not going to be enough. But it is very, very interesting that the idea is being floated seriously. Watch this space.

Update: More or less simultaneously, Israel’s Justice Minister has told the EU that it needs to cut ties with Arafat if Israel is to trust it.

Update 2: The EU Observer has more on the conditions that Israel would have to fulfil. A researcher at Cato floated the idea a week ago in The National Interest, suggesting that the EU make it clear that it is prepared to offer membership in the long term to Israel, to an independent Palestinian state, and to Iraq. I suspect (without being able to prove it of course), that this is where the meme originated.

Posted by Henry at May 20, 2003 12:54 PM | TrackBack

It is an interesting idea. Clearly, Israel is in many ways “European,” but it does create some problems in denying membership to some states on the Continent.

I’m not sure there’s really a monolithic position on the right on the EU. Clearly, it has implications for national sovereignty that a lot of nationalists find troubling. Otherwise, the EU is essentially Germany and France writ large, so the problems with the EU are problems they have with those states already.

Posted by: James Joyner at May 20, 2003 01:02 PM

Granted - which is why I used the term “big chunk of the right blogosphere,” rather than, say, “monolithic right-wing Moloch.” And Glenn Reynolds, for example, has never met a hyped up story of EU-level corruption that he didn’t like. There is a well-reasoned conservative and/or libertarian case to be made on these issues, and some bloggers do make this case. But quite a number of them don’t, and continually hark back to lazy tropes of “US=good”, “Israel=good”, “EU=bad.” Obviously, these guys have their counterparts on the left - the right has no monopoly on sloppy thinking. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t call people on bad arguments when you can.

Posted by: Henry at May 20, 2003 01:17 PM

Of course, there are potentially other aspects to this. At present, the entrance of Eastern European states into the Union is set to place some considerable strain on many aspects of the Union (agricultural subsidies in particular, but also relating to an EU tendency towards centralisation). The entrance of Turkey or Israel would put a considerable spoke into those particular wheels. A more flexible, decentralised EU would result.

Regarding left-wing sloppy thinking, negotiation with Turkey was justified on the grounds of having an influence on Turkey’s human rights record; I wonder if the same people would be prepared to make the same case for Israel?

Posted by: Richard at May 20, 2003 02:18 PM

It would be wildly entertaining to come up with a set of principles which the existing EU states claim, call those ‘Europe’ for the purpose, and ignore accidents of geography or ancestry. Let in all those who will play by the announced rules.

An optimist’s Ken McLeod future, I would say.

Posted by: clew at May 20, 2003 02:54 PM

Are you sure you didn’t misread it and Israel’s applying for membership of the Eurovision Union?

Posted by: dsquared at May 20, 2003 03:18 PM

Bad D-squared! Bad, bad D-squared! That was a terrible pun and, as Henry noted, Israel already participates in Eurovision.

Henry is also correct to say that participating in Eurovision alone isn’t sufficient for a grant of EU membership. (Indeed, I would say it’s suffcient to justify stripping all present EU member states of their membership.) Remember, though, that Israel is also a member of UEFA.

That’s good enough for me. Revelations tells us that there will one day be a final battle against the forces of darkness. Clearly this is a reference to Sepp Blatter. If anyone can take down this Antichrist it is UEFA, and they’d be well advised to have some tough, battle-hardened Israeli commandos on hand when they do. If giving Israel EU membership is what it takes to keep them on side, then I’d say it’s a no-brainer.

Posted by: Mrs Tilton at May 20, 2003 03:38 PM

Of course, Russia is able to take part in Eurovision too…

Posted by: Richard at May 20, 2003 04:49 PM

have knock on consequences in turn for the surrounding region

well, yes, in that it confirms what the ‘rest’ have always thought about israel. i.e. that it another settler colony of the ‘west’, just as much as south africa or australia.

Posted by: drapetomaniac at May 20, 2003 05:26 PM

Drapetomaniac - maybe I’m misinterpreting you here, but I think you’re missing the point of my argument. If the EU had Turkey as a member, and expressed a willingness to embrace non-Christian, non-Western countries, would it still be a part of the “West” in the way that you imply? Also, I’m not sure that I buy into the “West” versus the “rest” argument that seems to underlie your post. I’ll grant that many Israelis espouse a settler mentality with regard to both Palestinians and their own Arab population. But the reasons for Israel’s creation - and for its current politics - seem to me to be a lot more complex than a simple exercise in colonial politics. But perhaps I’m reading too much into, and/or misinterpreting a one line comment here.

