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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

October 11, 2002

The Axis of Envy
Why Israel and the United States both strike the same European nerve

Anti-Israelism and anti-Americanism travel together. In the Arab Middle East, the link is standard fare, but a more interesting case in point is Europe. Take José Bové, who first gained notoriety around the world in 1999 by leading the charge of a "deconstructivist" mob against a McDonald's restaurant in France. In March 2002, he showed up in Ramallah, denouncing Israel and pledging enthusiastic support to Yasir Arafat while the latter's headquarters was being surrounded by Israeli tanks. Arafat's cause was Bové's cause, this mise-en-scène suggested-never mind that the Israeli army had not simply dropped in for a little oppression but in defense against mounting terrorist attacks.

Pick a peace-minded demonstration in Europe these days or a publication of the extreme left or right, and you'll find anti-Israeli and anti-American resentments side by side-in the tradition first invented by the Khomeinists of Iran, whose demonology abounds with references to the "small" and "great Satan."

What explains this linkage? First, Israel and the United States are the most successful states in their respective neighborhoods: Israel in the regional arena, the United States on the global beat. They boast the most fearsome armies, they command impressive technological infrastructures, and the Israeli economy vastly outperforms those of each of its neighbors while the United States has the world's number one economy. Moreover, both are stable, vibrant democracies. One need not invoke Dr. Sigmund Freud to infer that success breeds envy and resentment. The resentment is compounded by the rampant modernity both countries epitomize. Relentless change, as inflicted from outside, does not sit well with European societies, which obey a very different social contract-one that favors social and economic protection against the effects of the market and rapid technological transformation. The unconscious syllogism goes like this: Globalization is Americanization, and both have found their most faithful disciple in Israel.