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Exercising the Non-Military Option: Target Europe!

Dr. Richard L. Benkin writes from USA                                


This is the second in a multi-part series by Weekly Blitz’s US Correspondent, Dr. Richard L. Benkin.  This article’s focus is how the oil weapon radically changed policy and opinion about Israel and the Middle East in Western Europe.

After their military defeats at Israel’s hands in 1967 and 1973, the Arabs determined that their bellicose and military approach to the conflict was destined to fail again and again, as it had thus far.  Inspired by the victory of the Viet Cong and its allies over the militarily superior United States, they embarked on a new non-military strategy albeit with the same military goals.  When two Arab nations invaded Israeli simultaneously on Yom Kippur (the holiest day of the Jewish calendar) in 1973, they caught the Israelis by surprise.  Egypt advanced into Israeli-held Sinai, and Syria moved into the Golan Heights.  After a few days, however, the Israelis recovered and eventually were marching unimpeded toward Damascus and Cairo.  It took a threat of Soviet intervention to stop them; the Arabs were powerless to do so.  Yet, well before General Ariel Sharon and his troops captured Egyptian territory on the east side of the Suez Canal, many Arabs had realized that their military adventurism toward Israel was destined for eternal failure.  It was time to seize on another, more productive strategy.

A major part of that strategy was to change the international equation on the Middle East.  Up until that time, the Israeli-Arab conflict played out on the international stage as one more aspect of the US-Soviet conflict.  The United States and its allies in Western Europe and elsewhere sided with Israel; the Soviet bloc and its allies favored the Arabs.  During the 1973 War, for instance, the Soviets sent massive amounts of arms to Egypt with the intention of making that country the lead military power in the Middle East.  Although the late Egyptian President Gamal Nasser had a brief flirtation with the US at one point, his public rhetoric and private actions alike favored Soviet power and were intended to thwart US interests in the region.  Thus, the US President Richard Nixon responded to the Soviet action by airlifting supplies to Israel.  The Arabs sought first to change the policy of both major allies (i.e., the United States and Europe), but failing that believed they could drive a wedge between them regarding the Middle East.

Although Europe was at that time still a collection of sovereign nations, the process by which they would later become the European Union (EU) was underway.  Led by France, the Europeans already had formed the European Community (EC) intended to maximize the continent’s economic and political power. By 1973, Europe and the United States had already been moving apart ideologically.  This was the era of Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s détente and the beginnings of a US-Soviet thaw.  In Europe, that process was much more pronounced and the continent was beginning already to eschew Cold War understandings.  Moreover, it was clear to many on the continent that from the perspective of markets and economic competition (remember that Europe had long ago ceded any military role in its protection to US arms and troops) the United States would be Europe’s long term and most significant competitor.  Less than two decades later, these predictions proved correct as the Soviet Union collapsed leaving the US as the planet’s only super power.

The Arabs capitalized on this trend away from the simple Cold War interest calculations.  Exactly midway into the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Arabs tested the waters for a new equation by unleashing the oil weapon.  The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries embargoed critical oil exports to the United States and Western Europe as a strategy for compelling Israel to withdraw unconditionally from all territories occupied in the 1967 war.  The US rejected the Arab demands, but the European Community (EC) did not.  (The Netherlands held out for a time and was treated to the same embargo as the United Stated, but ultimately it, too, capitulated three days after Saudi and Algerian oil ministers offered to do so for that policy change.)  Far more dependent on Arab oil than America, European leaders agreed on a new Middle East policy which more than one observer termed “outright appeasement” of the Arab oil exporters with regard to their orthodoxy concerning Israel.  The first element of this shift occurred when Britain and France refused the US flyover rights during its weapons airlift to Israel.  As a result, the two nations were exempted from the embargo.  Two weeks after the war, the EC issued its first unambiguously pro-Arab statement.  It was the first time that the Europeans called for Israeli withdrawal from the territories it won in the 1967 Six-Day War.  It was also the first European statement about “legitimate rights of the Palestinians.”  But the Europeans also forever distorted UN Resolution 242, still considered by many the basis for a Mid-east peace.  The resolution was written and approved in English after extensive negotiation.  Specifically, 242 referred to Israeli ‘withdrawal from territories.”  The Europeans with no rationale translated it into French and added the article des, which mistranslated 242 as withdrawal from the territories.  That was highly significant as it pre-supposed the outcome of any negotiations and changed by fiat what war could not.  It re-defined the Middle East conflict and changed the nature and basis of how it would heretofore be debated.  It altered the formal perception of what a “just solution” must include.  And this seminal change was accomplished without negotiation, with the input of only one party to the conflict, and through economic blackmail and narrow national interests!