Posted by: Henry at May 20, 2003 06:02 PM

I think you gave up too quickly on the “monolithic right” question. Even before the Iraq war, freemarketers hated the EU because of its “dirigiste” regulation and bureaucracy — some also perceived a Euro threat to the dollar. The Christians hated Europe because of its sexual laxity. The imperialists hated the EU because it’s a military free-rider. What other right-wingers are there?

Posted by: zizka at May 20, 2003 11:23 PM

>>Also, I’m not sure that I buy into the “West” versus the “rest” argument that seems to underlie your post.<<

Well, my point wasn’t to sell it to you. My point was that the ‘rest’ (to generalize, of course) locates Israel in the narrative of European settler colonization, and for Israel to be incorporated into the EU would rather strengthen this narrative.

As for me, my view of the ‘West’ is unaffected by whether the EU includes Turkey and Israel. I mean, France has very many non-white non-Christians, but that doesn’t particularly affect my view of France.

Posted by: drapetomaniac at May 21, 2003 01:46 AM

Let me speak as a right-winger. Israel is much more like a European country than like America. It is socialist, and it is soft.

That’s right, soft. When I was there in December, I did not see any sign of toughness or determination—just resignation. I didn’t speak to anything like a large or random sample of Israelis, but the ones with whom I spoke treat terrorism like some sort of nasty weather—they shrug their shoulders, they gripe, but they say that there is nothing that can be done about it.

If Israel had America’s “don’t tread on me” attitude, the Palestians would be somewhere west of Cairo by now. Not even Jimmy Carter could get away with being as soft on the Palestinians as Sharon if they were sending suicide bombers into our cities.

I’m glad that I live in America and not in Israel.

Posted by: Arnold Kling at May 21, 2003 10:46 AM

“If Israel had America’s “don’t tread on me” attitude, the Palestians would be somewhere west of Cairo by now.”

Sounds as though your model for tough-minded politics is less America’s “Don’t Tread on Me” attitude (repugnant though that sometimes is), than Slobodan Milosevic. Or perhaps you can explain better the nuances that distinguish your position from ethnic cleansing.

Posted by: Henry Farrell at May 21, 2003 12:30 PM

Kling lives in a fantasy world. The Israelis are lucky to be rid of him. Did he leave voluntarily?

Back to the videogames, Arnold.

Posted by: zizka at May 21, 2003 01:39 PM

‘If Israel had America?s ?don?t tread on me? attitude, the Palestians would be somewhere west of Cairo by now.’


Posted by: taktile at May 21, 2003 03:36 PM

Posing again two of the perennials of studying Europe: Where does Europe stop, and what’s the difference between a tribe and a nation?

On the former, is OSCE Europe really the biggest construction imaginable? Operationally, what kind of policy does the EU need for countries that have few prospects of membership in the medium or long terms? How to take advantage of the magnetic pull the Union exerts (even the Swiss think about membership from time to time) without promising everyone membership?

The Union already stretches from sea to shining sea; the question now is which seas? The Black, in 2007? The Caspian, five to ten years following? The Red, the Arabian? The Indian? The Pacific?

For what it’s worth, there is some talk in Brussels (and a wee bit in Berlin) about consolidating all of the EU’s neighborhood policies under a new framework, possibly called “multi-layered Europe,” or for the incorrigible, the European onion.

One of the buzz phrases is “everything but institutions,” which I suspect over the longish term (ca. 15 yrs) will sound a lot like second-class membership. Some buzz also over gradual but nearly inexorable extension of the four freedoms to neighboring states.

Two anyways: anyway, there’s lots of time to speculate, the EU never does anything quickly, and anyway, that’s an advantage of coming from the left - you get to have questions instead of having to have Answers.

Best from Munich,

Posted by: Doug at May 21, 2003 03:48 PM

“Or perhaps you can explain better the nuances that distinguish your position from ethnic cleansing.”

To me, ethnic cleansing means starting a war against a population that is prepared to live in peace. Driving the Palestinians away would be responding to a war that the Arabs started and evidently will never end.

Since Oslo, if the Palestinians had been willing to renounce violence, they could have had a state in a heartbeat. That still would be the case. If the Israelis renounce violence, they will be ethnically cleansed.

