On the side of Israeli Democracy

Article published on Feb. 20, 2003
community published
Article published on Feb. 20, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Israel is an extraordinary country. “No other state would have preserved its democratic character after 50 years of wars and terrorism”. An interview with Lorenzo Cenni of the Italy-Israel Federation.

Q:

How do Jewish communities in Europe keep going at this time of tension in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

A:

I am not a member of any Jewish community so I am able to give you an impartial reply. As I see it, this last phase of the conflict has contributed to bringing together the Jews of the Diaspora. More than ever they feel that Israel is facing a grave danger, and the communities are gathering together around their Israeli brothers as never before. On the other hand, despite the difficult situation, the emigration of Jews to Israel carries on a regular basis.

Q:

In an article in ‘La Repubblica’, Adriano Sofri has spoken out against the return of a “leftist” anti-Semitic flame in Europe. But according to you, is Israel an “ordinary” state?

A:

Israel is a state that does everything to try to be ordinary, but for me it is utterly extraordinary. Israel has been in jeopardy from the day it was born, with the neighbouring Arab states forever trying to destroy it and yet, in spite of this, it has managed to preserve intact the force of its democracy, its liberty and its tolerance. No other country in the world would have been able to maintain whole its entire civil and democratic structure whilst, at the same time, having to withstand a state of war for over 50 consecutive years.

Q:

What is it that makes Israeli public opinion accept Sharon’s iron fist towards the Palestinians? What prospect of integration are Palestinians offered within Israel’s democracy?

A:

There are two fundamental reasons why Israel’s public opinion backs Sharon:

1) the Sharon government is legitimised by popular vote expressed through full freedom and legality as in all civilised and democratic countries;

2) terrorist activity has taken such unbearable turns, and the population is so fed up that they accept even the hardest reactions by the defence force.

Q:

The European Union has financed ANP and continues to support, in a more or less veiled manner, its claims. Is this strategy right or wrong?

A:

Absolutely wrong. The European Union’s behaviour has been and still goes on being utterly irresponsible. It has exercised no control over funds delivered to Palestinians and these funds have largely served to increase the riches of Arafat’s ministers, to pay a plethora of corrupt bureaucrats and to print school-books advocating hate towards the Jews the destruction of Israel. Moreover, a large part of the Palestinian population has seen no benefits. And the practical outcome has been that some fundamentalist organisations, such as Hamas, have set up their own structures of assistance for the population, thus replacing the secular authorities. As a result they have been able to recruit many willing volunteers to their ranks.

Q:

Someone suggested the admission of Israel to the European Union. What do you think about that?

A:

I personally would agree with the proposal, as it could mean a turn in the relations with Arab countries, but I believe a majority of Israelis to be rather cautious in the matter. Becoming a member of the European Union would also mean partly losing room for manoeuvre and this would not go down easily on a country that has had to count solely on its own resources to survive.