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Euroviews. The far left (still) doesn’t understand the Middle East conflict

Protestors wave flags as they march past EU institutions during a demonstration in Brussels, in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, October 2023
Protestors wave flags as they march past EU institutions during a demonstration in Brussels, in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, October 2023 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By David Lega
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

It’s time to wake up to the systemic oppression characterising so much of the Palestinian leadership, especially including Hamas-ruled Gaza, and to the hatred and hypocrisy rife in our own societies, fanning flames of falsehood and frenzy, MEP David Lega writes.

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It has come to this: 50 years after the Yom Kippur trauma, hundreds of Israelis ended up butchered or kidnapped; antisemitism spiked; and thousands worldwide are calling for a Palestine "from the river to the sea". 

The recent hostage deal is a welcome step. Every life counts. And with Israeli forces going house by house now in the north of Gaza, it may be we are at last at the end of the beginning of this latest dark chapter of the Middle East conflict. But whatever else happens, we have at least now seen the far left for who they are.

For decades, far-left activists, armed with Marxist theories, have tried to delegitimise Israel’s very existence. 

This was the spirit underlying University of California professor Judith Butler’s complaint in October that "unless people condemn Hamas, they are not considered acceptable." 

The same spirit led progressive US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to threaten President Joe Biden politically for standing with Israel — and then led Bernie Sanders, progressive leader in the US Senate, to hedge in condemning Tlaib’s endorsement of the "river to the sea" mantra.

Some on the left, foremost President Biden, have remained strongly steadfast on Israel’s right to self-defence. But too many others, when asked what that means, have admitted they have no idea. 

All they have allowed is that Israel, on moral grounds, should only neutralise armed terrorists if the risk — to non-Israeli, not Israeli, civilians — is zero. Being ignorant of the security threats facing Israel, perhaps they should be more humble in imposing their military advice on the country.

We can't continue to be blind to the facts

For many on the far left, anti-Israel bias leads to myopia — and to suggestions that Israel has never been unjustly attacked or faced extinction, or that Palestinian representatives have never forfeited the moral high ground (by, for instance, tormenting Palestinian Christians, sexual minorities or political dissidents). 

To suggestions, ultimately, that were Israel simply to lay down arms, stop guarding the gates, and relinquish the land it has controlled since its 1967 war of survival — then terrorism against Israelis, and against Jews writ large, would magically melt away. 

In Europe, the left has urged for — and I have agreed — significant EU funding to meet Palestinians’ humanitarian needs. But these same voices have also pretended that any and all such EU funding is a harmless, risk-free investment for peace.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh receives European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 2023
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh receives European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 2023AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

In Europe, the left as a whole has urged for — and I have agreed — significant EU funding to meet Palestinians’ humanitarian needs.

But many of these same voices continue to pretend that any and all such EU funding is a harmless, risk-free investment for peace.

I and many others have long understood this is just false. A European Commission report this week concludes that no EU money has gone for "unintended" consequences to the Palestinian authorities. 

But we know EU money paid for school content fostering an ecosystem of hate; has contributed to pensions and pay-outs incentivising martyrdom; and has bought materials which Hamas and their cronies have not just hoarded but have weaponised against Israeli civilians. 

Even after his recent trip to the region, the EU’s high representative and vice-president for foreign affairs and security policy, the socialist Josep Borrell, simply can’t or won’t understand these connections.

A case of pathological naïveté

Perhaps nowhere is pathological naïveté towards Israel more evident than among my Swedish compatriots. 

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In July, for instance, in her Foreign Affairs Committee report for the European Parliament on EU relations with the Palestinian Authority, the socialist MEP Evin Incir made no mention of Hamas. 

Or terrorism. Or antisemitism. Or the persecution, by Palestinians, of Palestinian Christians. These stories play no part in her Middle East narrative. 

People gather for a protest in Tel Aviv calling for the return of 40 children among the roughly 240 hostages believed held by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, November 2023
People gather for a protest in Tel Aviv calling for the return of 40 children among the roughly 240 hostages believed held by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, November 2023AP Photo/Oded Balilty

In another example, a member of the Swedish parliament’s foreign affairs committee, another socialist Jamal El-Haj, spoke at a conference affiliated with Hamas — earning him a rebuke, but not expulsion, from his party. 

When a failed rocket from Palestinian terrorists blew up a Gaza hospital on 17 October, Swedish socialist party leader Magdalena Andersson (who’s angling to be Sweden’s next prime minister), in a knee-jerk reaction, and based on Hamas-sourced reporting, blamed Israel. 

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And two weeks ago, in the European Parliament’s plenary session, a Swedish member of the Left Party, Malin Björk, passionately urged not just a humanitarian pause in Gaza — to ensure basic supplies to civilians or facilitate hostage talks — but a permanent ceasefire. 

Doesn’t she know that Hamas will use whatever time they can to carry out their campaign to wipe Israel from the map all over again?

Hatred and hypocrisy fanning flames of falsehood and frenzy

The far left doesn’t understand the Middle East conflict. For whoever delegitimises Israel’s right to exist, whoever denies Israel’s right to self-defence, and whoever fails to see the links between the Holocaust and hate is actually carrying water for the terrorists bent on Israel’s annihilation.

It’s time to wake up. To the systemic oppression characterising so much of the Palestinian leadership, including especially Hamas-ruled Gaza. 

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To the naive, feckless policies which have demanded of these groups such little accountability. 

And to the hatred and hypocrisy rife in our own societies, fanning flames of falsehood and frenzy. It is to our lasting shame — a shame that alarms — that we, in my home of Sweden, of Europe, of the West, find we have not after all left behind our dark past of identitarian ideologies, including even bald antisemitism. 

Tragically, it is the far left, most of all, which has not left this legacy behind. If 7 October doesn’t prompt an awakening, I fear it may only come too late.

David Lega (Kristdemokraterna, EPP Group) is a Swedish Member of the European Parliament, where he serves on the Foreign Affairs and Human Rights committees.

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