But I am not here to tell Israelis what to do. I am not Israeli. In response to one of your friends, I should point out that I “left” there the way that you leave any place where you visit for two weeks and return home.

I’m an American. I don’t think that Israel has a very bright future. My guess is that they will wind up like the Czechs in the 1930’s—forced to sacrifice their country for “peace in our time.” If America were as soft as Israel (and of course, everyone else on this page wants Israel and probably America to be even softer), I don’t think our future would be very bright, either.

Posted by: Arnold Kling at May 21, 2003 06:11 PM


I’m not sure if this argument serves any purpose other than revealing irreconcilable differences, but I’m going to try.

What if your criteria had been applied to Palestine in 1944-48?

Even apart from disputed events like Deir Yassan, we had the Stern Gang engaging in a targetted programme of assassinations (most prominently Count Folke Bernadotte), and Irgun bombing the King David Hotel. If we apply your criteria, it’s clear that a substantial portion of the Jewish population of Palestine in that period (a) was prepared to engage in or support terrorism, and (b)was not prepared to live in peace with the rest of the population. By your argument, the British would have been perfectly justified in expelling the entire Jewish population from Palestine. As an aside, I find it grimly amusing that Israel refuses to “negotiate with terrorists” given that three of the country’s founders - Ben Gurion, Begin and Shamir - were, by any reasonable definition, ex-terrorists; and not especially repentant ones either. Not that this distinguishes Israel especially - the founders of states are usually pretty brutal and unpleasant people. But it suggests that your criteria are a two edged sword.

If refusing to support the mass expulsion of groups in order to protect “security” is soft, then I’m happy to be soft. Proud to be soft. To put it bluntly, engaging in gross affronts against human rights in order to protect the American way of life means that pretty soon that way of life isn’t worth protecting any more.

Posted by: Henry at May 21, 2003 07:06 PM

I really enjoy these “soft” and “tough” euphemisms. To what specifically do these these metaphors refer?

I don’t know if you really think that simply having the right kind of confident, ballsy attitude is going to fix the problem by itself. Maybe you really do have something really specific in mind. If you don’t, then you’re not much help.

Posted by: taktile at May 21, 2003 07:19 PM

“To put it bluntly, engaging in gross affronts against human rights in order to protect the American way of life means that pretty soon that way of life isn’t worth protecting any more.”

So because of Dresden or Hiroshima, our way of life is not worth protecting any more?

Look, my sense is that most Israelis agree with you—that having to displace large numbers of Palestinians would mean that the Israeli way of life is not worth protecting. And they may be right. And they may lose their way of life.

But I don’t think that most Americans would agree with you. I think that most Americans would say that we can do nasty things in war without losing our moral compass or our moral legitimacy. It’s when you do nasty things just because you want to that you’ve lost your moral compass.

Posted by: Arnold Kling at May 21, 2003 07:35 PM

That’s correct. If the US believes that it is legitimate to engage in atrocities in order to protect its way of life, then ipso facto it’s not worth protecting. Freedom and happiness for some has no moral or ethical worth when it’s consciously and deliberately founded on the misery of others.

And I think that you are exactly wrong when you say that you’ve lost your moral compass only when you do nasty things because you want to. You’ve lost it when you start thinking that the end justifies the means, even if the means are objectively wrong or evil. Osama Bin Laden didn’t organize 9/11 just because he “wanted to” - he did it because of a set of beliefs about the West, and what was necessary in his opinion to protect Islam. Likewise suicide bombers in Israel - they aren’t blowing themselves up for the hell of it. I’m pretty sure that both suicide bombers and Bin Laden have lost their moral compasses - are you?

Posted by: Henry at May 21, 2003 08:11 PM

I will have to disagree with both Arnold Kling and Henry Farrell.

Arnold thinks that Israelis are soft because they do not expel the Palestinians. Nope, that just makes them realistic. It would be extremely difficult, as the neighboring nations are not exactly going to take in the Palestinians without a fight. Further, there would be international sanctions against Israel. As a very small country they would not be able to survive serious trade sanctions. The reason that America is more able to defy international opinion has nothing to do with personality traits of the people, but the fact that America is an economic superpower. Any country that would impose trade sanctions with the US would have to deal with the fact the US would retaliate with trade restrictions of their own.

Henry takes it for granted that “the mass expulsion of groups in order to protect security” is a “gross affront against human rights.” Actually, if the expulsions are to protect security, a better way to describe it is self-defense. There is no human right to blow yourself upon a bus killing innocent civilians, and if the expulsion of Palestinians would prevent it, as unfortunate as it would be for them it, would be justified.

