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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Is Europe finally getting it?

The Jerusalem Post has an amazing story tonight, which may indicate that Europe is finally getting it.

The Post reports that support for aiding the 'Palestinians' has dropped precipitously. This has not yet translated into backing for Israel, but the polls of "opinion elites" are significant enough that Stanley Greenberg, who worked for both Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak, has been here for the past several days briefing Israeli leaders. Greenberg said that the shifts in the polls were so dramatic that he re-did some of them to make sure they were accurate.

He singled out France as the country where attitudes had changed most dramatically. Three years ago, 60 percent of French respondents said they took a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of that 60%, four out of five backed the Palestinians. Today, by contrast, 60% of French respondents did not take a side in the conflict, and support for the Palestinians had dropped by half among those who did express a preference.

Greenberg said the figures were still being finalized, and so did not go into further details. But shifts such as these, he said, represented "an incredible pace of change," with significant consequences.

Greenberg explained what he believes is behind the shift:

Three years ago, he said, the conflict was perceived "in a post-colonial framework."

There was a sense "that Europe could cancel out its own colonial history by taking the 'right' side" - the Palestinian side. Yasser Arafat was viewed as "an anti-colonial, liberation leader." The US was seen as a global imperial power, added Greenberg, and the fact that it was backing Israel only added to the "instinctive" sense of the Palestinians as victims.

France, with the largest Muslim population - moreover an entirely Arab Muslim population - with the direct experience of Algeria and the most anti-US positions, was most prey to this mindset.

Today, by contrast, the Europeans "are focused on fundamentalist Islam and its impact on them," he said. The Europeans were now asking themselves "who is the moderate in this conflict, and who is the extremist? And suddenly it is the Palestinians who may be the extremists, or who are allied with extremists who threaten Europe's own society."

An increasing proportion of Europeans are concluding that "maybe the Palestinians are not the colonialist victims" after all.

Greenberg also found that which side is viewed as "absolutist has changed remarkably in Israel's favor.

Read the whole thing.


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