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Israel finds more sympathy in Europe

Concerns about Islamist threat have influenced traditionally pro-Arab Europe's view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Yet since Sept. 11, a discourse that advocates a tough confrontation with Islam has emerged in Europe – based in part on Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilization" theory – in such venues as the French magazine "Brave New World." Sarkozy has been congenial to these points.

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Authors include former leftists like Pascal Bruckner, André Glucksmann, Olivier Rolin, and Bernard-Henri Lévy who supported the war in Iraq and view Islam as a creeping form of totalitarian ideology moving into Europe. The most recent issue contains an homage to Mr. Huntington, who died last month.

Bitar argues that "Islamophobia" feeds a popular confusion in Europe about Muslims. "Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda are all viewed as the same thing. Europe used to see the Arab conflict as about territory. Now it is shifting towards the global war on terror, Islam versus the West, clash theory."

Mr. Moisi dissents from the Huntington thesis. His recent book "Clash of Emotion," describes a West characterized by "fear" and an Arab world characterized by "humiliation."

US and European differences on Israel have been deep and numerous. The US and Israel have religious and theological sensibilities about the Holy Land; Europeans view the Palestinian issue through a secular and humanitarian lens.

America, with an influential Jewish population, has seen Israel's security and right to defend itself as central. Europe, without as weighty a lobby, has stressed UN security resolutions, and international law for Palestinians that have been a counterbalance. European academics have not been uneasy with the phrase "state-sponsored terrorism" to describe Israeli violence against Palestinians; in America the phrase is seen as far-left.

Europeans saw President Clinton as an honest broker in the Mideast; President Bush has been seen as wholly aligned with Israel.

Large differences still exist between the two continents on the priority of the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

"In Europe, we see the Palestinian issue as major, one that, if not solved, will continue the chaos and violence," says Mr. Bauchard. "Americans agree with Israel that the real issue is the existential threat from Iran. The Israelis built a wall and treated the Palestinians as unimportant."

European media characterize the photogenic and well-spoken Ms. Livni as a moderate – though she emerged from the hard-line party of Ariel Sharon. "The Europeans really fear what will happen if [right-wing Likud Party chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu wins in February," says Ms. Signoles. "So she is called a moderate, because in Europe, the term right-wing means violent."

Signoles points out that the main effect of a Europe that adopts an American position is that the core Palestinian issues regarding the cessation of settlements, a shared capital of Jerusalem, and the right of return "may not be emphasized as before.… [T]he Israel-Palestine issue is an asymmetric problem, and if the international community does not raise it and balance it, there is little chance that the rights of the smaller player will be raised."

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