Many would say, it is appropriate to punish those who engage the terrorist activity but it is wrong to punish a group, because even those who did not in the wrongful activity would suffer. If you believe that, you should have opposed the sanctions against the apartheid régime in South Africa. The sanctions barred trade with all South Africans, regardless of what their opinion on apartheid was. There were many South African opponents of apartheid who suffered as a result of this group punishment.

Posted by: Solomon Rubin at May 21, 2003 09:26 PM

>>Many would say, it is appropriate to punish those who engage the terrorist activity but it is wrong to punish a group, because even those who did not in the wrongful activity would suffer. If you believe that, you should have opposed the sanctions against the apartheid régime in South Africa… . There were many South African opponents of apartheid who suffered as a result of this group punishment.<<

And had the ANC opposed sanctions, I would have. However, the organization of many SA opponents of apartheid approved of and encouraged solidarity movements of disinvestment.

And if some more or less decent, democratic Palestinian organization with mass membership/popularity were to ask for international support for the expelling of Palestines from Israel (imagine with me for a minute), it would be analogous to the SA situation. But it’s not.

Posted by: drapetomanaic at May 21, 2003 11:08 PM

Henry, I don’t think that one can make a judgement about Bin Laden or the Palestinians on mere tactics. If you agree with their goals, then I think you can agree with their means.

If the goal is to drive the Jews from Israel, then suicide bombing is a legitimate means. It is the best form of warfare that the Palestinians have.

If the goal is to have a Palestinian state living in peace in the region, then suicide bombing is counter-productive. The Palestinians instead should have followed the Oslo process and worked to obtain objectives such as dismantling of settlements by working in partnership with secular Israelis.

I’m not a philosophical expert on ends and means. But my instinct is that one does not always trump the other. There has to be some sort of proportionality. I don’t like Chirac, and I don’t like Bin Laden. But in my view assassinating the former would make us immoral, and assassinating the latter would not. So I can’t evaluate tactics based on means alone.

Posted by: Arnold Kling at May 22, 2003 07:24 AM

Hey, Israel is part of UEFA too. Maccabi Haifa did pretty well in the UEFA cup this year.

Posted by: Xhenxhefil at May 22, 2003 02:14 PM

Well Arnold, it’s clear that we disagree on fundamentals - but at least we’ve clarified the terms of our disagreement.

Posted by: Henry at May 22, 2003 04:01 PM


There are three Palestinian groups with mass membership, Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. All of them have perpetrated terrorism; decent is not a term I would use for any of them.

I do not see why the fact that the African National Congress supported group punishment automatically makes it OK if you otherwise believe it is improper. I suspect your point is that they were disadvantaged by it, so it is not like they were only imposing it on someone else, they were also going to suffer from this group punishment. The constituency that the ANC represented did not participate as much in the global economy so they did not suffer as much from the sanctions. Who suffered more from the sanctions, a local mail carrier or a university researcher? The university researcher in her profession is more likely to need to collaborate with those outside South Africa’s borders than the mail carrier.

If your principle is that group punishment is allowed as long as some members of the class that will be punished support it, then you are more likely to support sanctions where there is internal repression than where a country perpetrates atrocities outside its borders. Every country that engages in internal repression will have some people who live within its borders who support the sanctions, namely the victims of the repression. Where the repression is outside its borders that may not be the case. Based on this principle, you should have opposed sanctions against Serbia, as there was no Serbian National Congress who supported the sanctions. The reason they didn’t is because they were indifferent to the suffering of the Bosnian people, just like there will be no Palestinian National Congress who would support this because they are indifferent to the suffering of Israelis.

Posted by: Solomon Rubin at May 22, 2003 07:49 PM

I responded to Henry’s post here:

Posted by: David at May 23, 2003 12:19 PM

“I’m not sure if this argument serves any purpose other than revealing irreconcilable differences..”

Wrong Henry, it serves to show that, in the end, we’re all on the same side. Nobody has reached for a gun yet that I have noticed…….

“lost your moral compass”

Unfortunately I never got issued with one, where do I have to go, they sound useful…….

Posted by: Edward Hugh at May 26, 2003 06:26 AM

Niccceee pagee

Posted by: Creno at February 20, 2004 08:18 AM
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