Thus, the inevitable US-European rift began decades before the current war in Iraq or the ascension of George W. Bush to the US presidency.  Moreover, it was inevitable due to major historical forces: changing economic interests, The Europeans attempted to bring the US to their new side in the conflict (another move to appease the oil producers), but the US demurred, saying that it would only show weakness and lead to further demands (which it has).  Kissinger later indicated the true level of acrimony at the time.  He said the Europeans responded by blaming US caused the 1973 war by not forcing Israel to withdraw from the 1967 territories.   But they went further, according to Kissinger, suggesting that US policy was controlled by domestic political considerations; viz., a Jewish lobby.

By September 1974, the European policy change was complete.  Earlier, the Europeans had flatly rejected American calls for an oil consuming initiative as a counterweight to the oil producing initiative.  The official European position now called for Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, Arab sovereignty over Jerusalem’s old city, and recognition of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinians, and “pressure to detach the US from Israel.”  It was even conceived as part of an alternative to American power."  All of these elements were new to European policy and did not reflect popular European sentiments.  Changing that would take further deliberate action.

Later installments of this series will focus on the press and other popular media, but one element of this deliberate effort to change European opinion by hook or by crook deserves special mention:  immigration.  As part of the new European Arab Dialogue (EAD), most European nations agreed to alter their immigration laws to make it easier for Muslim (not only Arab) immigrants to come to the continent.  Declining birth rates and prosperity already had several countries, like Germany, instituting “guest worker” programs whose participants were overwhelmingly from the Arab and Muslim worlds.  These programs, however, expected the workers to return to their countries of origin after a period.  With Arab “encouragement,” immigration laws were changed.  Most significantly, those nations that had not previously granted automatic citizenship to people born within their borders now did.  Immigration soared and in addition, between 1975 and 1990, not coincidentally, the ratio of foreign workers to their dependents went from two to one, to one to two. Thus, Europe’s Muslims went from a marginal group in 1973 to one out of every 20 Europeans today.  The impact on political calculations, commercial planning, and social and cultural issues was nothing short of revolutionary.  Books have been published with titles like “Eurabia” and “Londonistan” to indicate the changed demographic in Europe.  And recall that these legal changes were made without a single voter having a say, even without much transparency that would give the European population a chance to even question them.

In 1974, Algerian President Houari Boumediene said that “millions of men” will leave the Arab world for Europe, “but not as friends…They will burst to conquer, and they will conquer by populating it with their children.  Victory will come to us from the wombs of our women.”  Were this sort of statement rare, we could attribute it to fringe elements and not centrist Arab policy.  But statements like that can be gleaned from a wide array of speakers throughout the last several decades.  English writer Jonathan Raban noted that Arabs seemed to arrive in London overnight.

Immigration and cultural change themselves are not anything nefarious.  The fact that Arab and European elites unilaterally and without popular review took decisions that would forever alter a continent to pursue immediate economic and political ends is.  Evil or not, though, it seems to have accomplished its twin goals:  economic comfort for the Europeans and a manipulated pro-Arab stance by the Europeans.

Posted on 24 Aug 2006 by Weeklyblitz

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