Our hearts go out to London but not to its mayor. London's leader, Ken Livingstone, eloquently condemned the recent terrorist bombings. But in the past, he never seemed too concerned about terrorists murdering Israelis. The tale of Livingstone's ambivalence is a sordid kind of Greek tragedy.
Last year, he welcomed a violently Jew-hating Muslim preacher to London. In so doing, he became a silent partner of Islamic terrorism which has now turned against his own city. Today, he is an updated Oedipus Rex, accessory to a horrible crime of which he himself is a victim.
Too many Europeans are ambivalent, like Livingstone. Terrorists, they figure, are evil; but if their preferred victims are Jews and Americans, how bad can they really be? As Europe prepares its own destruction, it resembles Germany in the early 1930s: Jew-hatred everywhere, on a low boil.
Last year, Mayor Livingstone welcomed Egyptian cleric Sheik Yousef Qaradawi the "Theologian of Terror" to London. The sheik has called suicide bombings "heroic operations of martyrdom" and has urged Muslims to "destroy the aggressive Jews." Livingstone called the sheik a man of "moderation and tolerance." In an Op-Ed piece, the former editor of London's Asharq al Awsat Arabic-language newspaper begged to differ: "When it comes to political matters, Sheik Qaradawi represents the utmost degree of extremism."
But maybe there's a reason for the mayor's lack of concern about a theologian of terror. Many Europeans love to run on about Jewish terrorism in 1940s Palestine, during Israel's struggle for independence from Britain. Israel owes its creation and continued existence, Livingstone says, to "systematic violence and terror." Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a "war criminal who should be in prison." (And President Bush is "the greatest threat to life on this planet." London's dapper mayor has a good word for everyone!)
It's time to dispose of the endlessly repeated Jewish terrorism story. You've heard about sins of omission. Jewish terrorism existed and was unforgivable, but describing it without mentioning the official Jewish response is a lie of omission.
There were repeated confrontations between Palestine's Jewish community and Jewish terrorists. A famous one followed the 1944 murder in Cairo of Lord Moyne, the British minister-resident in the Middle East, by the terrorist Stern Gang. In response, the shocked and revolted Jewish community hunted down terrorists relentlessly, turning over more than 700 names to the British.
There were truces too, when the Jewish authorities (desperately outgunned and outnumbered in their war for independence) tried to co-opt two terrorist groups, the Stern Gang and the Irgun, into the regular army. But the Sternists and the Irgun invariably returned to terror, shattering the truce.
Jewish terrorism was stamped out at last after a U.N. mediator was assassinated in late 1948. Israel's new Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered: "Arrest all Stern Gang leaders. Surround all Stern bases. Confiscate all arms. Kill any who resist." Soon afterward, the Irgun also bit the dust.
An Israeli private citizen summed things up following an earlier terrorist attack. "None of the barbarities the Arabs have committed in the past months can excuse this." (And the Arabs had committed plenty.) Ben-Gurion laid it on the line: "There is no compromise, no equivocation. The way of terror or the way of Zionism."
Israel is no more a "terrorist state" than Britain, France, America. Livingstone isn't soft on Jew-hating clerics because Israel is a "terrorist state." There's a better explanation.
Europe has followed a simple rule for thousands of years: Find the worst thing a person can do, then accuse the Jews of doing it.
In medieval times, bubonic plague wiped out whole towns; naturally, Jews were accused of spreading plague. The French imprisoned Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus on phony charges of aiding Germany at a time when aiding Germany was the worst crime France could imagine. The Nazis persecuted Jews on phony charges of sabotaging Germany. After World War II, colonialism and Nazism seemed like the worst of crimes so Israel was denounced (still is) as colonialist and Nazi. In 1975, racism was crime No. 1; the U.N. dutifully denounced Zionism as racist.
Today, terrorism is our top crime; more and more Europeans are bound to join Livingstone in calling Israel a terrorist state. Jew-hatred is Europe's eternal flame.
But now London's mayor might think twice before welcoming another theologian of terror. The theologians themselves should carry government health labels. "Warning: Terrorists don't only kill Jews."